Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Asia (02/26/09)
TITLE: New Ways for New Times
By Kenneth Bridge
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He saw a few women, weak with hunger, as gaunt and sere as the driftwood that lay strewn on the beaches, now that no one was left to gather, and motioned for them to go ahead of him.
“Out of my way, weak old man,” a group of ruffians pushed past him. Men always went first. They needed the strength to do men’s work, and they needed to be honored for that. A few others, observing the scene, caught his eye with a quizzical look, but evinced no surprise that he didn’t retaliate. They knew who he was.
These are different times and need new ways. These women were about to collapse. Many were starving, their deaths adding to the staggering losses from the battles that had so recently ended. The most peaceful kingdom on earth had recently suffered the fiercest fighting in history. Between April and June, while the “Typhoon of Steel” had raged, 12,000 Americans were killed, 48,000 wounded. The Japanese had lost over 100,000 men. Ninety percent of the Island’s buildings were razed, and one in four islanders were killed. Enough was enough. Let these women eat first. There would be a new Okinawa. They would need to adapt and endure. They were an enduring people.
As the day wore on the wearying work continued. Supplies had arrived at the camp, bags of food for the starving. It needed to be loaded on trucks and wagons so that it could be brought to the people in the remote camps.
Work in the camp brought back his time in the army, some twenty years before. The mainlanders looked down on islanders like him. They called his people lazy, undisciplined, foolish, and made them the butt of jokes.
Except for him. He excelled in bayonet practice, he was never thrown in Judo matches. And best of all, he had money. His family was wealthy, and he shrewdly bought things for his officers. They heard of his reputation and asked for some instruction. So he showed them how to hit a tree with his fist. Bark flew off, branches shook, leaves fell.
He didn’t tell them it takes years to learn. He watched as they broke their wrists, bled from the their hands, and would say, “Keep training.”
Such foolishness. And now look he was daily confronted with what the old ways had wrought. New ways for new times. Adapt and endure.
The day wore on, the sun began its descent into the East China Sea. The shadows lengthened and a deep weariness settled into the bones of the laborers. As the twilight deepened one final truck rolled up. The laborers slumped collapsed to the ground. Loudest at complaining were the ruffians who had earlier shown him such disrespect.
“People are starving and the food needs to go out,” he reminded the weary laborers as he strode over to the last of the stock-piled bags of grain. Positioning himself between two eighty pound bags, he squatted down, one hand in the middle of each bag, and clamped his fingers tight, then stood and swung the bags onto the truck. He returned for the next load as the ruffians stared, mouths open.
“What’s the matter?” someone in the crowd laughed. “Didn’t you recognize Miyagi Chogun?”
Chojun Miyagi (the western order for first and surname) was preeminent among a small group of Okinawan men who had modernized and synthesized the civilian fighting traditions of Okinawa with the Chinese martial arts they had studied extensively to create the modern martial art known as Karate.
The skeleton of this story, Miyagi’s departure from convention in allowing women in line ahead of him, the reaction of the young toughs, and the revelation of his identity through his lifting of the sacks of grain in response to pressing need were related to me some decades ago. The rest is my embellishment. The battle statistics are real.
The Battle for Okinawa was one of the fiercest and deadliest campaigns in military history. Okinawa was of great strategic importance for the planned land assault against Japan. The intensity of this campaign and what it portended for a full scale invasion of the Japanese mainland was probably the deciding factor favoring the use of the Atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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