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Breaking Point for Tears
tomegaki for kasen Blue Willow Bridge

When the unthinkable happened in this spring, most of the victims behaved rather well, not showing panic-stricken anger nor confusion. Their sorrow, my sorrow too, like rain, sank into the earth, or into the reservoir in the depth in each of us. All those news broadcasts, briefings and professional information from TV commentators did not have the slightest power to touch the dark matter in us: the question, the anger, the sorrow and much more …

Shortly after March 11 one man by the name Ryoichi Wago, with the record of being awarded poetry prizes, started to tweet from Fukushima. He was born, raised and educated in Fukushima and has been working in Fukushima as a high-school teacher, teaching Japanese. When he began tweeting he was all by himself: his son and wife had been evacuated with people in the area. His words struck many who have been silenced by an appallingly heavy gap that plastic media language caused in our society when they insensitively verbalized the unthinkable national experience. His poetry helped some of us to face and accept the magnitude of the tragedy and thus enabled us to deal with "the dark matter". His followers increased at an amazing momentum. Many confessed that tears flowed down for the first time.

After the withdrawal of tsunami, a warehouse with stacks of muddy books stayed put. It belongs to a small publisher in Ofunato city whose office building was totally taken to the sea. The muddy books included three thousand copies of very special Bible, funded and authored by Dr. Harutsugu Yamaura originally from Kesen-numa region. He has been a practicing medical doctor in Ofunato city, next to the Kesen region, but he endeavored, through decades of his free time, to translate four Gospels directly from Greek to what he calls "the Kesen language", a regional dialect spoken by about 80 thousand people, including a lot of fishermen and proud carpenters! When I tried to buy a muddy Bible, all had been sold out. The Japanese Christian Churches spent twenty years and millions and millions of yen for the Bible Committee, consisting both of Catholic and Protestant scholars, to produce what they can acknowledge as the Authoritative Japanese Bible. I have not necessarily been impressed by the outcome …. On the other hand I am not the only one who is so impressed with Dr. Yamaura's genuinely organic translation lined with his life-long dream to let his "villagers know Jesus". (His family was the only Christian family in the region when he grew up and he, as a child, had been bullied)

This taught me that the words with the power to touch one's soul come from a human with his logos and personality, not from the Committee, and never from any translation software. After March 11 Japanese people have been in need of such words with touching power. May Doctor Yamaura , whose clinic was partly flooded, find a way to continue both his clinic and his strong writing career.

Renku depends on the touching power of the language. And renku has got it right with no danger of being carried away by a swaying one time emotion. Through this kasen with my hokku on peach tree that survived the tsunami, Sheila Windsor kept sending me link offers, or fresh energy to write our collaborative poem, in a cyber space where we let our souls breathe free. Not sharing the same cultural background, nor the same nationality, nor the same climate on this planet, can be meritorious in renku, because one tends to reach values and characteristics common in the depth of humanity, not on the level of conventions and customs, in reading and in responding to offered verses. For that matter, tsunami did unite peoples of the world… Japan became the focal point of our globe.

Not changing the subject, I can't help recalling the joy of seeing "Mikado" both in London, England and in Ohsu district in Nagoya, Japan. Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado" attracted "Westerners" not because it was the faithful sketch of Japan, but because Victorian values were comically embedded in a fictional Japan that shined with grains of paradise. Ohsu audience enjoyed the outrageous emperor performing on the stage, having been released from usual taboos around the topics of royal family.

When I became able to picture Sheila's blue willow bridge in the 6th position, tears welled up: aren't we the same! We always look for a paradise in other cultures, knowing thoroughly that such is only fictional. A pickled onion crossing the Blue Willow Bridge on the plate! What a charming link to a court life in the previous verse!

I am sure each of those victims keeping order and being sheltered in gymnasiums or theater-lobbies CAN break into tears when they happen to see a remaining piece of their former dream; it could be a broken piece of their cherished plate…

17 September, 2011

Eiko Yachimoto
Yokosuka City, Japan


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