Contents in 1996

no. dating title



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Around New Year



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Footstep of Spring



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Mountain Climbing



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The Bon Festival
(The Festival of the Dead)



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Busy Summer



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Genius Violinist



- - -

Sudden Illness of My Son

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January 11, 1996

Around New Year

During these two weeks there was nothing particular to talk about. My husband came home a little before 8 o'clock on New Year's Eve after his day duty. Both of our kids went out with their friends after supper. I hardly remembered the watch night>
Recently the special programs of TV for New Year have come to be so boring that I hate watching them. And I hate myself being forced to laugh at those who are playing games and enjoying themselves in the programs.

So on the first day of this year we played Mahjong together after a few years. We bet nothing because I will say "Ron" at random without any "trick". My men always complain that my playing way is beyond their expectation because I am so ignorant of the correct rules. However, we could have a good time together.

During games we enjoyed reminiscences of my husband's father, who passed away about twelve years ago, who taught me how to play Mahjong and was very pleased to play it all for together, I mean my parents in law and my husband and me.

When our kids were little, they would be upset and cry whenever they lost games or their situation went unfavorable. This time I have learned that they got maturer at that point. At other points I hope they will grow up soon.

Every day went on so much like as usual that I almost forgot and really did to say New Year's Greetings to some friends of mine on the phone. I feel as if it were a dream that when I was a child I believed something special would happen on the moment the New Year began. I miss the exciting feeling at those times while I feel easy and free without being pressured to prepare everything special.

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February 29, 1996

Footstep of Spring

This story is from a letter to the editor column on the Asahi. The contributor is a homemaker at the age of69. The following is her story.

"Around March the 9th, the leaves of camphor tree begin to fall down. Once there was a big camphor tree near her house. While she lived for decades seeing the tree, she was unaware of the leaves falling down in spring because of her youth.

And all at once she noticed the fact, and after several years she memorized the date March the 9th, when the leaves begin to fall down for the first time of the year. Since then she came to be interested in trees, and when she passed her middle age, she came to love flower trees especially.

In February she held on chilled with piercing cold, and one day in March relieved to know it was gone, the leaves began to fall down all of a sudden. After that old leaves, who know the time is ripe, fall and fall with all their might on and on.

Fluttering dry sound, sometimes like rain falling, and scattering stormy sound, she found out these are the sound of coming spring.

After the old leaves are gone, the waiting young ones greet us with bright smile. The old leaves keep on falling down almost for a month. A heap of these fallen leaves catches fire easily and gives off the scent of camphor all over the place.

All the scenes were familiar touching atmosphere. But when the tree was cut down, all disappeared. She longs for the sound of falling leaves. And she would like to go to the neighbor shrine where luckily the camphor tree grows about March the 9th."

As I myself love the camphor tree, I was attracted to the article. I like the tree because it grows so big and evergreen that I feel relieved to see it. My chest, drawers and shoe cupboard are made of camphor tree and so they can be kept away from moths because of camphor. I was very surprised to read this article and now look forward to watching the leaves fall down.

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April 25, 1996

Mountain Climbing

To tell the truth, I've never experienced any real mountain climbing. When I was little, I was very weak, and so my mother worried over my health. I never drank unboiled water. I put on warm clothes when it was cold. At night I wrapped myself with stomach band called "Kintaro-san" or "haramaki". My mother brought me up so carefully that I didn't get serious sick. Nevertheless I am not so tough and I have a weak digestion. Or I should say I am healthy enough to live ordinary thanks to her efforts.

In my school age, I had no confidence in my physical strength. I was afraid of doing with all my might to the limit in everything, especially in sport. In summer I envied my friends who took part in the summer camp or climbing tour.

My alma mater high school has a traditional event called "Myoken-yako-tozan", climbing Mt. Myoken at night. It has been held since the 14th in Taisho Era. The climbing was carried out in the coldest time of the year, on the first Saturday in February. When I was in the second year of senior high school, it was allowed for girls to take part in for the first time. Though my mother was against my entry, I was determined to go and managed to persuade her.

Mt. Myoken is not a high mountain at all, a little higher than a small hiss. A mountaineer would walk over it easily. For the boys it was training like long marathon. But for the girls it was hard to walk through more than 50 kilometers a night in the piercing coldness.

We left the school gate in the evening by bus, arrived at the foot of the mountain at about seven or eight, and then started climbing. After midnight we reached the summit and there we took a rest and ate lunch. The temperature was about 5 degrees centigrade below zero, and so the lunch was frozen. And then we began to walk down and back to the school about at eight in the morning.

During walking in the twilight we were all sleepy. In order to be awake, we were singing all songs we knew, but some of us often bumped into the foregoing in a trance. At that time I put on caravan shoes for the first time. When we reached the school, we all sank to the ground and took off the shoes and socks. To my surprise the soles of my feet became white and wrinkled like tofu.

After all I enjoyed this walking very much. After that I came to have a little confidence, but that was my only climbing experience.

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May 2, 1996

The Bon Festival
(The Festiva of the Dead)

Summer is not my favorite season, but there used to be one of my favorite events in summer when I was little.

It is Bon, especially religious ceremonies. Although I couldn't understand religious meaning, I felt something devout and fearful in the atmosphere where my mother and grandmother were busy preparing various things and dishes for our ancestors.

On the 13th August, they made welcome dumpling in the round shape, and welcomed the spirits with Mukaebi (Welcome Fire). Since then they made special dishes for every meal, which were all made from vegetable. One set consisted of three dishes and rice for supper, somen (a kind of Japanese noodle) for lunch. They made three sets for our ancestors and one for those who have no one to tend their graves.

I loved to help my mother with shopping and preparing many things willingly. It was very interesting to offer various strange things, for example, paper-thin slices of wood on which our ancestors' names were written, special flowers including lotus, special dishes, ogara(a kind of dry stalk) for chopsticks and walking sticks and many kinds of fruits and cakes.

For three days from 13th to 15th my mother and grandmother were very busy and other family members helped without complaint. On the last day we made goodbye dumpling in the long oval shape, and I loved to eat welcome and goodbye dumpling with soybean flour and sugar very much.

At the last night of Bon we burned ogara in the garden as Okuribi (Farewell Fire) and sent off our ancestors' souls. And then we went to the Neighbor River to float the offerings off with a lighted candle on the lotus leaf. When I saw many floats drift away in the dark, I felt as if I were in the unrealistic place, as if my soul and body drifted in the dark surrounded with spirits of ancestors.

Now I miss that feeling very much. I think it must have been a kind of encounter with the unknown world because I remember I felt my inside surging up without knowing why. That experience may have let me come to believe something supernatural, and perhaps it decided my character partly.

My mother keeps on doing Bon service partly, but because my parents live in the city, she can't float the offering in the river. There is no natural river and the city government prohibits this ceremony out of regard for public sanitation.

I think it is good for kids to serve anyone or anything without expecting rewards, and to build up generous character. And I'm very sorry my kids haven't had such experiences in their childhood. The following phrases occurred to me automatically.

Nothing comes from nothing,
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good.

------from "Sound of Music"

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September 5, 1996

Busy Summer

As I always say so, I don't like to go anywhere in any holiday when everybody in Japan moves around here and there. I would like to stay home lazy, to read books, to watch movies on TV, and so on.

But this summer, I was eager to go anywhere away from home. Because I was incredibly busy to death, I have never been so busy before in my life.

My mother in law moved to Yokohama from Osaka on the 16th in August at last. Before that my husband and I had been looking for her house for about one year and a half. We decided to buy one this July. Then the nightmare of hard days began. Negotiation with real-estate-agent, contract, delivery, negotiations with remodeling company and so and so. In any of them, it was I that really did it.

After her moving, everyday the working men from the remodeling company came over. They called me every time, Mother asked me everything and I had to do my job within a certain period. My small gray brain cells almost burst into fragments.

Still now the remodeling is not finished. Though in the living room the furniture is set up neatly, there are heaps of cardboard boxes in three rooms.

I have found out that I am a superwoman myself. I can't believe myself that I could do all the things like this at the same time. I have greatly improved in negotiation, I have learned really much about contract of real estate and remodeling matters. Now I feel I can do almost everything if I will. It's not arrogance, but I think it something like a situation of runner's high. It has a danger of fragility. I must save my energy and time in order not to become ill.

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September 19, 1996

Genius Violisist

Prodigy is a child with unusual talent, and Watanabe Shigeo is a prodigy.

He was born in 1941, so he is now 55 years old. I came to know about him in a TV program. At first I thought he was a person in the past, but as the program went on, I was so shocked to know that he is still alive and still more frightened to see how he is alive.

He was a gifted violinist, whose natural mother was also a violinist and whose adoptive father was a teacher of violin. He began to learn playing violin at the age of four and a half. And at the age of seven he already had his first recital.

In his diary in his twelve he wrote that he had played with all orchestras in Japan. He complained in his diary that the orchestra couldn't play well enough, so he took great pains in going along with.

Recognizes by some of the most famous musicians at that time, he went to America in order to study in Juliard Music School at the age of 14. In America he got unstable emotionally. At the age of 16, according to the public announcement, he tried to commit a suicide. Since then he has been sleeping mentally. I don't know what to say, but he is awake, he walks with help of his father, but he neither speaks now moves by himself. It's so sad and miserable. His both hands, which once played the violin so marvelously, are frozen stiff in the air.

Every time I watch the photograph of him, it reminds me of what he is now, and I can't help feeling sad, still more I can't help hating foolishness of human being. His tragedy was that grownups around him tried to let him study more. At the age of 10 or so he was already mature in playing the violin or understanding and expressing music. There was nothing for him to learn more.

Going to America might have been a good experience for him if his way of playing had not been corrected by the professor. His way of playing was that of the creator of playing way of violin, and it was out of fashion at that time. The professor of Juliard was also a good player and so he tried to correct Shigeo's technique.

If the people around him had accepted what he was and had let him alone as he liked, we could have the most valuable and talented violinist in Japan as well as in the world.

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October 24, 1996

Sudden Illness of My Son

To be healthy is a very valuable thing to us all. It is too natural to care about every day. So it is when someone becomes sick that we are shocked with the result of our carelessness. Such a shocking event happened to our family.

As you know, my elder son wants to have a job about natural preservation. This fall, he was to go to Aichi Prefecture to see and experience such a site. His departure was supposed to be on Wednesday last week.

Ten days ago, on last Monday, he was very fine, went to see one of his friends, and gave his cousin a ride to the station in the heavy rain. The next day though he left a little bit dizzy, he began to prepare the trip, and brought out all sorts of camping things scattered around. On the other hand he phoned the person in charge of the site to tell that he put off his visit until Thursday.

On Wednesday, he was very sick from morning and went to see the doctor in the neighborhood.

On Thursday, he lay down all day long. He ran a fever and his lymph grand around the neck swelled painfully. At about eight at night, my husband took him to the Shonan Kamakura Hospital. After some examinations he was allowed to go home.

On Friday, he got worse and worse until he could hardly eat even rice gruel or drink water. Besides it was hard for him to talk because of his painful throat. At about ten thirty at night, I took him to the hospital by taxi. The result of the examinations was worse than that of the day before. His face got swollen, too. The doctor told him to be hospitalized mainly because of dehydration. His tonsil came to a head and all white. The doctor put him on an intravenous drip including antibiotic.

It was at about three in the morning that I came home.

Surprisingly, as soon as the intravenous began to take effect, his condition turned good quickly. Already on Sunday, he began to feel boring in bed. On this Monday, he came to feel unsatisfied with the hospital meal.

Yesterday he came home. Through this experience, he had been convinced to take care of himself all the time. So have I. It was a shocking event to us, and a valuable lesson, too. Everybody, take care, please.

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That's all in 1996.

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