Tokyo Damage Report

Oe’s DEATH OF A POLITICAL YOUTH part ten

CHAPTER 7
 
Your assassination is shown over and over again on video tape, on the news, in the movie theatres – I heard that even the journalist who took pictures got a Pulitzer prize. All Japanese people are addicted to watching it, this never-ending drama of assassination. On TV, on the radio, through the speakers, in the newspapers, weekly magazines, the monthlies, the silver screen, people have gone crazy for your assassination; it’s got more energy than the atomic bomb.
 
Everyone in Japan has been poisoned by your assassination. Your assassination is like a toxic grey cloud which has spread over the entire Japanese archipelago. You are the only one free from this furious poison. You had your gas-mask on from the beginning. At the Assembly Hall, the only person in the audience not watching, the only one who took action, was you.
 
And that first moment which has been shown over and over nonstop in every corner of Japan, broadcast from every outlet, is the moment that you yourself never got to see. And you’re in jail now, so you’ll never see it. This grotesque nonsensical assassination. This sudden attack by a political non-entity, you’ve become quite removed from it, haven’t you.
 
When I first sat down to write you this letter, you were very far from it. And I’m going to try to bring you a little closer with my words, as if they were a “portable television screen.”
 
On Channel One, Your assassination is in constant play, both the live video and the still photographs. The chairman is giving a speech, in his deep, weary, yet vehement voice. In his words, you can hear defiance, blame, opposition, all burning together like gasoline. His passions manage to surpass his deep fatigue, his words fill with rage, the camera captures his words, his meanings, the audience in the background: full of skeptics, the faithless, the cowards and the insincere. In fact it looks as if even the speaker doesn’t believe his own words.
 
The Chairman is a big man with a loud voice, but at times he seems to act like a small timid man who is reading a manuscript written by someone else. One gets an impression of hollowness, vacuity. As if he himself is aware of this impression, the Chairman says, “We’ll probably lose this election. The Diet is entirely powerless. The industrialists, in their hubris, do as they please. They are treated as the driving force behind Japan’s economic growth. The many thousands of hardworking salarimen and farmers are also powerless, treated as childish consumers, who want nothing more than the newest electric appliances.  
 
“The ruling party with its money politics and secret cliques is handicapped. They aren’t good for anything but preserving the status quo. Those  self-promoters would never deviate from the straight line of their career path. They leave everything to the bureaucrats, who have exactly zero concern with what the public wants nowadays. 
 
“The opposition party has given up hope of reforms, preferring to cling to their seats in the diet, and turning a deaf ear to the demonstrators outside who are supporting them. The intelligentsia are satisfied to cheer us on from afar but don’t want to get their hands dirty. We know we can’t depend on them if we get in a tight spot. There isn’t anyone left with a real sayoku spirit anymore. No one who wants to go in the true direction. And that’s why I , after decades of service to this cause, sometimes even I feel like I’m doubting it myself.
 
“In fact, now is one of those times. I simply don’t have that sayoku anger in me.
 
“AAh, the People’s Republic of China. They turned sayoku into a reality – they have over 600 million sayoku people! When I announced our Joint Sino-Japanese Declaration of Opposition To American Imperialism, how my voice burned with righteous anger.
 
“I can’t summon that energy today. 
 
“Aaah, Japan, you humid zone! I’m reciting my lonely and futile speech to you! Shuddering at how banal and mediocre it is. There’s 90 million of you but not one is seriously considering my words.”
 
The assembly hall filled with boos, jeers, bellows – the wild voices of the uyoku who came to disrupt the speech. While the moderator was calling for order, the Chairman stood silently, white and sweaty, looking like unbaked clay , his aged face an expressionless mask, and then finally dropped his head in a moment of deep shame. And in that moment he looked inorganic, as unliving as his spectacles. Soon he began his speech anew, his mouth opening and closing as meaninglessly as that of a fish gulping water : “The common people should turn out in great numbers to vote down all of these new proposals which have such a bad reputation. . .”
 
(TV announcer voice): Hold on for a second, folks! A dark-skinned young man is clumsily running onto the stage, heading for the Chairman, still in mid-sentence. He runs into the Chairman. And again, a second time! The Chairman falls down! Now the guards roughly force the dark youth to the ground, inhumanely twisting his arm behind his back! The cameraman is catching the entire event live! It looks like the Chairman has been hurt.
 
Please hold on for a second.
 
In the midst of the confusion, they are trying to carry out the overweight Chairman, but it’s too late. He’s already dead!
 
The camera cuts to a close-up of a blood-smeared neck-tie, and then to an empty operating room. Then cuts back to the auditorium.
 
No one is crying, but they are very energized with shocked curiosity, eager to see the drama unfold. Perhaps the dark youth, forced to the ground, is the only one shedding tears?
 
Cut to one of the photos, taken at the very instant of the attack: the Chairman is turning to face the youth, with a confused non-judgmental expression, slightly blurred by the camera. The youth has a ferocious, beastly expression, his body bent almost double, as if a bow was bent as far as it could go, his hair standing on end, and a short sword clutched firmly in front of his chest.
 
The next picture and the third follow in quick succession: The Chairman’s spectacles fall off, his eyes are shut tight. The Chairman begins to turn away from the youth, begins to fall forward. A look of clear agony manifests on his face.
 
The third photo shows only the back of the youth – all one can see are his ill-fitting, sacklike pants and his thick work boots. His pose is rigid like a pole: one can see a distinct, straight line running from his left foot all the way to his hand. One can also see the Chairman, groaning, desperately struggling to grab the knife handle as if to remove it from his belly. The composition of the photo is striking: the youth’s face, the Chairman’s face, and  the small chrysanthemum of blood blossoming in his chest form a perfect triangle. It’s as if the youth is inclining forward to hear the Chairman’s groans.
 
Photo number four: The youth now has turned to the camera directly, as if to attack again. The Chairman, in great pain and beginning to fall, tries futilely to turn himself to ward off a second blow. After the initial attack, the youth begins to act with the deliberate, unsettling calmness of the professional assassin. He plants both feet – in their huge boots – firmly on the ground, bends both knees, marshals his strength. His white t-shirt doesn’t match his high-school jacket, and the jacket itself is too small for his size. He holds the short sword in his right hand, the thumb aligned with the blade. His left hand wraps around the right, perpendicular to it – both adding strength and acting as a rudder to help the blade aim towards the “stabbing point.”
 
It was, as one uyoku member later pointed out, it was a textbook assassin’s posture: the slightly crazed face, as if looking forward to the Deed, the left shoulder inclined slightly forward, like a baseball hitter preparing for a tricky pitch, keeping his eyes on the ball, his eyes narrow, as they fix on the left side of the Chairman’s chest. The youth’s face has the unreal expression of a Noh mask or a traditional demon, almost cartoonishly fiendish rictus.
 
http://www.google.com/images?q=noh+mask&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1213&bih=714
 
He bares his teeth. The muscles on the back of his neck are coiled, ready to release. His eyes have a black expression of grief, an almost bottomless sadness to them, but then again they resemble the orgasmic eyes from the erotic shunga pictures of the Edo era.
 
http://www.google.com/images?q=shunga&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1213&bih=684
 
His general posture is that of the “gaki” demon from the “hell pictures” of the Muromachi era, one realizes.
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaki
 
The Chairman is still falling forward, gazing in bewilderment at his spectacles, dangling around his upper lip, both hands raised to fend off another attack from this demon which appeared so suddenly.
 
This posture leaves his large, almost pregnant-looking torso undefended. In contrast to the assassin, the Chairman’s whole body appears weak and entirely human. He seems to already be losing consciousness – most likely the first wound by itself was enough to have killed him.
 
He wobbles unsteadily.
 
The youth’s short sword glares white against his black jacket, the pale silhouette clearly outlined by the lights of the television cameras. Now, several men are running to subdue the murderer, but without much passion or ferocity.
 
In the left corner of the photo, one can see another cameraman, standing with a relaxed posture. His only exertion is to raise one finger,  pushing the button on his camera, exactly capturing the nightmare tableau of perpetrator and victim.
 
On Channel Two, they filmed many different peoples’ reactions to your assassination. The mainstream media all ganged up on this poor patriotic youth, calling him a “violent right-winger.” But other voices could be heard as well:
 
“As for me, I found his actions to be splendid. It was an expression of the blood of the Japanese people, an expression of Japanese-ness, a scream announcing that the era of justice and righteousness has come.”
– leader of a certain uyoku group.
 
 “One after the other, news reports pass hasty judgments, claiming that this incident was planned, that the youth had been trained. But I’m from “the war generation.” Who among us hasn’t trained with bayonets or something of the kind?”
 – Komatsu Shigeo
 
“If the assassin was thinking such as, “This guy isn’t useful for Japan so he should not be allowed to live,” then by that reasoning, he could kill any politician! These assassins are mostly only in it for publicity, or other dishonest motives. Of course, some of them carry out terrorism for pure ideological reasons. . .”
-Hirotsu Kazuro
 
“Well, it would have been best if he’d used a single, decisive stroke, like BOKAAAA!!!. Even with a short-sword, it’s the best strategy. It looked as if he was trying to BOKAAA, to do a precise cut, but. . .I mean, two stabs isn’t terrible, it hit the mark eventually, but it’s not really good form, is it? It wouldn’t have killed him to practice a little more, would it? ‘Naamean?”
uyoku association member
 
“He says he killed a bad guy . . . for my sake! But he’s, like, even worse! No different than the Devil. That’s what I think, anyway. So that that’s why I think that kid is, pretty amazing. I mean, wow!”
– member of a certain uyoku group
 
“When I heard he had been assassinated, I felt deep despair.”
– Uramatsu Samitaro
 
 
“Do you remember that university student (demonstrating at the Diet) who read a  waka-style poem, entitled “Japan has become wack?”
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waka_%28poetry%29
 
The young assassin also published his own poem in a weekly magazine – which went something like, “Many people died for their country so that us young people could live.”
 
If you compare the two poems, I think you’ll find – leaving aside the murder – that the right-winger is much more wholesome. 
 
I’m very interested in literature and often read waka poems. They say that Seventeen has filled many notebooks with waka in praise of His Highness The Emperor. That is magnificent! How can anyone call him a thug, if he does such artistic things? A thug! It’s a very rude nickname to give to such a cultured young man.
 
I mean, just look at the things other people publish in the weeklies. Like the young man Fujimori Yasukazu. His poem goes like:
 
It’s forbidden!
The policemen will get angry at you.
Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
It’s strictly strictly forbidden.
You know, if His Highness The Emperor rode past on His horse, he’d know what you were up to.
Do you think His Highness doesn’t know about that?
Hey, Grandmother, don’t do it!
The Emperor is human after all. You think he doesn’t know about that stuff?
It’s disgusting!
Grandmother, stop!
Don’t do that!
You know . . . .that!
Don’t do . . .the funky chicken!!!!!!
 
If you compare this perverted trash to the poems that Seventeen writes in his cell, which are about devoting one’s self to The Emperor, I think you can see for yourself which is best for society!
– a housewife
 
CHAPTER EIGHT
 
I was taken to the Municipal Police Station, and then to the Tokyo Public Prosecutor’s Office for interrogation. And thence to the Public Safety Bureau #2, Special Investigation Bureau #4, Marunouchi Central Office, and many other places besides, so that all the police in Tokyo could come running to let me feel their hot air.
 
They’re very passionate about their work; they put their soul into it. They even went to Ashiyaoka Farm to question the elderly farmers. But it’s a huge pity that the police weren’t also farmers. They have the same hick manners and single-minded dedication. By a fortunate coincidence, I was the only person at the police station who perfectly understood their passion and “I-was-born-for-this-job” attitude. We shared a common root, and I resolved with maximum enthusiasm to establish warm relations with them!
 
The investigating Detective showered me with a non-stop patter about how he understood me, and I silently, kindly sat and nodded at every word. Suddenly I got the feeling like we were two door-to-door salesmen, pitching at one another. As if the Detective was going to give me a pat on the arm and say, “Thanks for your time, I know you’re busy!” and then grab his brief-case full of samples and head out into the street. When I saw the gentle smiles of these police officers, shadowed by an enormous fatigue, I felt a lump in my chest. They must have to deal patiently with so many thousands of people.
 
I gave a speech to myself: “The opinion I’d like to express to today’s people – who have somehow survived into the 21st century, as well as to the people of the future, is this: “When we go to open our first embassy on Mars or other planets, we should choose a Police Officer as the ambassador! Out of all the people, an Officer projects the most “goodwill, camaraderie, and human fellowship” energy, so necessary for a good first impression.
 
“Furthermore, they know everything there is to know about all the bad people on Earth, so they should be able to quickly assess if the aliens pose a threat to us.
 
“Also, the Officers would resemble New-Generation Salvation Army workers.”
 
But please don’t misunderstand – I had absolutely no impure, personal motive to feel such a deep sense of kinship with the Officers. If anything, I went out of my way to not feel tied down to anyone. In between interrogations, I stayed in my solitary-confinement cell.
 
And what a cell it was!
 
Compared to my parents’ shed or the dismal brothels that Shigeru took me to, the cell was the most cheerful lodging-place I had found in all of Tokyo.
 
You could say that I had secluded myself, but you couldn’t really say that I’d been locked away. (the reason being, this had been my intention all along. I’d been segregated, yes, but I’d been taken away from the gruesome outside world and isolated in the best part of the whole prison system by the best Officers).
 
I had always been hoping for a quiet place where I could live a spiritual life of quiet contemplation, and now I was in a cell, where no strangers would barge in on me, where I could sit all day and meditate. To me this was freedom.
 
What’s more, I didn’t have to do any kind of work; my lodgings were paid for by other people who did have jobs. Isn’t that what freedom is?
 
If someone had asked me if I wanted to go outside, I would have said no! In fact, that’s what I dread the most. Staying isolated is more than a freedom, it’s a privilege, one normally reserved only for salarimen. I can entertain myself.
 
I remember my childhood, sitting in a corner of the backyard with my chalk, drawing a one-meter box on the concrete, and sitting down in the middle. I resolved not to leave my enclosure until sundown. It was still mid-day, and that seemed like an very long amount of time back then. Like a lost dog, my fears ran off the leash, barking and yelping. My mother called me to come to lunch. Eventually, I gave up and left. I was hungry and needed to use the toilet. But really, I had stayed a long time. I was always drawing those enclosures with the dull white chalk, and staying inside them all day.
 
Of course it was possible for me to leave at any time, however I got a certain strange, sad excitement from staying inside of it, alone. And when you compare it to my current situation, it’s as if nothing had changed.  Somewhere in a deep, profound part of my soul, the past and the future mingle freely like green leaves falling into a steep ravine.
 
It seems that the guards and Officers who come to my cell understand my feelings of “freedom in solitary confinement.” The prison guards are generally grandfather-aged, while the Officers tend to be little more than children, but they seem to understand my heart. I don’t believe this because we talk about it, but it’s a feeling I can taste on my tongue. I feel a sharp sense of sadness or pathos lurks under their uniforms.
 
I feel them briefly peeping at me through the window, as I sit in the traditional style in the very center of my cell.
 
They never call out to like this: “You can lie down, yo.” “All that traditional sitting will make you weak and tired, yo.”  They know that such comments are inappropriate. They are always silent, but in the occasional glint of their eyes, I can read the following message: “Ah, you want to sit traditionally, so you do it as much as you like, eh? If you wanted to run a marathon, you’d be out on the highway running all day, wouldn’t you?”
No comments

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

Mexico