Up past the Redwoods, some 10 hours from San Francisco along the coast on the 101, you come to the Oregon state line, one of the most beautiful places on the earth. (It's amazing how many of these beautiful places we've seen on this trip and how varied they are.) The topography dramatically changes across the border: the coasts turn into giant crescents, harbors for giant rock islands known as "sea stacks." The trees are verdant, the plains lush. And the wind! It's constantly driving, whipping waves shore-ward.
The first town across from the California border is Brookings, Oregon. And here I've come across another piece of strange history. On September 9, 1942, Nobuo Fujita, a japanese pilot, catapulted his plane off the deck of a submarine near the coast of Oregon. He then flew down the coast, from Cape Blanco to Brookings, and dropped two 168-pound fire bombs over the forests with the aim of setting the forests ablaze.
The bombs fizzled. They started small fires, which the forest rangers handled without incident. The Japanese didn't realize how wet the forests were at that time...
Meanwhile, Fujita turns out to have been a peculiar man. He survived the war, and afterwards, he felt ashamed for having bombed Brookings. So he arranged a visit in 1962, taking with him a samurai sword. In the New York Times's obituary, Fujita's daughter tells the story:
She recalled that her father had been very anxious before that visit, fretting about whether Oregonians would be angry at him for the bombing, and so he had decided to carry the sword so that if necessary he could appease their fury by committing ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with the sword in the traditional Japanese method known as seppuku.
''He thought perhaps people would still be angry and would throw eggs at him,'' Mrs. Asakura recalled, adding that ''if that happened, as a Japanese, he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done'' by committing seppuku.
In the end, the citizens welcomed him warmly, making him an honorary citizen. He offered them his sword and it now hangs in the Brookings Library.