The stark sparseness and rubble of the former Imperial Army at Hiroshima squat below a reconstructed seventeenth century fortress. A peaceful garden of crunchy sand gravel paths and shady labelled trees.
I stop to read about the Kurogane Holly and Eucalyptus. The gnarled form of the eucalypt stops me. I could be back home in Australia. Swaying from side to side I capture a number of scenarios which transport me into the Aussie bush. But it’s the sign transfixes me. A-bombed tree Eucalypt 740 m from the hypocenter
This eucalypt must have been a sapling when its surrounds were vaporised. The Imperial Army Headquarters reduced to a dusty foundation rubble. But the tree is still here, somehow. Year after year it’s bathed in the seasonal warmth, shedding some leaves in an autumn flush and suffering winters cool chill wind as I am now.
I stooped and selected from amongst the brown grey leaf fall, several slender leaves, the more dehydrated the better. They slide into my jeans pockets alongside the pocket warmer which I could feel against my thigh. It was my piece of the history, a connection to the destruction of that day. A connection to the Hiroshima rail station edging stones I’d made graphite rubbings on, housed at our local MONA gallery.
I realised that coming across the border into Australia was an issue with vegetable material. I knew it the moment I pocketed the leaf. But I was determined. The story had gelled in my mind before any wires were crossed. An Aussie returning home with a gum leaf or two at the bottom of his dirty back pack? Who’s not to assume that it wasn’t in the pack before it was taken overseas? I was confident this was plausible.
Over the next few Japanese weeks I practised my lines for the interrogation I was sure I would receive at the bio security control. None of the nervous twitching and amusing televisual contortion we see in the airport security programs. Practise makes perfect.
The final packing before leaving Japan was nervous. Where to put these leaves? Not the usual souvenir maybe a memento.
“Oh, I see some plant matter here, look like gum leaves. Can’t have cleaned your pack to well before you went hey. Where did you say you been?
“Japan, mate went to see my son play for Australia in Tokyo!”I replied.
“How’d they go?”He asked.
“Pretty well, I think they’ll qualify for the semis” I said.
“Ok mate pack it all up, you’re right” he said.
I reckon we don’t think there are many of us who think there are gum trees anywhere but Australia. But then again without crossing our wires at the border, a bit of Hiroshima would not be on my wall.
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