Finding Nemo

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Mask

The Japanese national psyche knows and fears the effects of nuclear fallout like no other on Earth.  The famous story of Sadako, a little girl who slowly succumbs in a haunting, poignant, and tragic way to the effects of the Hiroshima bombing, became an international bestseller (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes).  Under the mask that each Japanese citizen learns to put on at an early age is likely bubbling a dark cauldron of fear.  I wonder what it will be like to walk into such a place.  Will the karoake bars be silent, or twice as rowdy as people try to drown their worries?

According to all the guide books and cultural material I have been studying, Japanese are raised with a level of stoicism that baffles and confuses the Westerner.  Physical displays of affection are frowned upon, and crying is a shameful sign of weakness.  I watched on TV the image of a proud white-haired grandmother, realizing her children were missing and almost certainly dead.  She went from sullen, to shaking, then finally collapsing into a howling, sobbing ball on the ground.

The pain was too much for the mask.  A lifetime of careful control broke under an emotional tsunami that is still drowning her city.

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