Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hiding (IV).

(continued from yesterday)

I left the mountain brook and started to walk towards the middle-aged man's voice. The road was covered with dirt, and the evening sunshine was casting an orange light on it. "Ooi" the middle-aged man called again. From the loudness of voice, it was clear that he was quite near me now.

I walked on, and from behind the curve in the road, the middle-aged man appeared. I saw him, and he saw me. I swung my butterfly net to and fro, pretending to search for a butterfly. Then I had nothing to do. I now had to look into the middle-aged man's eyes,

"Why didn't you answer back?" The middle-aged man said, with somewhat rough breath. "Why didn't you answer back, when I called you? I called you many times. Why didn't you say something?"

I could not answer. I could not answer, as I did not know the answer myself. I did not know why I had not yelled back to the calls of "Ooi." I did not know why I felt shy and wanted to hide from the middle-aged man. I did not know why I wanted to be alone in the forest.

"I am sorry." was my feeble answer. "I was chasing the butterflies and...." I almost felt like sobbing. The middle-aged man smiled. "It is all right. Now that I have found you safe, everything is all right. But we need to go to the bus station very quickly now. Otherwise we have to spend the night in the mountains".

Having something to do was such a relief. I hurried, almost ran, to the bus station. The emotional crisis was over.
As I galloped though the path, I started to laugh. I could not suppress the impulse. I laughed peevishly first, trying to hide the big smile from the middle-aged man. Finally, I could stand it any more. I burst out, and the middle aged man, who was running beside me, laughed heartily, too.

(End of this essay)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hiding (III).

To this day, I do not understand what was behind my impulse to hide from the middle-aged man. It was not that he looked dangerous or anything. When you think about it really hard, he looked somewhat similar to a young teacher who scolded us in the classroom when we were third graders. But that was just a superficial likeness. For all I could tell, his intentions were good. Kindness radiated from his countenance. And yet, somehow I wanted to hide from the man.

Perhaps I felt that peace and tranquility had been disturbed through the conversations with him. Although the chat was lively and enjoyable, probably I would have preferred being alone in the forest, listening to the sound of silence. Possibly I was secretly indignant that it was too late to regain that desired tranquility. The day was already almost spent. And I had to start heading for the station very soon. Probably I was angry with the man. Or perhaps I was just being a little bit shy.

"Ooi! Where on earth are you?!" "Ooi, are you all right?" The middle-aged man kept shouting, and his voice became louder gradually. He started to sound quite concerned. Probably, he thought that I was lost or something. He might have been thinking that I was hurt and unable to move. It might have well been that he feared I was unconscious.

When I put myself in the position of the middle-aged man now, I can well understand his concerns. Here was a 12 years old boy alone in the mountains, chasing butterfly. The boy had been chatting in a very friendly manner all the while, and all of sudden the boy was no more. No matter how often and loud you called, the boy did not answer. Maybe there had been an accident. Maybe there had been something serious. With the benefit of hindsight, it was no wonder that the middle-aged man was concerned.

I could see such a line of logic on that day, even. I felt that I had a moral obligation to yell back. However, something inhibited me from doing so. There was this strange and uncontrollable agitation in my heart. As time passed, and as the middle-aged man's calls became louder and more desperate, I increasingly felt that it was now probably too late to answer back. In the beginning, it was just a tiny twist in my whimsical mind. I just failed to answer the first few yells. And yet, now that I had remained silent for such a long time, the middle-aged man should be suspecting that there was some intention on my part, something hideous, something even vicious. And I could not bear such thoughts any more.

(This story is to be continued tomorrow)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hiding (II).

The middle-aged man I met along the mountain brook said that we walk together. I said fine. So both of us set out to look for Panchala ganesa loomisi.

Within my bosom, my secret wish was to just glance at this lovely butterfly in flight. The ephemeral bluish color on the wing should present a fascinating flickering light when the butterfly is airborne, I imagined. It was almost like an anguished longing.

However, no matter how hard we looked, Panchala ganesa loomisi did not come into view. There were some other butterfly species which looked similar to Panchala ganesa loomisi. Narathura japonica, for example. Every time a likely candidate came into the view, I jumped and run. Every time it turned out to be yet another false alarm.

Time passed, and the sunlight started to weaken. Evidently, I had to start heading home in a few minutes. At that time, I was wandering in the forest on my own. I had been walking with the middle-aged man, but had parted at some time earlier. This was not an unusual action for a butterfly chaser. After all, nature is vast, and it is always a good idea to cover different habitats, in an effort to conduct a joint "filtering" operation.

Suddenly, I heard the man yell out for me. "Ooi", I could hear his voice. "Ooi, where are you?" I could tell that he was quite near. Maybe he wanted to make sure that I was O.K. Maybe he was thinking that he would kindly take me to the station. After all, I was only 12 years old. However, due to the thick foliage, I could not see him. And vice versa.

Out of the blue, I wanted to hide. I felt that I did not want to join that man anymore. I did not know what happened to me. I just wanted to hide, in the tranquility of the forest.

(This story is to be continued tomorrow)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hiding (I)

When I was 12 years old, I wanted so much to capture a particular butterfly species, Panchala ganesa loomisi,. It was a small and lovely butterfly. The habitat of this rare species was very limited. Around Tokyo, there was one mountain range where the butterfly inhabited. One Sunday I could not stand it anymore. I jumped onto a train and ventured off to that area of promise.

It was not long after arriving that I realized that the search was going to be difficult. The forestation was quite dense, and the biomass was large. That should have been a good sign in the general sense. However, it also meant that the butterflies would be dispersed and hard to find, even if there were any.

I knew from prior knowledge from books and magazines that I would have to go down to the mountain brooks to have a good chance of encountering the butterfly. When I was walking along a flow, I met with a middle aged man. The man held a butterfly net in his hand, just like me. He asked me "did you come for the Panchala ganesa loomisi?" I answered "yes". We started to chat. The man said that it was great of me to come all the way to this mountain alone, considering my age. I felt proud and happy to hear that. Evidently, he was a very nice man.

(This story is to be continued tomorrow)

Panchala ganesa loomisi

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ebizo keeps a dragon.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI is a good friend of mine and a great Kabuki actor. He has a big secret. Ebizo keeps a dragon, and the dragon keeps growing.

The revelation came as I was having a conversation with Ebizo for a magazine article in a Tokyo hotel. Out of the blue, Ebizo mentioned in a casual and as-a-matter-of-fact manner that he was keeping a dragon with him.

The story went like this. Some time ago, Ebizo was attending a party. There was an elder man that Ebizo quite respected. When Ebizo looked at the man, there was a large dragon behind. Naturally, Ebizo was quite astonished. The man, looking at Ebizo's countenance, said dryly "Oh, do you see the dragon? It is standing just behind me, isn't it? Where you are looking at now, is the dragon's face. Do you see that? I'll tell you what. Bring a glass jar to this temple in the mountain. Normally, the master priest does not give away dragons to a first comer. But you may be different. He might give you a dragon."

So Ebizo went to this temple in the mountain. The head priest, after looking at Ebizo carefully, finally said that he might take back a dragon in the jar.

So Ebizo took a dragon in a jar back to Tokyo. As time passed, it grew bigger, and it came out of the jar. By the time I met with Ebizo, the dragon had become larger than himself.

As I listened to this story with amazement, Ebizo said to me, "just about where you are looking at right now, should be the dragon's head. Do you see that?"

I could not actually see anything, but I made a ambiguous response, partly to be diplomatic, but partly out of sincerity, as the dragon story made me think deeply.

From the scientific point of view, the whole story should be judged to be a fruit of illusion. A dragon is an imaginary animal. It does not "exist" as a physical entity.

But then there is a rich cultural history, in the far East, regarding the dragon. The dragon is a symbol of inspiration, aspiration, ambition, strength and energy. But tapping into the energy to be extracted from living with the imaginary animal, Ebizo is clearly becoming a larger figure as a Kabuki actor.

Another important point is that Ebizo is doing his day job well. Quite superbly, as a matter of fact. Once on stage, Ebizo's acting as a Kabuki actor is quite intensive, burning with energy, and has the elegance of a wild beast. Nobody questions that.
Some people, when possessed with a vivid imagination, stops functioning in their day jobs. They talk fanciful things, but does nothing. In such a case, the illusion loses its life, and begin to deteriorate.

Ebizo is different. Ebizo does not rely on his dragon. He uses his own body, practices, rehearses, thinks hard, and brings forth a wonderful Kabuki stage, moving the spectators. The dragon is then probably just a symbol of the excellence of Ebizo.
Ebizo keeps a dragon. And then he is a man with a practical sense. Ebizo is embodied. The combination of embodied practicality and the vivid imagination of a dragon is the chemistry behind the phenomenal great acting.

Ichikawa Ebizo.

Monday, August 09, 2010

I would not have been born.

My mother is originally from the southern island of Kyushu. She was born in 1936.

On August 9th, 1945, at the age of 8, she was in the city of Kokura. On that fateful day, a B-29 carrying the "Fat Man" atomic bomb flew to Kokura. As there were too many clouds over Kokura, they turned the bomber to Nagasaki instead, which was designated as the second target. At 11:02 a.m., the bomb was dropped to the city of Nagasaki, killings tens of thousands of people. Many of the victims were innocent civilians, including many children, just like my mother.

If the clouds were less dense on that day over Kokura, my mother would have been victim to the cruel bomb. She would have not grown up to meet my father and marry. I would not have been born.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

First love

I think my first love "happened" to me when I went to my mother's hometown in Kyushu at the age of 5.

One of my mother's sisters was married to a farmer with a whole mountain behind the house. They held a bon-odori (summer dancing) event in the spacious garden.

There was a girl in yukata dress. She was my first love. There was something definitely elegant and beautiful about her whole demeanor. I did not know what her name was, nor where she came from. Her impression remains vivid to this day.