She was good at that. She felt safe inside her drawings, sheltered from the external world.
After Saburo spoiled dinner, she drew for hours. She felt bad for her mother, who probably had to clean up the mess, but when Yuri sketched the scene of what she imagined was going on downstairs, she instinctively depicted her mother as a colourful butterfly, exquisite and glamorous, untainted by the monochrome ominousness she drew of the three men hunched over each other in grubby conspiracy, their shaved monkey features contorted in drunken stupidity.
The picture made her hopeful for her mother at least. But her father. She rubbed out his face and tried again and again. Her pencils failed her. Eventually she rubbed out the whole drawing, including the butterfly.
She carefully collected all the eraser dust and threw it in the bin. This became a kind of game she played from then on, meticulously drawing forgettable scenes from her life, then just as meticulously erasing them to a pure blankness. She imagined she might reshape memories this way. Similar compilations of kamikaze testimonies had appeared since the end of the war but Tokugawa was convinced this was different, because he had injected his own intimate commentary. Populist author Shintaro Ishihara was already rumoured to be adapting the book into a film script.
Tokugawa had segued seamlessly from corporate elite to public intellectual. He was now on the board of meritorious public institutions like colleges, publishing houses, think tanks and foundations.follow
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Tokugawa always knew that his connections in the corporate world would come in handy one day. Possessing the kind of physical self-awareness rare in a man, Tokugawa knew how to maximise the fine cut of his jaw and the angular tilt of his face to full advantage and had become a seasoned television performer, often appearing on news commentary programs, chat shows, even quiz shows.
On screen, he intentionally wore only kimono, which gave him an air of graceful solemnity, not to mention a touch of straight-laced quirkiness. Tokugawa spoke with the confidence of a rising media star of a particular ilk. Mellifluous in tone and eloquent of content and with the legitimacy of first-hand experience on his side, he promoted himself as the accessible expert on a part of Japanese history left opaque, considered taboo.
But as was often the case with personalities on television, Tokugawa could obscure his real self from the populace with the illusion of his ubiquity. And now there was the new museum honouring the men of the Imperial Japanese Navy special attack forces, already in construction near the old Kanoya Air Base where Tokugawa had been based towards the end of the war. The first museum dedicated to the memory of the navy Tokkotai. The collection of documents would be permanently housed there and Hajime and Saburo would become honorary patrons. Like many Japanese, Tokugawa found the crassness and impudence of Kansai people annoying.
But he felt that Hajime and Saburo wore the scent of the common man well. His association with them helped soften his sharp edges. They made good sidekicks. We cannot get rid of war because war has captured the habits of our imaginations. You were merely a boy when the war touched you. No one deserves to be entrapped in fear of dying without ever being known, in misunderstanding, in loneliness. There are no grand designs inside your head, yet this desire for remembrance will make you a player in reconstructing an ambiguous truth, history as profound self-deception.
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He was indeed impressive, but there was something about his eyes. Looking into them was like being sucked into an indecipherable subterfuge, forced to perform a role in a ghost story of the classical Noh tradition but with a hint of the grotesquery of modern Butoh and some frenzied samurai action thrown in for good measure. The performance had intrigue and violence and mute epic drama. But the characters remained unresolved and multiple plots conspired against one another, winding their way to a never-ending conclusion.
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Perhaps the fact that he was untroubled by intellectual complexity was a good thing, it might save him. But what Michiko knew of war was that there were no innocents, just victims. The only way to put an end to it would be to take a short sharp sword and stab them, rip them clean out of their sockets. Then she would wipe the blade clean with fresh, white kaishi paper, place the blade back into its scabbard until she heard it click into place. Yuri thought the Japanese were prone to going overboard when it came to nominative accuracy.
They had sat down together as a family to watch the program about the new museum on the public broadcaster NHK. Tokugawa spoke at length about the battle strategies of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the legendary aerial manoeuvres of its fighter pilots. At one stage, these pilots were considered some of the best in the world, the most revered and the most feared. The documentary featured grainy black and white footage of kamikaze planes, plunging into their targets from on high, like arrows shot from heaven. But the image that stayed with Yuri was the one of the young pilots, boys really, playing with a little dog.
They were revelling in puppy love, surrendered to joy, their faces cracked open in unselfconscious delight. The voiceover explained that these boys flew out on their missions just a few days later. Before departure, they were all given a shot of sake and a final cigarette.
The cigarette was a special gift from the emperor bearing the royal crest of the chrysanthemum flower with sixteen petals. Her father had attended the museum opening but Yuri had stayed home with her mother. She was glad of that. She found all this battle talk tedious. Her father seemed proud though, happy even, almost hand-clappingly gleeful. An interview with him was included in the documentary.
Just a few minutes long, and his message was simple. Her father could be so painfully earnest sometimes, a diligent nerd, so majime. Yuri and her mother often made fun of him. Something was gnawing at the back of her mind and it had nothing to do with the documentary. A young woman charges through the front door with a torn blouse and tear stained cheeks.
She disappears into the bathroom. A door slams.
A long close up of discarded panty hose, the silhouette of the leg that once inhabited it hinted at in its crumpled mass. It turns out she was raped by her boss. Her parents are discussing what to do. Yuri was incensed.
Copyright, privacy and accessibility
What about seeking justice for her? Her parents just shrugged their shoulders. Yuri felt rage boil up inside her to press up against her trembling chin. What would you do then? Yuri worked on this haughtiness over the years, developing it into a higher art form, to be worn like a cloak, maybe a uniform. Or a weapon. He was eighty-seven. Japan slipped into mourning. Australian exports to Japan of celebratory foods like abalone and lobster plummeted and the Japanese honeymoon tourist market suffered a downturn.
Later that same year, Yuri made a big decision. She would try living in Tokyo for a while. It would be an opportunity to explore her roots. Both her parents encouraged her, which surprised Yuri. The air was not heavy and oppressive like she remembered, but alive with a kinetic buzz.
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Yuri could almost smell the brashness, the effects of over-moneyed confidence, she assumed. Yuri was still in her twenties after all, how could she resist the temptation? Parties, discos, designer fashion, designer drugs and a rapid turnover of boyfriends ensued. None of the boyfriends broke her heart but one broke her resolve. One night he took her to a bar, dank and dilapidated, located down an impossible-to-navigate maze of back alleys, fragrant with accumulated urine. The customers were mostly designers and architects Yuri had met before.
The incongruence of a bunch of well-heeled hipsters hanging out in this down-and-out venue was intriguing enough, but some of them were wearing their underpants on their heads, smoking and drinking as if nothing was out of place. Yuri never went to that bar again. When pressed, her architect boyfriend made unconvincing excuses and they never returned.
They broke up a few days later. Both activities left her feeling disheartened, disillusioned, lost. A grassroots organisation founded by the indefatigable Ms M, a newspaper journalist and prominent Japanese feminist, the group was originally formed to protest Japanese sex tours to South-East Asia. But just recently, Ms M had taken on a new opponent, Ken Tokugawa. She had just launched her first attack in what would become a drawn out battle for history against a most formidable opponent. The War Manifesto was the first and had sold over a million copies.