Tokyo Damage Report

Kenzaburo Oe’s Seventeen: the conclusion.

After I swore my allegiance at the Imperial Way Faction’s headquarters, Sakagibara said to me, “Now you’re officially the youngest member of the Organization.” But, it didn’t look like I was their first attempt at recruiting youth: besides me, I quickly discovered that there were three shifty-looking twenty-year-old fellows also at the headquarters. But they didn’t fit the teenager-y image of ‘Imperial Way Youth’ as much as I did. These ‘teen rightists’ were stern and solemn to the point of arrogance. They never failed to have a ‘more stern and solemn than thou’ expression smeared on their faces. I tried to talk to them about movies, jazz and pop culture, but they scorned these topics ferociously. They swore at me, calling me a frivolous and juvenile new recruit. I was a bit disappointed, but at the same time this just made me want to try even harder to live up to the name of ‘rightist.,’ and bury myself deeper inside the uyoku anthill. The reason for this is simple: they were absolutely right! Before I joined The Organization, I was a terrible daydreamer, always having silly visions born from movies and such. So I was determined to – from this point on – be as serious as possible, even if it killed me. Years ago, I’d seen a commercial for the movie ‘Emperor Meiji and the Russo-Japanese War.’ Recalling this, I asked the ‘young Rightists’ if they’d seen it, figuring that this might well be my ‘in.’ Just so – they replied enthusiastically, how many times they’d seen it, how perfectly the lead actor played his part, how moved they were by it. From then on, we were buddies. But in fact, they seemed to have completely confused the movie with the actual event, treating it as some sort of historical document. “His Majesty Emperor Meiji was concerned about the troops. It was with the greatest regret that he sent them to war.”
 Or, “General Nogitaisho ‘s horse was amazing! Mr.  Tougou Gensui was never fatigued, even on the battlefield.” They would earnestly debate these topics for lengthy periods. It turned out that these fellows would go see movies after all, if the movies were about wars or Japanese history. Their hearts would leap as the Japanese soldiers rushed onto the battlefield: they were about to learn about new weapons, or at least new techniques for killing with old weapons! They honestly didn’t care about Western movies or current Japanese films, because these films had nothing but pistols.  
They considered it more honourable to kill face-to-face, using traditional Japanese swordsmanship. And at any rate, Sakagibara had forbidden them to have pistols. In particular, there was one ‘rightist youth’ who carried a diagram of the human body, covered in crimson dots, similar to an acupuncturist’s chart.   I wondered what the meaning of the dots was, until one morning when the newspaper carried a report of a stabbing death in Shinjuku. And then I saw this fellow very diligently making a new mark on his body-chart: each of the crimson dots represented a stabbing from a news report! “Hey you, would you ever stab someone?” my new friends asked me: the very question was a mark of my new coolness.  He was staring at me intensely like one who was making a silent prayer. Then he began muttering to himself (though he was still facing me): “Those fuckers, they’re silly. Those leftist fuckers! If they keep getting more silly, where will it end? If they won’t stop, I’ll have to stop them myself.” I really wanted to tell Elder Youth that ‘silly’ was not the best choice of words for such a matter, but couldn’t find a better expression. We both sat for a moment with our brows furrowed and frustrated expressions on our faces. Finally, he had an idea: “If they don’t stop, I’ll stop them myself!” he repeated. And that was the Imperial Way Faction Rightist Youth Corps in a nutshell: eloquence was not necessary.
After all, our boss’ job was to be eloquent, and the managers were charismatic as well. As rank-and-file members, our everyday duties did not require eloquence or even being talkative. Instead, we would stand quietly at the speeches, only talking to cheer on the speaker. Between bellows, we stood with our shoulders squared and frowns on our faces, as if the enemies were right in front of us, heavily armed, and we were ready to protect our leaders. We would glare intimidatingly and yell, “It is our duty to stop those silly guys from doing any more mischief!” Often we would be asked to co-operate with the Youth Corps of the Conservative Party at large events. We would be absolutely silent and grim; in contrast the Conservatives would try to passionately and loquaciously sweet-talk passers-by. In their hearts, they thought we were light-weights. More than conservatives, they seemed to be in the “I Want To Get A Promotion And Raise” party. Privately, we made fun of them: “Those guys don’t want to fight, all they care about is their career. That’s why they’re so pushy and always talking. Their un-stoic, un-chivalrous attitude reminds me of the leftists. Maybe they’re also a bunch of silly guys. Maybe one day we’ll have to get them, too.” I remembered a post-card I’d gotten from an acquaintance in the Conservative Youth Corps – we grew up in the same village. He had red cheeks, and was a truly irritating slick-talker. He confessed that he had his future planned out to the last detail:
“I’ve finally managed to set aside 200,000 shares of stock. And already they are steadily increasing in value. I’m 24 now. By 25, I’ll be an assemblyman. By 30, a representative, by 35, a Minister . I should be able to accomplish my ambitions, because I’m a pace-setter and can prioritize my work-stream : getting the stocks gives me the financial power. The financial power gets me the job of ‘Tokyo Youth Corps Director of Advertising and Public Relations.’ Ultimately, I want to start my own faction. I’m a firm believer in the merit system, so as soon as I join the main Party, I will start a controversy.
The other day I was at a certain downtown restaurant with the Party Secretary, and we discussed world affairs for no less than two hours. His knowledge boggled my mind! Once, when I went to see the Parliament in session, I started to imagine – – what if you became a powerful behind-the-scenes fixer?  How funny would that be?!? That’s when I decided to write you this card. Let’s get together sometime and really discuss the big issues. Hash out the new paradigms. If you want to get into the stock market, I’ll introduce you to Corporate Director Matsugawa. But if you’re more interested in politics, I could to introduce you to our Regional Director of Public Relations, Mr. Ikiyama.”
This was without a doubt the single craziest thing I had ever heard. This odious clown was clearly a country bumpkin who was frantically grasping for sophistication. From time to time, we’d argue about the difference in philosophy between their group and ours, and, after we completely lost, we would glare at them, physically intimidating them. That’s how we let them know that our cause was most righteous. There was no honor to be gained from dealing with those slick-talking ‘sales-people’ rightists. Our boss will teach us everything we need to know. He’ll pick our books to read, from which we will acquire wisdom. It’s not a lot of wisdom, to be sure, but it comes from the Golden Man.
 So that’s all we need to confirm our faith, to strengthen our passion, to rivet the message firmly to the backs of our skulls.   Especially I, who had undergone such a total conversion. One evening in late spring, I was finishing a book that Boss had loaned me, to better understand his ideals. I wanted to understand his essence. Everything else, I hated and abhorred, and absolutely refused.
I think I got an exceptionally warm welcome from Mr. Sakagibara, and that’s why I returned his enthusiasm with so much passion of my own. As he said, “If you’re going to fight for our ideology, you have to drink every last drop, like a bottle of fine sake. You can’t break the bottle or spill the glorious liquor. You have been chosen! But, all of us uyoku have been chosen. We have such faith, that we can stare directly at the sun! That is the way of righteousness!”
From that evening, for several weeks, Sakagibara indicated that he’d like for me to live in the headquarters, where he would be responsible for me. He even went to my house, and persuaded Father and Mother. Father, in his American liberalism style, explained that he had no intention of meddling: I was free to choose my own road in life, provided that I was not a nuisance to the family. And when it came to politics, patriotic activity was probably better for my health than communist activity, Father added, sounding not unlike Sakagibara himself. I considered asking Father if permitting minors to go to dangerous demonstrations was going to get him in trouble as a teacher (a clear violation of the rules for his own students!) , but decided against it. Also somehow I resisted the temptation to point out that his liberalism was promoting my conservatism. I suppose that’s just one of the contradictions of the American way. Older Brother stared at me with what I took to be a look of dismay. Mother had been looking at me that way ever since I wounded Elder Sister, but she had never directly said a word to me. Sakagibara endlessly complimented Elder Sister on her work at the military hospital, until she finally said, “My co-worker has read your book, “The Japanese Who Truly Loves His Country Is Walking The Path Of Love!” She said this with an obscene blush, in a voice so small and high that it sounded as if it came from headphones.   Thus, Sakagibara secured the permission of my family. I was now legally independent, and Sakagibara assumed responsibility for my upbringing. Then my family asked me when I had joined the rightist group, and how I had come to know such an important person as Sakagibara. I prepared a lie for this occasion, which I hoped would shut them all up:
“I joined up when Elder Sister started working at the military hospital, because I couldn’t stand people talking badly about the military anymore.” With this one strike, I was able to make them all retreat, I knew. On my birthday, Elder Sister had defeated me, but now the tables had turned: I was an entirely different person, and victorious. My miraculous conversion was total. It was hard to believe only five weeks had passed.
At school, my conversion led to an even more dramatic triumph. As Shintoho said, my formally joining the Imperial Way Faction was simply a felling like the Shinpa drama. Joining the Faction finally let me realize who I was, to see things from my own point of view, and to stand up for myself. Furthermore, once Shintoho realized that I was a hard-core right winger, and not a casual fan like himself, he became my public relations agent; my biographer.
He told everyone, “Homeboy went to the demo at Shinbashi station, man! There were twenty fuckin’ communists that came looking for trouble, but my man took them all on single-fuckin’-handed! So then the Imperial Way President,  Sakagibara, said he was thinking about appointing my man to be the fuckin’ successor of the whole group! Now my man is living at their headquarters. He’s hardcore, yo!”
Instantly, everyone at school knew who I was. My conversion was the biggest scandal of our grade. My counsellor – who didn’t at all mind if students voiced leftist opinions – took me aside and warned me not to continue my activities. He said that I should quit the Faction. I hinted that I would inform Sakagibara of this, and even more indirectly hinted that the Faction would retaliate. These hints sufficed to stop the pressure. As it happens, the teachers were even more susceptible than the students to Shintoho’s propaganda: a rumor soon surfaced that the history teacher would say conservative things, but only when I attended class. Of course it could not be said that there was no opposition to me on campus: the local National Youth Union guys who sometimes illegally attended left-wing demos came up to me to argue. Back when I was a leftist, I used to be scared of the ‘boss’ of the leftist crew, so I ‘won’ the debate merely by having the courage to talk back to him. I managed to baffle them using the same arguments that Elder Sister used on me, back on my birthday. Whether the topic was peace, re-militarization, the Russians, the Chinese, the Americans. . . those NYU fellows could not hold tightly to their convictions. I administered a shock to their whole philosophy!  Then I played my trump card: “By the way, Japan’s intellectuals are mostly left-wing, right? But, they don’t do anything for the impoverished farmers’ sons who have to join the army. Even though they’re very prestigious and teach at famous universities, I want to do more than them. These professors you like, if there was a small war with South Korea, maybe they could prevail on the United Nations to help stop it. But in the two or three days it would take for the UN to arrive, how many Japanese would be killed by Syngman Rhee’s army? How many women and children and impoverished farmers’ sons? Someone’s got to be on the side of these people. You guys like Sartre more than anyone, right? And isn’t this exactly what he would do in this situation? You’re always talking about putting his ideas into practice, right? I’m just a weak and stupid boy, but with the Imperial Way Faction, I’m putting my life on the line for my beliefs. Who among you would make this kind of sacrifice? You’re all just playing politics while waiting to get into a nice corporate job at some multinational, aren’t you?”
They looked nervously at one another, these straight-A students, for once completely at a loss for words. Behind these fellows I saw the unmistakable, haughty face of Sugi Emiko, looking at me with curiosity, and, perhaps, a hint of passion.
“That’s easy for you to say, you anachronism! Your kind is lucky if you get accepted to military school, let alone Tokyo University,” she said.
 As a matter of fact, Sakagibara had been pushing for me to go to military school – to make contacts with the officers in preparation for a coup d’etat – but that was ultra top-secret! Sakagibara understood my desires like no one else, and I repaid him with my passion for his cause. Our uniforms were patterned on the Nazis’, and when we walked down the street in formation, I felt an almost overpowering joy. Like a beetle encased in impregnable armor. No one could see inside the armor: my weakness, my wounds, my un-coolness, and my craven disgrace. I was safe. This must be what heaven feels like, I had thought. I used to be terrified of passers-by judging me. I would cringe and blush. My self-conscious-ness would cause me to spaz out and act disgracefully. But nowadays the normal people don’t see anything but my uniform – and they’re scared of it! I’ve drawn a curtain over the weak and wounded youth I used to be, hidden it away forever. Over the course of time, the limits of my confidence increased: I found I was not wounded by shame, even when out of uniform. Perhaps I could win my battle with shame even if I was nude!
Before, my self-satisfaction filled me with such shame I wanted to commit suicide. I was so shin-skinned, and so convinced that normal peoples’ eyes were the most powerful thing in the universe . . .just thinking about the possibility of being caught filled with me with terror. My embarrassment and shame were like a drama being played out on my very flesh. But one day, I had a crucial realization: I realized that this drama and shame were meaningless, and they collapsed. It began with a comment from Mr. Sakagibara: “You’ve got a lot of sexual tension, haven’t you? Suppressing it isn’t any fun. You should get yourself a woman.” “I don’t really think about that, sir.” “No girl, eh? Well if that’s the case, let’s go to the soapland (brothel), so you can get your root wet! Take this money and get going!” I’d never even thought it was possible that a fellow such as myself could go. I never imagined that sexual frustration could be the root of my feelings of disgrace. The other fellows said, “Put your uniform and get going!” It was already evening, but still I dilly-dallied. When, at length, I had exhausted the last of my counter-arguments, I donned my ‘armor’ and headed to the Shinjuku red-light district by myself, looking for a ‘Turkish bath.’
As I walked in the gaudily ornamented glass doors, I realized I had no bo-ki: I felt like a small child who was suddenly put in front of a firing squad. Or a new recruit being screamed at by the General. I paled and the blood rushed to my skull. My Imperial Way Faction uniform felt heavier than a diver’s wet-suit. We uyoku rely on this uniform, this armor, like a diver relies on weights to pull him down, I realized. We are wrapped tightly in our uniforms, but the normal people are even more tightly bound by their fear!!!
A girl with her hair bleached to a straw-color, and a nice body entered the private room, wearing nothing but a brassiere and ‘short pants.’ Her sexuality was very evident! She gazed at my uniform for precisely five seconds, in the steam swirling around the exposed light-bulb, and then, despicably, turned her head without saying a word. She never looked at me again. I took off my clothes, the first time I had been naked in front of another person since I was born – and it was in front of this terrible, judgemental girl. However, I noticed that my muscles were finally beginning to develop, making me feel a bit like an armoured car. Deciding that this muscularity was a result of joining the uyoku, I developed a monumental bo-ki. It was the kind of bo-ki that could effortlessly rupture the hymen of my future wife on our wedding night! (a serious ‘root,’ as Sakagibara might say). Yes, this was the kind of bo-ki I had prayed for on my juu-nana-sai birthday, and had received instead only self-pollution and tears! But it was mine now. I vowed that I would keep this bo-ki for the rest of my life! A life-long orgasm – in my mind, my soul, and throughout the fiber of my entire body. IN South America, there is a barbarian tribe who don’t wear clothes – instead, they keep their penises inside giant cones. These cones are inconvenient when it comes to hunting or making war, but their god requires it of them. So they strap the cones to their bellies, like a dog’s penis, pointing to their heads rather than dangling down. I felt like a Seventeen who had joined that tribe. The girl helped me get nit the steaming bath-tub. And washed me in the water. When I got out, she covered me in baby powder and led me to a bed, the kind used in medical examinations. Then she gave me a massage, and silently stroked my ‘man’s root.’ I’m sure she would soon notice that the foreskin was all mutated from too much self-satisfaction, and silently prayed to God to pare it back down to a normal size. I laid on my back like a king, absolutely passive. The girl began to blush – I suppose she had some bad habits of her own.
I remembered the love letter I had written to Sugi Emiko. In the letter, I had copied a poem which I had plagiarized from one of Elder Sister’s books. Though I wound up throwing away the love-letter in shame, I still recalled one particular stanza of the poem:
Standing on yon lofty precipice
I espy thee
resting athwart the flowerpot
Thee radiance of the Sunn entwined with thine golden locks
The pain in mine Emptyy Heart, lo!
As thou takest thine hands and pluck a single Flower
My man-root was the radiance of the sun! Furthermore, it was the flower as well! It was a fierce and vehement proponent of orgasm! I felt the orgasm approaching, and left my body. I was floating in a darkening sky. I saw the Golden Man hovering before me with his unearthly radiance! Aah! Ooh! Your Majesty the Emperor! My Emperor shines with the dazzling brilliance of the rising sun! Aah, aah, ooh! When I recovered from my hysteria and opened my eyes, I saw the girl had what appeared to be tears scattered across her cheeks. This turned out to be my semen. I felt my usual post-self-satisfaction sense of triumph. I jubilantly put my uniform back on without saying a word to the slave girl. That evening, I had learned three lessons. First: I, the rightist youth, had completely conquered my fear of being stared at by normal people. Second: I, the rightist youth, had the right to do any sort of atrocious act to the weakling normals, and therefore, Third: I, the rightist youth, was truly a son of His Majesty the Emperor. I burned with desire to know everything about His Majesty. I think my generation – more than Older Brother’s generation – will be the ones to restore a real connection with His Majesty in society. We – not Older Brother’s generation – will be willing to die for His Majesty even when there are no wars to be fought. We become hot with jealousy when we hear the stories of older people who actually got to fight a war for Him.
But, I am a child of the right, therefore I am one of His Majesty’s children, so I’m willing to wait for Him to start the next war. I devoured the books of secret lore in
Sakagibara’s garage: the Imperial Vice-Chancellor’s History Chronicles, the Meiji Honorable Scroll Collection, writings of veterans and military tacticians from the Imperial Army. It was as if my new classroom was the Imperial Palace and the Imperial Army academy. And of course, Mein Kampf. Sakagibara kept hinting that I should tackle Taniguchi Masaharu’s formidable “Treatise Regarding Influences of Imperial Absolutism,” so I was working on that as well. And when I successfully finished “Only Through Abandoning Selfishness Can One Truly Grant Fealty To Lords”, I was so moved by my own achievements – I had mastered the fundamental principles of Rightism.
I burned with passion for the cause. By no means would I allow selfishness to pollute my fealty! I don’t have the fear of death that holds back the people of today’s corrupt society! I have overcome the feelings of helplessness. The old me- the selfish me –was abnormal, contradictory, incoherent, muddled and vulgar. And these flaws were clearly visible to everyone around me.
No matter what I decided, it was always a mistake, because my thinking was clouded by selfishness. The anxiety fed on itself, creating more anxiety, until it was unbearable. The new me replaced the selfishness with fealty to a higher cause. I cast out the selfishness and felt the energy of His Highness The Emperor fill my body and soul. All my contradictions and muddled thinking has been burned away by a cleansing flame! The confusion which had robbed me of my self-confidence, the unanswered questions of life, these had all flown away. Your Majesty, sweep away my selfishness and confusion! Save me from individualism! The instant that I murdered my selfishness, I was released from my dungeon of isolation, and a new, anxiety-free Son Of The Emperor was born. I feel freedom! I no longer worry about which choice to make in life – His Majesty makes them for me. I have become like the stone or the tree, unable to experience confusion or fall into despair. I am a rock or tree. . .for His Highness The Emperor!  This modern world, which was so baffling and complex, has become simple and easy to deal with. Yes! Yes, that’s it exactly. Only he who foregoes selfishness can know the supreme bliss of submission. Moreover, I have become freed from my overpowering fear of death, and the unthinking despair which this fear injected into my every waking moment. Even if I die, I’ll live on as part of His Majesty The Emperor – for He is my mighty giant and thriving tree that would continue to exist forever! And I have finally found my tree, for I am one of his many young branches. I will never fall through the endless void of non-existence which is Death. I have triumphed over my death-phobia! Aah, Emperor! Emperrorrrrrr!! You are my God, my Sun, my Eternity! I live only for you! Shake that ass!
Having had my epiphany, I left Sakagibara’s garage. I had no more need of books: now was the time to learn karate! When he saw my training uniform, Sakagibara said, “Shichishoukoku! (literally: even if I die seven times in battle, I’ll keep coming back to fight for Japan)! May His Highness The Emperor live ten thousand years!!!!” It was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I am the Chosen Youth who will save us with my true Japanese warrior spirit!!!!!
In May, the leftists will have their country-wide demonstration. In high spirits, I decided to join the Imperial Way Faction’s Counter-Demonstration Youth Group. I don’t care if they’re red laborers, red students, red intellectuals, or red showbiz people, I will charge at them and kick them until they fully disperse!! The charter of the I.W.F.C.-D.Y.G. is taken from Heinrich Himmler of the Nazis, and is as follows:
Article one: loyalty
Article two: obedience
Article three: courage
Article four: reliability
Article five: integrity
Article six: love your comrades
Article seven: carry out your responsibilities joyfully
Article eight: work diligently
Article nine: don’t drink
Article ten: defending the Emperor and patriotism is our duty. Anything else is not important.
We will stomp the reds with our feet, we will knock them over, stab them to death, strangle them, burn them alive! I fought with courage and honor, and a wooden sword with nails pounded into it. I turned to the mob of high school normals and hatefully brandished my club. I strode into a knot of female students and knocked them down with it, stomping on them as they tried to escape.
I was arrested many times, and each time I was released, I went straight back to attack the demo again.  The I.W.F.C.-D.Y.G. has more courage and brutality than those hundred thousand leftists, and Seventeen has more courage and brutality than all twenty of the other twenty guys in I.W.F.C.-D.Y.G.! Seventeen is the rightist of the right, the free-for-all in the middle of the night, the fear and suffering and, the violence, bellowing, the screams of abuse and the howling of the victims in the bitter black dark confusion of battle, the Golden Man shines and guides my way with a brilliant and holy luminescence, and Seventeen is the only one who is able to see him: His Majesty the Emperor.  
In the evening, a light rain was falling, and the mob fell into confused silence as a rumor spread that one of the girls had died. The rain began to fall in great torrents, and the leftists grew weary, sad, and lost their will to fight. While crying, they prayed for her survival, while I – on the other hand – felt the triumph of the rapist’s orgasm, and beheld a wondrous Golden vision: He told me that I would kill them all someday. I am the chosen one. I am Seventeen.
To be continued in Part Two: Death Of A Political Youth.
8 comments Tags:

8 Comments so far

  1. szaszha July 29th, 2010 10:58 pm

    wow, its really starting to pick up. i was wondering why japan would bother banning such a boring book, and then this chapter. holy shit! shake that ass! XD

  2. Rune July 31st, 2010 5:16 am

    Thank you for doing this, you are a man-god

  3. Sarah August 3rd, 2010 12:27 am


  4. tomd August 4th, 2010 7:56 am

    Did you miss a "hou"? ("Shichishouhoukoku!/七生報国)
    "Thank you for doing this, you are a man-god" <—-this

  5. TAOISTIC August 5th, 2010 8:39 am

    god-like. Thank you so much!!

  6. 23squidoo August 8th, 2010 11:35 pm

    Fucking awesome. The whole story was captivating – brutal, insane, surreal, multi-layered, puerile, cynical, adjective. Loved it. The shit-stupidest coming of age tale taken to its gloriously absurd extreme I've ever related to.

  7. Seol August 13th, 2010 11:46 am

    Hey, thanks for the translation. Would it be possible for you to put it in an ebook friendly format? (probably even a .txt would do), That way you would reach a bigger audience (think of all the uyoki dantai death threats you are missing :P).

  8. admin August 13th, 2010 8:46 pm

    @seol: great idea! I will do this .txt style. Soon. Soon.

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