Clamshell Kimonos

A start of something, but I don’t yet know what. 

Fumiko covered clamshells in kimonos every few days. She wrapped beautiful fabric around the shells, silk that might otherwise be worn on formal occasions by full grown humans. How many she completed depended entirely on how many customers ate steamed clams from her family’s restaurant. Unlike fish served raw as sushi or sashimi, shellfish are most often cooked in Japan. Some days few patrons were in the mood for clams; other days many ate them. But why put a kimono on a clam? It’s not as if modesty required the attire. Of course, clamshells are not among the loveliest of things to be found in a kitchen. No, it’s not about the clams themselves but about a relatively inexpensive souvenir of Japanese culture easily carried to a tourist’s home. Far less expensive and easier to transport than the many yards of fine fabric that went into human-sized  couture.


Rachel had to have one of the kimono-clad clams. Soba will be thrilled, she thought, at the childhood memories of Okayama. Well meaning, but mistaken. Unwrapping the present from Rachel’s trip, her grandmother burst into tears at the sight of the golden fabric with red flower petal motifs. How could Rachel know the pattern precisely matched the one her Sofu, Tetsushi, wore on the day that the bomb fell on Nagasaki. Tetsushi had gone there to apply for a job. Ineko wanted her husband to look his best that day, so she made sure he wore his best kimono. Rachel’s expected joy turned to perplexed sorrow.

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9 thoughts on “Clamshell Kimonos

  1. Hi John,
    We both know Debby Geis and Diana Peach. Did you find my site through them? Thanks for the visit today. I see the content of your writing. I teach about Japan and the bombing of Hiroshima. I am a history teacher. Nice meeting you today.
    Janice

    1. Yes, Debby shared your post on Google +. I have a pair of those kimono-clad clamshells from one of three trips to Japan in the 1980s. I also have lots of Japanese friends from the Buddhist organization that I belong to.

  2. John, I am intrigued, and I want MORE ! (and not just because I am a Japanese who’d never encountered kimono-clad clamshells)

  3. I always wondered about the Japanese and how the devastation of the bomb wove into the fabric of their lives, and this was a helpful instance (whether fact or fiction) which gave me an emotional tie-in to what happened over there. it was powerful. i was not born yet when the bomb happened, but i clearly am 100% in opposition to the use of such a bomb on anyone anywhere for any reason. I know many people say (Americans) that the bomb was so necessary after Pearl Harbor to win the war. but nobody really knows if the war could be won without the bomb, because in my humble opinion nobody wins when an entire city population are destroyed by such a merciless act. thanks.

    1. The clamshells are real; I received two of them as gifts on a trip to Japan. The rest of the piece is fiction. As for nuclear weapons, they are abhorrent. Still, even regular bombs can do terrible things, as Vonnegut describes in Slaughterhouse Five. While fictionalized, the firebombing of Dresden killed over 100,000 people as well. The city was NOT a manufacturing hub; it was an historic culturally significant place. War is a terrible thing.

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