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Authors: David Peace

Tokyo Year Zero

BOOK: Tokyo Year Zero
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ALSO BY DAVID PEACE

The Damned Utd

GB84

Nineteen Eighty Three

Nineteen Eighty

Nineteen Seventy Seven

Nineteen Seventy Four

For my children

For an explanation of Japanese words and phrases used in the text, please refer to the Glossary.

51. Defeat

The hand taking up the pen had started to tremble.
He drooled.
Only after a 0.8 dose of Veronal did his head have any clarity.
But even then, only for half an hour or an hour.
Day by day he lived in this half-light.
The blade nicked, a slim sword for a stick.

A Fool’s Life
, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, 1927

I lie among the corpses.
One Calmotin, two
. Hundreds of them, thousands of them. Dead leaves, floating in the autumn breeze. I try to raise my head but I cannot. Flies and mosquitoes swarm over me. I want to brush them away but I cannot. Low dark clouds shift across the sky.
It is time to reveal the true essence of the nation
. Last night, sometime between midnight and dawn, between retreat and defeat, rain drenched this place and, though the storm has now passed, fresh torrents of rain still fall upon the corpses and onto my face. My head is numb, my thoughts the fleeting shadows of delirium. Images of my wife and my children float before my eyes, among the corpses.
Ten Calmotin, eleven
. Beneath the eaves of the Black Gate of Zōjōji Temple.
Oh so bravely, off to Victory
. My son has a little flag in his hand. My daughter has a little flag in hers.
Insofar as we have vowed and left our land behind
. My parents are here. Friends from school, teammates from my high school baseball club, colleagues with whom I graduated.
Who can die without first having shown his true mettle?
Each holds aloft a big banner, each banner bearing my name, each before the Black Gate.
Each time I hear the bugles of our advancing army, I close my eyes and see wave upon wave of flags cheering us into battle
. There are sight-seeing buses full of girls on school excursions.
The earth and its flora burn in flames, as we endlessly part the plains
. The clock strikes noon as my truck approaches the Black Gate.
Helmets emblazoned with the Rising Sun
. The truck stops in front of the gate and I jump down from the Nissan.
And, stroking the mane of our horses, who knows what tomorrow will bring – life?
I stare into the crowd, up at the banners and the flags, and I salute. Now the departure signal sounds.
Or death in battle?
Twenty Calmotin, twenty-one
. The print of dear faces floating in a sea of flags as the mountains fade, the rivers retreat, waving our flags until our hands are numb, floating and waving.
We are bound for Siberia
. Down the Shimonoseki Channel, the waters choked with transports and cargo boats.
We are bound for Dairen
. I lie among the corpses, the damp bodies and the fetid air.
We are bound for Shanghai
. The two tiers of cheap bunks on the decks below.
We are bound for Canton
. The men shout, the men applaud, as Yamazaki begins to recite ‘The Bloody Handkerchief of Kioi Hill’. More shouts, more applause, as Shimizu tells of ‘Konya, the Harlot’. I love you, I love you, I love you, says Konya to her customer. The bell rings for the evening meal. The war horses stabled in the hatch below scream, their ribs exposed. The steam winch hoists their corpses into waiting boats. In their bunks, men hold their
sennin-bari
tighter, their belts of one thousand stitches, touching the charms and talismans sewn into the silk. The Eight Myriads of Deities and a Buddha from Three Thousand Worlds. I lie among the corpses, a three-inch image of the Buddha in my hands. No bullet ever touched the man who carried it, said my father. Through the Shino War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Russo War, without a scratch. Bags of five-sen or ten-sen pieces, vests of dried cuttlefish, every man has his charm.
How far we have come from the homeland
. The transport ploughs on through the black ocean. ‘
Tis the land of Manchuria, far, far from home
. I lie among the corpses and I listen

The fifteenth day of the eighth month of the twentieth year of Shōwa

Tokyo, 90°, fine

‘Detective Minami! Detective Minami! Detective Minami!’

I open my eyes.
From dreams that are not my own
. I sit up in my chair at my desk.
Dreams I do not want
. My collar is wet and my whole suit damp. My hair itches. My skin itches –

‘Detective Minami! Detective Minami!’

Detective Nishi is taking down the blackout curtains, bright warm shafts of dawn and dust filling the office as the sun rises up beyond the tape-crossed windows –

‘Detective Minami!’

‘Did you just say something?’ I ask Nishi –

Nishi shakes his head. Nishi says, ‘No.’

I stare up at the ceiling. Nothing moves in the bright light. The fans have stopped. No electricity. The telephones silent. No lines. The toilets blocked. No water. Nothing –

‘Kumagaya was hit during the night,’ says Nishi. ‘There are reports of gunfire from the Palace…’

‘I didn’t dream it, then?’

I take out my handkerchief. It is old and it is dirty. I wipe my neck again. Then I wipe my face. Now I check my pockets –

They are handing out potassium cyanide to the women, the children and the aged, saying this latest cabinet reshuffle foretells the end of the war, the end of Japan, the end of the world

Nishi holds up a small box and asks, ‘You looking for these?’

I snatch the box of Muronal out of his hands. I check the contents.
Enough
. I stuff the box back into my jacket pocket –

The sirens and the warnings all through the night; Tokyo hot and dark, hidden and cowed; night and day, rumours of new weapons, fears of new bombs; first Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, next is Tokyo

Bombs that mean the end of Japan, the end of the world

No sleep. Only dreams. No sleep. Only dreams

Night and day, this is why I take these pills

This is what I tell myself, night and day

‘They were on the floor,’ says Nishi –

I nod. I ask, ‘You got a cigarette?’

Nishi shakes his head.
I curse him
. There are five more days until the next special ration.
Five more days

The office door swings open –

Detective Fujita storms into the room. Detective Fujita has a
Police Bulletin
in his hand. Fujita says, ‘Sorry, more bad news…’

He tosses the bulletin onto my desk. Nishi picks it up –

Nishi is young. Nishi is keen. Too young

‘It’s from the Shinagawa police station,’ he says, and reads: ‘Body discovered in suspicious circumstances at the Women’s Dormitory Building of the Dai-Ichi Naval Clothing Department –’

‘Just a moment,’ I tell him. ‘Surely anything to do with the Naval Clothing Department falls under the jurisdiction of the Kempeitai? This is a case for the military police, not civilian…’

‘I know,’ says Fujita. ‘But Shinagawa are requesting Murder Squad detectives. Like I say, I’m really sorry I pulled it…’

No one wants a case. Not today. Not now

I get up from my desk. I grab my hat –

‘Come on,’ I tell Fujita and Nishi. ‘We’ll find someone else. We’ll dump the case. Just watch me…’

I go out of our room and down the main hallway of the First Investigative Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department; down Police Arcade, room to room, office to office, door to door –

Door to door.
No one
. Office to office.
No one
. Room to room.
No one
. Everyone evacuated or absent –

No one wants a case. Not today

Just Fujita, Nishi and me now –

I curse. I curse. I curse

I stand in the corridor. I ask Nishi, ‘Where’s Chief Kita?’

‘All chiefs were summoned to a meeting at 7 a.m….’

I take out my pocket watch. It’s already past eight –

‘7 a.m.?’ I repeat. ‘Maybe today is the day then?’

‘Didn’t you hear the nine o’clock news last night?’ he asks. ‘There’s to be an Imperial broadcast at noon today…’

I eat acorns. I eat leaves. I eat weeds

‘A broadcast about what?’ I ask –

‘I don’t know, but the entire nation has been instructed to find a radio so that they can listen to it…’

‘Today
is
the day then,’ I say. ‘People return to your homes! Kill your children! Kill your wives! Then kill yourself!’

‘No, no, no,’ says Nishi –

Too young. Too keen

‘If we’re going to go,’ interrupts Fujita, ‘let’s at least go via Shimbashi and get some cigarettes…’

‘That’s a very good idea,’ I say. ‘No cars for us, anyway…’

‘Let’s take the Yamate Line round to Shinagawa,’ he says. ‘Take our time, walk slowly and hope we’re too late…’

‘If the Yamate Line is even running,’ I remind him –

‘Like I say,’ says Fujita again. ‘Take our time.’

Detective Fujita, Nishi and I walk down the stairs, through the doors, and leave Headquarters by the back way, on the side of the building that faces away from the grounds of the Imperial Palace –

That looks out on the ruins of the Ministry of Justice.

The shortest route to Shimbashi from Sakuradamon is through the Hibiya Park, through this park that is now no park –

Black winter trees in the white summer heat

‘Even if we are routed in battle,’ Nishi is saying, ‘the mountains and the rivers remain. The people remain…’

Plinths without statues, posts with no gates

‘The hero Kusunoki pledged to live and die seven times in order to save Japan,’ he states. ‘We can do no less…’

No foliage. No bushes. No grass now

‘We must fight on,’ he urges. ‘Even if we have to chew the grass, eat the earth and live in the fields…’

Just stark black winter trees

‘With our broken swords and our exhausted arrows,’ I say. ‘Our hearts burnt by fire, eaten by tears…’

In the white summer heat

Nishi smiling, ‘Exactly…’

The white heat

Nishi in one ear and now the harsh noise of martial music from a sound-truck in the other as we leave the park that is no park, down streets that are no streets, past buildings that are no buildings –

‘Oh
so bravely, off to Victory/Insofar as we have vowed and left our land behind
…’

Buildings of which nothing remains but their front walls; now only sky where their windows and their ceilings should be –

‘Who
can die without first having shown his true mettle/Each time I hear the bugles of our advancing army

The dates on which these buildings ceased to be buildings witnessed in the height of the weeds that sprout here and there among the black mountains of shattered brick –

‘I
close my eyes and see wave upon wave of flags cheering us into battle
…’

The shattered brick, the lone chimneys and the metal safes that crashed down through the floors as these buildings went up in flames, night after night –

‘The
earth and its flora burn in flames/As we endlessly part the plains
…’

Night after night, from the eleventh month of last year, siren after siren, bomb after bomb –

‘Helmets emblazoned with the Rising Sun/And, stroking the mane of our horses
…’

Bomb after bomb, fire after fire, building after building, neighbourhood after neighbourhood until there are no buildings, there are no neighbourhoods and there is no city, no Tokyo –

‘Who
knows what tomorrow will bring – life?’

Only the survivors now –

‘Or death in battle?’

Hiding under the rubble, living among the ruins, three or four families to a shack of rusted iron and salvaged wood, or in the railway or the subway stations –

The lucky ones

‘We must fight on,’ repeats Detective Nishi. ‘For if we do not fight on, the Emperor himself will be executed and the women of Japan will be subjected to methodical rape so that the next Japanese will not be Japanese…’

I curse him

Beneath telegraph poles that stand as grave markers, down these streets that are no streets, we walk as Nishi rants on –

‘In the mountains of Nagano, we shall make our final stand; on Maizuruyama, on Minakamiyama, on Zōzan!’

There are people on these streets that are no streets now, people that are no people; exhausted ghosts in early morning queues,
bitter-enders waiting for lunches outside hodge-podge dining halls in old movie theatres, their posters replaced by slogans –

‘We Are All Soldiers on the Home Front
…’

The sound-truck has gone and with it that song we have heard every day for the last seven years, ‘Roei no Uta’ –

Just the noise of Nishi’s voice now –

‘Every man under sixty-five, every woman under forty-five will take up a bamboo spear and march off…

‘To defend our beloved Japan…’

I stop in the middle of this street that is no street and I grab Nishi by the collar of his civil defence uniform and I push him up against a scorched wall, a scorched wall on which is written –

‘Let Us All Help One Another with Smiling Faces
…’

‘Go back to Headquarters, detective,’ I tell him –

He blinks, open mouthed, and now he nods –

I pull him back from the black wall –

‘I want to make sure one of us, at least, is able to hear this Imperial broadcast,’ I tell him. ‘You can then report what was said, if Fujita and I are unable to hear it…’

I let go of his collar –

Nishi nods again.

‘Dismissed,’ I shout now and Nishi stands to attention, salutes and then he bows –

And he leaves
.

‘Thank you very much,’ laughs Detective Fujita.

‘Nishi is very young,’ I tell him.

‘Young and very keen…’

‘Yes,’ I say. ‘But I don’t think he’d be too keen on our old friend Matsuda Giichi…’

‘Very true,’ laughs Fujita again as we walk on, on down these streets that are no streets, past buildings that are no buildings –

In this city that is no city –

To Shimbashi, Tokyo.

There are lines of soldiers unloading wooden crates from two Imperial Army trucks outside the temporary offices of Matsuda Giichi and his affiliates in an open lot near the back of the Shimbashi railway station; Matsuda Giichi himself giving the orders –

‘Sellers and Buyers Are All Comrades in Arms
…’

Matsuda Giichi in a new silk suit, stood on a crate with a
Panama hat in one hand and a foreign cigar in the other –

The brand new Emperor of Tokyo

Matsuda smiles when he sees Fujita and me –

The only man smiling in Tokyo

‘I thought you lot had all run off to the mountains,’ he laughs. ‘The last stand of the Japanese race and all that…’

‘What’s in the crates?’ I ask him –

‘Ever the detective, aren’t you?’ says Matsuda. ‘But you two might want to start thinking of changing your line of work…’

‘What’s in the crates?’ I ask again –

‘Army helmets,’ he says –

‘Not thinking of joining the war effort, are you?’

‘Little late for that,’ he says. ‘Anyway, I did my bit on the continent – not that anyone ever thanked me for my trouble. But, past is past; now I’m going to help this country get back on its feet…’

‘Very patriotic of you,’ I say. ‘But we’ve not lost yet.’

Matsuda looks at his watch, his new foreign watch, and nods. ‘Not yet, you’re quite right, detective. But have you seen all those columns of smoke rising from all those government buildings…?’

Both Detective Fujita and I shake our heads –

‘Well, that means they’re burning all their documents and their records. That’s the smoke of surrender…

‘The smoke of defeat.’

Two more army trucks pull up. Horns sound. Matsuda says, ‘Now I am very sorry to be rude but, as you gentlemen can see, today is a very busy day. So was there anything you specifically wanted? Like a new job? A new name? A new life? A new past…?’

‘Just cigarettes,’ Fujita and I say simultaneously.

‘Go see Senju,’ says Matsuda Giichi.

Both Fujita and I thank him –

‘Senju’s round the back.’

Fujita and I bow to him –

And curse him
.

Detective Fujita and I walk round the back of Matsuda’s temporary office to his makeshift warehouse and his lieutenant –

Senju Akira stripped to his waist, a sheathed short sword in his right hand, as he supervises the unloading of another truck –

Its boxes of Imperial Chrysanthemum cigarettes –

I ask, ‘Where did you get hold of all these?’

‘Never ask a policeman,’ laughs Senju. ‘Look, those in the know, know, and those who don’t, don’t…’

‘So what’s with your boss and all those helmets?’ I ask him.

‘What goes around, comes around,’ smiles Senju again. ‘We sold the army saucepans to make helmets, now they’re selling us helmets to make saucepans…’

‘Well then, you can sell us on some of those Chrysanthemum cigarettes,’ says Fujita.

‘Don’t tell me you’ve actually got hard cash,’ says Senju.

Detective Fujita and I both shake our heads again –

‘Fucking cops,’ sighs Senju Akira as he hands us each five packs of Imperial cigarettes. ‘Worse than thieves…’

We thank him and then we bow to him –

And we curse him and curse him

We share a match in the shade –

In the shade that is no shade

We smoke and walk on –

There are uniformed police officers on duty at Shimbashi railway station, checking packages and bundles for contraband –

Knapsacks and pockets for black-market cigarettes –

Detective Fujita and I take out our
keisatsu techō
, our police notebooks, to identify ourselves at the gate –

The station and the platform are almost deserted, the Yamate Line train almost empty –

BOOK: Tokyo Year Zero
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