Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fragile hope


A good friend of mine who knows of my interest in Japan sent me these ceramic figurines.
The taller one stands about 5 inches.
They were made in U.S.-occupied Japan sometime between 1945 and 1952, but most probably in the late '40s. Below left, you can see the original price, 25 cents, stamped on the base of the shorter one.


I love these figurines for what they represent.
At the time they were made, Japan was in ruins -- at least most of the big cities.
Tokyo and Osaka had been carpet-bombed and firebombed and flattened. You would've been hard-pressed to find two bricks to stack in some neighborhoods.
And then there were Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
People were starving. They did whatever they had to do to get by, even if it meant eating tree bark and grass.
Or, for those lucky enough to have the means, crafting cheap figurines to sell to GIs or to export overseas.
The future never looked so bleak.

Slowly but surely, the people rebuilt the country, literally from the ground up. Against the odds, they created a new world that their forebears never envisioned.
And it started with baby steps.
Just getting through one day at a time.
Putting one foot in front of the other.
Making cheap figurines.

The friend who sent me these wonderfully symbolic gifts is facing travails of her own, as we all are.
These figurines are her poignant reminder to me that hope exists, fragile as it may be, even in the very depths of hell.

4 comments:

Beth said...

michael, this is a beautiful post.

Michael said...

Thanks, Kim. I'm merely reciprocating the beautiful gesture of the friend who provided the inspiration for this post.

g said...

The ceramic figurines are certainly poignant reminders of what Japan had to do to rebuild her economy, and her social structure.

Isn't it amazing the shifts that Japan has had to make, in 1854, and then again in 1945, and now in the year 2006, they have won the first World Baseball Classic.

Michael said...

Indeed, g.