My father was an attentive father. He treated
me so nicely throughout my childhood. My
mother didn’t like how he treated me because
she believed he was just spoiling me. Every
time he did a nice thing to me, she got angry.
To avoid her anger, he had learned to give me
a treat without her presence.Near my home was a temple famous for the
five-storied pagoda, and a fair was held along
the approach to it once a month. A relative of
ours had a booth at the fair and my father
helped carry merchandise every month. He
never forgot to get some toys for me there
when his work was done. There was no greater
pleasure for me than seeing him entering the
house, waving some play house items to me.
Of course he was scolded by my mother when
she caught it.
I usually slept beside my grandparents and I
had suffered from chronic insomnia in my
childhood. Once in a while, I had a happy
occasion to sleep with my parents when my
grandparents were on their trip. On one of
those occasions, my mother was taking a bath
when my father came to futon next to me.
Since my parents didn’t know about my
insomnia, he was surprised I was still awake.
He thought I couldn’t sleep because I was too
hungry. Not to be caught by my mother, he
stealthily got out of the room, sneaked into the
kitchen, made a rice ball and brought it to me.
He told me to finish it before my mother came
out of the bathroom. Seeing me devouring it,
he said that he had never made a rice ball by
himself before and didn’t know how. It was
surely the ugliest rice ball, but the most
delicious one I had ever had.
My mother also didn’t like to see me cry. She
had told me not to cry because crying made me look like an idiot.
While my little sister cried
all the time, I tried not to as hard as I could.
But as a small child, I sometimes couldn’t help
it and my mother would get angry with me for
crying. In those cases, my father always said
to me, “You’re not crying, are you? You’re just
clearing your eyes, right?” I hadn’t noticed
until recently that there are the exact words in
my song ‘Sunrise’. I’ve put his words
Marriage in Japan
I went out for lunch with my partner at a cafe the other day that stood across the train station in a Japanese desolate rural town where I live. To call it a cafe is a bit too fancy. It’s not the likes of Starbucks but rather a small old mom-and-pop diner that was built well over 30 years ago and remained as it was, which perfectly matched this old town itself.
We sat at the table and overheard a conversation from the table next to us. Three old women in their eighties sat around the table by the window. “She has passed away, too.” “This could be the last time we get together.” Although they were exchanging a downright sad conversation, they were talking in a matter-of-fact way and their chats were lively.
While we were eating a salad with watermelon that came with our main dishes of curry and rice with a fried pork cutlet, a family of three came in. A boy about ten years old and his parents in their thirties sat at the table near ours. As soon as their orders were taken, the boy started reading one of comic books that the diner placed for customers, and his father went outside to smoke. His mother was staring into space.The father came back in when their dishes arrived on the table but they didn’t talk while they were eating. Except that the parents occasionally said something to the boy separately, there was no conversation between the parents. After they finished eating, the father went out again to make a phone call, the boy played with diner’s puzzle toys, and the mother stared into space again. I saw through the window the father talk with someone over his phone pleasantly while smoking and laughing. He came back in and also began to play with a puzzle toy. I thought it was much more fun for him to have lunch with a person on his phone.
Quite too often, I see a married couple having almost no conversation at a restaurant. I wonder if people stop talking each other when they get married. While they must have clicked each other enough to get married in the first place, what makes them fall silent? Since I have never been married, I have no idea whether it’s because they have changed or they have lost interest in each other after marriage.
The closest married couple I know is my parents, which means my knowledge about marriage is a generation old. My parents are from farming villages in Kyoto that is the oldest city in Japan. According to the old custom, their marriage was arranged by their families’ intention not their own. Inevitably, they were strangers with no affection whatsoever. In my childhood, my mother used to say, “I wouldn’t have married such an ugly guy like your father unless he had money.” Times have changed, and people get married by their own will in Japan. Nevertheless, if a couple who liked each other finds it difficult to talk once they marry, I don’t understand what marriage is for. The mystery deepens still more.
The family of three left hastily after they were done with the toys and staring. The party of three old women ordered refills of their soft drinks repeatedly and lingered at the table with their conversations, as if they were reluctant to leave the diner.
My father’s hair started thinning in his late
twenties and he has become bald by his mid-thirties.
As a child, I knew him only as a bald
man. One day, I came home from school, and
found that my father’s head was full of hair all
of a sudden. I was so surprised that I asked
him what had happened. “Nothing,” he replied.
I rushed to my mother and asked the same
question. She said, “His hair grew back today.”
I wondered how long I had spent at school. My
conclusion was a toupee, except for which
there was no other explanation.
But my mother bluntly denied it. She
reiterated his hair had simply grown back in
one day. From her tone, I sensed that this was
a sore subject I shouldn’t mention further.
Back then, it had been my favorite trick that I
quietly slid the bathroom door open and
startled my father while he was taking a bath.
I played the trick one evening and saw him
covering his removed toupee frantically with a
basin. Unfortunately, the basin rolled down
from the toupee, making it lay bare. His
embarrassed eyes met mine. I closed the door
without saying a word and never played the
I had lived with an unaccustomed-looking
father in an awkward atmosphere for a next
few weeks. Then, his toupee days came to an
abrupt end and he returned to a bald man as if
nothing had happened. We’ve never talked
about it to date.
A couple of years ago, I had a chance to see
my cousin and we talked about our childhood
memories. He said he hardly remembered his
childhood, but did remember one thing vividly.
His only memory was that my father showed
up at his house wearing a toupee…
Episode From An Old Tree in Kyoto /Hodemi Woods