Underground the tokyo ga.., p.22
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       Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, p.22

           Haruki Murakami
 

  It turned out that at the new office there would be a shift system, so he’d have to sleep over for two nights. There’d be days he wouldn’t be coming home, so he wanted to make sure I could handle things on my own. But then if he stayed over two nights, he’d get three days off and that would give him more time with the baby, which was a pleasant prospect.

  He left the house around 7:30. I understand he caught the 7:37 Hibiya Line train departing from Kita-senju. I sent him off, washed up, then puttered around a bit before settling down to watch the Morning Wide Show. Across the TV screen they ran subtitles: “Such-and-such happened at Tsukiji Station,” but I didn’t worry because I thought he said he commuted by the Marunouchi Line.

  At 9:30 a call came from the company saying, “He seems to have gotten mixed up in this mess. We’ll call back later.” Then ten minutes later, it was, “He’s been taken to Nakajima Hospital. We’ll fax you the details so you can get in touch directly.” So I called them up, but they were in total confusion. “We can’t even keep track of who’s here,” they said, and hung up. So all I could do was be patient and wait.

  It was just before 10:00 when the call came: “It looks pretty bad, so come to the hospital as quickly as possible.” I was getting ready to leave when the phone rang again with the message: “He just died.” I think it was his boss. He was saying, “Keep calm, Mrs. Wada, keep calm!”

  Well, leaving the house was okay, but I had no idea where I was going. I didn’t even know which subway line to take. Both the Hibiya and Marunouchi lines were canceled. I went to the taxi stand at the station, but there were about fifty people lined up. “This is no good,” I thought, so I made straight for a cab company nearby. All the cars were out on call. They radioed, but I waited and waited and still nothing came. Luckily the man at the cab company spotted a taxi sitting empty over by the train crossing, so I took that.

  By then the body had been transferred from the hospital to the central police station in Nihonbashi. I took another taxi to Nihonbashi, but traffic was jammed from an accident on the expressway. We left Kita-senju at 10:10 and reached the police station around 11:30. In the taxi I heard my husband’s name. The driver had the news on and they were reading out the names of the deceased. “That’s me,” I said. “My husband’s died.” The driver asked me, “Should I turn off the radio?” but I said, “No, keep it on. I want to know what’s happening.”

  That hour in the taxi was torture. My heart was pounding, I thought it was going to leap out of my mouth. What if I went into labor right there and then? But I also thought: “I can’t be sure until I see his face. I won’t believe until I see his face for myself. There’s absolutely no way it could happen, there has to have been some mistake. Why, oh why would my husband be the one to die?” That’s all that kept spinning through my head: “I won’t cry until I know for sure”… I just hoped against hope.

  They were examining the body, so it was 1:30 before I got to see him. I had to hang around in the police station all that time. The telephone was ringing nonstop and everyone was running about in a blind panic. Total confusion. My husband’s boss and a police officer explained everything to me, though at that point many details still weren’t clear. It was only the most sketchy explanation: “He inhaled something and that’s what killed him.”

  I called my dad immediately. “Just come,” I told him. As soon as I saw Dad’s face, I couldn’t fight back the tears. My husband’s parents are farmers; if the weather’s good, they’re always working outdoors, so I couldn’t get through to them. His boss kept trying to phone them, but no one answered. I wanted to see my mother-in-law as soon as I could. I just sat there, unable to speak, thinking: “What am I doing here?” It was all I could do just to nod at the detective’s questions.

  I finally got to see my husband face-to-face downstairs. Upstairs was the police station, the ground floor was the morgue. That’s where I got to see him. In a tiny room not more than two tatami mats in size, if that. They’d laid him out, covered with a white sheet. Completely naked and covered with a white sheet. “Don’t touch him,” they told me. “Don’t go too near.” There was something on him and if I touched him, it would penetrate my skin.

  But before they’d warned me not to, I’d already gone and touched him. He was still warm. There were bloodied bite marks on his lips. Scabs, as if he’d bitten down really hard. And on his ears and nose, too, crusted, where he’d bled. His eyes were shut. It wasn’t a suffering face. But those scars, those blood marks, they looked so painful …

  They didn’t let me stay very long because it was “dangerous.” I was in there maybe a minute… no, not even a minute. “Why did he have to die?” I said. “Why did he leave me here?” And I broke down.

  The body was transferred to Tokyo University Law Medical Department at 4:30. Dad tried to give me courage, but his words didn’t even reach me. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t think. “What am I going to do now? What am I going to do now?” was all I could manage.

  The next day, I bid him a final farewell at Tokyo University. They didn’t let me touch him then, either, nor my mother-in-law, who came down from Nagano. We could only look. I couldn’t believe they’d left him overnight in such a lonely place. Even the police department would have been better. His parents came all the way to Tokyo and they wouldn’t even show them Eiji’s body at the police station. Talk about cruel.

  My husband’s elder brother took the body back to Nagano by car. My in-laws and Eiji’s grandfather, I, and my dad went by train. I cried the whole way. I told myself, “Control yourself.” I had to see the funeral through; after that I didn’t care. My in-laws were trying their hardest, after all, so I should. Like they say, the Buddha doesn’t like to see weeping. But I just couldn’t…

  The baby moved inside me. As soon as I cried, it was rolling this way and that. After the funeral, my stomach bulge sank lower and lower. Everyone was worried for me. They said that births often follow quickly after a shock.

  We keep a little picture of the deceased on the Buddhist altar, right? I put that by my bedside in the labor room, and it gave me strength. My mother-in-law and my husband’s friend’s mother were also there to cheer me on. It took thirteen hours in all. “Quite normal,” they told me. “This is normal?” I thought (laughs). The baby weighed six pounds, eleven ounces, heavier than expected. During the birth I was so preoccupied I completely forgot about my husband. It was that painful. I almost passed out, but my mother-in-law came into the delivery room and slapped me on the cheeks: “Hold on!” I don’t remember any of this, though.

  When it was all over I was so tired, all I wanted to do was sleep. Most women probably think, “How wonderful” or “What a cute baby”—but not this one. After pushing so hard, I just had to let go …

  It took forever to lose weight after the birth, but my mother-in-law took care of everything. She looked after Asuka, I was without a mother of my own, and Dad wouldn’t have had a clue what to do. My mother-in-law was a real veteran, having helped my brother-in-law’s wife with her children, so I felt like I was safe on board a luxury liner. If it had been just me, I might have gone mad. That’s the good thing about extended families.

  Eiji’s brother had two children (and a third one around the same time as mine) and whenever I started sobbing those kids came and asked, “Auntie, you okay?” or “Is it because Eiji died?” I couldn’t keep crying with children around. They were a great consolation.

  I returned to Yokohama that September, after living about half a year with my in-laws. It practically became a second home (laughs). I still go there a lot. I enjoy it. Everyone welcomes me, and my husband’s grave is there.

  A year on, I’ve managed to put things behind me a bit. It’s gradually sunk in that he’s not around anymore … My husband used to go to America on business trips for two or three months at a time, so on one level it seemed normal, him not being here. Even after he died I’d think, “Ah, he’s off again on one of his trips.” The whole year was
like that, as if he’d suddenly step through the door and say, “I’m home!” I’d wake up in the morning and think, “He’s away,” but then I’d see his picture on the altar. Some part of me still couldn’t accept what had happened. I seemed to be living a mixture of reality and fantasy. Like I’d be thinking, “He’ll be coming home soon” even while visiting his grave. But now, a year later, I’m much clearer in my own mind: “Yes, he’s dead.”

  That was the hardest part. Going on walks, seeing a father carrying a baby on his shoulders was almost too much to bear; or overhearing a young couple’s conversation—I just didn’t want to be there.

  I’ve read what they said about me in the papers, but they never write what’s really important. For one reason or another I once appeared on TV. Afterward the man from the TV station told me there was “lots of response” and “many letters,” not that they sent me anything. What a shabby operation (laughs)! I don’t want to be on TV anymore. Never again. They just don’t tell the truth. I’d hoped for a little truth, but the station’s got its own agenda about what it broadcasts. They never showed what I really wanted to say.

  For example, when that lawyer Sakamoto disappeared, if the Kanagawa police had been allowed to investigate in depth like they were supposed to, the gas attack would never have happened. * All the victims would have been spared. That’s what I wanted to say, but they cut all that out. When I asked why, they said they’d be under pressure from advertisers if they broadcast that. And the same goes for newspapers and magazines.

  When we took the coffin to Nagano there were TV crews ready with their cameras. Talk about insensitive!

  When I came home to Yokohama, everyone knew all about me. I’d walk down the street and people would point at me: “Look, there she is. That sarin widow.” My back tingled, I felt like I was being stabbed. I couldn’t stand it, so I moved.

  The first time I went into the Public Prosecutor’s Office for a hearing, they had the testimony of the person who had carried my husband out of the station. They also had testimonies from the station attendants. The prosecutor asked me did I want to know how my husband had died? “Of course,” I said, and they read them to me. “What? Do you mean to say he died in such agony?” I thought. I wanted to give the ones who did it a taste of their own medicine. Why were we even keeping them alive? Give them the most extreme punishment, the sooner the better, that’s what I think. I always will. The trial proceedings just irritate me. What possible reason was there to kill my husband? What am I supposed to do with this emptiness now that our future’s been destroyed?

  I’d like to kill Asahara with my own two hands. If it were allowed, I’d like to kill him slowly and painfully. Hayashi, the culprit who gassed the Hibiya Line train, is still on the loose. *

  I just want to know the truth. The truth, and not a minute too soon …

  Even the media, they didn’t say a thing about how the victims died in agony. Not a word. There was a little at the time of the Matsumoto incident, but with the gas attack, nothing. Strange. So I’m sure the majority of people out there probably imagine they just keeled over and died “normal” deaths. The same with all the newspaper articles. I only learned how painfully my husband died when the prosecutor read me those testimonies. I want more people to know the truth about just how horrible it was … Otherwise, it all becomes somebody else’s problem.

  The only good thing is Asuka. When she spoke her first words … Some little gesture, some food she likes will remind me of him. I’m always telling Asuka, “Dada was like this.” If I didn’t tell her, she’d never know. When Asuka asks, “Where’s Dada?” I point to the photo on the altar and say, “Dada, Dada.” She says, “Nighty-night” to the photo before going to sleep. It makes me want to cry.

  I still have a few videos from ski trips, our honeymoon. You can hear his voice, so I’ll play them for her when she gets a bit older. I’m so glad we took those videos. Even I’m starting to forget his profile. At first, I could still feel every part of his face in my fingers, but gradually it’s all going away …

  Forgive me … It’s just that, without the body, it all starts to fade.

  I’m thinking of teaching Asuka to ski. My husband always said he would. I’ll wear my husband’s gear and teach her. My husband and I wore the same size. I think I’ll start next season. It’s what he would have wanted.

  “He was an undemanding child”

  Kichiro Wada (64) and Sanae Wada (60)

  parents of the late Eiji Wada

  Kichiro and Sanae Wada live in Shioda-daira in the countryside on the outskirts of Veda, not far from Bessho Hot-springs. The autumn leaves were falling when I visited the Wada household, the hills were tinged crimson and gold, the apple trees in the orchards were laden with ripe red fruit. It was an idyllic picture of the mountainous Nagano Prefecture at harvesttime.

  The area had once been the center of silk production, with vast tracts of mulberry trees whose leaves were used to feed the silkworms. After World War II the land was converted to rice fields, which brought the local silk industry to a sudden halt.

  “Government’s way of doing things don’t make much sense for a farming village as small as ours,” says Mr. Wada. He is a man of few words—though there are plenty of things he could say if he wanted to. His wife, Sanae, by contrast, is your affable, talkative “mother” type.

  The Wadas have about two and a half acres in rice, as well as vegetables and apples. As I was leaving for Tokyo, they gave me an armful of apples fresh from their orchard—they were delicious!

  For the first few years after they married the Wadas survived by farming alone, but as times got tougher Mr. Wada was forced to work in a factory to make ends meet, only tending the fields on his days off. The double workload really wore him out. When their son died in the gas attack, he could scarcely recover from the shock and he left his factory job.

  I asked him what sort of child Eiji had been. “Didn’t have much to do with raising the boy,” he told me, “best ask my wife.” He had too much on his hands to deal with the children, I suppose, and yet, at the same time, I got the distinct impression he found the subject of his dead son too painful to talk about.

  “He was an undemanding child.” Comments to that effect were repeated over and over again in the course of the interview. Eiji had been a strong, independent young man who never caused his parents any worry. Not until the day his body was sent home without a word of explanation …

  MOTHER: Eiji was born at 5:40 in the morning on April 1. I just knew I couldn’t hold out until morning, so when dawn came we went to the midwife’s place. That was around 4:00. I gave birth almost immediately.

  It was an easy birth. He only weighed five pounds. The older one was eight pounds, so Eiji was a lot smaller. It was a natural birth, over in an hour and a half, no need to call in the doctor. With his big brother, though, what an ordeal!

  We didn’t have any choice but to raise goats. Had lots of grass all around anyway. So I’d milk the goats and drink their milk to give me lots of milk so I could breast-feed Eiji. That’s how I got Eiji to grow up healthy. Always stayed a little skinny, though, never put on much weight. But we never once had to put him in the hospital.

  He was an undemanding child. Whatever it was, he could always do it for himself. When he went for an interview with Japan Tobacco, we asked, “Would you like one of us to go with you?” which only annoyed him: “Who’s gonna come with me? I’ll go alone!” (laughs) Or when he was living alone, I’d say, “Shall I come and houseclean for you?” and he’d say: “Housecleaning I can do for myself!” These last ten years there’s been only three times I had to go out of my way for Eiji: when he got engaged, then for the wedding, and then when we had to bring back his body.

  The older boy, he’s more the quiet type, but Eiji was active, a whiz-bang do-it-yourselfer. Even did his own cooking. That’s why we never had any problem bringing him up. He’d decide everything for himself.

  When it came time for high school,
we told him, “Why not try and go on to university?” But he said, “I like electrical stuff, so I’ll go to a vocational school and not go any higher.” The boys had talked it over. The elder one said, “It’ll be easier if I just stay on here and take on the family farm,” and Eiji said, “I don’t expect anything from here, so I’ll go off on my own.” The two of them decided it between themselves.

  The older boy did try going to university in Tokyo, but said he couldn’t see himself living in that crazy mixed-up place and came back to agricultural school here. But not Eiji. That boy could make it anywhere. He took to city life straightaway. After graduating from the electrical program, he went to work for Japan Tobacco in 1983. My sister’s husband worked there already. When he was about to retire, he said, “Why doesn’t Eiji join Japan Tobacco?” This was just around the time they were computerizing the machines, and when Eiji went in for the interview, he said, “I want to join so I can learn these computer systems,” so maybe that’s why they gave him the job. At the training in Nagaoka everyone else was a university graduate, he told me, only two out of twelve were straight out of high school.

  He said that in Nagaoka the snow piled up a meter deep. So the next thing he’s saying he wants to learn to ski. He needed equipment so could I send him money? Which I did. So then he really got into skiing, was skiing all the time. It was on a ski slope that he met Yoshiko.

  At Nagaoka he was away from home, starting a new life alone, but he didn’t seem lonely. He made lots of friends, he was making money for himself and was free to have fun with it.

  When they told us Eiji had died, honestly, my head went totally blank. You hear about people “blanking out,” but it really did happen. Didn’t know what was what.

  Wasn’t anybody home at the time. His company and the police rang up, but everyone was out. Before that I’d been putting up miso, like I always make up a batch in April, but since I had to go and help with Eiji’s baby, I put it up a month ahead of time. That kept me busy. On the twentieth the weather was clear, so I washed the laundry that had been piling up, ran all sorts of errands. Father had gone to prune the apple trees in the orchard that morning, and my blood pressure was up a little, so I went to the hospital for medicine, which is why nobody was at home.

 
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