Underground the tokyo ga.., p.23
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       Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, p.23

           Haruki Murakami

  Eventually they got through to my elder sister, who said, “I call you a thousand times and there’s no one there. Haven’t you seen TV?” On the way back from the hospital I was going to buy some flowers, it being Higan [the Buddhist equinox], but first I went home for a bit. That’s when the phone rang.

  “Such good weather, why would anyone be watching TV? If it rains I’ll watch, but now I’m just too busy.” That’s when she said, “Listen, don’t get alarmed. Brace yourself.” And I was like, “Brace myself? What’s this all about?”

  And it was, “Just now on the TV, they said Eiji’s dead.” That’s when everything went blank. That was it. I can’t recall another thing. It came that hard. The shock, it just wiped out everything …

  It was a year before they married that he brought Yoshiko home. Brought her in the wintertime. Eiji only ever came home twice a year, at Obon [the Buddhist festival of the dead, in August] and at year-end, and this was in the winter. Because we’d just finished all our winter preparations. As I recall, Yoshiko didn’t stay with us that time, she went back home the same day.

  All along I’d been saying, “Wouldn’t it be better to get a bride from the country? So it’d be easier to come up here, it being home country to you both.” And Eiji would say, “No, a country girl would be just as much a bother. I’ll find my own, don’t you worry, Mother. I’ll worry about that myself.”

  FATHER: That was fine by me. Let him choose who he likes and stay with her, that’s all that matters. A parent has no right to interfere in a child’s marriage. Let them do it for themselves, is what I say.

  MOTHER: Their wedding was at a chapel in Aoyama. A small ceremony. “Dozens of people wouldn’t fit in the hall,” he told us, so only really close relations attended. But when I said, “We’ll have to throw another ceremony again when you come up to the country,” he told me, “I’m the second son. Brother’s the one going to carry on the family line. Me, who knows whether I’ll even end up back here or not, so there’s no need to do anything special for me.”

  We heard that Yoshiko was expecting when they came to visit at New Year. I’d somehow sensed it when they came up in August. The color in her cheeks hadn’t looked so good then, and I thought to myself, well, just maybe. So I asked her and she said, “I suppose I could be.”

  FATHER: On March 20, like my wife said earlier, I was pruning the apples out back. Been at it since morning. Have to finish before the end of March. We got forty apple trees in all.

  Our eldest lives with us, but under a separate roof. Meals and everything we take separate. He’s got his wife and kids with him. So if our phone rings, you can’t even hear it over there. And anyway his wife was pregnant then too, and she was out getting medicine at the birth clinic.

  But it just so happens the older boy was listening to the radio at work when the name “Eiji Wada” came out. Then he flew over to our place. He’d called and called on the phone but nobody answered, so he guessed we were out in the field. But even before him, my wife’d come home and got that phone call first.

  Word came from the police, too. Headquarters had phoned the local police post, told them to go straight out and find us, is what happened. And just when my wife was on the phone, the police came driving up.

  MOTHER: I didn’t want Father to keel right over in the field if he suddenly heard about it, so we went out to the apple orchard and told him, “Come here a second.” Four of us went to Tokyo. Father, me, our eldest boy, and my sister’s husband, who pushed Eiji to join Japan Tobacco. We caught the 2:00 train from Ueda, and we got into Ueno Station around 5:00. It was still light out. Someone from Japan Tobacco came to meet us and took us by taxi to the Central Police Headquarters. No one breathed a word on the way. It was dead silence. We just kept quiet in the car and got out when we were asked.

  But by then the body was no longer with the police. It had been sent over to Tokyo University Forensics. So after all that we couldn’t even see our Eiji that day and we were put up overnight in the Japan Tobacco guest house. I couldn’t sleep that night. The next morning at 9:00 we all went to Tokyo University Hospital and finally got to see him. Without thinking, I touched Eiji and they yelled at me.

  How was I supposed to know you weren’t supposed to touch him? I just couldn’t help myself. Apparently Yoshiko touched him and they shouted at her, too. But to a mother, she’s got to touch him and feel he’s cold before she finally admits to herself, “It’s too late.” Otherwise nothing’s going to convince her.

  Everything in my head was just wiped clean away. I couldn’t understand anything. But I kept control, you know, so I didn’t cry. I was reduced to a complete idiot, my body still moving but that was it. We had to send him to meet Lord Buddha and give him a funeral. When your head goes empty, even tears don’t come.

  It’s strange, but in my head all I could think about was preparing the rice fields. Two children … grandchildren on the way, rice planting to do, gotta do this, gotta do that, my mind was keeping me busy. So there I was, getting ready to transplant the rice seedlings when the TV crew showed up.

  FATHER: I didn’t answer nothing to the reporters. I got so mad at them. They even followed us to the crematorium. Even took pictures of the birthing clinic. I told ’em please go away, but no matter what I said they just wouldn’t go. They pushed themselves on the neighbors. And they asked us, “They want us to talk, so what should we do, Mr. Wada?” but I told them, “Don’t say nothing.”

  Just once, when I was riding my tractor and they came up shoving a mike at me, saying, “Mr. Wada, any comment?” just once I answered. I said: “I’d like to see the killers get an immediate death penalty for their crime. And they’ll have to amend Japan’s Constitution. That’s all. Now please go home.” I just wouldn’t have anything more to do with them and I went straight back to the field. The TV station set up a camera in front of our house, aiming for when I came home. So I just scooted around back on my bike. At the time, there was just so many people come to report on us. Saying they were writing something for magazines or whatever.

  I just barely hung on, knowing the rice planting had to get done or else. And when rice planting was done, I just collapsed. All sorts of thoughts were in my head, but think and think there’s just no end to it. No matter how much you think, the dead boy’s not coming back. I had to tell myself, can’t keep feeling this way forever. Still, there’s no forgetting, either. Every time I think back over it all, I get these feelings stewing again in my gut.

  I’m not much of a drinker, but I like my sake. So whenever Eiji came home, us three’d drink together, father and sons. That sake always tasted the best, like nothing else. A little drink in us and the talk’d just spring to life. We’d put away a sho [1.8 liters] in an evening. We’re a close family. Never once argued.

  MOTHER: He was a kind child. When he got his first pay, he bought me a watch. And also whenever he came back to visit, he’d always bring something for his big brother’s kids. When he went to America and Canada on business, he bought us souvenirs.

  He even bought souvenirs for Asuka before she was born. A while back, when Asuka came up to visit, she was wearing clothes that Eiji had bought her in America. That’s how much he looked forward to the child being born. I mean he really was looking forward to it, and yet … when I think how those idiots went and killed him, it’s so pathetic.

  FATHER: At the time of the Matsumoto incident, why didn’t the police do a better job of investigating? If they’d done that, this whole mess would never have happened. If only they’d pushed harder on the case back then.

  MOTHER: Still, his wife and baby are fine; she bore us a splendid grandchild. I try to remember that. If I hung around here sobbing all the time, I’d be no good helping her after the birth, so I had to pull myself together, and it’s gotten me through this far.

  FATHER: There’s farming to be done, what we’ve always done. Once the rice seedlings are set it’s time to transplant them to the rice fields, once that’s done it’s
picking the apple buds, then it’s pollinating the blossoms … there’s no rest, the work keeps on coming. Working like that wears you down physically and when you’re tired out you sleep like a log. We’ve got no time for neuroses or tranquilizers. That’s just how it is for farmers.

  “Sarin! Sarin!”

  Koichiro Makita (34)

  Mr. Makita works in film production. From 1988 to 1994, he had his own company and was doing independent production, but when the recession set in he went to work for his present company. He’s in charge of visual development for computer-game software.

  In compiling this book, I laid down a rule for myself not to interview anyone more than once—no later additions—but Mr. Makita was an exception. My tape recorder wasn’t working properly and wouldn’t play back what we recorded the first time, so unfortunately I had to beg for a second attempt—in order to “get more detail.” Maybe the mishap with the tape recorder was some kind of message; the second time around, Mr. Makita gave me a long, in-depth interview.

  Mr. Makita was not reluctant to speak, but neither is he the type to volunteer information about himself. His answers generally stayed within the bounds of the questions asked. Not one to pry, I found it hard to ask directly about the effects of the gas attack on his family. Although sometimes, afterward, I regretted my own reticence.

  I commute to work on the Hibiya Line. It’s incredibly crowded, especially at Kita-senju Station, where lots of people transfer and they’ve been doing all these repairs that have cut into the platform space—it’s really dangerous. One little push and you could easily fall onto the tracks.

  When I say it’s crowded, I was boarding a train once when my briefcase got swallowed up in the torrent of people and swept away. I was holding on, trying not to let go, but I just had to or my arm would have broken. The case just disappeared. I thought I’d never see it again (laughs). I had to wait until the crowd thinned out to find it. At least there’s air-conditioning now. Summers were just unbearable in the past.

  Some people get off at Akihabara, so finally there’s a little breathing space. At Kodemmacho, there are no longer people rubbing up against you, and at Kayabacho you might even find a seat. On past Ginza, there’s room to read a magazine.

  My wife and I have a daughter, four years old. We’ve been married five years. We rent our house. It’s where my family lived when I was small, but while I was still in school my parents and brother all died one after the other, so I’m the only one left. Now I have my own family and we’ve taken the place on. It’s in a residential area, a little on the small side, but there are all the modern conveniences.

  I originally wanted to be in music. I was in a college band, and for three years after that, too. Strictly amateur, mostly techno stuff. I didn’t even have space to set up my instruments.

  Once out of college I became a typical salaryman. But that just wasn’t me. I barely survived the office environment. I was working for a computer company, but I hated it. The work kept me very busy. Hardly any time off. It was going nowhere, so I resigned after a year and a half.

  Then after a while I got a job with an audiovisual company, which went bust after a few years, so I formed my own company. I never really wanted to be self-employed, but it proved necessary for tax reasons. There were three of us at its peak, but as the economy worsened less work came in, and for the last year it was just me.

  March 20 was a Monday. I had an appointment with my boss, so I went to work early. If I’d waited a few trains at Kita-senju, I might have gotten a seat, but I’d have lost fifteen minutes, so I hurried onto the first train that came. Sit or stand, you’re still packed in face-to-face, so sitting’s not all that comfortable anyway. That day, the train was packed. Monday mornings are the worst.

  I always take the fourth car from the front, by the rear door. The time is fixed, so it’s generally familiar faces, but that day it was a different train, so I didn’t know anyone. I remember that impression, of how things were a little different.

  There was absolutely no chance of getting a seat until Tsukiji. That was unusual. I can usually get a seat around Kayabacho … So anyway I finally got a seat, when there came an announcement, “One passenger has collapsed. The train will make a temporary first-aid stop at this station.” I sat and waited, but then after about two minutes the message changed to “Three passengers have collapsed.”

  Out on the platform there was this wall of people. It was all happening in the next car where the packet of sarin was. What’s going on? I wondered and stuck my head out the door, but I couldn’t see what was wrong. Then a middle-aged man came walking from that direction saying, “Sarin! Sarin!” I distinctly remember him saying, “sarin,” but he sounded drunk.

  Hearing that, several people around me stood up, though they didn’t seem in any particular hurry. They weren’t running to escape or anything.

  A little while after that there was another announcement: “Poison gas has been detected. It is dangerous underground. Please head for safety above ground.” At that all the passengers stood up and got off the train, but still there wasn’t any panic. They walked a little faster than normal, but there was no pushing or anything. Some put handkerchiefs to their mouths or were coughing, but that’s all.

  The wind was blowing through the station from the back toward the head of the train. Which is why I thought, “I’m all right, the trouble’s in the next car up, upwind from here.” And the way out was also upwind, toward the exit at the back of the train. Meanwhile, I felt a strange tickle in my throat. You know when the dentist gives you anesthetic and it’s seeping back into your throat? Just like that. To be honest, I was scared. The realization that I might be gassed to death suddenly hit me. If it was sarin, it was serious. I saw what it did in Matsumoto; you breathed it in and you died.

  I went out the exit and up the stairs. Outside, I wanted to have a cigarette, but I could barely draw air into my throat before I was coughing hard. That’s when I knew I’d breathed the gas. “I’d better call the office,” I thought. There were two phone booths outside the station, but both had long lines. I had to wait fifteen or twenty minutes for my turn. It was still before office hours, but I told the girl who answered: “There’s been some terrorist activity. I’m going to be late.”

  After I finished my call, I looked around and saw that there were lots of people crouching on the ground, dozens of them. Some looked unconscious, some had been carried up the stairs. Before I’d made my call there had only been a few, but in only fifteen or twenty minutes the place was in an uproar, though not yet the war-zone atmosphere they showed on TV.

  This detective person was walking around asking out loud, “Did anyone see the culprit who planted the poison gas?” Then straightaway an ambulance arrived.

  They still hadn’t sealed off the entrance to the subway and quite a few people were going down for a look. I was thinking, “That can’t be safe.” But eventually I remember a station attendant appeared and shut the entrance.

  I knew I’d inhaled poison gas, so I was concerned, but I didn’t know whether to leave the area or not. It’d be better if I got tested, right? It’s only asking for trouble to avoid the issue and take another train to work, then collapse midway.

  On second thought, though, I could still walk—unlike the ones they carried up—so that must mean I wasn’t in such a bad way. When the first-aid team came and said, “Everyone who’s feeling ill, please get in the ambulance,” I didn’t. I thought I was okay.

  So I walked to Shintomicho Station and took the Yurakucho Line to get to work. When I got there, the executive director contacted me to ask if I was all right. I explained the situation, and he told me, “They’re saying it was sarin, so you’d better get to a hospital quick and have some tests.”

  The hospital was nearby. Actually, things had started to look dim the moment I’d entered the subway at Shintomicho, but at the time I thought it was because of the brightness of the sun outside. I later learned it was due to the sari
n. The tickle in my throat was almost gone; I could smoke. Anyway, I wanted them to test me.

  But they told me, “We can’t test for sarin here.” The doctors can’t have been watching the news. They had absolutely no idea what had happened. This was around 10:30. Naturally they’d never tested for sarin before and had no idea how to go about it. After making me wait for an hour while they looked it up, they told me, “Well, it’s like a pesticide, so the thing to do is drink a lot of water and flush it out of your system. But for now you’re okay.” All right, I’m okay for now, I thought, and went to the reception area to pay the bill. Then a nurse who’d been watching television came and told me, “We can’t treat for sarin here. The TV said they can do a full treatment at St. Luke’s Hospital. Over there they’ve got the medicines and they can run a proper test. You’d better go check with the police.”

  I was still unsure, so I went to the police post in front of the hospital and asked the officer there to tell me which hospital to go to for sarin testing. He must have thought I was a serious case and immediately called an ambulance. They took me straightaway to a hospital about twenty minutes away.

  As I was a “serious case,” three doctors were waiting for me. I was so, embarrassed I had only light symptoms. “You’re not so bad. If no further irregularities show up today, then you’re all right,” they told me. No drip, no drugs.

  So I was right back into the swing of things. My pupils weren’t badly contracted—I scarcely remember how long the condition lasted.

  After the gas attack the police somehow became convinced I was one of the culprits. Two detectives came to my home and gave me a grilling. One of them looked me in the eyes and said: “Have you always worn your hair like that?” After I went over the events of that whole day, they showed me two likenesses, one of which looked quite like me. “During the gas attack, did you happen to see anyone like either of these?” No, I answered, I hadn’t, but I really felt they suspected me. According to these detectives, there was a high probability that the culprits had been contaminated themselves and had gone to a hospital for treatment.

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