“What brought you here?” is a question Yogan Baum was asked hundreds of times over the years. “Well,” he used to say, “the train, mainly,”: which is not untrue. After a weeklong ride on the famed Moscow Peking Express of 1984, he rolled through China some more, went up in the air for the second time in his life, reached Hong Kong, and took to the air again. He saw Philippine palm trees out of an oval window, and there he was in Japan. The immigration officer looked into his wallet, then at his naivety, in despair and stamped his passport: “Welcome to Japan!”
The friendly Narita information girl, “moshi moshi,” charmed him and the green scented tatami in his hotel room made him feel at home instantly. He had arrived.
What made Yogan leave his own country, then? Was it a love of traveling? When he was a child, he spent many happy hours exploring maps. He loved the deep brown highlands of South America and, before all else, Tibet. Not Japan. Later on, India was his dream destination – something made him veer off course, and so he did not reach Bombay but Iwaki, Japan, instead. Was it Tony Scott and Hozan Yamamoto’s “Music for Zen Meditation and Other Joys” that hooked him? The magic of the Shakuhachi he could not resist. It conjured up pictures of a rural hillside in autumn, wind rustling in leaves and mist rising from the valley. Yogan felt at peace. He felt at ease in the eerily spine chilling strains of these strange sounds.
Did he find that hillside, then? That peace? As for that hillside, Yogan hasn´t found it yet. Could it be his present state of being in limbo, between loss and hope, will lead him towards the light he once had a glimpse of, in a lost world far, far west of here?
Not a hillside in autumn – a family was what he found in Japan! A wife. Children. A whole, new, unexpected, wonderful life! He worked hard and learned to be a husband and a father. Their life in the small fishing port of Yotsukura, Iwaki City, was as happy as could be. People were good to them, and they tried their best to be responsible. All foreigners are outsiders, yes, but being on the outside of things has its advantages, too. Opening his soul to the near vastness of the Pacific Ocean and the night stars high above gave him space to breathe: there was nothing much he missed.
Life changed dramatically on and after March 11, 2011. Fortunately, Yogan and his wife Mariko were spared in many ways. The megaquake did not break them. The killer tsunami stopped short of their street. The triple meltdown of the ruined Dai-ichi nuclear power plant 20 miles north of here miraculously came to a halt somewhere below the crippled plant. Thanks, mainly, to the courage of a man called Kan. Where and in what state it is, and how to deal with it, is absolutely unresolved. It is the black heart of Fukushima.
Life changed all the more as it went on as if nothing had happened. This, the second catastrophe is the real one, Yogan now thinks. Japan was spared and squandered its chance to rise out of the ashes. The old guard was too strong. Japan suffers, and there is no end in sight. It could have contributed to a better world. It didn’t. Fukushima’s tears could have watered the seeds of a better future. Japan was not allowed to. This is bitter.
Yogan tells the sad story of defeat as it unfolds in one man’s, one family’s struggle. He tells it to honor those who suffer in silence. The old. The children. The uninformed. The victims.
He does not claim to be uninvolved in his report on life twenty miles from ground zero. “Ground Zero” it is, however often, one will hear that “it was just an accident.” That is a lie nobody should accept. Yogan does claim to be completely honest in showing how human hubris, as exemplified in the recently exploded dream of “unlimited energy, for free!”, blighted all existence so close to the shore.
Life is precious. It is fragile. We have to treasure it if we want to survive. “Life is an ocean,” a song says, “but it ends,” too. We are stewards, not kings.