iris - at“ 1 mm‘nt‘A : toward extinction or toward...

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Unformatted text preview: at“ 1 mm‘nt‘A : toward extinction or toward salvation from that fate, we Masufl Ibuse inescapably face an “unknOWable future. The fundamental condition of life, then, is that we are assailed by overwhelming fear yet, at the same time, beckoned by the necesstty to rebuild ll hope, however difficult, in defiance of that fear. These are the "‘- basic issues that underlie the short stories presented in this i“ h l . ‘ l1 am 0 ogy translated by David L. Swam “Ta, The Crazy Iris SHORTLY after Hiroshima was bombed, I was at a friend's house in the outskirts of Fukuyama looking at an iris which had flow— ered out of season. It grew alone and its blossoms were purple. This was in the middle of August, some days after the Impe— rial Rescript of Surrender. Most of the irises were clustered at one end of the pond and already displayed their long, ton— sured, bright green pistils. But this belated plant grew somewhat apart from the others; out of its sharp leaves, which rose from the water, emerged a delicate stem and at the end of this, the 1,; _ ' twisted, purple blossoms. When first I caught sight of it from E ’ the window of my friend’s house, I thought it was a piece of fit” colored tissue paper floating on the pond . . . . S MU a (5 .\/\k ?m”’ { qg S ' It is a hundred miles from Fukuyama to Hiroshima. At about :1; l ll l noon on the day Hiroshima was bombed, I went for a walk ,i through Fukuyama. Several of the shops were advertising bar— ll gain sales. On display was a motley collection of antique house- hold articles at absurdly low prices: chests of drawers, desks, mirror-stands, a ping-pong table, tableware, an antler, a bear- skin. Outside the shutters of one shop were hung dozens of large mats with a sign, “These mats for sale. Thirty sen each." A huge Imari—ware flowerpot, tightly planted with palm— bamboos, bore the notice, “These palm-bamboos for sale. Price including pot: Eighty sen." A small organ was selling 16 KENZABURE) OE THE CRAZY IRIS 17 men—var as 2.1, <:. . i__:. .ké A“; > for five yen. A vase with a red plant was ten sen; three bamboo clothes—poles came to fifteen sen; a history ofjapan in fourteen volumes was fourteen yen. uHey, Masu, what are you up to?” I heard a voice behind me. “You weren’t going to pass without stopping to see me!” It was the proprietor of the Yasuhara Pharmacy standing at the entrance of his shop in a white cotton shirt, hammer in hand. Mr. Yasuhara and I came from the same village, some seven miles outside Fukuyama, and we had been brought up together as children. He had moved to this town some twenty years before and now ran a large, well-stocked pharmacy. We stood chatting in front of the shop. “I'm having my last look at it all,” I said. “I don’t suppose there’ll be much left after the bombers have been here. You’ve seen those handbills the Americans dropped, haven’t you? I suppose you'll be leaving here?" “Yes, now that they’ve issued the evacuation order, I’ll be clearing out as soon as I can get things into shape. But you know, Masu, they can’t expect me to do it all in a few minutes.” Mr. Yasuhara turned towards his shop and continued nailing a wooden board to the door. According to the evacuation order, all householders were to board up their windows and doors against the effects of blast. “I know we aren't supposed to grumble,” said Mr. Yasuhara, “but I wish they’d tell us how we’re meant to put up these wretched boards. I’ll not get anywhere at this rate. There’s not a single workman left in town and when I went to the iron- monger just now, there wasn’t a nail in the shop. I’ve had to pull the nails out of my own floorboards and make do.” The complaints poured forth monotonously as he hammered away at his door. From inside the shop a clock struck twelve. Turning to me, Mr. Yasuhara said, “Did you know you had a fishhook in your hat, Masu?” He reached out and removed the book, which must have been there since I went fishing some 18 MASUJI Iausa days before. “Well, I shan’t keep you from your hammering any longer,” I said. “I don’t suppose there’s all that much time for us to get out of here." Next I called at the Kobayashi Inn, oppositerthe station, which I had known for over thirty years. During my student days I had always stayed there while traveling between Tokyo and my parents’ home in the country, and since then I had made it my headquarters whenever I visited Fukuyama. In the courtyard behind the inn was an old plum tree and at its roots an Imbe—ware water jar. I remembered this jar standing in the same place ever since my school days. It was a dark clay jar about four feet high and glazed a vermilion in color; on one side, six lines intersected each other in a pattern of naughts—and— crosses. It was some time now since I had first asked the landlady to sell me the jar, but she had refused on the grounds that she might need it should the water-supply ever be cut off. There was something very attractive about this jar, but it wasn’t until the landlady’s refusal that I realized how much I had always wanted it. On my next visit to Fukuyama I again made an offer. This time the landlady declined, saying that the jar had been there ever since her father's day. When I mentiond the matter again some months later, she said she could not part with the jar as it was so beautiful in the rain. Since then I had frequently tried to buy it, though never with any real hope of success. But now that we were all to be evacuated, perhaps she would finally part with the jar, which still stood in its place under the plum tree in the courtyard. “That water jar of yours," I said to the landlady. “What about letting me take it to my village for safekeeping? I know where I can hire a cart for the day, so it will be quite easy for me to move it." “I never heard that we had to evacuate our water jars," said THE CRAZY 11115 19 raft-""‘nr—‘fi — "fir" iv, in What about all your medical equipment?” the landlady. “You don’t really suppose they’re going to bomb those, do you?” Then with an air of finality she added, “The only thing that’s being evacuated from my inn is people.” There was a great crowd at the inn, all waiting for lunch, and the landlady and her assistants were rushing to and fro trying to accommodate them. The rooms upstairs were packed with people and even the annex was crowded. From snatches of conversation, I gathered that the trains bound for Hiroshima on the Tokyo—Hiroshima line were being stopped at the next station and the passengers were being advised to get off at Fukuyama. “Even the railway people don’t know what’s hold- ing the trains up," I heard the landlord tell one of his customers. Two men in civilian uniforms were sitting next to the en- trance of the dining room complaining about the increasing inefliciency of the State Railways. “They’ve got no right to push us around like this!” I heard one of them tell his com- panion. "I went up to the stationmaster himself and said, ‘It’s your duty to inform us why the Hiroshima trains are being held up.’ And all he could say was, ‘I don’t know, sir, I don’t know.’ ‘No doubt it’s your aim in life to reduce your pas— sengers to a state of nervous prostration,’ I said to him.” “You’re quite right," said the other man. “They’re a perfect disgrace, these State Railways." I left the Kobayashi Inn and called at the nearby Hirai Dental Clinic, whose director had been a classmate of mine at middle school. Walking through the crowded waiting room, I found him in his consulting chamber. He was leaning forward with his elbow on a table and his chin resting in his hand. “Well, well, Masu,” he said as he saw me, “so they've finally ordered us to clear out. It’s going to be quite a job for us here at the clinic, I can tell you." He threw an unhappy glance around the room. “And what do you suppose will happen to this old town of ours?” “Oh, I expect the bombers will make a thorough job of it! 20 MASUJI IBUSE “Yes indeed, what about it . . .P" said the director vaguely. At the other end of the consulting chamber a couple of order- lies were silently attending to some patients. The director appeared to take no interest in them. just a few days before, his only son, who had volunteered as a junior pilot, had been killed, and this news seemed to have taken all life out of him. I felt that if the air raid siren were to sound this very moment, he would not take shelter but continue to stand there leaning on the table. After my visit to the clinic, I left Fukuyama on foot, taking the road along the river. As I approached the bottom of the railway bridge, I noticed an emplacement with an anti—aircraft gun surrounded by sandbags. There was not a soldier in sight. The gunbarrel was pointing west towards Hiroshima. I sat down near the deserted emplacement and opened my lunch box, and as I ate, I gazed at the sky around about. I had the feel- ing that at any moment an enemy plane would appear over the high hills. But no plane came. Had it not been for those hills, I might have seen the remains of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. The inhabitants of Mihara, about seventy miles from Hiroshima, clearly saw the cloud welling up in the blue sky; and the students in the Etajima Military Academy (at about the same distance from the city), who were doing their daily gymnastics, were hurled to the ground at the moment of the bombing. All the academy windows facing Hiroshima were shattered. In fact I did not hear of the destruction of Hiroshima until about thirty or forty hours after the event. We in our village first learned what had happened indirectly from one of the victims who had fled to the neighboring village. He reported that some strange weapon had been exploded and that from one moment to another the city of Hiroshima had ceased to exist. The victim's name was Kobayashi. He had formerly THE CRAZY [ms 21 "32' 1953:"? w a ‘WJ—wwvl‘ “h...— ._4_.,_. been the principal of our own village school but had been promoted some years before to the post of director of one of the primary schools in Hiroshima. I knew him from my school days, when he had been in the class ahead of me. He had been a reserved, modest boy. I remember how I had once caught the braid of my school uniform on a nail and he had got it off for me without tearing it. Rumors of Kobayashi's fate soon reached the village. We heard that on the day Hiroshima was bombed, he was giving lessons at the school. After class he went to his study, but just then there was an air raid warning and he took shelter under his desk. Some minutes later the all—clear siren sounded. Koba— yashi stood up. As it was very hot, he took off his coat and went over to the window. He was just removing his shirt when there was a tremendous flash in the sky and he felt the heat going right through his skin. There was a swishing sound and the earth trembled slightly. “The secret weapon!” he thought. He threw on his coat and ran out through the back gate. An empty truck stood directly outside the school, and without thinking, Kobayashi scrambled into the back. An old man hurried out of the house opposite and climbed into the driver’s seat. The truck drove off. Kobayashi had no idea where they were going. He lay silently in the back and before long he fainted. When he came to, he found that they had arrived at some town he did not recognize. He was aware of a peculiar pain throughout his body. Some— thing told him that he was going to die. Whatever happened, he must make his way back to his home village and his family! He managed to get a ride on a truck to Fukuyama and from there an army car took him home. He returned covered with blood. He immediately visited Dr. Tawa, the village doctor, but the latter had no idea how to treat him. Two days after Hiroshima’s destruction, Fukuyama was raided at night. I heard the planes coming over in endless droves. 22 MASUJI IBUSE Later I climbed the hill behind the village and, standing next to a big rock called the Devil's Mortar, watched the glow of the burning town. As Fukuyama was hidden by other hills, I could not see the conflagration directly, but the whole side of one hill was bright with the reflection of the flames. At one place, a huge pillar of fire reared itself over the hill crests. The castle tower must be alight. In a rift between the hills I could see that two large groups of houses outside the town had caught fire. The burning houses made small pinpricks of light across the dark wide plain. “What can those lights be over there?” I heard someone say. “They look like the flames the fishermen use at night." Quite a few Villagers had come up to watch the burning town. Most of them were silent, and in the dark I could not make out who they were. “What on earth can those lights be?” the same voice repeated. But no one answered. After a time, someone shouted from below, “Hey, is anyone up there from the Western Neighborhood Association?" There was no reply. Again the person below shouted, "Hey, up there! All the men from the Western Association are to as— semble at once. We're going to Fukuyama to rescue the vic— tims. Come on l" A few people, who had been squatting by a pine tree, stood up without a word and began scrambling down the hill. As they ran, they looked up nervously now and again at an Amer— ican plane directly overhead. Its light moved back and forth between our village and Fukuyama; finally it disappeared in the distant black sky. I wondered if the plane had been in the line of fire of the anti-aircraft gun where I had eaten my box lunch; the gun seemed to have been silent all evening. Finally the pillar of fire disappeared from sight and the pin- pricks of light also vanished. I walked slowly down the hill. There had been something uncanny about this raid, which I THE CRAZY IRis 2.3 had stood watching in silence without knowing what was really happening. At the time I had thought that there must be at least two hundred enemy planes, but it turned out that there had been only sixty. Yet about seventy per cent of the town had burned down; an incendiary bomb had entered the castle tower which, after blazing for several hours, had collapsed. What would the next target be? This was a favorite subject for discussion in our village. By now almost all the cities and big towns on the Inland Sea had been raided. Hiroshima had been destroyed and before that Okayama; Imabari, some distance from the sea, had also been pulverized. Okayama, like Fuku- yama, was bathed in incendiary bombs; Imabari and Amagasaki were attacked with high explosives. I remember how during the raid on Amagasaki we could feel the whole earth trembling, even though the town was at a considerable distance from our village. Perhaps because my house was next to a high stone wall, my wife and I were particularly aware of the tremors. We were listening at the time to an eyewitness account of the bombing on the radio and the combination of this direct de- scription with the repeated tremors was quite nerve—racking. As it happened, there were no more large—scale raids in our area. A Week after the attack on Fukuyama, we heard on the radio of our surrender. That day the stomach trouble from which I had been suffering intermittently became acute, and I decided to visit Dr. Tawa in the neighboring village. I found him in a state of great agitation. It appeared that he was having an endless series of calls these days; no sooner had he returned from one round of visits than he would find a new list of pa— tients requiring his immediate attention. All the young men in the area had been enrolled as volunteers and shortly before the attack on Hiroshima had been sent to the city to help in the evacuation. After the atom bomb attack the survivors had made their way back to their villages, most of them horribly burnt or maimed. Even those who were superficially unscathed 24. MASUJI IBUSE complained of peculiar pains throughout their bodies. "It’s a funny thing,” Dr. Tawa told me. “They can’t even tell me exactly where the pain is. All they can say is that it hurts terribly. I can’t find anything specifically wrong with them. It must be some new type of illness we don’t know anything about and I’m afraid medicine isn’t going to do them any good." As there was yet no medical term for this illness, Dr. Tawa provisionally referred to it as “the volunteers’ illness" or “the illness with the peculiar pain.” Compared to this illness, of course, my stomach trouble counted for very little in his eyes. Most of the victims of “the volunteers’ illness" who were going to die did so within two weeks. The local paper recom— mended cauterization with the moxa as a cure. This treatment was used by almost everyone in our region who had been ex- posed to the atom bomb; some people even used it after con- tact with the victims, believing the illness to be infectious. I do not know how effective the moxa was, but I heard people swear that it had saved their lives. Many young men from my own village died that day at Hiroshima. Among them was the son of Mr. Yasuhara, the pharmacist, who had recently started school at Hiroshima. He was killed instantaneously. It was just at the time of the raid that I had stood chatting with his father outside the pharmacy and it occurred to me that at the very moment Mr. Yasuhara removed the fish hook from my hat, his son must have dropped dead. There did not seem to be anything particularly ill—omened in the words, “Did you know you had a fish hook in your hat?" I wondered what Mr. Yasuhara would feel should he ever re- member them. Two days later I went to Fukuyama to see the ruins of the castle tower. I had often read impressive descriptions of burnt towers in historical romances and I was curious to see one in reality. Yet when I reached the site of the castle, nothing re- THE CRAZY IRIS 25 mained of the great tower but anonymous heaps of earth and tiles. A few people were digging about in the debris with shovels of pieces of wood, searching for the nails that had supported the ancient gargoyles. Some of the nails had been laid out by the side of the road. They were as big as fire tongs. Parts of the castle wall were still standing. The huge stones were covered with marks of burning and had turned to a dark clay color. I could feel a warm wind blowing up from the bottom of the wall. I walked slowly down the hill to the town itself, which was almost completely burned. I visited the remains of the Koba— yashi Inn opposite the gutted station. On the door was an eVacuation notice giving the landlady’s new address. The plum tree in the courtyard had Vanished without a trace. The [tube— ware water jar still stood there, but was cracked in two right down the middle. It had kept its lovely vermilion color. I sat down on a charred stone and wrote a card to the landlady: “Dear Madam, I hasten to inform you of a lamentable state of affairs. 1 am writing this card sitting on a charred stone in the burnt ruins of your inn. The water jar which we discussed the other day is broken clean in two. May I now take it to my house for safekeeping? If you prefer, I shall buy it from you for the sum I mentioned. In any case, I am sure you will not want to leave it as it is. I hope you will seriously consider my request and find time to send me a reply as soon as possible. May I take advantage of this note to express my sympathy in your loss? Yours sincerely . . . ." I intended to post the card on returning to my village, but suddenly changed my mind and threw it away. I was afraid the landlady might think it was written in fun. The water jar remained where it was for some time. When I went fishing in the beginning of October, I again visited the ruins of the inn and saw the jar still standing there in two pieces. But when I passed through Fukuyama later that month on my 26 MASUJI Inuss : . i l a . z I way to Iwakuni, I found that it had been pounded into frag— ments, together with the fallen bricks and debris. On the train to Iwakuni, I thought about the jar and kept on composing different cards I might send the landlady: “Dear Madam, The image of that bygone water jar haunts me in— cessantly. How transient, alas, the beauty of this world! Yours I! sincerely . . . . As the train rattled on, I felt more and more exasperated with the landlady. Why couldn’t she at least have let me have the jar for safekeeping, even if she didn’t want to sell it? My annoyance was aggravated by the fact that I had to stand all the way to Iwakuni, as the train was packed. Passing through Hiroshima, I tried to get a glimpse of the ruins, but could see nothing for the crowds that blocked the train windows. It was not until ten months later that I visited the city. I remember how impressed I was then to find that of all the trees in Hiro— shima, the palms alone, though charred and twisted, had with- stood the tremendous temperature of a year before and were now putting forth buds. With the surrender, not only did my stomach trouble con— tinue to get worse but I began to suffer from insomnia. On the evening of the day I had visited the castle tower, a member of our Village Committee brought a notice to my house: “You will proceed to the school playground at Kannabe to receive your share of reserve stores. You will assemble at 5 am. tomorrow at the residence of the head of your Neighborhood Association. If you have a truck, Wagon, or any other form of conveyance, you will bring it to the place of assembly. At least one member must report from each household.” I went to bed almost at once for fear of being late the follow— ing morning. But try as I might, sleep would not come. Indeed, I did not sleep a wink that night, and with bleary eyes and a dull head appeared at the designated spot at five o'clock the next morning. In front of the house a few early arrivals were THE CRAZY IRIS 27 already kindling a fire and discussing the type of reserve stores which our village was likely to receive. The Army had stored vast supplies in our district, evidently in the expectation of a prolonged war. They had used almost every conceivable storing place: textile factories which had been forced to close down owing to lack of raw materials, breweries which had suspended operations following the Law Regulating Civilian Enterprises, granaries, soybean ware- houses, saké breweries, farms, and even school buildings. Here they had brought a mass of miscellaneous material whose possible value to the Army was often hard to fathom. In our village school, they had stored a sewing machine in one classroom and huge rolls of paper in another; they had then locked and sealed the doors. In the meadow by the river they had piled rolls of paper in an immense pyramid and covered it with a waterproof tent. Another tent nearby sheltered a wheel- barrow. All private warehouses and storerooms in the area had been requisitioned. In our village the Army had used them for storing jars of wine; they had heaped the jars up to the ceilings, locked the doors and affixed the Army seals. Kannabe had apparently been the center of the Army’s storing operations and, according to tumor, the reason that the Americans had destroyed Fukuyarna so thoroughly was that they had mis— taken it for this nearby town. Our village had only been able to assemble four wagons. At about six o'clock we set out for Kannabe, taking turns in pull— ing them. All the villages and hamlets in the three rural dis- tricts of our area had been ordered to collect supplies from Kannabe and the narrow country road was packed solidly with wagons, horse carts, wheelbarrows and people. No effort had been made to regulate the traffic. Frequently we would meet groups coming in the opposite direction from Kannabe. Since it was impossible for the wagons and carts to pass each other, we had to lift them above our heads. The shouting and confu— 28 MASUJI IBUSE i..- vu-nm up... i sion at these moments had to be heard and seen to be believed. Our group reached the school playground at eight o’clock in the morning, but was forced to wait there until five o’clock in the afternoon before receiving further instructions. After standing for some time in the broiling sun, I went and sat under a tree in the corner of the playground near the school building. In the playground were stacked enormous piles of paper rolls, and sheets of paper the size of carpets. I do not know exactly what was in the schoolhouse, but judging from the loads car— ried out by people who had gone inside to help themselves, the principal articles were clothing, farm tools, old magazines, and camouflage nets. The clothing consisted of blue shirts for soldiers and overcoats for officers. The blue shirts were in bundles about three to four feet high, loosely tied together with cord. The shirts seemed to be the most popular booty for the peo- ple who went into the schoolhouse to pilfer supplies. As they staggered out with their huge loads, other people standing near the entrance would snatch a couple of shirts from the top of the bundle. The man carrying the shirts couldn’t do much about this without dropping his entire bundle. Shouting abuse, he would push his way slowly through the crowd. Then some— one else would grab a few more shirts from him and while he was looking to see who it was, still another man would snatch a handful. In the end, the original thief would be left with only two or three shirts. No one did anything to prevent the pilfering. There were three men outside the school building Wearing the armbands of auxiliary Kempei military police, but they seemed quite at a loss as to whether or not they should interfere. They ob— viously did not know how much power, if any, they retained, now that Japan had surrendered. They have to pretend not to see anything, I thought to myself. At that moment one of the police went up to a man who had stolen a single shirt and THE CRAZY IRIS 29 “Mm. . _..,... a-..“ snatched it from him. He made the man show him his papers and wrote something in a notebook. “What do you blasted Keinpei think you’re doing?” someone shouted from the crowd. “Still trying to throw your weight around?” A few others took up the cry: “Pretty stuck-up, aren’t you?” “Remember, you’ve had your day now!” just then there was a sudden agitation among the crowd and lots of people ran and hid behind the wagons. I looked up. The sky was full of what seemed to be sparkling gray missiles flying about in all directions. For a moment I too felt panic; then I realized that they Were just scraps of burning paper being blown about in the wind. It turned out that the employees of the Dis— trict Office were burning part of the archives and were throw- ing them out of the window. Conditioned as we all were by the fear of air raids, they had appeared to us like some terrible new weapon. After we had waited for nine hours in the school playground, our group was ordered to proceed to the square in front of the main saké breWery of the town. Here again we waited. As I was sleepy, I sat down on one of the wagons and dozed off. When I awoke, it was already dark. We had eaten our box- lunches hours before. Hungry and exhausted, we waited in silence outside the sake brewery. We had become accustomed to this sort of treatment during the war and it occurred to me that it was to become part of our lives in peacetime as well. Midnight had passed when we were moved to still another waiting place, and by this time I was too tired to take in much that was happening. I remember that we all gathered by a wagon beside the road, joining groups from several other villages. One group loaded hundreds of sheets of paper on to horse carts and then set off silently into the night. After waiting another two hours, we were instructed to load 30 MASUJI IBUSE one of our wagons with two paper rolls and the other with printing paper, blue shirts, uncut material for Army uniforms, and shovels. Then at last we Were told to return home. Dawn was breaking as We entered the village before ours and, dizzy with exhaustion, I had fallen out of the ranks. A group from a distant mountain village passed as I stood by the side of the road. I noticed that all their carts were loaded with printing ink. “What on earth do they expect us to do with this stuff?” one of the men said, looking in my direction with a weary smile. Next day we were summoned to the village hall for the dis- tribution of reserve stores. The tinned food, clothing, and shovels were equitably divided; the printing paper was also shared out—so many sheets per family. The paper rolls, how— ever, presented some difficulty. After lengthy discussion, it was decided to divide one of the rolls, a job that was entrusted to the village carpenter. Instead of unrolling the paper and meas- uring off a number of equal lengths with a ruler, the man took a cleaver and hacked away at the full roll. The pieces of paper that emerged were mangled and of different sizes, those coming from the center of the roll being, of course, much smaller. The Village Committee then called for a scale and distributed the paper by weight. The disposal of the second roll was left for future decision. As soon as I knew of the surrender, I decided to return to Tokyo. It was about a week after the raid on Fukuyama that I visited my friend Mr. Masahiko Kiuchi, who had been evac— uated from Tokyo at the same time as myself, to discuss plans. He was living with his wife in a small annex next to her parents’ house on the outskirts of Fukuyama. Here I spent the night. From the second floor one could look out to the sea in the south and to the mountains in the west. Directly below the window was a pond. In the evening I played chess with my friend but soon became tired and went to bed, falling asleep instantly without my usual insomnia. THE CRAZY IRIS 31 I awoke at early dawn, got up and opened the window. It was then that I saw a strange sight in the pond. I hurriedly fetched the bed lamp and, extending the flex to the window, pointed it in the direction of the water. I took one look and turned out the light. I closed the window. What I had seen floating on the surface was a human body. The iris were clus— tered at one end of the pond and a few yards away was some- thing that looked like a piece of purple tissue paper. The body was floating on its back, one cheek almost touching the purple object. I could not wait for the others to wake up and ran down- stairs shouting for Mr. Kiuchi. “Don’t tell me you’re awake already, Masu,” I heard his wife's sleepy voice coming from their bedroom. “I’ll be right up,” said Mr. Kiuchi. I returned to my room and waited. A few minutes later he joined me in his pajamas, seeming half asleep. “I'm sorry I had to wake you,” I said, “but there’s something terrible floating on the pond down there." Kiuchi walked towards the window and then suddenly stopped. “No, I’d rather not see,” he said. “There’s no point in my looking . . . . Has someone drowned?" . “Yes. You'll have to notify the police right away. I think it’s a woman. I saw it ust now when I was opening the window.” “All right. I'll go next door and phone for the police.” He ran downstairs and almost at once his wife came up. "How awful I” she said. “Who can it be?” “I don’t know. I don’t want to look again. It wasn’t there yesterday afternoon. It must have come to the surface after dark." “In that case, whoever it was, drowned a week ago. They say it takes a week for the body to start floating.” A week, I thought—so she must have been drowned the day Fukuyama was raided. 32 MASH]! Iausa I was washing my face when my friend returned. “They’ll be along right away,” he said. “Hey, Masahiko, are you sure it wasn’t here yesterday?” We heard the voice of Mrs. Kiuchi's father from down below by the pond. My friend went up to the window but did not look out. “Yes, Father, I’m quite sure," he shouted. “Someone would have seen it. . . . I don’t know how you can bear to stand there staring at it,” he added. “Did you know there is an iris in bloom?” the old man’s voice came up. “It’s amazing! Think of an iris blooming at this time of year! Here, have a look!” But Mr. Kiuchi still would not peer out of the window. After breakfast a police officer and a detective arrived. They took down a detailed statement from us and then ex- amined the scene of the drowning, neither Kiuchi nor I ac- companying them. When they returned to the house, they told us they had found a woman’s sandal nearby. Perhaps, they said, the victim had been terrified by the air raid and in a fit of hys- teria run headlong from the town. Overcome by emotion, she may have leaped into the pond. Their examination of the body had revealed a burn on the cheek, which obviously lent credence to this theory. The girl was about twenty years old and was wearing an old nightgown tied with a red sash. After the police had left, Mrs. Kiuchi heated a bath for me in the main house. As soon as I lay in the hot water, I fell asleep and it was afternoon before I awoke. Mr. Kiuchi had come in and was shaking me by the shoulders. “Well, Masu, you can look at the pond now, if you like. The ambulance came for the body while you were asleep." “Was it a murder or a suicide?” I asked. “I gather she was a half-crazy girl. Her parents had sent her to Hiroshima to work in a factory and she was there when the atom bomb exploded. She got back to Fukuyama the day it was bombed. This second raid seems to have been too much THE CRAZY IRIS 33 I” for her. She went clean of? her rocker Returning to my room, we both looked out of the window. The pond was a rectangle about a hundred yards across, with water flowing in from a stream at one end and pouring out into a small gully. At the mouth of the gully was clustered the main group of irises; a few feet away grew the angular leaves from whose recess emerged the twisted stem with its belated, Purple flowers. The petals looked hard and crinkly. No wonder I had mistaken them for tissue paper. “Do you think that iris was frightened into bloom?” I said. “It’s extraordinary," said Kiuchi. “I’ve never heard of an iris flowering this late. It must have gone crazy!” Suddenly it came back to me. It may have been something I had once heard, or perhaps part of a story I had read. This iris it was that now brought the incident to my mind. A young man——a writer I think he was—had lodgings in a house near Tokyo and from his window he could look out on a pond like this one. In a corner of the pond grew 2 cluster of iris in full bloom. Not far away stood a miserable hovel in which lived a young cabinetmaker and his younger sister. The girl was unmarried. She went away to work as a maid for some family and returned pregnant. One morning, when the writer happened to look out of his window, he saw the girl floating face upwards on the pond near where the iris grew. She was wearing a beautiful kimono whose sleeves hovered on the surface of the water like the fins of a goldfish. When the cabinetmaker found his sister, he knelt down by the pond and stretched out his hand to her body. He took one of her arms and gently placed it over her swollen stomach; then he took her other arm and placed it on her stomach in the same way, so that one hand lay ceremoniously over the other and the wide sleeves covered her body. After this, he hurried away. When I told Mr. Kiuchi this incident, he turned to me and 34 MASUJI IBUSE said, “There's all the difference in the world, you know, between the iris in your story and the flower down there in the pond. They belong to completely different periods. The iris blooming in this pond is crazy and belongs to a crazy age I” translated by Ivan Morris NOTE Dr. Morris’s translation of "The Crazy Iris” was published some years ago and is reproduced here with minor changes. (Ed) THE CRAZY IRIS 35 ...
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iris - at“ 1 mm‘nt‘A : toward extinction or toward...

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