Japan: Landing at Narita

I have been called a ‘hero’ for coming to Japan at this time, one month after the tsunami and with the Daiichi nuclear plant still out of control, by the people who have a financial interest in my coming.  I was called a ‘coward’ by the same people when I was contemplating not coming.  My wife and several others would have reversed the epithets, calling me a hero if I had stuck to my guns and stayed home, and a coward for blindly keeping my commitment when the situation had so clearly changed in a way that might damage my health, and thus my deeper commitments to them and the future.

Never has one of my gigs so divided my household or myself.  My promise to myself has been to keep my professional commitments, and last spring’s declining of a lecture in St Petersburg (because of the volcanic ash that was grounding planes all over Europe – good thing too, I would have missed my daughter’s graduation) was a rara avis indeed.

But I chose to come this time, in spite of the possibility of earthquake and irradiated air.  I pray that I may be of some help, and that this choice will be validated.  The clouds coming into Narita looks ominous, with the sun shining through them like the rays of radiation, but my brain is working overtime.

The ominous feeling continues through my sunset ride to the hotel – how much am I adding with my Edgar Allen Poe imagination?  Red sky at night is supposed to be sailor’s delight, but now it looks nacreous with glowering clouds.

My room is on the 35th floor – a long way down if the building goes – which gives me a great view of a subdued Tokyo, but this is more than my overheated perception.  Tokyo, like Paris, is a city of light, but in order to save on electricity, they have ordered extra lights and escalators turned off, so the somber nature of the crisis is reflected in the dimming of neon and company signs, so the predominant night view are the red eyes warning the planes at the tops of the higher buildings.

So it looks like a Dantean circle of hell, but it feels all normal at the hotel and on the streets – I even have seen some late-blooming cherry blossoms, but I am uninclined to eat them.

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2 Responses to “Japan: Landing at Narita”

  1. julianaotter Says:

    A hero with a heart ..

  2. aleph kamal Says:

    You know that a major theme or obsession in my life is opposites. Hero/coward. Suicide bombers are [as Kamikaze pilots were] called cowards in the West. The idea of sacrificing yourself – in a war, say – for a greater cause is a foreign concept. Yet, when occasionally something like this happens, when a soldier is killed in the process of trying to save his fellow soldiers, he is hailed as a hero. I am not going to comment on professional commitments or family disputes, but I admire you flying into danger. During the recent insurgencies in Egypt, I asked you whether you wanted to go there with me. Some years ago, after the USA had bombed Libya, the cowardly Americans cancelled their holidays to North Africa. I went to Djerba, in Tunisia, extremely close to Tunisia. I was alone there. Heaven. When one is young, one takes all kinds of risks, ignoring the consequences. This changes with age, though it is in my nature to rush in where angels fear to tread. Some of course will call me irresponsible, saying I should by now have outgrown the folly of youth. They may be right.

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