Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hotaru no Haka

My mother will be soon turning another page and entering her 79th year. She seems intent to speak of many things that she saw, and did during and after World War Two. Although just a teen aged girl, my mother was forced to be so much more as Japan staggered to its ultimate fall.

For those of you who may not have read my short biography on another blog, half my family's ancestry lies in Japan. We're part of the Taira, Heike Clan, descended from the Fujiwara, a branch family called the Umetani. If you ever find yourself with little to do, take a moment ( a long moment) and read the Heike Monogatari.

I suppose that many entering the twilight years find themselves searching for meaning. I'm always reminded of the last scene in the film Saving Private Ryan where an elderly man asks simply if he is a good man.

And I suppose all of us will be asking ourselves the same question one day.

I think my mother's telling me of the hardships and horrors of her childhood, things she has never spoken of before, is a way to make sure that something of her remains here as she approaches the time when she will move from this world into the invisible world. I like to think she will achieve immortality among the Kami.

I spent a day harvesting apples from her place recently, and she talked as we worked.

She is troubled by what is happening here in this country between all of us. We all call ourselves Americans, but many of us are divided on so many levels. Race. Religion. Political Ideologies. Regionalism. Some of us have even gone so far as to hyphenate our nationality.

People have made the mistake of referring to me as a "Japanese-American", and I've corrected them. I'm an American, plain and simple.

I've been to Japan, and to the Japanese, I'm an "outside person", a gaijin.

Japan is a nation that had been wracked by internal struggles for centuries. Civil wars and clan feuds were common. General Hideyoshi, who succeeded a murdered Oda Nobunaga, managed to restore some sense of unity in 1600, but he had to destroy castle after castle, and even entire Buddhist sects, in order to do so.

Even today in Japan, there are nearly thirty active political parties on the national stage. Then there are many regional parties that haven't managed to gather enough support to jump to national prominence.

On top of that, you have the Zaibatsu hiding in the shadows, stirring the pot.

They're a contentious bunch over there. So don't let people try and tell you homogeneous societies are more peaceful. The Japanese have just managed to find a way to fight among themselves that doesn't involve blood and steel.

Here, its not likely to be so civilized.

She's having me watch "Hotaru no Haka". I have to tell you, it isn't easy.

The night after she watched the movie, as she slept, a small plane flew above her house. It woke her, and it sounded like a B-29, and she was 14 and in Kobe again.

When you stop and think that its the kids who pay the ultimate price for us adults failing to find a solution, it makes it even more difficult.

If you're interested, the video is available online: Here It is the original animated film. A live action film was made later.

If you're not using Veoh, you'll need to install some software available at the site.

YouTube has clips available, just type in "Grave Of The Fireflies"


idahobob said...

A short postscript for you....

We have a dear friend, here, that grew up in Nagasaki. She saw the bomb coming down with a parachute attached. It burst on the other side of a ridge from where she was.


Ken said... much to be learned from previous generations,somewhere respect for elders was lost,and a huge wealth of knowledge with it...
...wish yer mother a Happy Birthday from me...

ErinAndBrad said...

Very poignant post Catman. I would love to read anything you post on the past and what we can learn about it so that maybe some of us can learn and have something honorable to pass on to our children.

Happy Birthday Catmans' mom!

Catman said...

Hey Idaho,

Thanks. I've spoken to survivors of the fire raids over Germany as well. I can not fathom having seen something that their words fail to describe. The look of their faces as they remember tell the story their words can not.

Thanks, Ken, and I will convey your birthday greetings to my mom, Ernie. Thank you.