A letter from Fukushima
Haikei, Dear Minami san in Seoul; I read your two letters addressed to my husband. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.
They all arrived on time at our temporary shelter but we couldn’t reply to you in time; we didn’t know what to say and we didn’t have energy to even pick up a pen.
Now the volunteers from cities gave me some stamps, I’m writing this letter sitting next to my husband’s sick bed. I’m sorry… It’s terminal. Please forgive me if this letter isn’t a pleasant one.
I’m writing it in deep retrospect of our childhood years with you and our visit to your home in Seoul a few years back for which Shimizu and I talk about almost at every dinner table. Doctors say my husband has a combined problem of depression and cumulated fatigue coming from the loss of home, our son and a granddaughter, all the milk cattle and now facing fear of the radiation.
I’m sure you don’t want hear any more about the earthquake and tsunami, and I won’t complain about it anymore. Actually, we are used to earth quakes as you yourself have had experienced in your childhood years here. We’ve had countless aftershocks of magnitude 3 and 4 since the March 11 great quake. In fact our shed was shaken last night and my stomach went from left to right. The government furnished temporally shelters have diagonal wires on the outside walls, so we are safe from horizontal or vertical shakes, they told us.
Radiation was a new concept but now they sound like invisible monsters out of hell. The mist dusts or ashes are unable to be seen and undetectable and they fly around and stick to anything on the roof, walls, pavement, soil, farm produces and so on. They won’t go away by wind or rain.
It’s called ``outside pollution.” The ``inner pollution” is when the radiation pollutant goes into humans and animals internally and penetrates into the cells of the plants and farm produces.
Japanese people don’t buy farm products and meat produced here and the fish caught in the nearby ocean. Schools have suspended regular autumn sports day as they have detected radiation pollutants in the soil of the school grounds. Bulldozers and dump trucks have been mobilized to remove the polluted surface soil but they don’t know where to dispose the poisonous soil.
I’m sorry, I’ll change the subject. It’s good news for you. Through Internet search, one of our alumni has located ``a little pretty girl” you were looking for. Her maiden name, as you remember, was Miyahara but she is now Mrs. Matsumoto but widowed. She lives in Nagano prefecture and still performs a ``miko,” a maiden in the service of Shinto shrine. I’ve mailed your pencil ``eraser” with my note that Minami san is returning it to her. I detailed your history that when Miyahara was your matching peer in the elementary years, she’d had let you use her eraser (it’s a rare item during the war) and you’d forgotten to return it. You’d brought a new one at our last alumni meeting to return it but she wasn’t there. She was your first ``crush girl.” That’s what she was…or is she still? It’s a tearfully warm story that you’ve kept it in your heart for 70 years.
I think I should go now but before that I’d like to ask you a big favor. May I bring my husband’s ashes, a small part of it, to you and bury it somewhere on a sunny side of the Korean mountain? Shimizu is asking to ask you and wants to know before he loses consciousness. He says he doesn’t want to have any grave stone but just wishes to rest himself peacefully in a stable ground that doesn’t move or is subject to a tsunami or radiation scare. You live in a beautiful country, I envy you.
The kindness and generosity you showed to us at our most difficult time in our sunset years would be greatly appreciated. Forwarding our highest respect and everlasting friendship, I remain, Mrs. E. Shimizu, Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima, Japan, in an autumn day of Heisei 23.
The author was born and bred in Japan and now lives in Seoul and New Jersey. He is a retired architect/specifications writer, and can be reached at email@example.com.