Bangkok and Shizuoka

Column for those involved with the post office

Beer and grilled banana, 15 yen per stick. As I was enjoying a mysterious lunch, water came flowing in around my feet. I guess the river I see over there is overflowing. The radio is saying the bank is about to give in.

The old lady cooking the bananas pointed to her bare feet and smiled, showing her gold teeth. Is she saying she will be okay because she is barefoot? Naked children came out of their houses screaming and dove into the mud water. The parents looked like they were saying, ah, what a nice playground.

Wait, wait. That’s not right. We have to get out of here. This is the big flood in Bangkok that’s going to be on the news in Japan later. A university in Thailand asked me to give a lecture and the locals said it would be okay so I came to Bangkok, but it is not okay. I asked around and found out all Japanese companies evacuated. Oh, so I guess I’m alone.

But something about this feels nostalgic. It is similar to the scenery I saw as a child.

I lived in Shizuoka back in the days. Nearby was Abe River and on the riverbed there were barracks with rocks on the roofs. I always played with kids from there. When typhoons came, we were taken into the house and we even nailed the window blinds in. Then the next day, I went to the river and found the barracks flattened.

They would soon be homeless, but they didn’t seem to care. They screamed and played in the water. I joined them and chased after pigs and watermelons that got out after the storm. The water level had increased and it was dangerous, but there was no tension. It was really fun. We were all poor. It’s actually quite nice when everyone is poor.
Then, my family business did not work out and we ran from home. My family got to Kyoto. Running away from home is a form of running away. You cannot let others know. You might know this if you have experience, but it means losing all your friends at once. That really upset me.

Your living standards dropping or leaving behind belongings is one thing, but abandoning friends I used to play with at the riverbed and being isolated from the community and communication is much worse.

But somehow, my mother told my teacher about it. After a while, as I was going to school in Kyoto with my head down, I got a package. Everyone in my class, including friends I played with at the riverbed, wrote me a letter.

Letters written by children are not that sophisticated. But each one of them thought about me and wrote it. I did not lose the community or communication. I was grateful. I still remember feeling, I am not alone.

I haven’t shown these letters to anyone. It’s my treasure.


Choan and Kyoto 2017/04/18

Column for those involved with the post office
Everyone seems happy. Half naked men are doing Taijiquan. A skinny old man is playing the Chinese fiddle by himself. Next to them are about 50 old women singing out loud and dancing.

Around them were children. Boys are playing MENKO on the ground. Some are drawing on the rocks on the side of the road using brushes. A girl is doing backflips. Encouraged, she kept on doing backflips again and again. Small children were squatting on the side of the road, defecating. For some reason, it all gave me nostalgia.

Choan. It is currently called Xi’an. From 11 B.C. to early 10th century, 13 Dynasties ruled this city. Walking along the Mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang, you hear French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. No English. It makes you feel like you’re at the entrance of the Silk Road about to conquer the lands. Walk around the road to find Mosques. It feels like an exit of Islam. This is what you call an International city.

When Gensho built the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in 652 after coming back from India, he climbed up to the top and looked down. For centuries, this is how races and religions crossed one another. And they are still dancing and playing with each other.

I am from Kyoto. Visiting Choan, which Kyoto copied, is my life’s homework. This tower is on the south of the ancient city, as if it’s Choan’S Kyoto Tower.

No, wait. Kyoto is indeed an international city. The other day, I heard Kyoto was ranked the number 1 city for tourists two years in a row on an American magazine. I’m sure Kyoto is proud to report that to brothe Choan. But wait. Yes, there are many westerners in Kyoto these days and it is refined. It makes people say, hey, let’s go to Kyoto.

But the Kyoto I knew when I was little is gone. Playing MENKO on the ground, drawing letters on the roads, kids jumping around. Nobody defecated on the roads even back then, but there were people who sprayed garbage around. But those voices of children are now gone. Today the city is clean and elegant. It became the number one tourism spot in the world.

But did that really make everyone happy?


Buenos Aires and Osaka

Column for those involved with the post office

One of the furthest countries from Japan, Argentina. Its capital is Buenos Aires. It means good air. They have the Tango. Maradona grew up here. Visited mother in “3000 Leagues in Search of Mother”.

I went there. I got on the subway. I was struck with a strong déjà vu. Why does this feel so familiar? I looked around the train cart. Wait, isn’t this the Hankyu train from Japan?

Indeed it was. It was an old train from Hankyu railways. A Japanese train was spending its second life in “good air”.

I first rode this train when I was in the 4th grade. The Osaka Expo was taking place. From Kyoto, where I lived, to Osaka, I rode this train. It was an event in 1970.

It was my mother and I. I still have the 2 tickets. The words “The progress and harmony of mankind” was printed on the ticket. Mankind always progressed. We thought progress was a normal thing. The future was bright. Flying cars filled the sky, people lived in space and underwater, and people communicated using telepathy. I thought, future, hurry up and come.

When we ask about the “future” to children today, they talk about negative things like nuclear warfare, acid rain, and refugees. To them, earth is on its path to destruction. It seems there are no progress or growth. In fact, since they were born, Japan has not grown. It’s not their fault they cannot expect much from the future. It is the adult’s fault. We have failed to show them the future.

Expo. We couldn’t get into the popular halls of USA or USSR. The lines were too long. Ultimately we were able to get inside of 2 buildings, the hall of nursery tales and the one that showed movies on a 360 degree screen. That was my only time at the Expo. Although it was only one-hour away, my mother or any other adults around me did not have the time to take me there multiple times and the school forbid us from going there without adult supervision.
We got back to Kyoto on the Hankyu train. We were exhausted. Right outside the station, we ate ramen. It was really good. I rarely got to eat out, so I remember it clearly.

Half a century ago, they showed the children the future. Mom, thank you. I haven’t been able to show the children the future yet.