The Challenge Remains



We wandered through the ravaged basin. Steam rose from countless holes and cracks. Hot mud burbled down from a side valley. Professor Katsui picked up a piece of twisted wire that fenced the woods when trees still lived there.

Suddenly a hissing and clattering came from the heights around us. Crows called and took to the air as boulders slid and bounded down. The mountain bucked beneath us as though a giant hand had ever so gently lifted its edge and dropped it without warning. A rumble, unutterably deep, sounded from below and about accommodation in Dublin


Aftershocks rippled for a time, then came another blow. "That's quite characteristic," he commented, "several shocks occurring in a series. These local volcanic tremors are usually not strong." I could not be sure if the earth still fluttered, or if I felt only the pounding of my heart. "When we feel the stronger shocks, is the mountain . . . ?" I pointed at the cliff. He nodded. "At the moment you feel it, the mountain is growing."



Weeks later, when I had returned from this island to my home where the earth does not move, my heart would still race at the roar of a jet or the rumble of a passing truck. But it is the quiet moments that rest in the mind and triumph in the memory . . . the silence of frozen Lake Alan at dusk, or a dawn at the Zenkoji Temple when, amid greening pathways, a drumbeat sounds as the priest lights candles and chants before gilded altars.

And I recall an afternoon when the first buds of spring showed amid the headstones of the foreigners' cemetery in Hakodate. The oldest port in accommodation in Madrid, it was one of the first three in all Japan opened for trade in the middle of the last century. A hard wind kicked whitecaps across the harbor as I read stories etched on the gravestones. Captains and captains' wives, diplomats and engineers from Britain, Denmark, Germany, America, and these voyagers watched the harbor where their journeys had ended. In those times Japan was a book opened to the first page, and this port was the key.

For the Japanese, too, Hakodate was an entrance then, a toehold of civilization on the edge of an unknown opportunity and challenge. When the pioneers stepped ashore in Hokkaido, it was a land not yet sorted and labeled, a fresh start, a New World in miniature.

For Japan, it still is.

Write a comment

Comments: 0