Tokyo Damage Report

Oe’s DEATH OF A POLITICAL YOUTH part nine

 
When we last left our young hero, he had just finished talking with his right-wing mentor. Now he waits in the train station,  ready to make the decision which will alter the course of his life.


 
 
Night was falling and I waited on the wooden bench for the train to take me back to the Farm. To pass the time, I watched the TV in the station : the chairman of the Progressive Party was giving a rather depressing speech from his fat throat, which looked like a sack of meat. It was a little unsettling that someone with such a lonely face and meat-sack voice could speak with such certainty and self-confidence.
 
“This man whose face comes to the TV from far away, by means of the cathode rays, he must live in Tokyo somewhere. He must live his day-to-day life here, and that means I can destroy it. This abstracted, black-and-white image of a fish-like face with its flapping lips. . .in real life, I can reach out and touch him.
 
“Or stab him, as the case may be.”
 
In the end, I boarded the train headed away from the Farm.
 
My family was largely uninterested in me, but they greeted me with a strange politeness when I arrived at their door. When I explained that I’d come home “for my seventeenth birthday,” they all – even Elder Sister – pretended to believe me.
 
Father said he’d send me – as a present – a textbook of lectures relating to Chinese Language Radio. It was around then that the seeds of hatred began to sprout once more.
 
Elder Brother was still acting like a cowering, beaten-down dog, sitting down reading a book about travel.  I thought to myself, maybe if I invite him hiking on a mountain over New Years’ Holiday, then I could postpone The Mission until after.
 
The newspaper on the table had a headline in large type announcing the results of a pre-election opinion poll, and I realized I truly hated that kind of thing. Politicians trying to bend to public opinion, with no convictions of their own. The public, thinking like a herd. My politics was more honorable, more resolute. I could change things single-handedly. And I felt the time was getting closer and closer. That bravery was one of the sprouts germinating in my internal world.
 
For the first time in many months, I laid down on the cot in the shed in back of the house, smelling the nostalgic stench of mildew. Soon I was digging through the piles of old junk. In the back of a drawer, I found the wakizashi  (short sword) which was named Raikokuga (‘The Fang Which Came to Japan’)
 
In the darkness, considering whom to stab, I felt like it really was my seventeenth birthday all over again. (see 'Seventeen' part one, dummy) Except that this time, I actually had the skills to use Raikokuga. Though it was dark, I could clearly see my progress: through my anguish, I had become a resolute and manly man! But I hadn’t definitely decided to stab the Progressive leader. After all, the Teachers’ Union leader, the Communist Party leader, and those trade-union officials were also on the loose. For now, I stuffed the wakisazhi under my pillow and lay down.
 
Soon Gang, the local stray cat, bounded in through the porthole-sized window. I could feel his silent weight on the blanket. I gambled that if I called him – “Chi! Chi!” – he’d come sit on my chest and wait to drink my spit.
 
Then I’d grab him and punch his nose until his blood stained his fur!
 
But he just played dead instead.
 
In the faint coldness of the autumn night air, for an instant I was gripped with the sweats and the shivers! I still hadn’t decided my big plan yet, still was waiting for my revelation to tell me what to do, still didn’t know what shape my new life would take. . . still couldn’t do anything at all!!!
 
But, like one of those fast-motion films where you can see a berry ripening before your very eyes, I began to bellow like the cow at the Farm, beginning to deliver its calf. My interior tides overflowed, I could not resist them. The tides spun the “terror propeller” which seemed to be turning on an armature which pierced from the top of my head to my weak anus!! Sinking to the bottom of the “fear river”, I frantically searched for the “stalks” which had grown from my revelation, but they were all up by the surface where the water was clear, out of reach now. I was dumbfounded that the terrors which I should have overcome had returned with such force.
 
I thought of the other Seventeen, the one who committed honorable suicide at the place which became Washington Heights.
 
“But at that time, Japan was in a state of terrible shock and confusion. That guy couldn’t imagine the stress, the responsibility of the boy who has to concoct a plan to destroy the false society, to take the problems of the world on his back. It’s better not to even think about that fellow!
 
“Plus, that clown couldn’t imagine the stress, the awful responsibility of the boy who has to go on a mission to murder.
 
“AAAHHH!!! Those red demons will torture me brutally! At that moment, I remembered the illustrated story in a magazine which was sponsored by the Americans: “The Brutal Suffering of the North Korean People.” I believed every last terrible thing. I might be crucified with metal spikes upon a willow tree, or have white-hot metal poured on my entrails. My throat dried up at the mere thought of it, but they might even eat my brains!!! What if they grind my sex organs under a millstone? There is nothing that these reds won’t do to their enemies.”
 
To muffle my sobs, I hugged Gang to my face. But then suddenly he broke free with berserk violence, a raging storm of speed, clawing at my chest and shoulders, wounding me so ferociously that I thought I’d die, leaving behind a body covered entirely in scars. With a bound, he was gone into the deepening darkness.
 
Gang had discarded me, much like the shit-filled post-war society had discarded those brave fourteen comrades. Better yet, he was like the stinking traitor who ran away and abandoned them. But this desertion, this abandonment . . .how long would it go on? Forever?!?!? Until they have their revolution and execute The Emperor? They won’t seriously stage an all-out revolution, will they? Tell me it isn’t so!
 
I wanted to run out of the shed screaming, as if I’d awoken from a nightmare where I’d been chased by demons: “Save me! Someone save me! I’m not the one you want! I’m not the one you want!”
 
Instead I lay down upon my cot and strained my ears to hear some of Elder Brother’s “modern jazz.” I wanted to go to him and confess everything: my bliss and my terrors both. But if he was still awake, he must have been using his giant pink plastic headphones, so as not to disturb my slumber.
 
I wanted to be a rocket, to soar in the night sky, prayed that everyone in the world to forget about me once I was gone. I prayed to be a one-year-old baby again, or to be a nomad, without an Emperor, King or fatherland of any sort.
 
But of course such wishes were futile. I knew that well. The road upon which I was traveling had already been decided. The “old Seventeen” had returned, in all his hesitant and trembling ways: I was terrified of death and the eyes of strangers, exhausted by self-satisfaction and delusions, consumed with self-loathing.
 
“AAhhh Carol, baby treat me wretchedly!” I sang.  
 
The demons of this world were dragging me back into their infernal courtroom: The daily judgments that wracked me constantly, almost a year ago, before I joined the uyoku. At that time, I had not even a single grain of The Emperor’s divine and radiant dust sprinkled upon my heart, to give me passion. AAAH!!! Without His radiance, how could I have survived in this dark world? I would have soon dried up and perished. And now, less than a year later, here I was, embarked on a complex, abnormal, death-defying big adventure.
 
I began to vaguely play with my sex organs, but, as if they had been worn out by all my previous self-satisfaction, they refused to grow red, or hard. They lay limply and blackly on my crotch, ashamed. I furiously bent by head down, almost to my belly button, to scrutinize this emergency in detail, while massaging it, but still was unable to unleash the dazzling splendor of my bo-ki. I was impotent! But, this time it wasn’t just a figure of speech. My head hurt, I felt nauseous, and the wounds from that cat began to pulsate. This was the worst – just like on my real seventeenth birthday!
 
Seventeen and impotent.
 
As soon as I sunk into a painful and shallow sleep, I beheld a dream that I was Crown Princess Michiko – it was the night before my wedding, and I was in front of my mother and father, terrified, trying to hold back tears. I woke up screaming, then returned to view another dream:
 
I was Tajima Mori, the patron saint of confectionery craftsmen, presenting the fruits of the most precious flower, which, through Herculean efforts, I had obtained from the very corners of the Earth, to a gown-clad Emperor who simply said, “Yuck, dirty!” and rejected me.
 
 
(editor's note: Most sorts of Okinawan confectionery and those originating in Europe or China that use ingredients alien to traditional Japanese cuisine, e.g., kasutera, are only rarely referred to as wagashi.In ancient Japan, people ate fruits and nuts as confectionery and sweets, to supplement nutrition in addition to grain, such as rice, wheat and millet. In an excavation of a Jōmon period archeological site, the carbonized remains of what appeared to be baked cookies made from chestnut powder were discovered.According to the Kojiki, Emperor Suinin ordered Tajima-mori to bring Tokijiku-no-Kagu-no-Konomi (登岐士玖能迦玖能木實 a kind of orange) from the Eternal Land. 10 years later, Tajima-mori returned with the orange, but Emperor Suinin was already dead. Tajima-mori mourned since he could not carry out his mission and took his own life. By tradition, Tajima-mori is worshiped as spirit like a patron saint among confectionery craftsmen.)
 
In the end, all I could do was lay there in the dark, cold shed, without even the strength to cry, miserably curled up with my cheek on my knees like some raped daughter. I kept repeating the Golden Words: “If one is selfish, one can not lose one’s self in devotion to The Emperor.”
 
I repeated them over and over, until the faint chirping of birds and the signals of the first trains signaled that another day was beginning. And just then, I beheld a portrait of my imaginary “Pure Internal Emperor”: He looked like Emperor Meiji mixed with a demon. He really did exist!! His all-seeing eyes gazed upon me, Seventeen, his chosen one, right there on the cot in the shack!! His divine eyes were looking at me, weren’t they? I shrank back, cringing, wiping the crusty dark mucous from my own eyes.  In my exhausted, shabby, callow head, He could no doubt see the wilted words began to bloom and flourish once again, spreading like vines until my head was about to burst: “There’s no other way! I have to do it! If I’m going to walk out of here, I can not carry with me even one fragment of selfishness!!!”
 
And with that, I walked out into the warm morning sunshine of the backyard. I practiced karate and trampled the many varieties of chrysanthemums, and afterwards felt almost totally recovered. As if my fevers had receded.
 
I took my karate club and wrote on it in Sharpie: “Imperial Year 2620.”
And on the other side I wrote: “Immortal Imperial State.”
 
The new sweat of honest labor washed away the old sweat of night terrors. I practiced my punching. I practiced today with especially quiet concentration, putting in maximum effort, until it seemed that the entire yard had been purified by my sweat. It was the only way to wash away the shame and fear. Wash it into some far-away, deep sewer pit, wash it down a deep shaft, with a gurgling sound like that of a sick cat. “EI! YAA! EII!! YAAA!”
 
 “For the good of the Party, we Imperial Youths march to Death with a smile on our faces and our banners held hiiiighhhH!” I sang. 
 
That song was the best, even if I didn’t have the correct flag.
 
I tried incorporating bits of my death-poem into my “karate attack yells” until I began to feel at last quite heroic. I beheld a vision, bright as The Emperor’s own Sun, and I breathed in its dew-drops with every yell:
 
“EII! YAAA! For the country! For the country!!!
EII!! The Imperial Youths!
EII!! YAAA!!! March to death with a smile!!!!
EII!! YAA!! Our banners held high!!!!”
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