Sokohi is a Japanese word in use since the 16th century as a general term for optical disease causing visual impairment, which literally means “shadow in the bottom.” Aosokohi, literally “green shadow in the bottom,” was used to specify glaucoma. There is a theory of the origin of this word that ao (green) comes from Hippocrates’ writing, which says that before going blind the pupil turns the green colour of the Mediterranean Sea. Despite having such a long history and being the most common cause for visual impairment in present day Japan, glaucoma`s cause is not totally understood and treatment is not always effective.
My father`s glaucoma is such a case. Daily medication for fourteen years and surgery did not particularly control his high eye pressure, which caused slow but progressive visual field defects. He wakes up to a slightly darker morning every day, and when he tries to grab something his hands often grasp at the air instead of the item.
My father kept journals for most of his life. He took photographs while traveling. And during an editing career of almost fifty years he was always surrounded by books and various sorts of writing. However, because of his glaucoma, reading and writing don`t make sense to him anymore. He stopped using his old journals, and started using the Visual Ease Black notebook, which uses white pens on black paper to make reading easier for people with impaired vision. Eventually he had to abandon this notebook as well though.
Although he appears to accept his fate calmly as his blindness progresses, there are moments when he clings desperately to his wavering sight as if fighting to stop it from disappearing completely. At the same time, he builds a wall around himself to protect himself from the sympathy of people who can see what he cannot see and cannot see what he can see. Peeking behind this wall I see glimpses of my father’s figure moving in and out of the shadow in the bottom, walking unsteadily, but firmly seeking out new ways to perceive the world around him. His journey towards blindness goes back and forth between light and shadow, like waves pushing and pulling to and from the seashore.