‘One Man’s Justice’ (translation)

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One’s Man’s Justice-A Novel by Akira Yoshimura.

This unauthorised Scots translation taken from the first chapter of the above novel is taken from the Canongate Books UK edition. The English translation is by Mark Ealey. I have tried to contact Harcourt Inc. NY, USA who hold the foreign publishing rights. The Canongate novel is a translation of Toi Hi No Senso, Copyright Akira Yoshimura, 1978, Shihcho-Sha Co. Ltd. I found this novel hard to put out my head (as I did the darkly elegiac and powerful, Shipwrecks by the same author) and hope to use this project to highlight a complex story and turbulent period of history.

1

The boy’s een wur nae langer keekin at Takuya.

Each time the train went ower, the boy’s heid, coverit in ringworm, wis buried in the gap atween Takuya and the aulder wumman staunin in front o him. Takyua wid lean back tae mak enough space fer the boy tae breathe. The boy luiked up at Takuya repeatedly. Thare wis a shade o resignation in his een, an unnerstaunin o his pouerlessness in the throng o adults, as weel as a flicker o licht, an entrustin o his weel-bein tae this man wha kept shiftin back fer him. Afore lang, hooiver, the bairn’s heid drapped. The strain o leanin tae ane side may have been ower muckle fer him, fer noo he hardly moved his heid whan he wis pressed atween the fowk.The wumman staunin in front o thaim seemed tae be the bairn’s mither, an Takuya cuid sense this wis haudin on tae the cloth o her wark breeks.

The carriage wis packed wi fowk an baggage. Sum hid breenged their way in tae staun atween the seats, ithers perched on tae the seat backs, clingin fer support tae the luggage racks. Naebodie spoke, an aw thon cuid be heard wis a wee bairn’s intermittent hairse greetin.

The train slowed doun. The soond o the wheels clatterin ower a joint in the tracks began at the front, rattled thair carriage an carried on tae the back o the train. Thare wis a hum o voices as the passengers kent thon thae wur approachin thir destination, Hakata.

Takuya turned tae keek oot the windae. He wanted tae be delivered frae the suffocation o the train, but at the same time he felt reluctant tae puit a fuit on the platform in thon city

The train slowed mair, shuddered a mickle an cam tae a halt. The air filled wi voices as fowk transformed the carriages intae a bustle o activity. The boy winced as he raxed roond tae face Takuya. Takuya haud the boy’s gaze until he seen that a space hid opened in front o him. Satisfied he forced his way atween the seats neist tae him tae jump oot the windae an on tae the platform.

Takuya luiked aroun the concrete platform. The station wi mair o less as it hid been whan he left the city seven months syne, but scorched iron girders stuid here an thare, an the crossbeams o the riggin’s steel banes wir exposed. He shuffled wi the crowd athort the platform tawards the ticket gates.

Leavin the station, Takuya saw fowk millin aroun an peerin intae a cluster o makeshift wuiden stalls. The hawkers’ voices wir animated, but the fowk on the street moved lethargically frae ane stall tae anither.

The thocht thon someone in that crood o survivors micht recognise him made Takuya tak the path that ran alang the railway tracks fer a short distance frae the market tae a stane brig ower a wee burn.

A desolate stretch o burnt buildings opened up in front o him. Aince agin he wis astonished that so mony hames cuid hiv been reduced tae ashes in a single nicht.

Takuya set aff alang the road through the charred ruins. Though he had spent the last two years an fower months of the wir here, he had nae expected iver tae set fuit in thon city agin. He kent deep doun that it wis unwise tae gang onywhaur nar the toun.

The reason Takuya hid left his hame toun tae come back here by train, ferry, and than train agin wis a postcaird he hid received three days afore, It wis fae Shirasaka Hajiime,  a former army, lieutenant. Shiraska hid been born in the United States, but hid returned tae Japan wi his parents afore the war, graduatin fae a private university afore jynin the Imperial Airmy, He hid belonged tae the same unit as Takuya, the Western Region Anti-Aircraft Defence Group, under the command of Western Regional Headquarters, and his knowledge o English hid led him to stay on efter the war as pairt o the staff winding up heidquarters affairs in liaison wi the Allied Forces. The postcaird, screived in his type-script like haunwriting, hid mentioned thon he wis keen tae see Takuya agin, and suggested he come tae veesit soon.

Takuya wis bewildered by the message. He hid been in the same class as Shiraska as a military cadet, but thae hidnae been gey close. In fact, at times Takuya hid felt sumthin akin tae repulsion at the noo and agin manifestations o Shiraska’s fremmit upbringing. In thae days Shiraska hid seemingly keenly aware o Takuya’s feelings and made nae attempt at freendship. Havin been born an raised in America, a hostile kintra, Shiraska wis mocked an berated fer his weird accent, an his wis aften on the receivin end o disciplinary action. Takuya didnae think thon wis at aw strange, in fact it mildly made him smirk. Shiraska wis a tall, weel-built chiel. Thir wur certainly desirable attributes in an officer, but whan Takuya thocht o hoo thon wis a result a an ample American diet, he kent is as proof o an insidious dissociation fae the Japanese fowk.

On orders fae the commander o air defence operations at heidquarters, Shiraska had served as interpreter in the interrogation o captured American B-29 pilots wha had bailed oot whan thair bombers wur shot doun. Takuya hid also been present, and hid been surprised at Shirasaka’s fluent English, which only aggravated his ill feelings taeward the man. Shiraska’s English wis completely deeferent frae whit Takuya hid learned as a student, an fer the maist pairt wis unkennable tae him. Takuya cuid tell thon he hid spent in America hid profoundly affected his character, an his natural way o conversing wi the American fliers made Takuya doot Shiraska’s trustworthiness. He wid shrug his shouthers an shake his heid withoo saying onythin, an the Americans wid keek at him imploringly, appealin tae him in muffled grumphs.

Takuya’s feelins aboot Shirasaka hid nae chynged syne thae hid pairtit ways. An his impressions gained ground fae the self-importance he had keeked in ethnic Japanese Yanks wha were military observers on twa ither occasions. He imagined thon Shiraska wid hiv yaised his English skills tae sook in wi the American sodgers, an wid doubtless be leadin the same fantoosh life as thae Japanese American interpreters.

Takuya tried tae read atween the mickle short lines on Shirasaka’s postcaird. Syne the stert o the Allied occupation, aw mail hid been censored by the Supreme Commander o Allied Powers in Japan (SCAP), an mail an documents fae the staff haunlin the affairs o the noo defunct headquarters wid shairly be monitored. Thon Shiraska hid sent sic a deliberate note tae Takuya, tae whom he hid nae been particulary close tae, maun mean thon he wanted tae see him urgently. As an interpreter, he wid be in a position tae assess developments on the Allied side, so it wis possible he hid cum athort ingaitherins which concerned Takuya an he wis tryin tae pass it on.

Efter readin the caird ower an ower agin, Takuya hid heided aff fer Fukuoka, whaur Shiraska wis helpin tae wind up the affairs o the Western Command.

Danderin alang in the Spring sunshine, he keeked doun at the road unner his feet. He cuid see the hairline cracks fae the searin heat o the fires that had raged efter the incendiary attacks. In places, holes in the asphalt exposed the yird unnerneath. Scorched riggin iron an rubble wir piled on baith sides o the road, an the occasional ruins o square concrete buildings an the taps o unnergrun warehooses wir all that wis left staunin.

In stark contrast Takuya’s pairtin impression seven months earlier, Fukuoka hid acquired the settled desolation o am empty moor. Mibbe it wis because the burnt ruins wir stertin to return tae the yird, or because all projectin objects hid been removed., but this muckle scorched plain seemed maistlins tae shimmer in the heat. The soond o a piece o riggin iron that hid cum loose wuid approach on a gust o wind, than disappear into the expanse ayont the road. Here and there windblown piles o san stuid oot o twa gently slopin verdant hills. The hills wir split tae the east and west o a central ridge cawed Abura-yama, a vantage point fae which the distant islands o Tsushima and Iki cuid be keeked at on a braw day. Accordin tae legend, durin the reign o Emperor Shomu a monk cawed Seiga established a temple thare an becum kent fer the wee bit he makit fae the fruit o the wuid amang the surroundin forest. Yon thicket whaur Takuya an his freens hid executit the Americans the Americans, nar the crematorium at Sanroku an nae far fae the braes in view, wis linked inextricably tae his memory o thon city.

Shiftin his een oot tae sea, he keeked upon a convoy o fower army US airmy trucks movin alang the coastal road, the beams fae each set o heidlichts jigging in the cloods o dust flung aroun by the vehicle in front. Sum fowk said that the Americans drove wi thair heidlichts on durin the day, tae flaunt the US military’s influence, an thare wis nae denyin the compellin nature o thae shafts o licht.

Aheid o him Takuya recognised a watchtooer jaggin oot frae the burnt-oot shell oa fire station. The building, or whit wis left o it, hid a ruch whitish look nae dissimilar tae thon o unglazed pottery. Maist o the ooter was hid crumbled awa, an rusty glessless windae frames hung lossely fae the mickle o whit wis left.

Ayont the ruined fire station Takuya wis stopped by the sicht a wee set o pink cherry blossom. At the tap o the wynd, up a gentle brae, was the former regional command headquarters building, surroundit by a belt o cherry trees in fou bloom. Efter the scorched moor he had just dandered, Takuya foond the vibrant pink o this brae strange to behold. Mibbe because it was surroundit by blossom, the auld headquarters building radiated elegance rather than foreboding, as if though it wir a stately western manor. This gentle brae seemed sumhoo removed frae the passage o time.

Takuya glanced tae either side o the buildin. Sittin on the ferry and swaying inside the train, he had felt a wee twang o distrust of Shirasaka’s motives. It wis easy tae imagine Shiraska, in the coorse o wirkin wi the occupation forces, makin a relationship which ayont tendin tae the affairs o the former western command. Takuya thocht that the postcaird micht even hiv been sent on instructions o the Americans, tae lure him intae the open. He hid decided tae cum here despite his apprehension because he assumed that, even if thare wir sum basis fer his fear, the situation wid nae hiv reached a critical stage.

Since the middle o the previous November, the newspapers hid been fou o reports of Japanese servicemen being tried an then executed by military tribunals fer crimes committed o’erseas agin prisoners o war. Even so, Takuya surmised thon if the occupation authorities wir suspicious o him thae wid hiv instructit the Japanese polis tae arrest him by noo. An even if Shiraska caird hid been sent on the orders o the Americans, it wis unlikely that thae only wantit tae cairry oot sum routine prelimary questionin.

Mairover, Takuya felt shair thon whit thae hid done cuid nae hiv been discovered by onyone on the outside. Thae hid planned awthin so carefully an so secretly that nae civilians cuid hiv keeked in, or even aware o, ony pairt o the proceedings. Thare wis no way, he thocht, that thon deed, carried oot within a rigidly closed military system, cuid ever leak tae the outside warld. If the fact thon executions hid taen place wis discovered , the headquarters staff wuid be culpapble tae varyin degrees, an almost aw o thaim wid likely be implicated. Thon in itself, Takuya thocht, wid keep thair lips sealed.

He concentrated his een on the low brae. It seemed deserted. Thare wir nae fowk or vehicles in sicht onywhaur aroon the building, nor on the road chiselled intae the front face o the rise. His een riveted on the brae, he sterted walkin forrit. Tae ane side a bent and broken watter pipe protruded frae the ground. Watter flowed doun the road, filli a hollow in an exposed patch o yird an spreidin oot in a fan-shaped arc. Faint signs o moss cuid be seen jist ablow the surface o the wee pool, an at the bottom grains o san skinkled as though washed tae perfection.

Takuya walked up the brae, stappin at the stane pavement in front o the building. The cherry blossom wis jist past its peak, an petals covered the ground.

The reception desk wis unattended an the utter lack o sound suggested that the building wis deserted, but a message on the waa, screived on straw paper wi an Inglis translation typed beside it, invited veesitors tae mak thair way directly tae the first flair.

Takuya stared aheid doun the corridor. Hardly ony o the windaes had panes o gless an mony had been boardit o’er completely, leavin the corridor dark an forbiddin. The room Takuya had yaised wis on the left, at the end o the corridor, but he felt desire tae gang thon way. He walked up the stairs tae find the first flair bathed in sunlicht. Fae thare he followed an arrae screived on a piece o paper stuck tae the white waa. It pointed taewards  the section o the building whaur the offices o the regional commander an chief o staff had been located, an whaur the remainin afairs o the reginonal command wir likely bein attendit tae.

He paused afore a door marked wi a piece o paper bearin the wird, ‘Entrance’. Thon room wis connectit directly tae the chief o staff’s office an had been yaised as the tactical operations centre. Worried that members o the Allied military micht be inside, Takuya stuid glued tae the spot, tryin tae sense whit wis on the ither side o the door. He cuid jist mak oot voices, but cuidnae tell whither Japanese or English wis being spoken.

He reached fer the knob an opened the door. Some auld desks had been brocht in an arranged in an L-shape on the richt-haun side of the room. A man wearin a navy blue suit lifted his heid an turned tae look at Takuya. Immediately he stuid up an walked roun an walked roun the desks taward the visitor.

He had longer noo, so fer a moment Takuya didnae recognise Shirasaka. Distracted, the three uniformed men turned as one tae look taeward Takuya, who recognised thaim immediately as non-commissioned officers fae the auld headquarters staff.

Gesturin as though tae push him back, Shirasaka ushered Takuya oot o the room an intae the corridor, then guided him in the direction o the staircase afore openin o the staircase afore openin the door an beckonin him in. Shirasaka’s haun movements an facial expression wir new tae Takuya. Evidently, in his association wi the occupation authorities he had regained his American mannerisms.

Shirasaka sat doun ahint the single desk in the middle o the room. Takuya put doun his rucksack, placed his service cap on the desktap an sat facin Shirasaka.

Fae Shirasaka’s expression Takuya realised he had been richt tae assume that thare wis nothing frivolous aboot the decision tae send him the postcaird, But thae had gone tae great lengths tae ensure that every scrap o evidence was destroyed, so shairly thare wis nae chance thae had been fund oot. It cuid only hiv tae do wi the material or facilities previously unner the pouer o the noo defunct headquarters organisation.

‘Thae American fliers…A’m feart things hiv taen a bad turn.’ Restin his elbaes on the desk an knittin his fingers thegither, Shirasaka explained that the former airmy major-general who had been commander-in-chief, his chief o staff, an a colonel who had been an aide-camp tae the commander-in-chief wir bein questioned by US Airmy intelligence officers attached tae SCAP.

Taen aback, Takuya stared at him.

Shirasaka telt him that the former senior officers fae the headquarters had been detained fer almost a month now. The questionin focused on whit had happened tae the crew members who had parachuted fae the B-29 bombers shot doun the previous year. American intelligence wis cairryin oot its duties unner article ten o the Potsdam Declaration, coverin detention an punishment o war criminals guilty o mistreatment o prisoners o war, an thus far not only had established the deid centre o the crash sites o the B-29s douned by Japanese anti-aircraft units, but had also discovered that a total o fifty-aicht members had survived the dounin o thair aircraft in the western headquarters administrative sector o Kyushu. On the basis o thon knowledge, the investigators had gaithered detailed information fae civilian sources an learnt that o the fifty-aicht, seventeen had been sent tae prisoners-o war camps in Tokyo area, an the remain forty-one had been haundit ower tae the military polis-the kempeitai by local polis, an fae thare transferred tae the custody o the Western Regional Heidquarters.

By all accounts, the investigation team had carried oot a rigorous interrogation o western heidquarters staff, an noo kent that the crew members had, to a man, been either formally executed or disposed of tae the very same end. The ‘bad turn’ Shirasaka had referred tae wis that the heidquarters staff had categorically denied issuin ony orders tae that effect, an insteid insisted that the executions had been cairried oot arbitrarily by young officers.

‘Incredible, aye?’ said Shirasaka, shakin his heid.

Takuya wis stamagastered. He wis shocked nae jist that things cuid hiv been traced this far, but that senior officers in the Western Regional Command, includin the commander-in-chief himsel, cuid hiv painted a picture so at odds wi the truth.

{The novel’s page and Chapter One continues}.

 

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