HIROSHIMA GENES (yukikoís memory)
Interviewer: So, your mother was a busy creative woman, an actress and a writer who delegated the raising of her children to your aunt, and to Rin, her friend: country mouse, town mouse. Your caretakers soaked up Tokyo and high culture but couldnít help making embarrassing slip-ups. But your mother was so talented, no one in her orbit could do wrong, people wrote new rules for them: awkward was charming, foolish was innocent, antiquated was pure. Infinite forgiveness was extended to you in advance. You were immaculate but also stunted: doomed to be tiny, because she was your mother: even the mighty pine tree is but a dwarf, when it grows on the side of a mountain. But tell me, then. What about your father? He was never in the picture? What did you think of him? What did your mother tell you about him? Did you ever meet him, or did you only know him through gossip?
Yukiko: As I told you, in essence I was raised by a single mother. By a single mother with friends. My father was absent. Like most children who do not live in complete seclusion, I learned that children are supposed to have fathers. I wondered where mine was. I asked mother if he was still alive. I remember coming home in my school uniform, and asking her if he was still alive. She said yes. I asked her why he wasnít living with us. She said he had gone away on a long trip because he had many things to do. I asked her when he would return. A tear came into her eye then, which made me think she was lying. He must be dead! People do not think children have such thoughts, they think they will believe anything they tell them. She said it might be a long time. I was sure he was dead.
Interviewer: And that was it?
Yukiko: Of course not. Fathers are always there, even when theyíre not. I first met my father through Mr. Suzuki, Mieís father. Mie was my best friend at school. He was such a kind, gentle man, who hardly said a thing, but burned brightly every moment like a candle giving off light. As he moved about in utter silence, he touched everything around him with his eyes. They were like a blind manís hands, feeling every wall, every shape, every object, every face Ė every single thing in the universe. Not the hands of a lecher, but the hands of a profoundly decent man, a sage burdened with an attachť case. He was like Issa, who wept over the plight of flies and sympathized with the mosquito who buzzed in his ear all night and wouldnít let him sleep; like Roshi meditating in a cave or by a waterfall, only now he wore a suit and tie and rode to work on a train. It was our golden age of gadgetry, and Mr. Suzuki was one of those who put together the technology of others in new ways. He taught crude giants the basics of aesthetics. A foreign tree gave the fruit; but he arranged the fruit in an elegant basket with the perfect match of colors and for a while, the world surrendered to his diligence. Pure Japanese! He was a beautiful man.
Interviewer: And through him, you met your father?
Yukiko: Not literally. But I saw what a father could be. It was like being a naturalist and hearing stories about lions or orangutans, and then, seeing your first one in the wild. I learned what I was missing. I discovered the dimensions of the hole. Mr. Suzuki did not know how badly his kindness wounded me!
Interviewer: And then?
Yukiko: I asked my mother if she had pictures. I could tell it bothered her. I could see then that she had not gotten along with father, and that she was afraid of my curiosity. Mother was decent, she did not want to poison my relationship with my missing father by speaking her mind, but you could sense her pain and anger, and even disgust hidden in her compliance with my request. She opened a black box that seemed damaged, as though scraped by a knife, and searched for the photos which were in a brown manila envelope. I took advantage of the moment to peer into the depths of the box, searching for clues of how she felt about my father from the objects that were stored alongside his pictures. There were piles of old, torn clothes, yellowed newspapers, broken parts of appliances, single earrings that had lost their match, and an elegant necklace of fine pearls. "Here are the photos," she told me. "No, wait, look at this one, forget about the rest." She handed me a picture of him, dressed in style, with a fashionable blazer and turtleneck. His face was pristine Ė smooth, absolutely lovely, his features decisive and restrained, perfectly sculpted, symmetrical but not dull, interesting but not exaggerated, with just the right mix of the prosaic and anomalous. But what struck me the most was his expression, something in his eyes. They were sharp and piercing, sad and lady-like, I thought of a geisha with a knife in her hand, coming to kill the man who had promised he would marry her but never come.
Interviewer: You were a child, and you thought that?
Yukiko: I did. In that way, also, I began to know my father. Through the strange thoughts that came to me: traces of a melodramatic and frightening way of seeing the world that surfaced like whales, like sea lions coming up for air, from the depths of my genes. Before my mother could hide the envelope from me, I had forced her to show me, also, the picture of him holding me as a baby. In that picture he was dressed in casual, loose-fitting clothes, sparkling white, the kind of clothes that billow in the wind, perfect for a publicity shot, but he seemed oblivious to the camera; he was not looking at the camera at all, and he was not looking at the baby in his arms, he was looking into space as though he was trying to say thank you to someone he could not find. As for me, I was absurd, utterly absurd as babies are, just a little chunky human newborn peering out of a bundle of baby clothes with puzzled black eyes that didnít know what to look for. I told my mother I wanted those pictures, and I tried to take a third one, also, one of him standing with her at the beach, both of them squinting because the sun was shining in their eyes. She was very sexy even though she was dressed in a modest, one-piece bathing suit, because bikinis seemed arrogant to her. I wouldnít say indecent, because whenever a director called for nudity in a scene, sheíd take her clothes off, she would run naked through the snow for five hours and forty takes if it was for art. And by Japanese standards, she was the perfect image of beauty. But she snatched that picture away from me; she said, "Keep those two."
Interviewer: The picture of your father in the turtleneck, and the one where he was holding you?
Yukiko: Thatís right. But the picture from the beach disappeared back into the envelope, which she tossed with some resentment back into the box, and then she put on the lock, clicked it shut, and stashed the key away in some pocket or fold in her clothing. I tried to follow its trail for a while, I followed her around the house like a detective who jumps inside a taxi who pursues the bad guy around the streets of the city, but after a while, she shook me, and the key vanished for good. I could never find out where she kept it. See? Ė this whole scenario is something my father might have invented to describe the incident! He was out of my life, but imbedded in me, he was like my own heart, beating inside me. He could live a thousand miles away, but at the same time he was right here, inside me - in my head and in my heart Ė bringing me presents every day Ė crazy, imaginative ways of seeing the world , visions bearing his unique stamp, personal nightmares passed on like heirlooms, eccentric tastes that were like the DNA samples that prove paternity. I remember my mother exclaiming one time, as I covered the statue of Buddha in our garden with snow, so that only his calm, reflective face could be seen: "Your father once did the very same thing!" I donít even know why I did it. Was it because it looked pretty, or I wanted to make a different kind of snowman, one who was wise instead of silly? Or was it to show the power of enlightenment: that covered with frozen snow the Buddha could still appear so radiant, so at peace? As children, we do many brilliant things without understanding that they are brilliant. We play with diamonds in our hands, and become stupid as our minds fill up with facts. We turn the treasure of coming into the world into the dirt of simply mastering our maze. My father wasnít with me, but he was driving me like a car; driving a part of me Ė sometimes. At moments, I could look over from the passenger seat of my life, and see him at the wheel, and he would look back at me and smile.
Interviewer: And what, then? You had the photographsÖ
Yukiko: I put them by the little altar I kept in my room. We were the typical Buddhist/Shinto mix. I began to pray to papa, to ask him for help; to ask him to return. I looked at the picture of him holding me, and cried. Why wasnít there a picture of him holding me when I was older? I tried and tried to remember him Ė after all, he had held me in his arms, here was the proof Ė but I could not remember. I tried to force him to be like Mr. Suzuki, walking around the house, smiling kindly, but he would not cooperate. Sitting there at the altar with my eyes closed one day, I had a vision: I saw myself staggering through the streets of Hiroshima after the A-bomb hit; everything was gray, strange, filled with dust, the streets were filled with burned people in tattered clothes, hopeless people, there was a moment of rain, like dying people whose bowels release the feces they are holding Ė nature did this Ė and then soldiers were telling me: "So sorry, we could not prevent this from happening. Should we kill ourselves or stay and help you?" People have told me that this was a past-life memory. If so, the idea infuriated me. How could I remember this, and not my infancy, not my father? Mother said, "Maybe you should give me back the pictures. I am not sure they are healthy for you." I told her no. She said, "Sometimes, from a distance, things look better than they are. You see Mt. Fuji, and you think you are looking at a god. You go there, and you are climbing up gray, gravelly trails, filled with people talking loudly and buying postcards." She said: "I think I will take the pictures away." I said, "No, mother, you mustnít! It will kill me!" She frowned and said, "I am your mother and if I think it is best, I will do it. I will think about it." Thank God, it was time to make another movie. She was gone for ten months, starring in a movie based on the life of the poetess Chiyo. The one who, when her little son died, wrote: "The dragonfly hunter Ė I wonder where he is today." 
Interviewer: So she didnít take the pictures?
Yukiko: She forgot. For a while.
Interviewer: For a while?
Yukiko: Until I learned at school that my father was in the madhouse.
Interviewer: Someone knew!
Yukiko: It was in the magazines: the ones that chase after celebrities and glorify the movies. A schoolmate was told by her mother. When she came to school next morning she said, "Are you the daughter of Denzo Mikawa?" And as I was trying to reestablish my relationship with my father in my heart, even though he was absent, I answered her with pride: "Yes, I am." And thatís when she told me: "Well, your daddy is a nut."
Interviewer: What happened then?
Yukiko: If I was a boy, I would have punched the bringer of bad tidings in the face right then and there, first because the news was unwanted, and second, because she told it with such glee. But as I was a girl, that would have been unthinkable, so I merely insisted it was not true, and burst into tears. The teacher, such a nice, concerned woman, came over to comfort me right away with a sympathetic face that let me know at once that the news was true. Bless her, for helping me so diligently with my calligraphy, even though my father was a madman! She even held my hand, to try to guide me as I drew the characters. "One day," she told me, "if you keep this up, even your grocery lists will be works of art."
Interviewer: How did your mother react, when she learned you had discovered this secret?
Yukiko: She said, first of all, "It is no reflection on you. Your father is a very complicated man. Complicated things break down much more easily than simple ones." I didnít completely understand at that time, but later, when I spent some time with Kenichiro, the sculptor, I remember him explaining to me why I couldnít make a certain clay figure I was attempting. I had already made several Buddhas out of clay, and become quite good with faces, as well as the abstract figure of the spirit of the storm that defeated the Mongols in 1281, the original kamikaze, everything purely imitative of my master, of course. Now I wanted to go "Indian", and make a goddess with six arms. Each arm would be holding an object representing a choice for the world: a sword, a dove, a jewel, a lotus, an infant, and a phallus. Kenichiro told me that, although a six-armed goddess was wholly possible with clay, if properly supported with internal wires, the proportions which I envisioned were unrealistic. The creature would fall apart because of physics; the weight was not centralized enough, not balanced enough, not sustainably distributed, the strain on the extremities would be too great and the limbs would break and fall off. Well, at that time I was beginning to feel stifled by Kenichiro, I imagined, though I was really only using him as a scapegoat for my own limitations, and perceiving his guidance as a kind of jealous chokehold Ė how absurd of me!; so I went ahead with my statue even against his advice. The result was a beautiful and impressive figure which lasted a little more than a day, before two arms broke off as it was being moved; then the internal structure itself bent under the weight, and a big crack opened up in the shoulder. Itís at that very moment that motherís words, spoken to me when I was a child, came back to me, like a river breaking through a dam. My father was like the statue that I tried to build: an incredible concept, exquisite and deep in its manifestation, but utterly implausible, at complete odds with reality! Too complicated to hold up, without drooping, cracking, breaking, and finally falling into pieces. Then, how sad, to be despised by simple balls of clay!
Interviewer: But when you were a childÖ
Yukiko: I half-understood. That mother was trying to say my father was not as bad as they made him out to be. But she was saying this just for me, because to her, he was that bad. She just wanted to save my self-esteem from total annihilation; to keep me from going down with him. "Cars that are driven too fast go off the road," she said. "Thatís all." Then she demanded that I give her back the pictures. She was afraid I was getting tangled up in something I wouldnít be able to survive. What good could it do for me to stare every day into the eyes of a madman, to idealize and long for a man who the rest of the world viewed with absolute contempt or else pitied like a dog thatís just been run over by a truck? To guard his pictures by my altar, and turn a shattered, pathetic creature into my religion? She said the world was simple-minded, he was as good a father as anyone else had, but that I should give back the pictures.
Interviewer: And so you did?
Yukiko: No. I, with traces of the cleverness that made her fear him, had anticipated her possible reaction, and I hid the pictures away. I told her: "I donít want his pictures anymore. Heís crazy. He left us, and heís crazy. I ripped the pictures up and threw them away." "Where?" my mother asked me. "By the bridge. I watched the wind blow the pieces away." When she couldnít find the pictures by my altar anymore, she believed me. But in spite of what I told her, I still had the pictures, hidden in an envelope in a recess behind the wall in our storage cellar. Now, to see my father, I had to be like the ancient Christians in Rome, sneaking down into the catacombs to worship. This is when I first discovered that loving and telling lies go hand in hand. To preserve my relationship with my father, I had to deceive my mother.
Interviewer: And the social situation at school?
Yukiko: Tenuous. But being the daughter of a popular actress, there were limits to the teasing and bullying which I could be subjected to. Teachers, who would have told other children "Sink or swim", would not allow me to be abused, and most of the children, themselves, in fact, lacked the audacity to strike at me. The aura of motherís power deterred them. Who would cross the line? Who tells the Emperor, "Youíre short"? Instead, my schoolmates became absurd, like well-heeled dogs who have been trained not to bite. I resented them for not being true to their nature. But, in the end, I should be grateful to them. Their inability to act normally around me after that was good training for me, for the life to come.
Interviewer: The fact of your fatherís madness has pursued you ever since?
Yukiko: The ghost of his inability to bend to the rules of this world has haunted me endlessly. Like those stories of happy couples who move into their dream house only to find out that it is haunted by the spirit of some unfortunate man who died a gruesome death, fatherís legacy has sabotaged my quest for normalcy. How ferociously I have struggled to become like everyone else, to retreat from the glory of a mother that I cannot equal, and the notoriety of a father which I lack the courage to emulate; to disappear into a home, a marriage, to cast away the demons of fame and the burdens of genius, to raze myself like a jungle of towering green trees whose only ambition is to be a little patch of yucca. But father would not help me in this regard.
Interviewer: What, exactly, happened?
Yukiko: Perhaps the best way to explain is to go back to the visions.
Interviewer: The visions?
Yukiko: Yes, to those strange flashes of past lives, or recurring fantasies, whatever they were, that kept breaking into the stillness of my meditating mind. I closed my eyes. Thoughts bounced around in my head, screaming distractions that began to lose their voice until finally I sank into a deep, dark place, and suddenly, a light was turned on inside the void and I was seeing things. Brilliant images; and feeling everything as though it were real. I wonder: did this happen to my father, also? The life in Hiroshima continuedÖ
Interviewer: After the bomb dropped?
Yukiko: I survived. Of course, this might all be only a dream.
Interviewer: A poetic equivalent for the disaster of needing a father and not having one?
Yukiko: Who knows? According to our Buddhist beliefsÖ But now we plow the snow off the streets rather than use it to vanquish death. Do you remember the poem they found under Issaís pillow, after they carried off his body?: "There are thanks to be given: this snow on the bed quilt Ė it too is from Heaven."  But now, even though we are Buddhists, the giant swords of snow plowsí headlight beams slash at the whiteness, they cut it into ribbons before it can gain a foothold on the earth. We are Americans with slanted eyes.
Yukiko: E tu Brute??? - I am sorry, this is him, too, leaping out unexpectedly from behind the tree of his daughter: the declawed cat with claws. I am dark woods, full of him! My father! They say he was rude. Because Japan was polite, he was blunt like a hammer. But he only smashed others as a way of shattering himself. My apologies.
Interviewer: Please, donít! Theyíre not necessary! I think I understand. And Hiroshima?
Yukiko: My past-life memories continued as I grew older. From the disoriented, frightened girl staggering around the streets of the ruined city that I remembered as a child, I became a young woman in my dreams, working in some kind of factory. I survived the blast, I survived the radiation. Friends of mine, reencountered as we put the puzzle of our lives back together, died one by one, just like Sadako, who made the thousand cranes. Cancer: spirits of cruelty, demons of loneliness, lingered in their bodies; the horrible mushroom cloud exploded in their genes every time a cell divided, the escape began to lose its breath, until fate finally reeled them back to the rubble they had climbed out of, in the form of pitiful hospital beds. They had run in a giant circle straight back to the blast victims who didnít last a day. Mariko fell to leukemia, and Flora too. Shizuko to a horrible cancer that attacked her glands, while Ryokoís beauty was destroyed at an early age by skin cancer, that was operable, but which left her looking somehow artificial, like someone made of plastic in a laboratory. She also suffered from constant nightmares, and ended up killing herself with sleeping pills. Ateki, who would have been such a wonderful mother, had three miscarriages, one child with Downís syndrome, another child who survived for several months with only a brain stem, and one perfectly normal daughter, Yasuko, who, when she came of age, no one would touch with a ten foot pole in spite of her attractiveness. You see, Yasuko had Hiroshima genes. Who could trust what was inside of her? The mutilated hereditary mechanisms of her mother might have been passed on to her, the haywire chromosomes, the bridges from passion to new life broken by radiation. Who wanted to have to be a saint like Ateki, stuck for the rest of her life raising an idiot? Who wanted to chance decimating oneís future, scattering generations of cancer-ridden descendants to the winds? How many lives did Hiroshima really claim? They only counted the first rock that started the avalanche!
Interviewer: The way you describe it: utterly horrible!
Yukiko: I felt it all so strongly, as though I had lived it. This is why I think it was more than just a dream.
Interviewer: And did you see how it all turned out?
Yukiko: In my visions, I shared the same fate as Yasuko. No one wanted to be with me. Because I had been in Hiroshima when the bomb exploded, because I had been exposed to the radiation, no man was willing to court me, to risk having a family with me. I tried so hard to cultivate what men have found irresistible in women throughout the ages, to be beautiful, gracious, and charming: talented in domestic matters; meticulous with trifles, and capable of flying side by side with the highest birds in the sky; obliging, like the cherry tree that yields to Mayís expectations; welcoming like the beach that endures all the weight of the sea, because the ocean suffers and needs a place to cry. I tried so hard to overcome my victimhood, but all I did was to prove how irreversible was my fate. I spread a carpet of jewels at the worldís feet, gold and emeralds, and no one would take them! Finally, I succumbed to lying. I erased the cloud above my head, I spent some time in Kyoto so that I could invent a convincing childhood there. I dug a moat of shadows around my life, and developed a personality so delightfully superficial that no one had the slightest need to go beyond it, or the slightest suspicion that my engaging lack of focus was actually a carefully constructed strategy for evading them. When the young man who fell in love with the blank slate I had become discovered that I had a past, after all - when he pried open my secret from some documents carelessly left in a folder in a dresser drawer after we were already married - he abandoned me in a single tumultuous day, with the complete support of his family. When I showed up crying on their doorstep with a black eye, begging for him to take me back, his mother pushed me and shoved me away from the house, calling me the most horrible things. You have seen brutal and heartless masters kick their dogs? Yes, I had lied to him, but it was only because I wanted to be a member of the human race again! Who would imagine it could be such a sin to have an atom bomb dropped on one!?
Interviewer: And does this terrible vision Ė this past-life memory, perhaps - relate to your father in some way?
Yukiko: Of course. Donít you remember what they say, in courting? "Study the social standing and economic history of the lineage. And just as importantly, the conduct of the relatives. Is there madness in the family?" You see, with my father, I had a case of Hiroshima genes all over again. This time, the radiation that contaminated me was his eccentricity. His collapse in the world. How strange, to live two lives so absolutely similar. Different bombs with the same effect. Ostracism. Like all the poems of waking up alone with the cruel light of the rising sun, with the ruthless crowing of the cock, "the lover who I waited for didnít show upÖ" You write another poem on your naked flesh. You want to tear your pillow to shreds!
Interviewer: You mean, prospective love interests really avoided you because of him?
Yukiko: Serious love interests. I mean, I could have sex, this is the modern age. Who doesnít want to grab a womanís ass these days? And what lonely woman imagines she is living in the times when you refuse to take a drink of water even though you are thirsting to death? But, as for serious love interests, men who my heart melted for because they had great souls, or because they had ambition of a worthy kind and wanted families, like I did, there was nothing but a wasteland Ė my dream and the sound of the wind. Hiroshima genes. Shiro said as much. He told me, "You are an extraordinary woman, but what if your fatherís madness as well as his talent has infiltrated your DNA? I love you dearly, but cannot destroy innocent children for the sake of your love for me, or the sake of my love for you. Imagine those small precious beings yet to be born Ė what have they done to deserve such a fate?" When I pushed him, by laughing at him, he said, "Your short-sightedness is egotistic and barbaric" Ė imagine, he actually used the word "barbaric"! - and compared me to Medea, who destroyed her own children as an act of violent pride before she flew away in a chariot pulled by dragons. He turned me into a monster, and remained as white as a lily as he threw away four years of love. Yahachi was even more ingenious, however, when he told me, "I cannot progress beyond these enjoyable nights, because, imagine, if I should really fall in love with you: how much I would suffer once you snapped like your father!" Fools! They should have been glad to have had their anemic lines fortified by the red blood of a man like my father! Or to have had the scratches of his daughter all over their face! They should have been glad to have opened the doors of their world to such a man! A man who dared to be different, a man who tried to climb Mt. Everest, and fell on the ice! Honestly, as I have come to see it, Denzo Mikawa was as powerful as Nijinsky, whose enormous, passionate leaps soared out of the bounds of sanity. His "radio play" movies were masterpieces, donít you think? The avoidance of anticlimactic imagery, "not betraying the fantasy by revealing it." The power of the unseen. The immaculate mixing of the sheer poetry of the visual image with the limitless power of the human imagination. And then, the increasingly challenging concepts. As mother went on to prosper in the mainstream, he remained trapped in the spider web of things that had no maps. He was looking for cinemaís unified field theory, searching for a way to find the structure of the universe within film, to unite Man and God through a sacrament captured on celluloid. He was like Pythagoras, digging for the divine secret that was immersed in numbers, he reached for images, for words, for tiny actions and shades of light, that would be like hammers of enlightenment. For him, the angle of a snowflake on a movie screen could tilt the world towards salvation or destruction. His best friend, Mr. Tsuji, was most helpful in explaining my father to me when I was older, though as Mr. Tsuji said: "We could understand him only so much - like the astronomers who tell you about what itís like on Saturn or Neptune, but theyíve actually never set foot on those planets. Theyíve only seen them through a telescope."
Interviewer: Some called him the Andy Warhol of Japan.
Yukiko: Imprecise! His unconventionality was far more ambitious! He didnít see art in difference, whatever the value of breaking ranks. He was, in essence, a traditionalist, who needed new methods, new perceptions. Many so-called revolutions take place within the box, they are nothing more than graffiti inside the box; he wanted to break out of the box, and from what I understand, he was successful: too successful.
Interviewer: We have all heard something about his problems. Did you learn more from Mr. Tsuji?
Yukiko: Madness is a very peculiar thing. In essence, it means frightening away the people you depend on by straying too far from their way of seeing things or their way of behaving; or it may simply mean losing your ability to function in the world because of something that has taken place in your mind. You may have finally become lucid, become enlightened; but if your satori cannot walk in step with the world of the blind, you will become lost, you will fall like a drunk covered with flower blossoms, just lying in the middle of the street until they have to carry you away; or demand to know why you have to wear clothes when the human body is beautiful until they come to pull you off the rush-hour train and lock you up; or try to throw yourself into the gears of the gun factory because peace is sacred, sacred enough to earn you a straitjacket for the rest of your life. This is not to glorify madness, it comes with a thousand faces, it is like the hydra with terrifying heads and beautiful, drooping heads; with angry heads that must be clubbed back from humanityís throat, and delicate heads that are shattered by a raindrop; with heads that run around like dogs chasing their own tails and heads that have climbed to Heaven and donít want to come back. According to Mr. Tsuji, my father felt he had seen "The Truth" on one level but he did not know how to express it on the level at which we lived; he had seen "something golden", but did not know how to bring it back to the world. Bound by a typical Japanese sense of duty Ė in spite of being such a nonconformist he was utterly permeated by the classic sensibilities, which was probably a fatal paradox - he felt as though he were unworthy, a failure. According to Mr. Tsuji, my father said: "The true Japanese must accomplish his mission at any cost!" He recounted the famous story, from World War Two, of the fighter pilot who was shot by machine gun bullets, but landed his plane back on the flight deck, even though he was already dead. His body was as cold as a corpse when he reported to his commanding officer Ė "I have safely returned the plane, so that it will be available for another pilot" - then fell dead as a stone to the floor. "The plane was flown back by a ghost!" my father told Mr. Tsuji. "The true Japanese must accomplish his mission at any cost Ė even madness!" That alarmed them very much, but my father was valiant in his decision to exceed his limits. He was a very sensitive, almost feminine man in spite of his rugged good-looks, according to Mr. Tsuji, a deer who believed it was his moral obligation to be a lion. Several weeks later Mr. Tsuji attempted to prevent him from throwing about fifteen minutes worth of film, which my father said was like the Buddhaís eyes, into a blazing fire which he had lit in the backyard of the house where he was staying. "I cannot stunt your journey!" my father exclaimed. "I would be like Hitler, like Genghis Khan, to take away the struggles that are rightfully yours! To give you a ride across the wild stormy river in the ferryboat of my awakening!" But then, after the film had burned, he fell to his knees and wept, "What have I done? I have fulfilled my destiny and murdered it! I have seen the Truth, and gouged out your eyes! I have turned the world into a desert! I have dropped the atom bomb!" There were no copies and he said, "The great comet flies into our solar system but once in a lifetime." After that, he did little more than weep and stare into space. Every blank wall became a mirror of his inadequacy. Every life-filled tree out the window a victim of his mistake. He soiled himself, he starved himself. He only drank tea. When they tried to cheer him up, he bit his friends like an animal, until they bled. Mr. Shimadaís wound became infected, and he had to go to the hospital. My father began to wear a dress and to try to kiss Mr. Tsuji, saying he had been wrong to try to be a man, all he wanted was to be a loving housewife. There was nothing to do except send him to the hospital.
Interviewer: As a child, how much of this did you know?
Yukiko: Nothing. I only knew I wanted to have a father and that he was crazy. But I had a childís understanding of "crazy." It was not so tragic and bewildering as it really was. Do you remember the TV program "Weird Creatures and Kids"?
Interviewer: Very well. The one with giants, and fairies, kappas, the Kirin and the phoenix brought to life by Saijosenís hand.
Yukiko: All strange, bizarre, and delightful. The best friends a child could have, especially in a country where the social norm is a veritable religion. Peculiar beings that stick out like a sore thumb. They break all the rules, on behalf of all of us who canít; so wonderfully refreshing! Best of all, they do it with perfect innocence, they arenít guilty of a thing because they canít help themselves!
Interviewer: And that is how you saw your father?
Yukiko: For a while. As my very own well-meaning giant, who accidentally stepped on peopleís homes. You could even say, in a subtle way, and as a form of bonding with father, that I began to seek out strands of strangeness within myself, and to cultivate them. I clung to everything aberrant within my own soul as a way of being with him, it was like holding his hand as I crossed the street. I had no memory of his hand holding mine; only by finding traces of him in me and embracing them could I recover this beautiful experience I had never had. In my own secret world, father took me to the park every day, he pushed me on swings and flew laughing down the slide with me in the playground of our bizarre genes.
Interviewer: Most fascinating! And how did this identification resonate with others?
Yukiko: They didnít know the full extent of it, but enough of it reached the surface to cause problems. When, in school, for instance, a teacher reprimanded me for inventing dialogues between my pencil and eraser - who, as you could imagine, did not get along very well - I was, at first, mortified. But as soon as she said: "Stop that, Yukiko, thatís crazy", well, it was like kicking a horse with spurs. From then on, my pencil and my eraser argued incessantly. How awful, to be disobedient! But, for me, the word "crazy" was like a drug that would make a child steal from his grandparents. I could not resist doing anything that was labeled as "crazy", "insane", "weird" or "nuts", and so, I began my slow metamorphosis from a sweet and malleable patriot of rules into an intransigent outsider. Besides the battles between my pencil and eraser, I learned how to walk in a certain way that made my shoes squeak Ė most irritating! And more than once I used paint from the classroom to draw bloodstains on my clothes. Once, when I also painted bloodstains on a pair of scissors I was using, I terrified my teacher into believing I had stabbed myself in the heart. That is the only time I remember a teacher actually hitting me, even though I was the daughter of a famous actress.
Interviewer: And no one understood what all this was about?
Yukiko: They thought it was inheritance rather than affect; the tip of the iceberg of mental illness, rather than a child missing her parent and acting out. Only now, after a lifetime of unproductive rebellion and painfully bad choices, do I begin to wonder what was the true nature of this childhood acting-out, continued into adulthood. Was it a conscious decision to embrace dad, to cherish him by not rejecting him wherever I found him in me, or a helpless plunge over which I had no control? Did I point the nose of my plane earthward in homage to him, or was my plane already spinning out of control from the day I was born? Hiroshima genes? In a nutshell: all my life, have I been trying to be like Dad, or am I like him? In spite of observing only the surface of the phenomenon, Mother was alarmed and moved me to another school, one with "specialists." But this only stiffened my resistance, especially after the profoundly symbolic vindication of the car crash.
Interviewer: Can you explain? Which one? Wasnít your mother involved in two?
Yukiko: I think three. For stars, there are always movies outside the movie. Every celebrity knows how James Dean and Marilyn Monroe reached immortality by means of tragedy. A part of the psyche, that which craves adoration and worship and fears the loss of attention that decay brings Ė "there are no tears for the faded rose" - constructs tragic scenarios by which to evade the inevitability of decline. Flashy tempting cars, with the bodies of bullets, aimed at the heart of aging; spider-like needles with impossible doses of heroin lined up behind them, ready to overpower time; alcohol and sleeping pills, the Castor and Pollux of suicide. Tear a gaping hole in the image of self-sufficiency that isolates you so that weeping multitudes may rush into the abandoned temple saying, we did not love her enough, and spend the rest of their lives compensating for their error. But, on the other hand, there are all the benefits of fame to counter the impulse of self-immolation. The beautiful homes, the fine wine, the attention which, even when it ceases to gratify like sex, still remains pleasant like a massage. There are the clothes - in my motherís case, the extraordinary kimonos, and the best of the Parisian fashion designers - and always the possibility of another movie. Sometimes, the comforts can buy you off, bribe you not to step into the divine, doomed chariot, which is waiting to carry you to forever with flames that reach to Heaven. Motherís crashes were always half-hearted, they were reminders, not good-byes; protests, not transformations. In the case I am talking about, however, the crash was simply the result of poor planning. We had to be at the airport by 6 AM. Mother was completely absent-minded when she packed our suitcases the night before, then recovered her memory about ten minutes before we were scheduled to leave, and finally began to run frantically all around the house with Rin, grabbing up things we would need for our trip, and trying to stuff them into the already-filled cases, which she was only able to close by sitting on. I remember Rin saying to her that day, as mother tried to push down the suitcase lids with her weight: "How unfortunate that actresses must be so thin, now I bet you wish you hadnít given up eating cakes!" Anyway, by the time we got out on the road we were already very late and it had been raining all night and the roads were very bad. The chauffeur, a wonderful guy who went by the name of "Steady", told my mother, "I canít go any faster", but she made such a fuss in her own quiet way, sighing in misery and cursing herself for being so disorganized, that finally, "Steady" could not stand it any longer and stepped on the gas. Sure enough, we hit a slippery spot on a curve, flew over a rail, and ended up in a ditch. Everybody was dazed. "Steady" was saying, "Forgive me! I shall resign at once!"; Mother was weeping, saying, "We are going to be late! Jun must already have started to the airport to pick us up!"; and Rin was disconsolate, because no one would answer her when she asked if anybody was hurt. I was the only one who was happy: positively jubilant!
Interviewer: Jubilant? In heavenís name, why?! Because no one was injured? Because you didnít want to go on the trip? Or did it seem like some kind of punishment for those who didnít understand you?
Yukiko: Excellent conjectures, but the reason was actually metaphorical. Purely metaphorical.
Interviewer: I look forward to your explanation!
Yukiko: Do you remember when my mother attempted to explain my fatherís madness to me by saying, "Cars that are driven too fast go off the road. Thatís all."
Interviewer: Yes, when she was trying to protect your self-esteem from the news that your father was suffering from mental illness.
Yukiko: You can say "mad." Itís more exciting, and in fact, to have a father who was only "mentally ill" would simply be depressing. What a pity to sacrifice drama for discretion! "Illness" makes me feel as weak as a wilting flower; "madness" makes me feel as powerful as a volcano!
Interviewer: I understand. The metaphor of the car crash was your motherís way of minimizing the stigma of your fatherís problem, of essentially portraying your fatherís disaster as the result of his ambition rather than a pitiful defect. He was valiant, he tried to go too far, too fast. He was like Bellerephon, perhaps, or Phaethon, or Semele, to use examples from Greek mythology, a great man who did not know his limits.
Yukiko: And now that "normal" people had crashed, it was utterly exhilarating. Because it proved that you can be "normal" - that is, not "contaminated" by insanity, not "dirty", "shameful", "degraded", or "leprous " - and still crash, just because you are desperate to get some place and feel you have to get there right away. Our little crash helped to solidify that concept of my father Ė as someone who was not diseased, but rather, only a fast driver on a rainy road Ė and it made it so much easier for me to embrace him, and to defend him, and the him in me, from the contempt of others.
Interviewer: Did your mother find this out?
Yukiko: When Rin demanded to know why I was smiling, and my mother said, "Whatís so funny?", then looked at me with this expression of horror dawning on her face as though I was Denzo Mikawa breaking down her living room door, because she thought my behavior was completely insane, like his, I answered: "Now youíre just like Dad. No better. Look, we went off the road and crashed, just like him." What an awful thing for a little girl to say to her mother, but I was on my way to becoming like my father, except with less integrity. My exodus from the mainstream was less pure, it was degraded by self-interest! And I lacked the commitment to tradition that he had. Which, no doubt, saved me. For to defend the waning soul of Japan - the incredible sensitivity towards the moon, the cherry blossom, the pure white snow; the superhuman courage and loyalty of the samurai; the clarity of the Zen Master like crystal clear waterfalls toppling off a mountain - he felt compelled to violate the means of that soul. To defend the Japanese spirit, he must shatter the muteness implied by its politeness and convention, he must overpower its inability to cry out and say, "I am being lost!" The only way to save the sensibility of the culture that mattered to him was by participating in its decline, by making war on the civility that was as much a part of the treasure as what he was attempting to recover by discarding it! By using tools of erosion, he hoped to rebuild the land! All of this Mr. Tsuji explained to me later. It was, as he said, an impossible task. When I told mother, after the crash, that she was no better than father, because it was very evident that she looked down on him and needed to be straightened out, she grabbed my cheeks, as she had never done before, and with awful power in her hands, the same power that she used to become a great movie star, she pulled down on them, physically twisting my smile into a frown. "We could have been killed!" she screamed. "Itís not time to laugh! This is nothing like your father!" And pointing to the wrecked car, she said: "This is only a car! A stupid car! What he has wrecked is a life!" And then she ran away, as though this were a movie, and cried her head off behind a tree.
Interviewer: And how old were you at this time? You were not yet a teenager?
Yukikio: No, I was still a child. When the crash occurred I would have been around, well, letís see, ten? No, eleven. No, ten and a half.
Interviewer: And things continued this way for a while? This tension between you and your mother?
Yukiko: They did, but only because my mother was so busy and at the same time so tolerant. In spite of the difficulties Iíve had with her through the years, she never made the decision to become a tyrant, or to definitively crush my longing for my father. She repressed me throughout my life, but without conviction or consistency. In addition to being a rather melodramatic personality she was also a good Buddhist. She remembered Issaís poem, "For each single fly thatís swatted, Namu Amida Butsu is the cry."  As it turns out, Dad is the one who used to remind her of that poem all the time. For some people, a formula, be it a mantra or prayer, is enough to absolve one of any crime; you say it, like washing your hands with soap and water, and just go on doing what you were doing before. You donít change because of your religion, you turn it into the servant of your sins. She could be frivolous in order to escape from pressure and pain, jealous because of insecurity, and cold because she tried very hard not to manifest the anger that her many wounds caused her; until she felt better, she would protect you by locking you out of the house where the tiger was Ė but there, unfortunately, was also where your mother was! A father and mother, each absent in their own way! But one thing she did not do was use her religion to bypass the dilemmas of life. Thank you, Universe, for giving me a mother, so terribly imperfect but sincere! As a result of her haphazard but genuine spiritual attainments, she never declared a total war against my feelings towards my father, she never attempted to "drag out the dirt" on him, or to vilify him to the point where I would despise him as a monster and see myself as the "spawn of Satan." However, my overt expression of eccentricity and aggressive display of affection for the unknown ideal of my father suffered a temporary setback when I was about eleven and a half years old, not due so much to any outright repression on her part as to the utterly intimidating atmosphere that followed my fatherís release from the institution.
Interviewer: He had recovered?
Yukiko: He had advocates on the outside, men like Mr. Tsuji who could never clearly tell the difference between the artistic frame of mind and insanity. They saw his detachment from certain principles of the real world as a form of "liberation", they viewed his self-destructive forthrightness as moral virtuosity, they viewed his despair as nothing but creative labor pains, the agony a genius must bear to give birth. They vacillated between being his followers and his nurses. They clung to him, used him as a weapon against their boredom. Who wants to pay the price of being a candle, who wants to be set on fire, to be blinded by oneís own light and tortured by oneís own heat, to see oneself shrinking into nothing in the night? But how nice to have a candle in your room! But this is not to condemn Mr. Tsuji, who was a great friend to my father, and he has been so very kind to me, sharing so many things that I needed to know. The bottom line is that my father was not well, but his genius was irresistible; the doctors were made to feel like the S.S. by his friends, and fearful of sinning against the Japanese cinema, they finally let him go. This, however, was a source of tremendous anxiety for my mother.
Interviewer: Please elaborate.
Yukiko: She feared his instability, his intentions. "The terrible thing about dogs with rabies," she once told me as a child, when we heard a report that one had been captured near the village where we maintained our summer home, "is that they are completely unpredictable. The sickness drives them crazy. They forget who they are, who has been kind to them, who loves them, they are in such great pain that they will bite anyone they come upon, even the person who loves them most." I think that she felt that way about my father. That he was not, by nature, violent, only unpredictable, no longer himself. No longer anyone. A mind with no identity, and therefore, no accountability.
Interviewer: Do you know, did your father make any threats against her when he got out of the institution?
Yukiko: To this day, mother shuts herself like a clam whenever I try to talk about that time. I still depend upon my childhood memories: bits and pieces of information drowning in a sea of reactions whose appropriateness I cannot judge. Snippets of overheard conversation, and vague warnings aimed like a gun at a frightened child.
Interviewer: Can you give examples?
Yukiko: It all began, for me, with a telephone call. I heard the ringing, I paid it no mind, I was playing in the other room with Rin. Then, after about five minutes, my mother came into the room white as a ghost and said, "Rin, can I talk to you?" I knew it was something momentous, so I put my ear to the door they had just put between themselves and me, and I heard my mother saying: "It was him." "Who, Denzo?" "Yes." "What did he say?" And my mother replied: "Heís not well." My heart was pounding, I was excited and scared at the same time, because my mother was behaving as though we were all in mortal danger. I wanted to question her, but I could not reveal that I had been spying. Next day, a man named Mr. Tanaka showed up at our house, a very well-built, likable young man with a charming but shallow smile, that he seemed afraid might make him weak, and the eyes of an eagle. "Mr. Tanaka will be staying with us for a while," my mother explained. "He is a bodyguard." "We already have two," I said, thinking of "Steady" who doubled as our driver and security man, and Mr. Ohara from Toho Studios who sometimes accompanied mother to professional functions. "Well now we have another," she said, smiling very weakly. To win my confidence, Mr. Tanaka showed me his gun. "Magnum 44," he said, "it takes an expert to shoot it with any accuracy." I remember breaking out into a sweat, and turning to mother, asking, "Is he going to shoot daddy with that?" Her only answer was to burst into tears while Rin, who had learned nothing about being an actress in all the years she had spent with mother, said, with not the slightest shred of credibility, "No, of course not Yukiko, whatever made you say that?"
Two weeks later, mother took us all on a vacation, up to Sapporo to do some skiing. You could tell she felt much better away from the city, away from the house where father might expect to find us. But, of course, photographers and columnists from the gossip magazines were all around, they would follow stars into the bathroom if they could. Therefore, our location was very quickly transformed into common knowledge. One day Rin came back crying out, "I thought I saw him, on the slope over there! Where we were yesterday, by the dressing station - where the Intermediate Trail begins!" And within a matter of hours, we were all crammed into a taxi cab heading back to the airport. "Your house is very safe," Mr. Tanaka was explaining, "it is much easier to secure."
I resented this circus of paranoia, this terrifying thick air of fear that I felt, even as a child, was unjust. When I overheard them talking about a "restraining order", I thought that it meant my father was being physically restrained somewhere, maybe even tied up with ropes. Or maybe he was a fugitive and they were trying to catch him. One day I told mother, "Daddy is out of the place they put him in, isnít he? Well, you donít have to be afraid of him! Heís my father, and he wonít hurt anyone!"
At that, my motherís eyes became glaring and moist, her voice angry. "You donít know him, little girl!" she retorted. I was stunned by the way she addressed me. "Do you see my cheek?" she demanded, turning one side of her face to me. It looked beautiful, fine like a delicate vase. "An actressí face must be perfect!" she raged in a way I have never seen her speak except in the movies. "One flaw, and they throw you back into the pile! This home," she said, gesturing to its extraordinary comforts, "was almost not yours!" And then, before I could find out anything more, she was calm, again. "Did daddy hit you?" I asked, incredulous, as she retreated from me back into the serenity she thought was befitting of a compassionate mother. Rin said, "No, child, but the way he looked when he was angry!" Another time, who knows how many months later, I heard them talking, and laughing with each other in the garden. "Well, yes, Mr. Tanaka might not be needed, after all, if we can only lure him to the pillar!" They were talking about a stone pillar in our garden, and by "him" it was clear they meant my father. But what did they mean? I only found out some months later, when I accidentally ran into the very same pillar when chasing after a ball thrown by Rin. After she checked to make sure that I was all right, she laughed and said, "Just like your father!" "What do you mean?" I asked her, in the most innocent voice I could muster, in order to disarm her. "Oh, when he used to get angry at your mother, he would come up to her in a most threatening manner, then, when she called him a bully, he would come out here to the garden and bash his head on the pillar. Maybe thatís what went wrong!" Then, realizing she had blurted out too much, she held me very seriously by the shoulders and said, "You must not repeat to your mother what I have just said, or she will be very upset!" And I promised I would not reveal her indiscretion.
Interviewer: And how long did this state of anxiety, this state of siege last?
Yukiko: Until my later teenage years, by which time it was pretty clear that my father was dead, although conclusive proof was never found. But he lacked the clarity and discipline, at that point in time, to conceal himself or master a change of identity. And all the evidence points to suicide.
Interviewer: You were in that state of panic for all those years?
Yukiko: No, I was not, I was mainly distressed by the fear of others, which seemed like a terrible injustice to me, and which was also unsettling, like living with a bunch of alcoholics. As for my mother, Rin, and the others, they followed the typical course of human behavior in the face of manufactured crises, which is to quiet down after a while. You canít live with that level of fear all the time, it burns your nerves out until you become disinterested, and the sharp edge of your nightmares wears off. The bodyís agitated rhythm slows down until you begin to walk through minefields with the same grace as you walk through fields of sunflowers, not because youíre brave, but simply because youíre tired. Although there were periodic spikes in their alarm after that - moments of some new sighting or possibly clairvoyant dream - life returned to something approximating normalcy. Whenever I caught them whispering in hushed tones about father, I would merely laugh, and say, "Are you talking about the Bogeyman again?" "Thereís many things you donít know," my mother would reply. Then she would once more take refuge behind that beautiful placid face that is like a pool of water that hides what is in it by reflecting the sky.
Interviewer: And Mr. Tsuji? What was his take on all of this, when you got to speak to him years later?
Yukiko: It is his view that the terror my mother felt was the product of her guilt for breaking up with Denzo when their paths diverged: when he chose the fringe as she was being seduced by the mainstream; when he began to lose his grip at the same time that the foundations of her world began to solidify. One was Air, one was Earth. One was Dreaming, one was Attainment. He raised her up higher than he could go. He could not follow her into the shallow kingdom he had opened for her, because he was bound in fealty to deep, neglected things; he could not follow her into the realm of success he had introduced her to, because he had an appointment with the impossible. In reality, he was not a threat to mother, but she believed he ought to be. She turned him into the demon she felt she deserved to be haunted by for leaving him behind, by not abandoning her own skyrocketing career to become his full-time caretaker. But then, this is Mr. Tsujiís view, and he was fatherís close friend.
Interviewer: And what of your fatherís disappearance? And the time just before that? While your mother was busy worrying about him, what was he actually up to? What does Mr. Tsuji have to say about that?
Yukiko: According to Mr. Tsuji, father seemed well for a time. He wanted to see my mother again, he wanted to see me.
Interviewer: I can tell this is very emotional for you. Iím sorry.
Yukiko: Itís all right. This is probably why he made the phone call that created such turmoil, which led to the court order preventing him from approaching us. According to Mr. Tsuji, my father was deeply hurt by that, he told Mr. Tsuji, "I have become something terrible in their minds, like a man-eating tiger. I am only a husband and a father. I wonder if she is poisoning Yukikoís mind. I wonder what my baby looks like now. How many years has it been?"
Interviewer: I am sorry. Perhaps you would prefer to continue later?
Yukiko: No. That is like asking a river to stop flowing.
Interviewer: I am sorry.
Yukiko: Please, no need for that. As I was saying, my father was hurt. But he was determined to make another movie, and his friends even succeeded in mobilizing some investors. He spent some time examining scripts and writing scripts. He was going to do a movie about Roshi and the Tao Te Ching, then one about Hiroshima Ė how fitting! How intuitive! Without knowing me, a movie about my parallel life! Then, he proposed a movie "Godzilla Meets the Buddha" which apparently was not intended as a joke. Then, a movie about an American girl who comes to Japan to study Buddhism at a time when all Japanese are becoming Westernized consumers, and ends up becoming the last loyalist of true Japanese culture! Quite a beautiful script, gathering dust. Finally, my father went back to the idea of making a movie that would serve as a perceptual flash to trigger enlightenment in all who saw it, a movie that would be like Bashoís frog leaping into the water. He believed in the saying We make the world we live in; to change the world we must change ourselves. He was going to do it. According to Mr. Tsuji, for a brief time, my father seemed to be walking on a cloud, his eyes shone with a kind of inner light that was at the same time wonderful to see and unnerving, like a butterfly that has landed on your finger; Mr. Tsuji said he was sure my father could cure the blind, the lame, and the lepers at that moment. "Snow will be in my movie," he told Mr. Tsuji, "snow will be the vehicle for the transformation of the planet. So white, so different! Do you remember how in Heian times, when it snowed, the whole court used to pour out of the palace, seeking the perfect vantage point from which to marvel at this amazing substance, to see it displayed by hills and seashores where it coated the eyebrows of the sea, to see it worn by trees who would even break their arms to hold it, to see it worshipped by crows who knelt before it on branches, glorifying it by being remnants of the world that had gone before, to see it threaded by the needle of gulls and geese into the fabric of the universe? Snow - it turned the pair of ducks nestled together by the lake into the very center of the human heart! The whole court turned out to watch! Snow-viewing! This will be my movie, this will be the fruit I pick from the madness tree. Time to right the overturned cart! I care about the world after all, not just my purity!" My father built a new camera for the project, his specialized "snow camera", he spent hours integrating the perfect components, which would be in perfect harmony with the film he intended to use, he told Mr. Tsuji, "The world will be saved by light and contrast, by the vastness of the white sea and the clarity of the branches and the things transformed. What overwhelms must not swallow up what is overwhelmed, yet it must not be diminished! The impact is in the effect! What is on the screen must charge into the heart of the viewer, like cavalry, there must be no defense!" According to Mr. Tsuji, the project went well, until the first heavy snowfall which my father had arranged to capture in northern Hokkaido. Thatís when they found him standing on a hill with his camera, engulfed by a blizzard, joyous and exclaiming, in the words of one of our poets: "Such a lot of snow, that to do snow-viewing, thereís no place to go!"  At that point, according to Mr. Tsuji, my father irreversibly crossed the line between his art and madness, he flung his camera into the snow and rushed down the hill exclaiming, "Footprints! In an hour theyíll be gone, but how wonderful it is to make them!" They chased after him like schoolboys playing a game and finally tackled him, but he pushed them off him with the strength of ten men, his eyes delirious with something this world has not been built to accommodate. Like a mat made of rice paper, that is not meant for a truck to pass over, this state was absolutely untenable; what was in my fatherís eyes was meant for "the next world", as Mr. Tsuji described it, and seeing it was like opening the door to leave this one. "I was right last time" my father said, "I am not meant to give you what I have found. I do not think I am capable of giving it to you, anyway, but just in case I am the misunderstood genius I give myself credit for, I must not try!" And once again a terrible decline set in. The vigor and enthusiasm of the mission which had given his madness a pretext and a tolerable form collapsed, and what remained was but a pathetic, lonely, tortured figure with no purpose or possible justification. Before disappearing, for he sensed the shadow of the insane asylum circling him once more like a vulture, he told Mr. Tsuji that he wished to vanish from the earth. "I do not have a wife, I do not have a daughter. I have lost my art, if I ever had it. Perhaps I was always just crazy. I would be a woman and spend the rest of my life pouring tea and lying on a mattress for a brave, strong man, except for these balls that get in the way, but good heavens, I could never cut them off! Do you know what I want, Mr. Tsuji?" "No," Mr. Tsuji asked, fearing that my father was about to ask him to marry him. But my father said: "I want to vanish from the earth." "You are not contemplating suicide?" Mr. Tsuji asked him, with concern. "So ghastly!" my father answered. "Hara-kiri? Disemboweled and beheaded? Like Yukio Mishima? A gunshot to the temple, to make such a mess of these beautiful brains? Impracticality deserves a spanking, not an execution! No, my dear friend, nothing like that, nothing so violent, so brutal, have respect, Denzo, for a great artist! Donít dare to butcher him like a chicken!" But Mr. Tsuji was hardly reassured when my father told him that lately he had been reading some wonderful books from South America, stuff by Borges, Garcia Marquez, and a Colombian writer by the name of Jose Eustacio Rivera, "an ecologist and social critic" according to my father. My father then showed him the book, opening it to a passage that was highlighted, and my father read it to him. It was about a man who had witnessed cruelty and violence firsthand, seen men die of horrible diseases, hunger, and thirst in the jungle, bodies whipped and disfigured, men blown open with gaping gunshot wounds and hacked to death by machetes. Then, the narrator saw a canoe of Indians capsized in the rapids of a river, and sucked beneath it by a whirlpool, which left only their hats behind, spinning in the torrent. The passage which my father read aloud to Mr. Tsuji goes like this: "The disaster overwhelmed me with a sense of beauty. The spectacle was magnificent. Death had chosen a new method. Death was to be thanked for devouring without shedding blood, without repulsive, livid corpses. The beautiful dying of those men, Ė existence extinguished quickly, as embers in water. Their spirits had risen through the foam, making it seethe with joy."  As soon as Mr. Tsuji heard that, he became quite alarmed, and determined that my father must be sent back to the hospital at once. However, my father disappeared in the night. Mr. Tsuji, to this day, blames himself for deciding to wait until morning to make the phone call. Of course, the police were called in to search, but no trace of my father was ever found. For some time after that, the police made a careful investigation of all stray bodies that showed up throughout Japan, paying special attention to cases of drowning, but no match was found. My father simply disappeared, fell off the map. "Maybe like the poem by Basho about the cicada", said Mr. Tsuji, "your father cried out until he became only voice."  For me, there has never been a problem about "closure." I donít need a body. There is loneliness and regret, but not the sense that I need to close the circle. I know my father is gone now, and I do not wait for him in this life. The book is finished, nobody needs to write "The End."
Interviewer: And is it really the end?
Yukiko: Of course not. There is no body, but there is the legacy, the momentum of a life that continues inside me. Father is not dead, after all. I go to put flowers on his grave, which I imagine is the sea, and he says, "Not yet." Mother once said, "Both of you yawned like cats. Whenever something urgent needed to be done, you molded yourself into the sofa and yawned like cats. There was a lit stick of dynamite in your apathy, just like the big teeth they show when they yawn." So now when I yawn, I know I am like Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. "Daddy, why did you leave?" I ask him, sometimes in tears, and he laughs at me. "What are you talking about, Iím right here! Stop crying letís go and see a movie." And I go to the theater to watch some strange film for him with my eyes, a movie that binds us like twins. Whenever I go crazy, I mean, start to yell and feel like smashing my fist through a pane of glass because someone is being utterly unreasonable, and this is the only way to outflank them, my father says, "Hello." Whenever I feel myself being strangled by perfectionism, hating something beautiful I have made because I think it should be even more beautiful, I receive a phone call in my mind, father tells me, "I am alive." He sends me postcards from Nepal, Korea, India, even Brazil and the United States: "If I could, I would travel all around the world just to send you postcards, with exotic stamps on them for you to collect. So please, anytime you travel to a foreign country, write yourself a letter, choose the most wonderful and unusual stamp to send it with, and sign it ĎLove, Father.í" Sometimes, he takes hold of my pen as I am writing and his words appear on my paper: "I never left home my darling. Donít see things the way they do and very soon youíll begin to understand. How crude and physical they are, their concept of Ďpresenceí, demanding big arms and feet! They make their scales for elephants! Do you know, the wind has changed the world more than any elephant? I am here, Yukiko, I am here!" I feel him. I know itís true. I am part him, I am his continuation. I am a chimera, made of the body of mother, the head of father, and the heart of something new, which is me. One-third of me is for him. I am his last refuge in this world that drove him away because he actually believed in its ideals; I am his only shelter, his only sanctuary. He is my partner in solitude.
Interviewer: Why solitude?
Yukiko: I have told you. How many effervescent, careless friends, how many charming voyeurs and engaging visitors! When the parties are over, I remain alone in an empty house. The only men who I really wanted in this life would not start families with me. They feared his presence in my ova. They feared the gashes they imagine he had made in my genes, the shadow of his madness on the forehead of their unborn children. Everyone wanted to taste the wild, twisted daughter, to roll around in the forest of insanity for a day, to throw off the clothes of reason and be covered with dirt out of the worldís sight. To be pigs, yet be thought of as swans! But no one wanted to hold that secret up to the sun, no one wanted to turn a moment of catharsis into a life. The only one who wanted to stay was Kenji, and he was mad in a way that was ugly to me; he was violent. Once, he tried to throw me out the window. For me, insanity ought to be more sublime. So, for me, no family. That is what I mean by solitude. Now, do you understand?
Interviewer: Please, donít be offended, but, couldnít you have had an "accident"?
Yukiko: I wanted a family, not merely a child. Not a little boy or girl who would be like me, wondering where father was: the product of some simple stud, without such an interesting internal companion to counteract the stigma of abandonment, and without such a competent mother to pull two halves by herself. Besides this, I was forced to wonder. Was the world right? Was the world right this time, and had it been right before in Hiroshima, when it demanded that I remove myself from the gene pool, that I barricade my reproductive potential from the future, that I stamp out the threat of my tainted DNA by boarding shut my womb like a store that has gone out of business? That I make my lifeís sole purpose to extinguish my family line, to remove it from the biological history of mankind, to become extinct? Was it my duty, then, to heal the gaping wound of Hiroshima by spending the rest of my life crying, with my legs closed? Is it my duty, now, to tear Denzo Mikawa from the future of the earth, to step on the cockroach of his madness by becoming an old maid? Is this the lesson of my parallel lives: my real life and its corresponding fantasy, or my two real lives, or mere shadows on the wall cast by something I cannot comprehend? Is this the lesson: that when the atom bomb falls, there are no survivors? That even those who live, die? No one wants to rub elbows with suffering; sympathize from far away! Hiroshima genes then and Hiroshima genes now. Is there a lesson to learn that will free me, or is this my eternal part to play?
Interviewer: What do you think?
Yukiko: I donít know! I donít know what I think! But sometimes, I know I am angry at my father, furious at him for being insane. Why couldnít he just be normal? Why couldnít he give up the illusions that drove him mad? Why did he have to try to walk on clouds? To save the world, as if he could, as if anybody could!? Sometimes, I hate him! I wasnít important enough to him for him to get his act together. If he loved me, he could have! He should have realized that just being an everyday, loving father who was there for his daughter was more important than trying to be something that was beyond his reach! He was arrogant and selfish, self-indulgent, like a glutton eating at a great banquet table of neuroses while his family was starving. Utterly decadent! Groaning about camera angles instead of holding me in his lap! I think the world is right. Yes, he should be extinguished! I should accept the task of ridding the world of him; no monsters to fight, no mountains to climb, no oceans to cross, all I have to do is keep my pants on, and I will obliterate the menace! Ai-uchi!
Interviewer: And this is your final opinion of him?
Yukiko: Of course not. I am his daughter, I have no coherent opinion; everything is in a state of constant flux, my mind is like a sandstorm, principles come and go, settle for a moment on the ground and are blown away again. I am a magnificent periphery, with no center. I love him. I hate him. I cherish him. I resent him. I know him and do not know him. Sometimes I see him as nothing more than a Japanese version of Nero, strumming the lyre while the world around him is in flames. Pathetic and self-absorbed. At other times, I seem him as a heroic warrior against mediocrity. He died in battle. I honor him. Do you remember the lines by Nietzsche? "They place their chairs midway between dying gladiators and satisfied swine. This they term moderation. I call it mediocrity." I honor the dying gladiator.
Interviewer: So you have no definitive opinion regarding your father?
Yukiko: In the end, there is one image that wins the day. One memory which decides the issue.
Interviewer: And that is?
Yukiko: The one time I actually saw my father.
Interviewer: What?! You saw him?? You actually saw him??!! Please, tell me about that. Where? When?
Yukiko: Perhaps I am mistaken. But I do not think so.
Interviewer: Please, tell me what happened!
Yukiko: I was between twelve and thirteen at the time. It was back in the days when my mother and Rin were paranoid about him showing up unannounced at our house, the days when he had the restraining order and was not allowed to see us after he had gotten out of the mental institution.
Interviewer: He came to your house?
Yukiko: No. That was too well-guarded. There was a big dog, an Alsatian by the name of "Bortai", who was Genghis Khanís wife. Not the dog, of course, I mean the original Bortai, who the dog was named after! There were the video cameras, the spotlights, the alarms, and the high wall. There was Mr. Tanaka with his Magnum, and "Steady" who could probably beat up about a hundred people of dadís build at the same time. There were the little clusters of fans hoping to get a glimpse of my mother, and the paparazzi Ė so many witnesses! And the restraining order Ė he could not possibly have an acceptable reason for coming down our street and passing by our house, he had to find another terrain for the meeting, one on which he could engineer a "coincidence" and present a plausible excuse in case he was discovered. No, the incident took place in one of those huge yet attentive department stores on the Ginza. Store clerks and salespeople were swarming around mom like bees around honey; although she was well-concealed by sunglasses the secret had gotten out, and Mr. Ohara ,who was with us on this occasion, was telling Rin, "Shopping should only be done by someone of your motherís stature as a publicity stunt; do you mean to tell me she is actually shopping?!" While they were all busy and struggling to take care of business, mom to pick out the right item with Rinís assistance, and Mr. Ohara to keep the world at bay, without alienating it, I happened to glance over, across a display counter, and thatís when I saw him.
Interviewer: Your father!?
Yukiko: How different he seemed from the photographs I had preserved! So much more frail now, bent like a thin branch in the middle of a hard winter in the north country, that cannot bear the weight of the ice that covers it. Soon it may break off from the tree altogether. So haggard and disheveled, but with the appearance of having made an effort, like a scarecrow that has spent its last penny to buy a comb. I saw the man, completely unlike my father, hidden behind sunglasses, but something in the way his face was turned towards me alerted me, his whole body was intense and overwhelmed as if I were a diamond the size of a soccer ball; he had the look of a rare creature afraid of men who, as its habitat is slowly destroyed, at last ventures into the outskirts of a town to search for food. I, in complete balance with him, like scales perfectly adjusted, stood there transfixed by the way I had mesmerized him. Everyone elseís attention was turned away. At last, slowly, the man raised the sunglasses from his eyes, and what I already knew in my heart was confirmed. The eyes looked at me with a thousand emotions at once: with tenderness, soft as a mother holding a child to her breast, and love that was far too strong for him, like surging rapids that could only carry him to heartbreak, and sorrow, the sorrow of a man who has spent his whole life ringing the bell to a temple in the forest that no one comes to, and an apology that was like the jaws of a beast on the verge of devouring him. His soul was on its knees, begging me for forgiveness. He was trying, at the same time, to show me how beautiful I was by exposing the wreckage of his loneliness, his life without me, his life of trying to pull stars out of the sky. No word was spoken. We just looked at each other. I am sure I smiled and that tears were pouring out of my eyes, because that is what he did; he was accepting something from me, so I am sure that I gave it to him. For a moment, he started to approach, as though he would hug me. But looking back at Mr. Ohara, so close and so agitated and vigilant, I gestured that he should be careful, and I pointed Mr. Ohara out to him and put my wrists together as though they were in handcuffs. He understood. His lips made the motion of a kiss, which he sent me across the room. I sent him back a kiss, with a melting heart. Indeed, my legs were so weak I felt as though I were about to faint. He loved me! My daddy loved me! And he knew that I loved him, too, that I was looking out for him, that I did not want him to be confined. "Where is Yukiko?" I heard my motherís voice suddenly cry out in fear. Quickly, my fatherís sunglasses were back on. "What are you doing over here?" Mr. Ohara was asking me. "We have to stay together in a place like this, are we ready to go yet?" "One minute," said Rin. "Almost!" Father looked at me one last time, smiling beneath the sunglasses. I winked at him; and then smiling even more, tears slipping out from underneath his shades, he turned and left. "Who was that?" Mr. Ohara asked me, as he vanished like some mysterious spirit, at dawn , that must escape the light of day. "I donít know," I told him. "He smiled, so I smiled back." "Probably one of your momís fans," said Mr. Ohara. "Good, weíre ready now? Letís get to the car at once!"
Interviewer: And that was it? The one time you saw your father?
Interviewer: And you are sure it was him?
Interviewer: You are moved.
Yukiko: Yes. I hoped we would meet again, but it never came to pass. By the time I was old enough to search for him, he was gone.
Interviewer: And this meeting has meantÖ?
Yukiko: That the great lifelong conversation I have had with my father in my soul is more than a myth. That the world I share with him is a product of intuition, not of delusion. For that one moment in time, we burned into the emptiness of our separate lives proof that our love was real. In that one moment, he won the right to be my father, and I, the right to be his daughter! Now, together, we sit upon thrones in the kingdom of the shunned. He is King Original Sin, and I am Princess Hiroshima Genes. Together, we rule a lonely country. But we have each other.
Interviewer: It was just one fleeting moment, this meeting! One look to weigh against years of absence!
Yukiko: "They make their scales for elephants!"
Interviewer: You and your father will perish together, if you have no child. What if your past-life memories, implying future lives, are only dreams, only metaphors? What if this is the only life there is? He is dead and you are childless. You and your father will perish together, if you have no child...
Yukiko: If that is so, until I die we will have a good time being alone in each otherís company. But I do not agree with you, even if we live but once. "They make their scales for elephants!" You see, there are genes and there are ideas. There are hands held. There are different ways of passing things on. If I could not have a child in the aftermath of Hiroshima, I could pass on the injustice of dropping the atom bomb by means of my childlessness. And I could pass on the unfairness of the ten foot pole with which the world keeps the heartbroken at bay, by means of my tears. If this did not really happen to me, it did happen to many others, and my fantasy is their voice. Even without having children, they persist, by resonating with my wound which embraces them, and restores them to the world. I give them each a thousand children with my words. Similarly, if I cannot have a child, now, in this life, because of the shadow of Denzo Mikawa, I can pass on the tragedy of minds that crack like glass, and the unsuitability of a world that does not expand to accommodate minds broken by smallness. Beyond that, even if the explicit lessons of my fate are not transmitted to the future, they will affect others, become shades of their actions, invisible nuances of their being; like genes, a single touch is passed on forever. "They make their scales for elephants!" I have told you my story. Even if I have no child, I have entered into history. Denzo and Yukiko will continue. Hiroshima genes are not more powerful than the soul of a human being.
 Chiyo, from Harold G. Hendersonís An Introduction to Haiku, p. 82. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958.
 Issa, IBID, p. 132.
 Issa, IBID, p. 134.
 Anonymous, IBID, p. 126.
 Rivera, Jose Eustacio. (Translated by Earle K. James.) Bogota: Panamericana Editorial Ltda., 1924/2001.
 Basho, from Henderson, p. 32.
Short Fiction Contents
Creative Safehouse Contents