Stop! Pause! Freeze frame! I’m about to reveal the secret behind the Paraguayan train ticket but must share something important with you first.
(By way of background I’m sitting outside a hut in Cha Am, Thailand gazing across the beach; there are the usual suspects: white sandy beach, rotten palm fronds, the odd stranded tourist and a brightly painted orange fishing boat lit by a fierce sun).
I put down my beer. Two Japanese women break into view, cantering across the beach in front of me on small ponies. Both animals are black with white blazes down the middle of their faces. The women’s milk-coloured flesh (a common refrain in my novels) is dramatically counterpointed by the blackness of their mounts. The women are confident, self-conscious in their fashionable Mizuno swimwear. Full, long black hair streaming behind.
By a strange quirk of fate they ride by as I’m reading a section in Max Hasting’s Nemesis describing the US air offensive in WW2 against Japan. In Tokyo 100,000 Japanese civilians died in one night of indiscriminate area fire-bombing. Mostly women and children. Air crew said they could smell the roasting flesh as they flew into the target. ‘Big Cigar’ LeMay, who led the bombings and later believed in UFOs, said that if the US lost the war he would be tried as war criminal. He was probably right.
Great Balls of Fire…
The trauma of fire-bombing and atomic weapons is etched on the modern Japanese psyche; it finds expression in an obsession with apocalyptic visions in film, animation and manga. It has also provided an excuse for the Japanese not to take ownership of the awful misery and atrocities their country heaped upon Asia in WW2 that resulted in the deaths of millions. Modern Japan as Revisionist Heaven.
As they canter off beyond the orange boat, I imagine following those two women galloping through blazing retro city streets in their swimwear. The sweat-shine on their milk-flesh reflecting the flames. Where are they? Tokyo? Nanking? Manila? It’s difficult to tell. The two riders gradually melt, congeal until they flicker and disappear from our consciousness.
I blink and find myself sitting back outside the hut.
Is any of these relevant? You bet. That leaking, crying Fukushima nuclear plant. Violent protests on the Asian street against Yasanuki shrine visits. South Korea banning Grave of the Fireflies. In the global village, you bet it’s relevant. Then how can I insert those two riders into my next novel? Fuse past and present? Make a statement.