Solar Eclipse Time Travel

The past Monday was a big day in Japan. Sunglasses were sold out everywhere and people on the street were nervously looking up the cloudy morning sky. It was great news that the cloud didn’t ruin this once-in-the-lifetime astronomical show – the annular solar eclipse. When I woke up here in Chennai, where the eclipse ended before the sun rise, my Facebook was filled with many beautiful pictures from Japan.

This ‘annular solar eclipse of 2012’ had a special meaning for the Japanese at their 30’s and 40’s. There was a popular song in 1990 by a Japanese-pops group ‘Dreams Come True,’ titled ‘Time Travel.’

‘Time Travel’

The song is a monologue by a young lady in love with a man. Cherishing the present moment together with him, she daydreams about the future and comes up with a request. She asks him for a ring – a very special one, which they can find together at the annular solar eclipse in 2012 – in the darkened sky. For the young couple in 1990, promising to be together at the astronomical event in 22 years later should have sounded like a time travel.

Now we stand in her future, 2012, and are looking back 1990 as a long past. The Japan in 90’s was at its peak in the bubble economy and completely different from the Japan today. This romantic song had become popular when the Japanese women were requesting her boyfriends (not a typo – plural) for a real and expensive ring. Young male Japanese – college students and professionals alike – were busy with spending money on trendy fashion, a sport car, and gifts for his girlfriend(s.) Japanese economy was still strong.

Tokyo, 1990

I was then a high school student, still too young to join this country-wide frenzy of materialism and consumerism. I didn’t have a girlfriend asking for expensive jewelry, but nevertheless I was busy with working part-time. The teenagers at that time were crazy about American culture, especially in the music and the fashion. I was no exception, spending all my paycheck at CD shops (you remember the shiny round disc called Compact Disc before Apple dominate the world?) and second-hand American clothing stores.

There were some fad items – Ray-Ban’s sunglasses, Patagonia’s fleece (then called synchilla) jacket , Cole Haan’s pinch penny loafers,and Ralph Lauren’s Madras button down shirt. I only had a Madras check shirt. And that was when I learned the name of this city in South India for the first time.

India, A Long Long Time Ago

Madras, or Chennai as called today, has been a big producer of cotton products. It is said that Madras, or sometimes called Madrasi checks, was one of the best seller items of the East India Company, who brought it to the mainstream of Western fashion stage. On the street in Chennai, you still can find the same patterns on traditional men’s skirt, or Lungis. These people, however, would not have enjoyed the eclipse so much as my friends on Facebook did.

In the Indian tradition, eclipses are considered inauspicious, caused by the immortal cut-off head of a demon. Hating the sun and the moon, who caused his beheading, he chases and swallows them. It is lucky for the sun and the moon (and us) that the demon doesn’t have a body. That’s why the eclipse ends in minutes when the sun or the moon reappears from his cut throat.

For him, the eclipse is not a romantic event to enjoy, but void and emptiness that he needs to bear forever – the same eclipse that  Bonnie Tyler sang in ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart‘ in 1985.

Today’s Lesson

Inspired to write a love song theming the next eclipse? Forget about it if you are in Tokyo, where the next annular eclipse occurs only on April 8th, 2312. Your love story will become a horror story.

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