The Wounded Madonna

Around the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki, the humid stillness of the midsummer morning was broken only by the constant humming and buzzing of cicadas in the trees.

Inside the church, two priests were hearing the confessions of about thirty parishioners, most of them middle-aged Japanese women. From her place high atop the altar, close to the ceiling, a wooden statue of the Madonna, based on a motif of the Immaculate Conception and carved in Italy, looked down on them.

It was August 9, 1945. Fat Man tumbled through the clouds at 11:02. The nuclear flash seared through the lives of 70,000.

Ground Zero was a mere 500 meters distant from the Cathedral. The shock-wave blew in all the stained glass windows and melted the church’s bell. The walls caved in. The roof collapsed. Fire storms consumed altar, pews, confessionals until only shadows were left standing. A fragment of wall here, another there atop a field of smoldering debris, scorched brick and stone. Three-quarters of Urakami Cathedral’s 12,000 parishioners died in the blast.

Kaemon Noguchi had grown up in a district of Urakami, a devout Catholic boy in a Catholic family in the most Catholic community in Japan.

He recounts in a letter how he was twelve years old when the Madonna was brought from Italy and mounted above the altar. “Her celestial beauty made a deep impression on my boyhood soul.”  

In 1929, Noguchi joined the Trappist order in Hokkaido. Before leaving for the far north of Japan, he paid a visit to the Cathedral and knelt down at the altar to pray to the Madonna. In 1939, he was ordained a priest.

The war broke out. Noguchi was conscripted into the Japanese Imperial Army, recalled to Nagasaki and assigned to the Kurume Regiment. He was stationed in Okayama when the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war ended.

Before returning to Hokkaido, he went back to Nagasaki to visit his mother and brother. The field of rubble that the Cathedral had been reduced to shocked him; he stumbled through it in a daze, intent on finding some object of spiritual significance he could take back to the cloister with him. A crucifix, perhaps, a missal or hymn book, a candle stick.

But there was nothing, only desolation.

“Then, all of a sudden, I saw the holy face of the Virgin, blackened by fire, looking at me with a sorrowful air.”

He snatched the burned head up, took it home with him and from there to the monastery, where it stood on the desk of his cell. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1959. On the 30th anniversary of the bombing, Noguchi brought the head back to Nagasaki.

Today, it stands behind glass in a special chapel. It is called The Wounded Madonna.

“The Madonna’s eyes have become scorched, black hollows,” writes The Asahi Shimbun. “Her right cheek is charred, and a crack runs like a streaking tear down her face.”

From a Misty Cluster of Stars

My novel “Escarpment” begins with these lines:

“…The events described in these pages could not possibly have happened as recorded here, although they did happen exactly as I have written them…”

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/161296866X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

Although many of the episodes in that book are based on incidents told to me by people who have Second Sight (the gift – or curse – of extrasensory perception) “Escarpment” is essentially a work of fiction.

So I guess that in the book’s opening I lied. Here, I don’t lie.

Kamishinden is part of the sprawling bed-town suburbia in the north part of Osaka city. It lies in a basin adjacent to a busy expressway. It used to be a bamboo forest and is still dotted with clumps of tall bamboo that sway and rustle in the wind.

I worked in Osaka’s commercial district, commuting by subway. It was just a forty-minute ride to Senri-chuo, my station at the end of the line. From there, a fifteen minute walk – out of the station complex, over the expressway and down into the Kamishinden basin – to where I lived with my wife and young daughters. The way was a winding path between high apartment buildings.

My own apartment was on the third (and top) floor of a small building. When the path made a final turn to the left, I could see it up ahead. Immediately behind it, rises up a hillside covered with foliage and undergrowth. On top of this, there is a golf-practice range, the high netting standing out against the sky.

I was making my way home, the time around nine o’clock at night. Behind me, I could hear another man wending his way home, too.

I often enjoyed a few drinks with colleagues after work, but that evening I had come straight home. I feel it important to point out that I was completely sober.

It was a clear, cold winter night. Because it was winter, the sky was dominated by the constellation Orion, which seemed to fill the sky above the netting of the golf-practice range. I looked at it as I walked; then my eyes followed the direction of Orion’s Belt to the south-west, coming to rest on The Pleiades, the misty cluster of stars also called The Seven Sisters.

           As I stared at that curious little cloud of stars low down in the night sky, the stardust that fills the cluster began to stir. To move, then to roil; finally, to expand.

I stopped in my tracks. The man who was walking behind me must have stopped to stare at it, too, because I have no recollection of his passing me.

Within moments, the stardust grew into a cloud much bigger than The Pleiades, so big that it blotted out that constellation entirely. I was mesmerized, rooted to the spot, watching an object move soundlessly out of the stardust.

           It was composed of three parallel, long and narrow rectangles, each one flush to the other, as though welded. The texture was metallic, the color lead. Their appearance made me think of some kind of undercarriage.

           There was no sound as it moved through the sky from the cloud of stardust, in a south-westerly direction, passing high above my left shoulder. How high it was, I couldn’t estimate. Nor could I judge its size, although it seemed to be very big.

           I have always regretted what I did next.

           Instead of continuing to watch it and communicate with the man standing just behind me, I let myself become overwhelmed by excitement. I bolted to my apartment building, thinking I would be able to track the object’s progress better from my third-floor veranda.

           My wife was cutting vegetables at the kitchen sink. I still remember rushing past her, shouting, “I’ve seen a UFO! I’ve seen a UFO!” I still remember her expression; it said, “Idiot.”

           Of course, there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary in the sky to see by then. And I never bumped into the man who had been behind me so I couldn’t verify what we had seen.

Or hadn’t seen. Or had dreamed, or hallucinated.

 

 

 

 

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

The Man Who Could Think Only In Bronze

Oscar Wilde once told André Gide this story…

There was once a man who could think only in bronze.

And this man one day had an idea, an idea of The Pleasure that Abideth for a Moment. And he felt that he must give expression to it. But in the whole world there was but one single piece of bronze, for men had used it all up.

And this man felt that he would go mad if he did not give expression to his idea.

And he remembered a piece of bronze on the tomb of his wife, a statue which he had himself fashioned to set on the tomb of his wife, the only woman he had ever loved.

It was the image of The Sorrow that Endureth for Ever.

And the man felt that he was becoming mad, because he could not give expression to his idea.

Then he took this image of Sorrow, of the Sorrow that endureth for Ever, and broke it up and melted it and fashioned of it an Image of Pleasure, of the Pleasure that abideth for a Moment.'

https://www.amazon.com/David-Turri/e/B00IR6C5KM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

Saucy and Scandalous Tales from Herodotus – 2: The Character of the Persians.

Saucy and Scandalous Tales from the Histories of Herodotus – 2: The Character of the Persians.

 

No race is so ready to adopt foreign ways as the Persian…Pleasures, too, of all sorts they are quick to indulge when they get to know about them – a notable instance is pederasty, which they learned from the Greeks. Every man has a number of wives, and a much greater number of mistresses. After prowess in fighting, the chief proof of manliness is to be the father of a large family of boys.

 

The period of a boy’s education is between the ages of five and twenty, and they are taught three things only: to ride, to use the bow and to speak the truth…They consider telling lies more disgraceful than anything else and, next to that, owing money.

 

The Persians are very fond of wine, and no one is allowed to vomit or relieve himself in the presence of another person.

 

If an important decision is to be made, they discuss the question when they are drunk, and the following day the master of the house in which the discussion was held submits their decision for reconsideration when they are sober. If they still approve it, it is adopted; if not, it is abandoned. Conversely, any decision they make when they are sober, is reconsidered afterwards when they are drunk.

David Turri - Amazon.com

https://www.amazon.com/David-Turri/e/B00IR6C5KM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

Perils of Sleepwalking - A short extract from Escarpment

Keiko had spent the time engaged in an intense Google search. When I got home, my dinner stood on the dining room table, each dish and bowl carefully protected with saran wrap, and she was waiting for me with the results of her investigations.

“Listen to this.”

As I peeled off the wrapping and ate the cold fare, she read out:

“Two weeks after our honeymoon, when the dreams were still continuing, I went to a psychologist and he told me I was being taken over by a ghost for minutes or even hours at a time.”

Thus it started, and so it went on.

A man in America, while sleepwalking, had stabbed his mother-in-law to death and tried to throttle his father-in-law.

Another, who had started sleepwalking when he was a teenager, once, while staying over with a friend, awoke to find that the friend’s kitchen walls were filled with doodles he had done while sleepwalking. Now he paints in his sleep, and galleries buy his works.

There are cases, Keiko informed me, of people sleepwalking outside and freezing to death.

Of falling out of windows.
Of engaging in sex with strangers.
Of mowing the lawns naked.
Of trying to strangle their wives as they lay in bed together.
(This last I did not feel, of course, sympathy with, only an intuitive understanding of.)

She related stories she had found on the internet of inanimate objects being possessed by spirits – a haunted grandfather clock, an eerie stuffed leopard, a possessed rocking horse…

While I tried to dislodge a fish bone from between my back teeth, she sat down at the table opposite me and read out from her notes in a slow, morbid tone:

“…Latent energy is the name given to the individual, collective or residual energy that remains with a specific object after the passing of its owner, who had a strong connection to it in life, or the energy left by a traumatic event that had once taken place involving the object…

“…At times, uneasy or unnerving feelings may be experienced when handling artifacts. Frequently, this experience occurs with items that have been picked up on wartime battlefields…”

Find “Escarpment” at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/161296866X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2

The Unquiet Spring: an extract from "Shig"

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CSVM1MD/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

 

In the spring, the cherry trees bloomed and fulfilled their poetic role as symbols of the impermanence of life by being pelted off the branches by heavy early April downpours within days of blossoming. 

The Tokyo spring of 1938 was an unquiet one.

           The China Incident, which the Army had promised would be over in three months, continued to drag on, and a shortage of raw materials and foodstuffs was beginning to be felt in the capital.

In a gesture against Britain’s interference in negotiations between Japan and the Chinese National Government, a mob disrupted an art exhibition mounted by the British Council, slashing canvases and vandalizing the premises.

           The American Embassy compound was nightly besieged by demonstrators protesting the US government’s hardening attitude toward Japan. Foreigners suspected of British or American nationality were harassed in the streets.

           In a combined operation, units of the Kempeitai arrested four hundred Socialists and charged them with violating the Peace Preservation Law of 1925. The offices of the Labor-Farmer Faction were ransacked and all of the windows broken. The leadership of the Marxist Japanese Proletarian Party was rounded up. Card-carrying members of the proletarian Youth League disappeared from their homes.

           The purges swelled the population of Sugamo Prison within the walls of which inmates were starved, beaten, and harangued into signing the Tenko, a document in which they recanted their perverted ideologies. On signing, they were judged rehabilitated and released, but many were already broken in body and spirit, and many more would die in the Manchurian holy war and later in the Pacific.

           One morning before the April rains began, when the single cherry tree in his garden was at the height of its bloom, an elderly professor of economics at Keio University, a man well-known for his liberal social views, closed his front door and paused on the path to admire the blossom before going off to work.

           The tranquility of the Tokyo suburb in which he lived was broken by a squeal of tires as a car pulled up at the gate. A young man dressed in a thin cotton kimono and wielding a sword jumped out of the passenger side, burst through the gate, and pursued the professor back into the house, where he killed him. 

By the time the military police arrived, a muted crowd had gathered in the road near the gateway that was guarded by a uniformed officer. The Kempeitai officers found the professor lying in the vestibule of the house. He was dressed in a neat, three-piece suit and still clutched his briefcase. He had been cut deeply across the chest and shoulder by the sword, and his throat was slashed by a dagger.

           Azuma was careful to avoid the blood as he stepped around the corpse and poked his head into the living room, from which he heard whispers and muffled voices. It was the professor’s wife being comforted by her neighbors. 

He closed the door softly and turned to the police officer in charge for a report of the incident. While Shig took notes, a thin line of blood meandered along the vestibule and dripped off the end into one of the shoes that were lined up there.

           Shig was struck by how peaceful the crime scene was. The widow was hardly making any sound at all; the police spoke in whispers, and the crowd outside was silent. Even the ambulance crept along the road without a siren.

           Shig and the other Kempeitai officers followed Azuma up the stairs to the professor’s study. Azuma sat down in the fine leather chair behind the desk, flipped open a gold-leafed appointment book, and found in a drawer a large address book and pocket diaries going back three years.

           “Well, Professor, what traitors can you lead us to?”

While his men began to search the file cabinets and the cluttered, wall-length bookcase, Azuma uncapped a fountain pen he had found and which he later pocketed, and drew three vertical lines on a sheet of paper.  He headed the columns: Follow-up Checks; Surveillance; Arrest.

By noon, all three columns were filled with names, and the   office floor had become a mountain of ripped and spine-broken books.

Some files were carted away in cardboard boxes. The rest were torn up and thrown out of the windows, floating down into neighbors’ gardens like cherry blossoms. The desk and the walls were destroyed with a pick-ax in an attempt to locate hidden compartments.

The assailants’ getaway had been botched. The driver took a corner too fast and smashed into a telegraph pole, forcing both men to escape on foot.

In the garden, police found a wooden clog belonging to the killer, with his surname written on the side. They found the same man’s wallet in the glove compartment of the car. The registration of the vehicle was traced to a militant right-wing organization. 

In spite of all the evidence, no inquiries were made, no one was arrested, and the murder was attributed to unknown assailants.

           Two days later, Shig got the promotion he had been waiting for.  He celebrated by buying a new trench coat from the Mitsukoshi Department Store on the Ginza. It was French, made of the softest leather, and he wore it all the time, despite the warming weather.

 

 

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

When Jesus was minded to Return to Nazareth

When Jesus was minded to return to Nazareth (Oscar Wilde recounts to Andre Gide in “Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam”) Nazareth was so changed that He no longer recognized His own city. The Nazareth where He had lived was full of lamentations and tears; this city was filled with outbursts of laughter and song. And Christ entering into the city saw some slaves laden with flowers, hastening towards the marble staircase of a house of white marble. Christ entered into the house, and at the back of a hall of jasper He saw, lying on a purple couch, a man whose disordered locks were mingled with red roses, and whose lips were red with wine. Christ drew near to him, and laying His hand on his shoulder said to him, "Why dost thou lead this life?" The man turned round, recognized Him and said, "I was a leper once; Thou didst heal me. Why should I live another life? "

Christ went out of the house, and behold in the street He saw a woman whose face and raiment were painted and whose feet were shod with pearls. And behind her walked a man who wore a cloak of two colors, and whose eyes were bright with lust. And Christ went up to the man and laid His hand on his shoulder, and said to him, "Tell Me why art thou following this woman, and why dost thou look at her in such wise?" The man turning round recognized Him and said, "I was blind; Thou didst heal me; what else should I do with my sight?"

'And Christ drew near to the woman and said to her, "This road which thou art following is the pathway of sin; why follow it?" The woman recognized Him, and laughing said, "The way which I follow is a pleasant way, and Thou hast pardoned all my sins."

'Then Christ felt His heart filled with sadness, and He was minded to leave the city. But as He was going out of it He saw sitting by the bank of the moat of the city, a young man who was weeping. He drew near to him, and touching the locks of his hair, said to him, "Friend, why dost thou weep?" The young man raised his eyes, recognized Him and made answer, "I was dead and Thou hast raised me to life. What else should I do with my life?"'

https://www.amazon.com/David-Turri/e/B00IR6C5KM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

1 Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

When Narcissus Died

'When Narcissus died, the Flowers of the Fields were plunged in grief, and asked the River for drops of water that they might mourn for him.

'"Oh," replied the River, "if all my drops of water were tears, I should not have enough to weep for Narcissus myself—I loved him."

'"How could you help loving Narcissus?" rejoined the Flowers, "so beautiful was he."

'"Was he beautiful?" asked the River.

'"And who should know that better than yourself?" said the Flowers, "for, every day, lying on your bank, he would mirror his own beauty in your waters."'

Wilde stopped for a moment, and then went on:—

'"If I loved him," replied the River, "it is because when he hung over my waters I saw the reflection of my waters in his eyes."'

[Quoted from “Oscar Wilde: In Memoriam”, by Andre Gide.]

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

The Stages of an Exorcism

My novel “29 Argyle Drive” contains an exorcism.

 

In his book titled “Hostage to the Devil”, Fr. Malachi Martin identifies six distinct stages of an exorcism.

 

                      Presence

                      Pretense

                      Breakpoint

                      Voice

                      Clash

                      Expulsion

 

He writes of the first stage that it is the awareness that something alien and evil is in the room.

 

“…Invisible and intangible, the Presence claws at the humanness of those gathered in the room. The Presence is an inaudible hiss in the brain, a wordless threat to the self you are…

 

“…In early stages, the evil spirit will make every attempt to hide behind the possessed – to appear to be one and the same person. This is the Pretense. The spirit uses the voice and characteristics of the possessed as its own camouflage…”

 

The exorcist must destroy the Pretense and bring the Evil Spirit into the open. As the exorcist breaks down the pretense, the possessed person becomes even more violent.  

 

“…As the Breakpoint nears, the exorcist must undergo confusion. His ears seem to sell the foul words, his eyes seem to hear offensive sounds and obscene screams. His nose seems to taste a high-decibel cacophony. Each sense seems to be recording what another sense should be recording…”

 

The break point is reached when the pretense collapses – the voice of the possessed is no longer used by the Evil Spirit, which begins to speak of the possessed person in the third person.

 

And so emerges the Voice of the spirit itself – “a disturbing and humanly distressing babel” – of echoes, prickly voices that scream, whisper, laugh, sneer and groan. Martin writes, “Using his will in the name of and authority of Jesus Christ and the Church, the exorcist must command the Voice to be silent and to identify itself intelligibly… 

 

“…As the voice dies out, tremendous pressure of an obscure kind affects the exorcist. This is the first indication of the direct and personal collision with the evil spirit – the Clash

 

“The clash is the heart of a special and dreadful communication, the nucleus of this singular battle of wills between the exorcist and the evil spirit…

 

Expulsion calls finally on the evil spirit to desist, to be disposed, to depart and to leave the possessed person. When this is achieved the exorcism ends…”

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1495980960/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

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David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.

 

Saucy & Scandalous Tales from The Histories of Herodotus [1]

Written around 440 BC, The Histories tells of the epic clash between the Persian empire and the Greek city states - the Battle of Marathon, of Thermopylae and of Salamis. But it is also a rich tapestry of the ancient world, its peoples and their cultures, full of saucy and scandalous tales. I would like to highlight some of those stories in this and future blogs. All extracts are taken from Penguin Classics edition of Herodotus: The Histories.

……….There is one custom among these people which is wholly shameful: every woman who is a native of the country must once in her life go and sit in the temple of Aphrodite and give herself to a strange man.

Many of the rich women, who are too proud to mix with the rest, drive to the temple in covered carriages with a whole host of servants following behind, and there wait; most, however, sit in the precincts of the temple with a band of plaited string around their heads – and a great crowd they are, what with some sitting there, others arriving, others going away – and through them all gangways are marked off running in every direction for the men to pass along and make their choice.

Once a woman has taken her seat she is not allowed to go home until a man has thrown a silver coin into her lap and taken her outside to lie with her…The woman has no privilege of choice – she must go with the first man who throws her the money.

When she has lain with him, her duty to the Goddess is discharged and she may go home…Tall, handsome women soon manage to go home again, but the ugly ones stay a long time before their can fulfill the condition which the law demands, some of them, indeed, as much as three or four year………

……….The most ingenious (of the Babylonian practices) in my opinion is a custom which, I understand, they share with the Eneri of Illyria. In every village once a year all the girls of marriageable age used to be collected together in one place, while the men stood around them in a circle; an auctioneer then called each one in turn to stand up and offered her for sale, beginning with the best-looking and going on to the second best as soon as the first had been sold for a good price.

Marriage was the object of the transaction.

The rich men who wanted wives bid against each other for the prettiest girls, while the humbler folk, who had no use of good looks in a wife, were actually paid to take the ugly ones, for when the auctioneer had got through all of the pretty girls he would call upon the plainest to stand up and then ask who was willing to take the least money to marry her – and she was knocked down to whoever accepted the smallest sum. The money came from the sales of the beauties, who in this way provided dowries for their ugly sisters.

 

Comment

David Turri

Although I was born in England, I have lived in Japan for the past forty years. That’s why this country, its people and history, form the backdrop to many of my novels. I have no big ideas to peddle; I consider myself a simple story-teller and work hard at my craft. I spin my stories in such disparate genres as horror, espionage, war, occult - and humor. I live in Osaka with a wife, two grown daughter and two young grand-daughters – the whole catastrophe, as Zorba describes married life.