Chaos in the land of the rising sun

2011-03-14 09:39
This is not going to be a very coherent or clever column. It is not going to be very witty, either. I’m not a particularly happy chappy right now.

Like just about everyone else on planet earth, I am still floating in a vacuum of disbelief and horror. It is almost impossible to think of anything else but the people in Japan. This is the first time in months, perhaps years, that I have gone through an entire three to four days with hardly a thought about South African politics. I haven’t even had time to think about Libya. My entire mind-set has been taken over – swamped, to pick a better word – by the single TV image of that wave of mud and debris sweeping over the countryside outside Sendai.

The 'Tide'

You see, for me, this thing is also personal. Being a lover of science fiction and fantasy, I have been fascinated by tsunami’s for more than a decade. Even before the previous big tsunami disaster – the one in 2004 - I had been reading about this stuff. I still have an unfinished novel somewhere in my cluttered study, simply entitled “Tide”. It’s a project I started seven years ago and never completed. The reason why I never completed it was because I considered it, at the time, to be simply too far-fetched.

Then the Boxing Day disaster happened, and it was no longer far-fetched. On the contrary: had I completed my novel then, it would have looked like cheap opportunism. I shelved the idea.

The black wave

But the fascination, the primordial fear, wouldn’t go away. For the last couple of years, I have been plagued by tsunami nightmares. The dream would play itself out in different settings, but the plot would always be the same: I would be sitting, quietly, in a holiday cottage somewhere near the sea, drinking coffee or reading a book. Then I would look out through a window and see, to my horror, the horizon being darkened by an enormous black wave of solid-looking water rising up from the sea. I would throw down my cup of coffee or my book, and run outside, trying to reach higher ground… but my feet would get stuck in mud… I’d be unable to pick up speed…

So obsessed was I with this thing that, when, about two years ago, a friend of ours brought his foreign girlfriend to our house for a dinner date, and I had trouble pronouncing her name, I called her ‘tsunami’ by accident.

We had a lovely time with 'Tsunami' that night. Instead of having dinner at our house, as originally planned, we took the couple out to a restaurant outside Stellenbosch, introduced her to lots and lots of South African wine, and parted, feeling as if we had made a new friend for life.

The girl was Japanese.

Lost artifacts

I don’t know where she is now. I don’t even know if she was actually in Japan at the time of the disaster. I have lost contact with our mutual friend during the last week or so. I fear the worst. Then again, it might just be my paranoia.

I still have the gift she gave me, though. A tiny, incredibly delicate, hand-crafted wooden box with a winged insect inside if it. The insect looks real - it even moves when you move the box – but, like the box, it is also hand-crafted.

I can’t help wondering if many Japanese people own such wonderful little artifacts.

And I can’t help wondering how many of these fantastic little works of art got destroyed when that monster black wave thrust its vicious tentacles into the land of the rising sun…

One thing I know for certain. If I ever meet this Japanese girl again, I will most certainly make an effort to pronounce her name correctly. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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