My Personal Japan

25 Mar

A journey through life in Germany, a journey through my heart of Japan

I got a call from the psychiatric ward in the morning. A panicking voice screamed: “They’re rioting! They say we’re the mad ones! They’ve lost complete faith in us and in our ability to rule the world. What shall I do? What shall I tell them?”

“Tell them they’re healed and they can all go home,” I replied and hung up the phone.

In the late afternoon, I had wine with a friend. “I’m so bad, I haven’t been keeping up with any of it. Tell me, what happened?” As I told her how the events had unfolded, I couldn’t stop staring at her white wine swimming elegant circles in its oval glass on the table between us. Its luxury unnerved me, offended me. The golden purity reeked of decadence and I wished I could show it fish markets and watch it recoil. In silence, we wined and dined and felt utterly malignant.

At dusk, we visited his mother who had blankets around her feet. “It’s Chernobyl all over again. I can’t watch it anymore. I feel so helpless and so angry. Those poor people, I am with them. I am with them.”

At night, huddled over an iPhone in a bar, the boys googled the wave. “Some idiot wants to surf the tsunami. Someone else thinks the Americans did it. Isn’t it strange that you can google and actually watch the entire tsunami online? Why is everyone filming and nobody running?”

I went home and watched the news until the journalists began using poetic euphemisms, until I could recite their poetry with them. They interviewed Japanese fishermen walking slowly through the wasteland, who said they were looking for souls. “Just to find them,” one man explained. “I will keep looking until I find them.” Souls we lost, souls we must retrieve. The souls they found then walked among them, whispering about the Infinity of things, and the people listened and queued to enter the emptiness of supermarkets.

As my day finally ended, I returned to my heart, to my personal Japan. You, my true friend from school – you, now living in Tokyo – you, my beautiful Noriko. Your skin so perfectly placed I could never read any of your emotions, except when you were puzzled. You spoke softly, carefully and gently preferred saying “I don’t know” when you really meant no. You drank so much and could handle so little, and at the end the party, you were ruffled and crosseyed, lovingly comforting someone – O you and your big heart! Your slim black eyes scanned the world, innocently looking for more trouble, simply looking for a deep conversation about where are we going, where did we come from, what is this illusion we’re in! You treated us all like we were home. When I told you my feet had turned into fish, you took me as I was. You laughed yourself off the chair and later turned catatonic with delight. A single red streak flashed across your face when you giggled, as though the sun always endowed your laughter with a piece of its sunset. How you always surprised & fascinated me, how I grew a garden of Love for you.

She is the Japan we know, the friend we always watched over with Our Love. To give your portrait to the world so that they recognise your smile in the sunset, and see your face when they think of Japan these days.

dedicated with Love, to our friends in Japan

Noriko Okuda, Hiroki Fuji and Tomohiko Takeda


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