Mudlark Flash No. 89 (2014)

Fujita-San Writes Fukushima
by Kim Peter Kovac

Imagine being Japanese and writing a play imagining a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima reactor. Imagine writing it thirty years before the reactor melted down for real. Imagine your reaction to how prescient you were—might you melt down?

          dreams of nightmare
          ink and paper —
          glowing future

It had to be difficult for children in Japan in the post-war devastation: the Tokyo firebombing is a day even more destructive than the days the bombs called ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some observe that the children no longer know how to play, not really—how does play fit into a landscape of rubble, of downcast parents’ eyes, of pain and shame buried deep within the cultural imperative? One of those children becomes a playwright, who many years later reads his thirty-year old script after the day of devastation and realizes that almost nothing needs changing, because nothing has changed at Fukushima Number One Power Plant. The play—with minor rewrites—is presented at a children’s theater festival in Okinawa (itself destroyed during the war) with the theme of nuchigusui: in the Ryukan language, “medicine for life.”

          children of devastation
          repairing wounds

An American writer with a flash of an idea writes the playwright, whom he knows as Fujita-san, to ask to be allowed the honor of creating a poem about his artistic (and even personal?) reactions when the imagined plot comes to life (and death) in the wake of the tsunami. Because of the cultural two-step, permission is necessary—it’s possible (and even probable) Fujita-san will feel partly to blame for the meltdown because his play was somehow not enough. The emailed answer is “yes!” from Kenjiro, the playwright’s associate and translator, who resists being called Kenjiro-san though he calls the writer Kim-san, due to the complexity of the concept of honor in an ancient and proud culture, a concept that resonates in the wake of Fukushima in ways outsiders can only hope to begin to—maybe—understand.

          cultural dance
          seeking knowledge:
          joint bow

The most famous of the five journeys—on roads made of words—of the poet of Japan’s soul is Oku no Hosomichi by Basho, translated as Narrow Road to the Deep North, sometimes as Narrow Road to the Interior. Basho begins his new life on foot after his home and most of Tokyo, then called Edo, are flattened by fire in a conflagration that destroys the city. The path to the interior of the deep north includes the centuries-later earthquaked, tsunamied, and melted downtowns of Sendai and Fukushima.

          after the ocean melts
          and the tsunami burns —

Imagine Basho’s haiku tattooed on the spirals of your personal and cultural DNA:

          with dewdrops dripping
          I wish I could wash
          this perishing world

Kim Peter Kovac works nationally and internationally in theater for young audiences with an emphasis on new play development and networking. He tells stories on stages as producer of new plays, and tells stories in writing with lineated poems, prose poems, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, haiku, microfiction, and three-line poems, with work appearing in print and on-line in journals including Vine Leaves Literary Review, Frogpond, Crack the Spine, Glint, and Crunchable. He is fond of avant-garde jazz, murder mysteries, contemporary poetry, and travel, and lives in Alexandria, VA, with his bride, two Maine Coon cats, and a Tibetan Terrier named Finn. 

Copyright © Mudlark 2014
Mudlark Flashes | Home Page