Tokyo Damage Report

Oe’s DEATH OF A POLITICAL YOUTH part 5

 
Standing by the Hiroshima Baseball field, our troops greeted my arrival with a huge, delirious ovation, as if the Hiroshima Giants had won the Japan Cup. The NSA kids lapsed into a despondent silence, standing in the ruined doorway of their Meeting Hall. This seemed the proper way for them to see us off on the next leg of our march. The sun, it seemed, had not moved even one inch since we begun our march, hanging in the sky as eternal as The Emperor himself.
 
“Citizens of Hiroshima! Aah! We’ve come to warn you! The National Student Alliance are Red insurgents! They have provoked us with their challenges! This Red Terror Squad, as is its usual M.O., has spread its Red violence even in Hiroshima! On this sacred day when you remember your sadness, mourn your dead, and pray for their happiness in the next life! On this day of all days, when you want peace and tranquility to comfort the spirits of your dead family members, the NSA comes to turn your town into a battlefield in their so-called ‘class struggle.’

“Ohhh!!!!  

“We understand this is a solemn and holy occasion! We understand the importance of spirituality and traditions to the real Japanese people! The sacred ways which we Japanese have practiced forever! But these reds just use this holiday as an excuse to bring up unrelated political points, like overthrowing the Cabinet! They’re politicizing a sacred occasion! They’re trampling on our sacred occasion!  These reds!  They’re so deluded, they even picked a fight with us at their own Big Peace Rally! 

“Everyone says that the mass media is egging on violence – “showdown” this and “final conflict” that – but in fact, today we ourselves chose to fight back! So now, citizens of Hiroshima, let us pay our respects to the deceased. Pray with us, Hiroshima! Praaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy!!!”

An airplane was circling low in the sky, with an intimidating roar. We continued to scatter our flyers of red and blue, with the slogans “Oppose the Communism Which Is Dressed In The Disguise Of The ‘Big Peace Rally’!!” and “Repulse the Red Invasion of Japan!!” printed in big black letters. We swung our heads skywards to see the plane, and found that it was trailing the Japanese Flag behind it, supporting us. The plane dipped its wings in greeting, in the un-natural deepening blue of the sky. The sunlight was painful to our eyes, when suddenly the sky turned from blue to a deep azure color, and then to darkness!
 
In the business district, we again came to blows, this time with the propaganda unit of the left-wingers.
 
One of our Party members tried to jump on their “propaganda car”, and they ganged up on him. So of course we had to call reinforcements of our own to save him, and then we heard sirens of the police cars again. That’s when we heard the news: coming from Hiroshima Station, an unlicensed, “wild-cat” demonstration of NSA kids had encircled City Hall. Excited to the limit, we formed ranks and began to run double-time to the open plaza in front of the Hall! 
 
It was truly a summer of verbal abuse, rage, and mayhem, and we were not going to be the first to back down! The reds had invaded one of the most sacred religious ceremonies of Real Japanese People, and we would defend it to the last! The Youth Action Squad of the Imperial Way Party was hotter than the hottest summer day, hotter than the summer sun, pumped to the breaking point and ready to explode!!! 
 
Just as the City Hall came into view; just as we began to hear the jeers and boos from the NSA “wild-cat” demonstrators, I recalled the earlier, dramatic days of violence at the Diet Building, and was possessed by the same spirit once again: uplifted with the joy of the rapist, the magnificent heat, the deep orgasm which consumed both my spirit and my flesh. Suddenly I began running even faster, lost in a fearful fugue, panting and gnashing my teeth, “Aah, Emperor! My Emperor, aah, aaaaahhh!!!”
 
 
 
CHAPTER 4
 
In the hopeless and enervating evening heat, a sense of gloom began to set in. Today’s fighting was over, and all the Party leaders were going to a traditional Japanese restaurant to confer with other “patriotic association” leaders about tomorrow’s official memorial service. I was escorting them, when I saw a depressed-looking middle-aged man slouch into the same restaurant. He was under so much stress, it looked like his whole body was composed of heavy and stiff metal wires which had been crammed into a human-shaped bundle. His depression was like a moon that had become full in a dead-black sky. Then he turned his head back to look at me, with the eyes of some dead bird-of-prey. His eyes were extreme but also glazed and dark. I nodded at him and sent the leaders inside. “That man, he’s like a demon . .. a dark-blue demon from some swampy hell!” I thought to myself as I walked back to our lodging-house.
 
Upon returning, I got a phone call, from one of the leaders I’d escorted: “That person you nodded to just then? He said you looked young but you looked like you had guts. That’s a big deal, because he’s…” The leader said the man’s name.
 
 It was the name of a legendary assassin. 
 
My whole body shivered. My mouth went dry and my breath stopped. I recalled the feelings I had when the big test results were posted in school. Gripping the receiver with a trembling hand, I said, “That devil-looking depressed, stressed-out middle-aged man is the terrorist? The one that murders too? And he said my name?”
 
The doctor at the lodging-house counted twenty bruises on my body. Some of the other fellows had broken bones, but the house was quiet as we awaited the return of the leaders and heard their report (we would not be fighting the expected show-down with the sayoku at their Big Peace Rally – rather we’d attend the city-sponsored memorial service, and then purify ourselves at the Shinto temple. We weren’t to do anything that might hinder the mourning of the pure native people). We then said our Shinto prayers, and went to sleep.
 
In the Hiroshima night, I overheard the fellows talking about a dog that was howling because it had detected traces of corpses. But I wasn’t listening to them – I was thinking. Specifically, I was thinking that I could myself vaguely smell the odor of everyone living in Hiroshima right now. This by itself was enough to keep me awake most of the night. It began to dawn on me that this strange odor was real. As if someone – that assassin? Had crept in our room under cover of darkness, and was waiting, lying down with his eyes wide open. The odor spoke to me like a phantasm, a vision: “That devil, he gave me a premonition of the future. Definitely it’s a true premonition of things to come, I feel. I’m young but I have guts. Definitely I have big things in store for me.. . . .”
 
In the morning, we arose, did our Shinto purification rituals, bathed, hung our Party flag and the Japanese flag at half-mast, wrapped the flag-poles with traditional black sashes, and assembled into our marching formation. Then we began our parade with all due solemnity. We knew that, as per last night’s orders, today we would not have the opportunity to show our true strength to the enemy. We passed the Genbaku Dome (the memorial to the atomic bombing), but I soon forgot about it, because  I was quickly becoming drunk with all the attention that our impressive phalanx was receiving from surprised and worried onlookers.
 
In the end, to me, Hiroshima was merely another hot, second-rate city, like Sapporo or Sendai, full of people drenched in sweat.  As a young uyoku, I felt battle calling me: clashing with the dirty Reds, defending the glory of The Emperor, and so on. The tragedy of war, the atomic bombings, the pleas for peace, the whole humanist philosophy, it had nothing to do with me.
 
I was a baby when the Second World War ended, anyway; I had no chance to partake in its splendor. The tragedy, the atomic finale, the chorus singing the tragic song, that had absolutely nothing to do with me, in the end. On the other hand, if we have to drop H-Bombs on New York, on Moscow or Peking, to protect our Emperor. . . if, for that matter, Hiroshima itself becomes a communist stronghold, I’d be the first in line to throw a second H-Bomb at it. That is righteous.  If the Commies had their way, and Japan turned into the ‘People’s Republic of Japan’, I would (after putting The Emperor in a canoe, of course) unleash a nuclear blast of such ferocity that it would equal a hundred thousand Hiroshimas, and blow each and every last Japanese into dust!!! For I am a righteous Child of The Emperor.
 
For a moment, that morning, at the memorial service, when I should have been mourning, I was instead looking at the flocks of people, at the group of Filipinos with the cameras on their shoulders, imagining them all dead, every single one, their bodies melted by radiation.
 
“So there was this explosion. An atomic explosion. So what? So there were people dead. 300,000 people. What’s that all about? I’m standing here, breathing in a lungful of air. I’m sweating a little. Signs of life! All of us, the whole throng, here, alive.
 
 “And on the other hand?
 
“An enormous pile of dead bodies, not even one person’s voice can be heard.
 
“What connection do these two things have to each other? Seriously, why even compare them, they’re so different! What’s the point?”
 
After that, we were forced to do three entire minutes of silent prayer, at the pagoda housing the ashes, while the huge piles of bouquets visibly wilted in the heat, choking asthmatically on the cloud of incense smoke enveloping us.  And all I could think about was Noguchi Isamu’s ridiculously large concrete bridge,
 
To the Party member from Hiroshima, the “artistic” bumps molded into the side of the bridge must look like row upon row of “man-roots” and “woman-shadows.” – they must be plenty sunburnt by now, under this un-natural and inorganic sky. They’re huge – at least three meters long!
 
Can you imagine it? A hundred three-meter “man-roots” and a hundred three-meter “woman-shadows”, rising up one after the other, shouting, “Everyone’s been killed by the bomb! It’s up to us to repopulate the city. We have to get our bone on. . . bone, bone, bone . .! All morning, and all night, over and over again! And give birth, birth, birth, all over and over and over again!”
 
During the war, Elder Brother was evacuated to a small farming village. A lady pop-singer had been evacuated to the same village, and she’d taught him a naniwabushisong.
 
Noguchi Isamu’s “art bridge” which he constructed in the dearest hope that it could prevent the downfall of humanity. . . clearly this “naniwabushi” tune was the ideal theme song for the bridge! So I began to sing, in my best alley-cat voice :
 

 
“Shall we get our bone on?
Did we bone already?
Hellz yeah, hellz yeah, we hella hella boned! 
Shall we pop out a infant?
Did you already pop one out?
Hellz yeah, hellz yeah, you hella hella popped that infant!”
 
Suddenly I felt a stranger’s trembling hand touching the back of my head. I turned around, and saw an unattractive middle-aged woman, sobbing openly, staring at me with dark, sorrow-filled, blood-shot eyes. I grew dark with anger and quickly brushed the woman’s finger away, as if I had been touched by one of India’s “untouchables.” I made to kick her over too, but what was this she was mumbling, behind her flood of tears? “Aaah, how could this boy exist? Who could have given birth to such a boy?”
 
 What utter rubbish! With the endurance of a saint, and the kindness of a prince, I stepped ever so slightly back, without kicking anyone even a little bit.
 
The old lady attempted to shamelessly follow me, but suddenly stopped, paralyzed with fear. I knew she had read my armband, with the noble logo of Imperial Way Party sewn on it. And just like that, my troubles were over. I ran back to my brothers while spitting copiously. 
 
Then the mob of marchers crested over the hill, and as they passed beyond the row of colorful, shoddy incense-and-bouquet-selling stalls, the huge group of people became quiet and went rigid, as if thunder-struck. A silence swept over them. I looked back over my shoulder at the crowd and saw people even with their eyes closed, like idiots. They were doing what they’d been doing for decades at just this time: remembering the dead.
 
Perhaps I’m bad, but I passed the time by thinking of the famous lines from Noguchi Isamu’s telegram, where he instructed his precious bridge’s builders to install some supplemental material: “Please install the apparatuses so that, every year, on Atom Bomb day, at exactly 8:15, the row of Giant Man-Roots on the side of Big Peace Bridge should launch huge fountains of Instant Milk. Sort of like the giant fountains at the United Nations building. As for the row of Giant Woman-Shadows, kindly await my next brilliant telegram.”
 
And would it kill Isamu to save one of those giant man-roots for me? I could do with a three-meter “concrete semen-pipe.” Even if it only had a one-liter limit.
 
Afternoon was our “free time,” empty and vacant. Lonely, I went by myself to see a movie.

 
I liked the scene where Alain Delon makes a face as if he’s smelling a delicious banquet as he stabs his fat friend right in the heart!
 
But on the other hand, the theater was full of Hiroshima people.
 
I felt I was suffocating! Escaping barely in time to save my life, I went to the Atomic Bombing Memorial Museum, but I could not even find any diversion from my troubles there, either: It was nothing but pictures of really poor, filthy people that had gotten fucked up by the bomb.
 
I felt a sense of superiority as I realized that I – a child of the present age – knew much more about the details of the Bomb than they did. 
 
I wept when I saw pictures of the keloid-scarred horses that had been killed during radiation experiments. The only thing that put me in a good mood was the specimens of chickweed and grass which had been grown at Ground Zero.
 
Even though their DNA and cell structures were damaged, their beautiful patterns gave me a calm feeling.
 
And then, upon leaving, I became so overcome with disgust and irritation that I had to spend twenty minutes in a filthy toilet, vomiting. Then I went to a post-card store, and purchased one card: the naked, dead body of a Japanese sailor. I wrote a brief “sorry-to-be-absent-from-Headquarters” note to Mr. Shigeru, the man who rightfully should be in charge of our unit.

“Hiroshima is really hot; it’s the worst! The leaders are being weak, letting those communists-in-disguise do their big peace rally, while we just look on. It’s probably good you didn’t come. Yesterday was the only day there was actual violence, but it was exhilarating. The more extreme the better, isn’t that what our spirits desire? I went to the Atomic Bomb Memorial museum, to see the hideous photos of Japan’s shame exposed to the world. But I can’t forgive those craven conspirators for making His Majesty The Emperor visit such a depressing place. Such an action was unspeakable; they must be hanged! This is one of my firmest convictions. Meanwhile, His Highness Emperor Meiji’s super-manly castle, now lying in ruins, is forgotten. I am exasperated by this fallen world, where the retainers have supplanted the lords!”

No comments Tags: , ,

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

Mexico