April 29th, 1964
TYPHOON 8 WIPES OUT NEW KURATA BEACH INDUSTRIALIZATION PROJECT!
By Ichiro Sakai
The site of the Kurata Beach development area was met with total devastation early this morning when a massive typhoon came ashore, destroying the project’s structures and submerging the entire area – nearly a kilometer of beach property – under tons of water. It appears that, due to the early morning appearance of the typhoon and the area being closed off to the public, there were no casualties.
The fishermen that call the land surrounding the Kurata Beach area home were able to evacuate in time, but nothing could be done to prevent their homes from being washed away by the incredible power of the typhoon.
This catastrophe is a huge setback for the government project, which had planned on opening to the public on this very day, with plans to continue the area’s industrialization development well into the summer in order to meet a late July deadline for completion. Unfortunately, it now seems unlikely that the area will see development any time soon, if at all. With tons of ocean water and nearly a kilometer of displaced debris and silt, the cleanup process will be a long one. The scale of the destruction is so large that this reporter fears the entire project may have no alternative but to abandon the once prime beach real-estate. What effect this event might have on our prefecture’s politicians and their goals for continued industrialization of such properties is currently unknown.
An effort is currently underway to access the damage, with cleanup efforts officially set to begin later this afternoon. Already the area has seen an outpouring of support from volunteers who have begun helping to clear away the massive amounts of debris littering the beach. Maicho Press can also confirm that large pumps have already been assembled in the area in order to transfer the massive amounts of sea water back into the ocean. These pumps are expected to be completed and activated this afternoon, as well.
This reporter will be visiting the site imminently in order to witness the destruction and clean-up attempts first hand, and to capture photographs of the area to include in a future article. Please look forward to Maicho’s follow-up report on the Kurata Beach situation.
The sound of thundering water filled the air around what was left of Kurata Beach. On the previous night, a similar sound had heralded the violent crashing of gigantic waves upon the area, but as the afternoon sun continued to burn above the devastation, the sound came instead from the gaping mouths of seven huge, yellow pipes that stood upon the coast. Like a row of guardian statues that one might expect to find protecting the entrance of a grand temple, the massive pipes rested upon a long, concrete dock littered with unused segments of yellow, blue, and red cylinders. Connected to each pipe in the back were large water pumps, the loud whirring noises they produced drowned out by the intense sounds of the crashing water. Massive amounts of displaced ocean from the flooded beach behind the dock were being drawn into the pumps, and then propelled into the pipes, where it was expelled back into the sea beyond. Two white tents rested on the dock in front of the pipes, but they stood empty. Their occupants – the workers who had assembled the huge machines in record time – had long since vacated the area, the overwhelming sounds of the manmade waterfalls giving them little reason to stay.
In the area behind the row of pipes, hundreds of people moved, worked, or observed. Crowds of volunteers had appeared on the scene as the day continued, hoping to lend their assistance to the still young cleanup effort. The volunteers had their work cut out for them: debris of every conceivable size, shape, and origin floated in the still waters of the flooded beach. Some of the objects swept into the area by the typhoon were small enough to be removed by the hands of a single volunteer. Others required the assistance of multiple people. Some objects would have to remain untouched until larger equipment and vehicles could arrive on the scene to move them. In order for that to happen, however, the area needed to be removed of its flood water.
Despite the speed at which the recovery was moving, the process would most definitely take some time.
The nearby bridge that led to the bay was crowded by a thick sea of bodies, each brought to the scene, in one way or another, by the typhoon’s aftermath. Many were volunteers, others were military personnel. Some were simply onlookers, peering over the heads of those around them in order to catch a glimpse of the devastation.
It was through this throng of people that a blue Jeep slowly navigated, gradually making its way through the occasional open pocket within the crowd. Its journey had been one of many stops and starts, but the car had finally reached its destination, and came to rest at the end of the bridge. Both of the vehicle’s front doors opened mere seconds after parking, and two figures emerged to join those on the crowded road. Closing his door, the car’s driver – a handsome young man with slicked-back hair and a look of both impatience and curiosity on his face – began to survey his surroundings as he moved around the car.
The eyes of Ichiro Sakai quickly absorbed the chaos occurring all around him, and as he began to walk toward the huge pile of rubble that rested just a few dozen yards away, his mind was already beginning to write his next news column. His years working as one of Maicho Press’ star reporters had trained him to mentally record everything his eyes could see in the form of words, making the actual writing process faster and more accurate. Whatever sights he saw, whatever words were spoken to him, would all become the material that would captivate Maicho’s readers.
Of course, when it came to reporting in this day and age, words could only sell a story to an extent. At least, that’s what his boss had told him when he assigned…
Sakai suddenly froze in place, his eyes closing in frustration. In his rush to reach the rubble pile, it hadn’t occurred to him that he had been walking alone. I swear, he thought to himself and he swung his body around to face his parked car. This girl will be the death of me.
Standing a few dozen feet away from him, barely removed from the passenger door of the car, stood his newly assigned photographer. Junko Nakanishi (or “Yuko”, as she preferred to be called) was Maicho’s latest recruit; young, energetic, and determined to prove herself. At the moment, however, her attention seemed to be torn between multiple places on the beach; her eyes darted from the sea, to the pipes, to the rubble, to the crowds, and then to the sea once more. As her gaze continued to shift from one subject to another, the camera that hung around her neck remained untouched.
Why his boss had felt it necessary to assign the rookie to him was beyond Sakai’s comprehension, at least on one level. It had likely made sense to send her out, untrained and inexperienced, with a veteran like himself, so that she could learn as she worked. This aspect of the decision made perfect sense to Sakai, but past this obvious fact, the partnership left him frustrated and even angered. As a seasoned reporter, Sakai had been used to taking his own pictures for years, and he felt that his work during that time had clearly shown that he could expertly balance the two most important tasks his job required of him: interviewing those involved with the story, and capturing photographs.
His boss, however, had disagreed.
“It’s simply too much work for one person if quality is to be maintained!” His boss had repeated this sentence more times than Sakai could remember, and so, realizing that he was fighting a losing battle, he had finally agreed to be partnered with a photographer. He had come close to making peace with the decision, too.
But a rookie?
For Sakai, this was too much.
Does Maicho really have such little faith in me that they would send a rookie – and a women, no less – to do a job that I’ve been doing for years?
Sakai had run through the scenario countless times in his mind over the previous few days, and the decision still left him flustered. And now, on our first assignment, she’s just standing there looking at the scenery?
“Hey, the story is over there!” Sakai finally spoke up, yelling in Junko’s direction.
He got no response.
Sakai raised his voice slightly. “What exactly are you waiting for back there?”
Junko’s eyes were still darting across the area as she finally responded.
“I’m looking for the right subject to shoot.”
Sakai rolled his eyes. He had already begun running back towards the car. When he arrived, Junko’s attention finally snapped away from the devastation, and towards her superior’s frustrated glare. Sakai lifted his arm and pointed towards the debris pile, the sun making the yellow press band on his bicep appear to glint in the light. “The subject is typhoons,” he said impatiently. He then leaned in, grabbing the young woman’s arm as he continued. “Listen… you read what I wrote this morning, didn’t you? Your job is to take pictures of what I wrote about, and quickly too!” At this, the annoyed reporter let go of her arm and turned away, heading back toward the debris pile.
After a brief moment, Junko followed, a flustered look upon her face as she readjusted the strap to her camera. As she followed Sakai into the thickening crowd, she played his words over again in her mind, failing to see exactly what she had done wrong. To her, photography wasn’t simply about pointing the camera and taking a picture for the sake of getting a job done. She had always believed in the artistry of the job, that a photo should communicate something more than just a simple image of rubble on a beach. Everyone knew of the tragedy that had occurred here, and pictures of the devastation weren’t going to improve the situation. Junko had always believed in using photography to spread hope, and to show that, amidst the destruction, beauty could exist…
Perhaps, she thought, this was naiveté. But in that moment, as she struggled through the crowds, attempted to find her footing upon piles of wood and masonry, and finally lost sight of Sakai amongst the throngs of people that moved around her, she felt a wave of determination wash over her.
There is beauty here, she thought to herself. I will find it. And I’ll capture it for the world to see.
“Is there anyone here from Maicho Press? Anyone?!”
The voice came from a middle-aged man wearing a gray trench coat and a wide-rimmed black hat. Slightly yellowed glasses hid a pair of eyes that scanned the summit of the debris pile, waiting to see the man that would answer his call.
A moment later, he appeared.
Maneuvering between pieces of furniture and splintered barrels, Sakai approached the man in the trench coat. The entourage that followed him was a clear sign to Sakai that the man was a politician of some sort, more than likely local. “Yes, I’m with Maicho.”
At this, the trench-coated politician came to a stop, halting a few feet from Sakai. The look on his face implied that he was no fan of Maicho, nor of Sakai.
“What do you mean by writing an article like this?!” The man raised his left hand, a rolled Maicho newspaper clutched tightly between his fingers. An angry look came over his face as he began to impatiently pat the paper against his other hand. All around Sakai, other press members had begun to gather, hoping for a quote from the perturbed man or, perhaps, a sensationalistic confrontation between him and Sakai.
Sakai had no intention of allowing the latter to happen, or to be interrogated by a grouchy politician.
“Typhoon 8 Wipes Out New Kurata Beach Industrialization Project…” Sakai quoted the title of his article as he looked around him at the piles of rubble. He had no way of knowing if the politician had any clue that he was talking to the very man who had written the article, and he didn’t care. His experience with politicians over the years had taught him to expect the sort of touchiness that he was currently on the receiving end of. Soon the denials and the excuses would come, and Sakai had heard it all before. He was here to do a job, not to listen to complaints and defensiveness.
He turned back towards the politician. “Well, its true, isn’t it?”
“Don’t be absurd!” The trench-coated man had begun his spiel. “This project is one of five major development programs of our Prefecture. It will be completed by the target date! I’m ready to put ten times as many pumps to work to clean up the overflow!”
At this, he dramatically turned towards the dock behind him, where the row of pipes continued to shoot tons of water back into the ocean.
“Does that convince you?” A smile had now appeared on the politician’s face as he gestured toward the pipes. “As an assemblyman and a politician, I’ve never told a lie! Be sure to write a good article about me next time, wont you?” The man was laughing now, and he quickly turned around, the hand holding the newspaper raised high into the air, to see the look on Sakai’s face. A moment later, his laughter was cut short.
Sakai had long since departed the scene.
Junko stood up to her thighs in the murky waters of the flooded bay, a pair of rubber boots keeping her lower body dry. She had set up her tripod and was currently holding a series of different filters in front of the camera lens, hoping to find the perfect look for her subject.
A series of sudden crashes behind her caused the young woman to look over her shoulder. There, looking as though he had nearly lost his balance while jumping over a downed telephone pole, stood Sakai, his eyes locked onto Junko and her camera. She quickly turned her head away, refusing to let herself feel intimidated. Already, however, she could feel her fingers trembling as she slid a new filter into a slot on the side of the camera.
Behind her, Sakai continued to watch with disapproving eyes, his head shaking from side to side.
After what felt to the reporter like several full minutes of watching Junko fumble with the filters, his impatience finally got the better of him. Jumping into the water – and again nearly losing his balance as his feet landed on uneven ground – Sakai approached his photographer.
“How many pictures have you taken?”
Junko slid another new filter into the camera. “None, yet.”
Sakai had reached the end of what little patience he had left.
“This isn’t art!” His voice had lost all pretext of friendliness. “News photographs must be quick! Don’t waste time with exposure meters. Start clicking your shutter!”
Before she could respond, Junko found herself being shoved aside as Sakai moved closer to the back of her camera to look through the view finder. “What are you trying to shoot, anyway?”
Sakai lifted one of the removed filters over his eyes to better see into the view finder.
What he saw was entirely unexpected.
There, floating a few feet away from the tripod amidst the debris and rubble, was an object that Sakai could not identify. It appeared to be an oddly shaped rock, roughly a foot in diameter and almost metallic in its gray and blue shimmer.
“What is that?” The tone of Sakai’s voice was now more one of curiosity then frustration. He spoke the words without moving his face away from the camera.
Junko picked up on the change, and a smile crept over her youthful face. “I don’t know,” she said excitedly. “But it’s beautiful! A ray of light on a scene of utter destruction. It’s perfect for the theme of this story!” As she spoke, Sakai had begun to gradually move away from the camera. Once he had vacated the space in front of the view finder, she quickly moved in, adjusting the focus in preparation to take the shot… her first as a professional photographer.
The beautiful, shimmering object rested in front of her, perfectly centered in her view finder. Her finger came to rest upon the button, and she began to push down…
Suddenly, a hand appeared in her composition, reaching down and grasping the strange object. Seconds later, and all Junko saw in her view finder was debris and destruction.
Her ray of light now rested in the hands of Sakai, who stared at it with a mixture of confusion and concern on his face.
What is this thing? It certainly isn’t manmade. How in the world did it end up here?
Continue to Chapter 2
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