Sunset over the Horizon (p.95)
When we take a look out to the horizon on the beach, we could actually see that the earth was round. There are times, for example, that we could only see a mast in the far distance but not the body of the ship itself. On the other hand, it is very unlikely that can see that the earth is round by looking at the ground in Japan. I travelled through Manchuria in the spring of 1944 (Showa 19) and in the summer of 1945 (Showa 20), riding the South Manchuria Railway. I then learned that the continent is incredibly vast and flat, and that the earth is round. The first verse of a song, “Comrades”, goes as follows; “Away, away from our home country, more than hundreds of miles away in Manchuria, glowing red in the sunset, lies my friend under the rock in the corner of this vast land.” This is a nostalgic song known among the prewar generation.
When I was travelling on the South Manchuria Railway, I understood where this song actually came from. I saw the real red, real big sun setting down into the horizon. It was simply spectacular to see the sun going down to the huge vast ground without being obstructed by anything. The express train dashed through this wilderness on the straight broad rails.
In Japan, even when we are running through the Kanto Plain, we once in a while spot mountains. This was not the case for the great plains of Manchuria. I once again learned how our continent was so vast and large after being transported to Siberia. The train kept running on the straight rails, making the roaring sound and there were days that the view from the train did not change at all for half a day. The ever flat land without even a small hill just went on and on. Just as I learned that Lake Baikal was the largest in the world, the view of the same surface of the lake continued almost for the length of a day from the train that kept running alongside the lake.
The sunset was simply beautiful. The big round sun, shining yellowish than red in color, sinks into the west, very quickly rather than slowly.
The scenery around the sun was somewhat like tundra and it was a desolate view without even a single shrub found. I first thought we could possibly do anything if we had this much land in Japan. At the same time, I also felt however much land we could have, we as humans would not be able to conquer such a land as it is almost beyond the human intellect and manpower.