Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I woke up this morning in mourning.
I am mourning for Japan.
And what do I know of Japan?
I haven't been there enough times or long enough to know the real Japan.
The born there, raised there, lived there Japan.
The blood of my great great great grandfather is in the soil of that rice paddy Japan.
Right now something else is leaking into the soil there.
And I am in mourning.

I may not even be in mourning for the real Japan.
I may be too caught up in the Japan I carry in my mind.
The Japan with all that jangling history and controlled elegance.
All that distinctly Japanese Japaneseness.
The Japan of the geisha and the samurai.
The Japan I have romanticized beyond recognition.

But even though the overcrowded Yamanote Line at rush hour doesn't quite fit into the notion of Japan that I carry in my head, the courtesy these bustling salarymen show one another, the restraint they display even as they are packed in like black clad sardines into the trains is a little vestige of the roots of the samurai culture.

And the quiet grace of two giggling Harajuku girls sharing a pastry in a quiet cafe on Mieji-dori is enough to transport me a century or so and transform them into their own geisha ancestors.

But now I am mourning another Japan.
The Japan I saw in the faces of the kids I saw.
And as the news continues to come in the little faces I have shared the world with these last few months are haunting me.
And I am in mourning.

Little boys bundled up by their doting parents, sometimes costumed like little bears or bunnies, Their eyes inquisitive, amused, fascinated by my unfamiliar western features.
Completely unafraid.
A little samurai.

And doll like girls with smiles so sweet just smiling back can give you a cavity.
Each face a little perfect flower.
A Sakura.


Anonymous said...

The heart breaks as the mind struggles to comprehend.

eV said...

I have not been to Japan myself. But I too have ideas of Japan, romanticized and collaged from images I have seen in "The Economist" or in a few movies I might have seen. Japan is rich in history. Ancestors and traditions and a culture so gracefully distinct... human beings...
May you feel held in these times of mourning.
And thank you for sharing your words, it helps.