Vern Sneider

Author of the original novel

Included below are Mr. Sneider's biography; reviews of his novel; and his personal views about the book, an article "Under the Teahouse" that appeared in The New York Times and the original show's souvenir program.

Vern Sneider was born in Monroe, Michigan and attended Notre Dame University. He has published stories in many magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post.

Sneider served in both the Army and Navy in World War II. He entered the army as a private, went overseas after being commissioned an officer, and served in intelligence, commanding regimental scouts.

On his return to the States he was transferred to Military Government and sent to Okinawa with the invasion forces, where he was in charge of Tobaru Village, a native refugee camp of about 5,000 people. He went into Korea with the first team when peace was declared.

Sneider also wrote the well-received novel "A Pail of Oysters" - also about an American in the Orient - which was published following his authorship debut with "Teahouse."


"I had as much sheer enjoyment reading 'The Teahouse of the August Moon' as from any book I've read in months, and advise you to rush out to buy it."

- New York Herald Tribune

"A book rich in passages of verbal beauty, skillful in design and above all, extremely funny."

- Boston Post

"The most entertaining and refreshing book of the season."

- Nashville Tennessean

"A wonderfully humorous and satirical story."

- Library Journal

Below the Teahouse

by Vern Snyder (from The New York Times)

People sometimes ask if the comedy "The Teahouse of the August Moon" is not, in reality, a serious piece of work. Then I hasten to point out that they should make the "Teahouse" what they wish, for it was meant to be that way. The "Teahouse" was meant to make you think if you with to think, or to make you forget if you wish to forget.

Actually, "The Teahouse of the August Moon" contains two stories, but only one story is told directly. That is the surface story which shows the trials and tribulations of Captain Jeff Fisby in Tobiki village, Okinawa. Perhaps it is foolery, or fantasy, call it what you wish. Yet I, for one, sincerely hope that it will bring a few smiles, or better still, a few chuckles.

However, underlying this surface story is another one, never told but rather implied. And if anyone wished the "The Teahouse of the August Moon" to be serious, the seriousness will come from this story.

It is somewhat difficult to explain the under story. Ultimately, it is an expression of certain ideas. One such idea being that people, the world over, are basically the same in their wants and desires, but that often we are confused by the externals. As Sakini, the interpreter, would way, holding up his finger -- "Illustration!" The Japanese might want his miso soup for breakfast; the Korean might want his pickles, called kimchi, and the American might want his ham and eggs. yet basically they all want the same thing -- namely, breakfast.

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would like to mention that the under story of the "Teahouse" was also intended as a guide for those who some day might be engaged in Military Government work. I remember back in those days of 1944 when the United States Army began to find itself in the Military government business, many of us, assigned to such work, were at a complete loss.

At that time a factual work on the occupation of the Rhineland in 1917 was considered the guide. But in April of 1945 when we went into Okinawa with the invasion forces, most of us found that instead of a guide it was a piece of fiction that helped us in the villages, among the people -- John Hershey's "A Bell for Adano."

Consequently, should the occasion arise (and I hope that it doesn't), still, perhaps the "The Teahouse of the August Moon" might be of benefit to some United States Military Government officer, somewhere, sometime. Perhaps it might show him that if he looks to the wants of the people under him, then tries to satisfy those wants, he will have very little need for barbed wire and guards armed with rifles.

Perhaps it will also show him, among other things, that what works in Pottawattamie, Iowa, often will not work in Tobiki Village, Okinawa; that Plan "See" is much better than Plan B. That the culture and way of life of an occupied country is often very old and, strangely enough, ideally suited to that country. And that there is more to be learned in this old world than will ever be taught in a pentagon-shaped schoolhouse.

But a word about this island of Okinawa. The name, so I'm told, translates as "the rope that lies off shore." Actually, it is the largest island in a chain that stretches 2,000 miles or so south from the mainland of Japan. And though it is the largest island, still it is a small island -- not more than ninety-five miles long and from five to fifteen or twenty miles wide.

The people of Okinawa seem to be neither Chinese nor Japanese. In ancient times they had their own language, known as the Luchuan dialect; and a few of the older people still speak it. In ancient times they had their own kingdom, known as the kingdom of the Ryukyus, the name for their chain of islands. But Okinawa was small.

First it was some dynasty on the mainland of China that demanded tribute, and Okinawa could only pay. Then the eyes of some ancient Japanese war lord fell on this island, and Okinawa had to bow. Her kings became rulers in name only. And as the centuries passed, little Okinawa at times paid tribute to China, at other times to Japan. And sometimes she paid tribute to both at once.

But on April 1, 1945, a new conqueror came to replace the Japanese who had held the island since 1895. He came off his steel ships, and he was worried, especially if he was assigned to work with the civilian population. For, technically, they were enemy. And since the first duty of Military Government is to keep the civilian population from interfering with the military operation; and since one American would be called upon to handle perhaps 5,000 Okinawans, it was only natural that anyone assigned to such duty would have visions of bridges and supply dumps and switchboards being blown up. But, then, the American met the Okinawan -- completely lacking in shame and pretense and filled with wide-eyed, childlike gratitude. What happened is illustrated by a story told by a lieutenant of infantry.

The lieutenant looked across the lines one morning and saw movement. It had to be the enemy out there, yet the figure ahead of him wore American uniforms. But they couldn't be American, for the lieutenant was holding the front. This was the furthermost outpost. The lieutenant was tempted to open fire, but thinking better of it, he called, "Who's out there?"

"Military Government," came the reply.

Military Government! The lieutenant could hardly believe it. Military Government was supposed to be in back, not in front. "Well, what are you doing?" the lieutenant demanded.

"Looking for sewing machines."

"Sewing machines?"

"Yeah. We heard there's some in the caves ahead. And we need them in the village to make dresses for the women."

But I would like to point out that "The Teahouse of the August Moon" is not a war story. And I hope that the reader of the viewer will not be concerned with the under story if he is not so inclined, or if he is not in the mood for such. The "Teahouse" was meant to be whatever you wish to make it.

-- Vern Sneider