Senbazuru definitely takes the prize for having the longest history of any of the tracks on this album. Originally, I composed and played the (solo) acoustic guitar part as underscore for Beer Story, a feature film by director Brandy Brawner. The guitar track was recorded December 31, 1982, by Tom Size at Music Annex, Studio C, Menlo Park, CA.
My wife, Michele, is half-Japanese. Her mother, Hiroko, was born in Hirado, Japan, in 1934. Hirado is in the Nagasaki Prefecture. Back on August 9, 1945, at the age of 11, while playing with a friend, Hiroko saw, off in the distance, a bright light and an ensuing mushroom cloud. Days later the friend's hair fell out.
Hiroko married a US sailor who was stationed at Sasebo during the Korean War. They moved to the US when his tour of duty was finished. She left behind her mother and her sister Michiko. Her mother passed away many years ago; Michiko has since moved to Imari, the city famous for its fine porcelain. Although Hiroko passed away a few years ago (she died of cancer - no way of knowing if it was hereditary, exposure to that bomb blast, or environmental), the US and Japanese sides of the family have vowed to keep the family ties strong. As a result, Michele and I try to visit our Japanese relatives every other year or so. Since they live about an hour away from Nagasaki, Michele and I have gone to see the site of the atomic bomb blast. Hypocenter (the place directly under which the atomic bomb detonated) is marked by a modest monolith. The monolith is in the middle of a plaza, the paving set in a pattern that radiates outward in a circle. It's an eerie place. One exhibit in the museum burned into my memory was of six glass bottles fused together from the heat of the blast. They were discovered in the ruins of a store 400 meters from the center of the blast.
On August 9, 2009 I took an afternoon walk. As often happens when I walk, the radio station in my head started playing music; in this case it was the acoustic guitar piece I had written 27 years earlier. My thoughts however, were on the anniversary of the bomb blast 64 years ago, to the day. Suddenly, in my mind's ear, I heard a pedal steel accompaniment to the acoustic guitar part, raced home and recorded the pedal steel track. After considerable reflection, Michele came up with the title Senbazuru.
The word senbazuru is Japanese for 1,000 [origami] cranes. According to Wikipedia: "An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures (others include the dragon and the tortoise), and is said to live for a thousand years." The Wikipedia coverage continues: "The Thousand Origami Cranes has become a symbol of world peace through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who contracted leukemia as a result of radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Her story is told in the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Several temples, including some in Tokyo and Hiroshima, have eternal flames for World Peace. At these temples, school groups or individuals often donate senbazuru to add to the prayer for peace. The cranes are left exposed to the elements, slowly dissolving and becoming tattered as the wish is released."
I couldn't think of a better image (than senbazuru) to describe my feelings, remembering my depth of feelings visiting Hypocenter, the Bomb Museum and Peace Park. If I could write law, one law I'd write would be to demand that any leader responsible for a nuclear arsenal should be forced to spend a day there. Although I haven't been to Hiroshima, I'm quite sure similar installations there would suffice. Many thanks to Craig Clarke for the use of his beautiful photograph.