Hokkaido Hell

Jiro Sasaki gazed down into another mug of Kokushi Muzo sake; a tear rolled from his raw left cheek and plopped into the large ceramic cup of rice wine. It was the fourth he had consumed that morning. Sasaki stared a hard stare, a cold, unemotional stare down into the bottom of the sake cup.

He cocked his neck and looked at his pitiful body, then he broke through and stared into his spirit. It was black, dark, depressing, empty and bare. His eyes, always large smiling and contented brown eyes, had no sparkle now; the joy was gone, the hope and expectation, lost. Forever Jiro would wonder to himself what if, what would my son have achieved, what would he have done with his young life?

Since the desperate day the boat went down and his son Kaito was lost, rapidly sucked under and beneath the rough waves, Jiro Sasaki had never been able to go back to the sea. Such was the despair of Jiro’s grief he was barely able to even look in the direction of the Pacific Ocean.

The pristine, clear and bright waters that wrapped around the Nemuro Peninsula had magnanimously given his family their livelihood. The happy warm house, the two cars, everything, down to the red lacquered chopsticks that now sat unused on the heavy wooden kitchen table. All of his material possessions had been gained from the bounty of the ocean. The fertile, generous harvest the Pacific had over and over again altruistically bequeathed to him.

The ocean had taken something back, she had taken a young soul, and she had ripped open and destroyed the poor and sorry heart of Jiro Sasaki.

He had not shaved for a week and had not changed clothes since the devastating loss. His thick white sweater had become grubby and grey. He had slept in the clothes he was wearing when Kaito had been taken, but the sleep had only been for minutes. His eyes were now puffy and raw. His own appearance however was of no concern to him anymore.

He threw another two cups of sake into his bitter mouth; there was no sensation of taste or pleasure. He wanted to become numb, become oblivious to the new reality of life without his son. He had no idea of the day or the date nor did he care.

Maybe it was inevitable that after so many years of harvesting the finest fruits the ocean had to offer that there would be a day of reckoning, a day when some equilibrium was summoned. If only the sea gods had asked him, he would have given his own life, anything Mother Nature asked of him personally he would gladly have sacrificed. But no, not the life of his own flesh and blood his son and heir no, not Kaito-chan.

The boy had been named Kaito, which means ‘The Ocean’, to honour the sparkling greenish blue waters he loved with such unconditional passion.

Yet the ocean had enticed him in then sucked him under, taken him away, far below, pulling him lovingly into her infinite dark depths. The young Sasaki had gone, a pure soul now lying in a watery crypt.

He had worked his fingers to the bone to provide for his family, on one occasion literally so. The weighty lobster cage had slipped from the edge of the boat it would have been lost into the sparkling blue depths until Jiro grabbed for it. The streaming nylon rope burned mercilessly through his skin, the violent friction tore his epidermis away with ease.

Within seconds the threshing rope had torn through the rough fisherman’s flesh and burned deep down to the bone. Salt water splashed into the deep gorge of the wound accentuating the pain and bringing unbelievable agony.

That pain was nothing now though, that pain was a mere passing moment, a tiny physical discomfort. The ache he now felt, the pain of personal loss, was infiltrating every cell, his every breath and heartbeat. How could a father ever let go of a son.

Jiro was in a dark place, there really was no way forward from this tragedy.

Each time he closed his eyes he could see his son’s face as it sunk below the waves. The look of despair on Kaito’s pitiable face was now forever burned into Jiro’s inner vision.

The weight of the heavy sweater and solid working boots had dragged Kaito down. The merciless Pacific Ocean relentlessly sucking him in, downwards he went, ever downwards deep in to her lightless bosom, to take the place of her own lost flesh.

He dived in so many times until he could dive no more, but Kaito had been taken by her, it was an eye for an eye; his flesh for her decades of benevolent offerings.

He had been pulled out by his fellow squid fishermen who were working close by, but he dived in again and again flailing wildly to be let back in until they forcefully held him back. He had sobbed uncontrollably, piercingly screaming Kaito’s name over and over again until stunned into silence and shock he froze in that horrifying moment of time. Lying wet and half dead on the salty deck of his neighbor’s compact squid fishing boat, his precious son Kaito gone never to return. Jiro Sasaki sobbed in the unnerving silence until his eyes ran dry.

Lobsters, plump, ripe, and plentiful, the biggest, juiciest, heavy Hokkaido crabs full of roe, Scallops the size of a fist. The harvest had been truly bountiful this year. The Nemuro Peninsula waters had offered up much, perhaps too much. They should have been more humble, perhaps he should have been more honorable to the ever giving ocean, but it was too late now.

The expensive tables at the elegant Tokyo restaurants sitting high above the bustling and energetic Japanese capital had been spoiled this season; such had been the astounding quality and quantity of the highly prized crustaceans.

The discerning clients in the five star hotels of Shinjuku and Chiyoda Ku did not know of the grief and sacrifice that Jiro had suffered, they did not care. They only wanted the finest Hokkaido seafood to be brought to their voracious, insatiable palates.

Jiro would never go out again; he could not return to the ocean, she had taken his spirit, ripped out his very heart and soul.

He knew now though, as he sat in the darkened room, his head spinning from too much sake that he too had taken her spirit. He knew he should have paid his respects more often, taken a day away from the ocean to let her replenish her stocks. He should have gone to the temple to honor the Pacific with more prayer, given more unconditional respect for his endless bountiful crops. He wondered if a little more reverence might have spared his precious only child. But it was too late now for regrets Kaito Sasaki was not coming back from his watery tomb.

A dark shadow cast from the small square lantern on the wall just above his heavy and throbbing head covered half of his grieving face.

In the old faded mirror by the front entrance to his comfortable home he once more gazed at his own sad and stagnant face What was the point to carry on now; his rugged sea beaten skin was pale, it was without life, unresponsive, his teeth were sour and yellow, his jet black hair tangled and unkempt.

His head was weary, it sat heavy on his tired rounded shoulders like a dead piece of rock. Again the tears of melancholy loss began to well up in his puffy, sagging eyes until Jiro spoke to his reflection,

“Kaito-chan, Kaito-chan, my little Kaito-chan I miss you so much, my heart is broken, I pine for you Kaito chan, I will not leave you alone my only son, I cannot let you go.”

He reached out for his well-worn baseball cap from the shelf to his right hand side, he could not stand his loss for one more second, he wanted to be with his dear son. His body was wrenched with anguish and hurt, every joint in his body stung with pain as he walked towards the windswept harbour.

The tide was low in the small man-made marina, he was weak he had not eaten for days but somehow he found new inner strength and hauled the dense wooden boat over the sand and into the cold Hokkaido waters. Voices called out from the narrow quayside urging Jiro to turn back but his ears were closed. He pushed on into and through the large freezing breakers.

He ploughed his small inshore fishing boat forward, the slight craft was tossed high and low in the peaks and troughs of the ocean swell until the lights on shore had become like stars sparkling in the distance. His mind was not clear maybe it was the large amounts of sake he had continuously gulped down or maybe it was the overwhelming sadness. His spontaneous actions seemed to be automatic, subconscious; something was tugging at his psyche.

He had motored well out into the waters pushing himself ever onwards, his left hand pressed hard down on the throttle with such force the metal had cut deep into his blister covered fingers. A blazing waxing gibbous Moon shone down on him illuminating a patch of the black ocean, it was calm now.

The distressed father let the engine control go from his gnarled tough hand, the boat shuddered to a halt the ocean now still and silent. For a moment at last he felt some peace, he felt closer to his dead son.

As the soothing water lapped rhythmically against the side of his craft he heard it, he heard the call. An eerie unnerving noise, a banshee cry that was coming from the deep.

Kaito was calling him, calling him from far below, but it was not his recent voice it was the infant voice of Kaito-chan It was the voice of a lost and lonely four year old, an infant who was crying out to his father above, begging him to come.

“I’m coming son, I am coming.”

He could not endure another moment without his precious boy, and then as he looked into the darkness there he was smiling up from the depths, it was the infant face of Kaito, his arms stretched out to welcome his sad and so very desperate father. The glare of the high moon began playing tricks with Jiro Sasaki’s head, the lunar power was strong this night.

The cold, black water appeared to part as he clambered over the side and softly entered the welcoming grasp of the seductive ocean. Gently he started to sink, unaware of the chill as he reached out to grasp at the hand of his precious little boy.

They drifted down, the father and son together again; descending gracefully, gliding ever downwards, the two bodies plunging into the dark Pacific.

She had got what she wanted she had taken them both down into her deep dark bosom and now there was balance on the Nemuro Peninsula.



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