I took this photo in Japan in 2019, when international travel was still a possibility. It was springtime in the northern hemisphere. This is the iconic and much-photographed Megane-bashi, or Spectacles Bridge, in central Nagasaki. It gets its nickname, of course, because of its likeness to a pair of spectacles when considered together with its reflection in the water. My intended focus when I took this snap, was the lovely bridge itself, gracing as it does the old town. But inadvertently, I caught a moment of fun among the young girls enjoying the fine weather and the glorious surrounds.
… so I am reminded of a (possibly apocryphal) story I heard about a couple driving round Europe. They came across a car that had gone off the road and presumably left abandoned in a ditch. They stopped to photograph it. When, much later, they examined the detail of the photos in the comfort of their hotel, they discovered there were two dead bodies in the car …
Now examine the detail of my photo. Look closely at the folk in it. I promise you won’t find anything near so ghoulish as is to be found in the above anecdote. Just loads of charm, such as often comes my way when I travel round Japan.
What is the schoolgirl in the blue skirt at front right photographing? Further up the waterway is a group of four girls out of uniform, three of which have curled the fingers of their fists round their eyes to mimic spectacles. Little imps.
And the other uniformed schoolgirl balancing on one of the stepping stones gives me a feeling of vertigo, and gets me hoping she won’t fall. I want to reach out and save her. I needn’t have worried. There was no way in the world she was going to fall.
Now you may be wondering why I have posted a blog that on the surface is such a non-event. Well, I don’t believe it is good for our health to regard it as a non-event.
A lot depends on the mental perspective of the person – you – taking it in. Especially in trying times like these, I believe a lot is to be gained by focusing on simple pleasures where possible. Taking delight in events of such innocence can enable us to better see the context of things of greater moment. Especially when we are overwhelmed on a daily basis by grim news of ‘moment’. I call them screaming horrors. Happy people, perhaps young like these, have much to bring to our lives if we will give them the chance.
We have a tendency to focus too much on the screaming horrors of our day. The media, mainstream and otherwise, are complicit in this. Look at the current scene in the USA. The media tell us – and of course there is undoubted truth in their reports – that the place is packed full of screaming horrors of many stripes. Medical and economic emergencies. Entrenched racial intolerance. Unprecedented civil unrest. Where will it end?
And, while on the subject of screaming horrors, let’s not forget that one such – the daddy of all screaming horrors – an armed nuclear weapon – was exploded over northern Nagasaki – the beautiful city of my photograph – city of innocent schoolchildren who didn’t ask for or expect such a horror – on 9 August 1945.
We should stay aware of the screaming horrors. Knowledge of a problem is the first step in dealing effectively with it. And attempting to deal with such problems – such cancers on our common humanity – as they arise is, I believe, our humanitarian duty.
But be aware also of our collective need for therapy. And what could be more therapeutic for us all than occasionally tuning into the voices of happy children like those in my photo?