10/04/01

Across Misho Bay there is a park that is reached by boarding a cable (tram) car that crosses the bay and climbs to the top of Baseyama Hill. On top of the hill is a viewing tower (Tembo Tower). The tower is 110 meters high, 2.7 meters in diameter and is ascended by riding a spiraling transit sytem to the apex where one enjoys ( for six minutes) a hawk's eye view of Misho Bay. There is a small zoo on Baseyama, but Mikiko and I did not go there because I think she has an aversion to monkey manners. There is also a museum housing a Japanese fighter plane, shot down in a skirmish on 24 July of 1945. Six other planes remain at the bottom of Misho Bay. There are pictures that chronicle the salvage operation all along the wall. It is very quiet on the day we are there, owing largely to the fact that there are only a handful of people present. But I think the place would be quiet even when crowded. There is an altar in front of the plane where sake, coins, rice cakes and flowers are offered. I offer a coin to my father's adversary because I had somehow come to the conclusion he was not an enemy; just a kid caught up in a wind.

Seeing what appeared to be a poem (tanka) I asked Mikiko to translate it for me but she said it was difficult. I ask her to give me each word and not to worry about arranging it into English syntax. She takes the notebook and copies the tanka in Japanese and draws a line from each ideograph and translates as follows:

Line 1 purple/electricity improved
2 on Baseyama Hill/his favorite plane
3 he had left/young cherry blossoms
4 scattered/their souls
5 mother's/c

After some deliberation I have rendered this into

The Purple Neon
rests here on Baseyama.
where young cherry blossoms
scatter like souls to the waves,
churning like a mother's grief.
.

Mikiko isn't sure what the last few words in the tanka are and I have taken the liberty of inserting the allusion to the ocean, knowing that if she could not translate this passage it most likely contained an allusion more complicated than any such thing as "sea of their mother's sorrow". She told me that cherry blossoms do blow across the road in spring. Also, while "purple electricity improved" may be something other than "neon," I think it is a good intuitive hunch. In attempting to stay close to 5-7-5-7-7- I had to omit "favorite plane," but I think to name the object is to indicate affection. Notice that "young cherry blossoms" is a plural construction probably referring to the other six pilots lost at sea, yet Mikiko has indicated the possessive in "mother's" as singular. Also, if I'm not mistaken "he had left" may refer to the fact(?) that the pilot's body was not recovered , though the cockpit was closed. In any case, wrong as I may be I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise. I don't know who the original author is.


When Mikiko tells me she once caught a cherry blossom in the palm of her hand I suggest what I believe she is already thinking; that it was the pilot's soul. She seemed haunted by the place in the same way I felt haunted. The word itself is a wind of expiring warmth. The wonder- of-the- cherry- blossom strikes me as a kind of Shinto reaction; a giddy fear and attraction at the edge of the known. In the preponderance of Shinto shrines and local kami, in the stones and the borrowed landscapes of the Japanese gardens one cannot help but deduce a faith infused with imagination. Revering, reacting to nature as if it were personal is a cross-cultural response but the long history Japan has with its landscape has perhaps made it a predominant response. Every time I saw a cold statue wearing a toboggan I was amused. But I was also warmed. Whatever the source of my "haunting," the sense of it is like a vacuum pulling me away from ground and when the cable car pulls away that sense follows me across the ocean.

leaving Baseyama-
suspended between the sun
and the ocean

10/5/01

I take a walk early in the morning along the dike between the Sohzukawa and the marsh opposite. I see many white herons roosting in the marsh and am mutually startled with a cormorant that suddenly materializes from beneath the surface. Hundreds of fish are schooling under a bridge and an elementary school class is led about on a rope on the opposite shore. A bicycle and paint can lie at the bottom of the river.

early morning-
the white herons are full
of moon glow

sight seeing-
the river sends up a cormorant

dawn-
a bicycle and a paint can
in the Sohzukawa

Dinner that evening is at a restaurant within sight of the Mitsuhatada, or the three sister islands, a spot famous for its spectacular sunsets.

sunset-
a white cat deep in the sound
of surf

daymoon-
a white cat deep in the sound
of surf

full moon-
a white cat deep in the sound
of surf

Later we go to a bookstore and buy an English-Japanese dictionary for my probably never-to-be-realized -Japanese speaking- self, and a Japanese version of Fantasia and Sleeping Beauty for my wife who is a Disney fan.

10/06/01

Mikiko drives me to Uwajima to meet Hiromi and Kim for the return trip to Matsuyama. We pick up Keiko on the way. We meet at a parking garage and go to a restaurant for lunch. Kimiyo has accompanied Hiromi. The restaurant has several computers, which are made available to the customers. So I check up on my e-mail. The ride back to Matsuyama with Kim and Hiromi is enjoyable and circuitous, traversing farmland and hillsides. Again I am reminded of West Virginia. It is on this ride that Kimiyo half jokingly suggests The Narrow Roads of Ehime as a possible title for my haibun to be. I am tired and not very observant on this day. We drop Kim off near her house in Matsuyama, and I give her a lacquer tissue box I had actually bought for my wife's grandmother. Only after purchasing it did I realize I had already seen such an item in her grandmother's room. I tell Kim she will need it when I leave.

Hiromi drives to the supermarket, which for me is always a fascinating place to look around. He buys the ingredients for shabu shabu which is a recipe calling for very thin slices of beef to be dipped in a boiling concoction of seaweed and water. In addition to beef; shitake mushrooms, some other type of mushroom and Chinese cabbage are briefly cooked and then dipped in soy or sesame sauce. It is delicious.