Passing Through


By Carol Smith

There are limits to our knowing in the vast atomic wilderness.

The road to the Mozumi mine winds up along the Takahari River in the Japanese Alps, a four-hour train ride north of Tokyo up the coast that faces Russia. A blue heron swoops off the riverbank and a hawk floats above us as our bus zig-zags up the side of Mt. Kamioka. In the valley we’ve left behind, newly planted rice paddies shine like mirrors in the sun, and a red bridge arches across jade-green water, a still life of images as old as any brushed in wet black ink on rice paper. I’ve come halfway around the world to find this place, oddly drawn here in search of something. I feel a mounting sense of excitement as we barrel straight toward the abandoned mine shaft that will carry me to the heart of the mountain, and the heart of an even older mystery.