“I Did Not Know” (fiction), Part 2: Storytelling

"Kanmon-jindou" (Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel). Licensed under GFDL via Wikipedia.

Kanmon-jindou” (Kanmon Pedestrian Tunnel). Licensed under GFDL via Wikipedia.

“Remind me, what is ‘Honshu’ again?” Myrna asked.

“Honshu is the biggest island of Japan, where Tokyo and Osaka is. And Kyushu is the third biggest island. And right now I have one foot on Honshu, and one foot on Kyushu.”

Indeed, they were in a concrete tunnel, and Ana was straddled over a line, with one foot on one side of the line, and one foot on the other side. Though Myrna couldn’t read the Japanese descriptions of the two sides of the line, she guessed that one said ‘Kyushu’ and the other said ‘Honshu.’

After walking through to the other side of the tunnel in Honshu, the two of them figured they might as well spend a little time there.

Just about the only remarkable thing which Myrna could see was the large suspension bridge looming over what Ana called the Kanmon straits.

They walked for a little bit, and saw that an old man was telling a story with the aide of some antique device which scrolled through a set of black and white paintings.

“That guy is Sakamoto Ryoma,” Ana said, pointing at one of the drawings. Myrna had no idea who he was. “The old man is tell the story about how Ryoma persuaded the Mori clan to form an alliance with the Shimazu clan to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate.” This, likewise, meant little to Myrna. However, she found the manner in which the story was told mildly interesting.

They drifted from the storyteller, and found a place to sit where they could look up at the bridge and across the water back to Mojiko.

“You’re probably wondering why I brought you here,” Ana said.

“Well, I can imagine that having one foot in Kyushu and one foot in, uh….”

“Honshu.”

“Yeah, that would be a big deal to someone who actually had a clue about Japanese geography,” Myrna said.

“Actually, that’s not the reason,” Ana said. “You do remember about manga, right?”

“Yeah.” Myrna had seen Ana read a lot of Japanese comics, known as manga, in their college dorm. Myrna even was a member in their college’s anime club for a while, though she had not seen any anime since graduation.

“Well, you see, I could speak Japanese okay when I was growing up, and I even studied some basic Japanese reading in elementary school-”

“I thought you went to elementary school in the America.”

“I did, I went to an elementary school with a Bilingual Japanese program. Though it is funny, since I speak Japanese with my father’s accent, and I even understand the local dialect, so people who hear me speak assume that I grew up here. It’s a big shock when they find out that I’m an American.

“But I only learned about two hundred kanji in elementary school, and that’s not enough to read Japanese. Then, when I was in high school, my dad got me a few volumes of Basara. I didn’t need the kanji to read it, and I loved it.

“The heroine travels all over Japan. However, the most important city in the story is Suo City, which is right here – the story is set centuries after the fall of modern civilization, and Shimonoseki is renamed Suo City. It’s the city ruled by the Red King, who is enemy of the rebel leader. However, the rebel leader is actually the heroine, and her boyfriend, unknown to her, is the Red King.”

Ana’s hand gestures made this easier to follow, and something about the story seemed familiar. Myrna asked “So, basically it’s a version of Romeo and Juliet where Romeo is the leader of the Montagues and Juliet is leader of the Capulets?”

“It’s more like the version where Romeo is a Bourbon monarch and Juliet led the storming of the Bastille.”

Indeed, Ana and Myrna had studied the French Revolution together in their European History II class.

“Early on in the story, the Red King is trying to catch the rebel leader, who is actually the heroine, so she flees to Kyushu. All of the boats are being searched, so she has to go through the Kanmon tunnel. Of course, it wasn’t like the tunnel we went through – she has to go through a dark maze of tunnels full of bats, bugs, snakes, and there’s a lion in there too.”

“Oh wait a minute, is it that anime where there was that girl who came from the desert who was pretending to be her dead twin brother?”

“Yes, it was! I thought you weren’t in the anime club when we were showing it.”

“I wasn’t, but you dragged me in as a guest.”

“Ah, ha ha, yes. I translated the script for them. Heck, I purchased the videos and told the club they should show it in the first place. So, do you remember the scene in the Kanmon tunnel?”

“Sort of. Yeah, it’s nothing like the tunnel we went through.”

“Well, it’d be a pretty boring story if all she had to do to get to Kyushu was walk 15 minutes through a safe, well-lit pedestrian tunnel. Anyway, reading the manga really left an impression on me as a teenager. It didn’t just depict Japan, part of the story specifically featured Kyushu, my father’s homeland, and it didn’t even mention…”

Up until now, Ana had been brimming with the enthusiasm of a nostalgic fan. At this point, the excitement was abruptly cut off.

“Well, the story is important to me,” Ana said tersely. She was now on her guard, as if she were avoiding slipping some secret.

Myrna wanted to know why Ana’s mood had suddenly changed, but she did not know what to ask.

To be continued…

***

Preview of Part 3: Ships Passing in the Night

“I’ve been to Hiroshima once, and I had a good time. I visited Itsukushima, a sacred island with good views, Shukkeien, a really nice traditional garden in Hiroshima’s historic district, and Sandan Gorge, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Japan. Oh, and Hiroshima has the best okonomiyaki. But that’s not why I bring it up. Have you ever heard or read Hiroshima being mentioned elsewhere?”

Myrna considered this for a moment, and replied “Nope.”

“Are you sure?” Ana asked.

“Is Hiroshima famous for something? I mean, Hiroshima isn’t like Kokura – nobody tried to drop an atomic bomb on it or anything.”

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