I arrived by boat in Japan and left by plane. About seventy years earlier, some unknown American had a brief experience in Japan the precise reverse of mine in the sense that he "arrived by plane and left by boat," and in a more dramatic fashion. His story is told through the eyes of a Japanese watching:
After discussing the war generally, [the Japanese professor in his 60s] began, with seeming reluctance, to speak of his own war experience as a university draftee who had used all his family's influence to avoid call-up until he was finally tapped for coastal-defense duty late in the war. One day in July 1945, he went on, the intensity of his voice increasing with each sentence, he found himself in charge of an emplacement of ancient coastal guns just as an American flyer [pilot] parachuted into Tokyo Bay. As the downed American swam towards his position, the youthful candidate-officer found his mind racing. What should he do? Kill him, or take him prisoner? Suddenly, he was spared the choice, for right there in the middle of the bay, a U.S. submarine surfaced, scooped up the pilot, and submerged again, taking him to safety. At that moment in his story, the scholar broke off almost breathlessly, and said, "You see, that's the only kind of thing you'll hear. Pointless stories. It's too late to talk about crucial issues. All the people in decision-making posts are long dead."
Quite dramatic for a pointless story.
It comes from a book I'd bought cheaply in Tokyo (200 Yen or $1.65 at today's exchange rate). It's called Japan At War: An Oral History" published in 1992, an original English publication by an American, Dr. Theodore Cook. The interviews were conducted in 1988-1991 in Japan. He says he "selected people from [the ranks of] general to private, prison-camp guard to journalist, dancer to diplomat, idealistic builder of 'Greater East Asia' to 'thought criminal,' who talk revealingly of their wars".
The pointless story has two incredible points to it, as I see it. One, he considered killing a potential prisoner-of-war upon capture. Two, the pilot's manner of rescue, as described, seems so surreal that if I saw it in a James Bond movie I'd think to myself, "Gee, they're really pushing it now". The author makes some more comments about why this little anecdote is not so pointless. A photograph of the page is here.
Towards the end of 1969, a few months after the first human moon landing, an album was released in the USA called "Willy and the Poor Boys" which featured the now iconic song "Fortunate Son". Another song on the album was "It Came Out of the Sky".
Below is that song, its lyrics, and some comments on it that occur to me. (As of now, for copyright reasons Youtube blocks the song on mobile devices but it can be heard on desktops.)
I see the song as saying this: People tend to react to new, unknown phenomena or developments based narrowly on the way they already see the world, the way they've always done things. Few, if any, can really break free of this mental constraint. (I think this makes the song a musical version of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave.")
I heard somebody from the UK make this comment a while ago:
"I've met people who don't even believe in God, but they believe in Islam."
He was talking about Muslims living in the UK, I think. What this means is open to interpretation.
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