Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Fascination with Japan

One year later, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, Japan proves its capabilities in rebuilding, at least on the construction level. I cannot imagine the horrific loss of family members and friends from such an event. Over this past year periodically I have watched videos and listened to audios of the disaster, as it was too much to do earlier. And now, a year later, rubble and reminders are washing up on the western shores of the U.S. (Ghost ship drifts toward Canada)

I think my fascination with Japan has its roots in my relationship with my grandmother who had a flair for exotic fabrics and clothes which she draped around her or which she had made into interesting things to wear. As a child I was allowed to go into her attic and walk over the creaky boards to the far corner where she had a huge wooden and metal trunk, the kind you see in old movies that people used for shipping their goods to foriegn lands.

When I opened it, the smells of oldness and adventure would rush up to my nose and I would lift up the ancient silk kimono carefully, just as my grandmother would appear behind me to caution me to do just that. I both dreaded her appearance and welcomed it because there were always stories about how these items came into her trunk, but partly I dreaded her invasion of my imagination.

There were tiny little silk cloth slippers with delicate flowers and leaves embroidered on them having a place for a big toe separated from the rest of the foot which was a matter of great curiosity to me. My feet were already too large to try them on, but I delighted in hearing from my grandmother how the ladies walked in little mincing steps on wooden platforms with their silk kimonos tightly wound around their petite frames.

My grandmother Elsa was not one to 'play' with her grandchildren. Instead she would offer up tales of her travels and punctuate these revelations with her unassailable philosophy that war of any kind was both horrible and unnecessary. After her beloved husband, Alain, was killed in World War I in a car accident in France, she worked as a nurse over there for some time before returning home to their four children.

Her diaries show her personal objective to strive toward world peace, as do her poems and essays. And she did travel many times around the world to seek audiences with various world leaders, including a trip to Japan. Her stories were always replete with descriptions of the regalia of the local country she was visiting, so it was like having Rudyard Kipling at my beck and call.

It is distressing to think of Japan as being "off-limits" because of the radiation or more serious disasters like the one a year ago. It is one of my goals to go to visit that country, providing all aspects are supported - my health, my wealth, and the condition of Japan's environment. Intending the peoples of Japan continue to heal from their trials and this one-year noting brings encouragement to all the world.

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