What I remember as the happiest memory in my childhood is the day that my parents took my younger sister and me to the confectionery factory for a guided tour when I was about seven or eight years old. Theme parks hadn’t arrived in Japan yet and even a factory tour was rare and unfamiliar back then while it has been popular and factories of many kinds have offered it nowadays. My father happened to find a major Japanese manufacturer offering a free tour at the factory that was a 40-minute drive from home. Since we didn’t go out much together because of my parents’ busy work, a factory tour sounded to me extra special and also to be something unimaginable. As we had made a reservation, the staff waited for and greeted us at the factory where we realized that we were the only group for the tour that day probably because it was a weekday.
A tour guide led just four of us around the huge factory and showed and explained each section in detail through the overwhelmingly big glass above the factory floor. Everywhere in the factory was thoroughly clean and all white. Walking along the long passage above the vast factory floor and looking down the machinery through the glass, I imagined that inside of a space station would be like this. I was amazed at automation. Everything was operated by automated equipment and few humans were around it, which was so futuristic. Cookies and snacks were flowing endlessly on the conveyors and hopping and wiggling as if they were dancing while they were seasoned. They looked to me some cute life-forms of another planet. My mother also looked so happy for this once. She said to me several times in excitement, “Look! That dough came out turning into these here! Look! Those pieces went in over there!” With an additional backdrop of my mother’s good mood, I was sticking to the glass, fascinated by the operation.
At the end of the tour, we were ushered to the large screening room. Many tables were set there and one of them had a big plate of confectionery on it. That was our table. The staff brought tea and told us to have as much confectionery as we liked. The short film that introduced the manufacturer’s history and business was shown on a big screen while I was munching freshly-baked, just-out -of-conveyor cookies and snacks. Since snacks were luxury for me who was raised by stingy grandparents, I had eaten neither so many of them nor the ones that were still warm at my fingertips before. We monopolized the whole thing as a single group and were treated like VIPs. I thought I was dreaming.
When we were leaving, they gave each of us a big bag filled with their confectionery as a souvenir. I was holding the bag to my chest in the back seat of our car as if it had been a treasure while the car was exiting the factory’s parking lot. I missed the place already and looked back to see it one last time from the rear window of the car. I saw the tour guide and a couple of other workers standing and bowing toward our car in front of the building. They waved to me, and I waved them back. We didn’t stop waving to each other until they became sizes of rice and finally disappeared from my sight when the car that my father drove slowly on purpose for me turned out the factory gate.
I had one more memory in which I felt the similar sense of that day. It happened at the theme park where the mouse works as a host. By then, I had already left home and begun to live on my own in Tokyo. It was a weekday in winter and the park was almost empty. When I was strolling about with my partner, the mascot of that mouse appeared with the space costume that matched the particular area’s theme. I greeted him with my partner and took a photograph together. I was chattering with him when my partner pointed at his shoe, saying, “Your shoe is tattered.” The mouse and I looked down with a surprise on it that was partly worn out indeed and he gestured embarrassment. I defended him by telling my partner that he had been traveling through space a lot, which relentless condition made his shoes worn off. Three of us laughed together. We said goodbye to the mouse and left him. I looked back a few steps away and saw him still waving to me. I waved him back. Other guests gathered around him, but he didn’t stop waving to me. I repeatedly looked back several times and saw him waving to me each time even while he was taking photographs with other guests. In the end, I reached the other foot of a bridge which arch hindered the sight of him. Yet, he kept waving to me while jumping so that I could see him. The scene of his big sweeping, waving hands toward me above his bobbing head over the asphalt arch had been burned into my brain.
Every time those two memories pop up in my mind, I feel heartwarming and yearning. I sometimes wonder why I have cherished those incidents in particular. I’m not a social character and not good at being with people. I hated people, especially when I was little. Somewhere in my deep subconsciousness, I assume that people don’t understand me and vice versa because they never treat me the way I think it should be. However, I proved wrong in those two memories. They treated me right with so much kindness, which was different from what I had believed as human behavior. I was betrayed by people in a good way and got connection instead. For a brief moment as it was, I sensed deeply connected to others and that gave me inexplicable happiness. It was totally unexpected, but extremely joyful enough to be the reason for my special, happiest memories.