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Chandeliers, Nuclear Meltdown and Downstairs Baaba

Updated: Mar 12


Here’s a picture of my paternal Baaba featured as the 1930s pinup girl in Tanaka Atsuko’s book on kimono beauties (2006).[1] I thought about this Baaba last September for Respect for the Aged Day in Japan, and again last weekend following a brunch at a friend’s house in London. I thought about this Downstairs Baaba because my friend's dining room chandelier jingled every time someone walked across the room above just like the chandelier did in my Baaba’s 7th floor apartment when an earthquake hit.


In contrast to the pleasurable memory of my Baaba’s jingling chandelier, today is Friday March 11th, the 11th anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Almost everyone remembers the horrific day when a combination of earthquake, tsunami and the subsequent nuclear reactor meltdown caused nearly twenty thousand deaths. The godfather to nuclear energy, Albert Einstein born on March 14th 1879 would have been deeply disturbed to learn of the disaster. Einstein objected to the use of the atomic bomb, and expressed this concern on the aftermath of the dropping of the bomb in Hiroshima in the summer of 1945.


The world is connected in so many strange ways. As I began to write this post, I remembered that it was the same friend with the jingling chandelier who had brought me to a private viewing of the 2016 documentary, Paper Lanterns. The indie film is about a Hiroshima survivor, Mori Shigeaki, who spends 35 years trying to find the families of twelve POWs held in Hiroshima who perished on that fateful day. Mori felt compelled to connect the soldiers with their loved ones who, unlike the Japanese, never knew how they died. Paying a visit to several families in the United States, Mori ultimately succeeds in uniting the families with the memory of the soldiers they lost.


There’s an old Japanese saying, 起死回生 Kishikaisei : Get up from death and return to life. It feels a little gloomy in rainy London today, but maybe on the shoulders of those who inspire us, we can keep moving forward to sunnier times. As they also say, there is no winter that isn’t followed by a spring. 春の来ない冬はない。

[1] Tanaka, Atsuko. 2006. きものの花咲くころKimono no hana saku koro. A Chronicle of Blooming Kimonos. Shufu no Tomo.

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