My parents were born and raised in the same small town. Although they spent the impressionable time for the total nine years from the age of 6 to 15 in the same school, they didn’t have any contact. My father was a reckless and mischievous boy. On the other hand, my mother was active but serious class president. Both of them say that they have never been in the same class, had no common friends, and they have no memory of even exchanging a word. Although they went on to different fields after the graduation, as time went by, fate led them to be married when they were 26 years old.
One day, several months ago, my mother brought back a cardboard box filled with old albums. These photographs had been placed in the corner of the dark shed being forgotten the existence. In the faded albums, I saw photographs of my parents in their 20s. Among them, I found a special album. It is the photo album of their honeymoon. It starts with the photograph of cosmos and the golden scenery of matured rice stalks, and a young woman who later became my mother. The destination of their honeymoon was Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan, in autumn. They first flew from Niigata airport to Fukuoka, and then they traveled to Nagasaki and around the Goto Islands. It was my father who decided the destination, but he didn’t have a big reason. It seems like he got an idea from the novel he had been reading. It is written by Jiro Nitta, titled Sango (Coral), and the story is set in the Goto Islands. “Anywhere was fine for us,” my mother says.
A few years ago, my father suddenly asked my mother, “where are the rice bowls with turnips design?” Those are the dyed Imari-yaki with bold drawing of white and red turnips that they bought in Fukuoka. Both of them like potteries and porcelain, so they also stopped at the city of Fukuoka on their way to Nagasaki to visit kilns of Karatsu-yaki and Imari-yaki. My father liked the design of turnip and he bought dozens of soy sauce cruet with same design for the people who had come to their wedding ceremony, and chose the rice bowls for their own use. Looking at a thing my father chooses, my mother never says “good choice” unless she also finds it good with her own sense, and my father is the same. My father doesn’t mind how other people think, as long as he finds it good, and my mother is the same. However, when both of them find the same thing to be attractive, they are quick to make a decision. What they have in common is both of them like things that they can feel the essence of the creator and has warm style. The turnip Imari-yaki rice bowls were what the young couple found nice.
To look at the scenes in the photographs taken by my father, my mother’s fragmentary memories get vividly recollected – the Spectacles Bridge (Meganebashi), western-style house, the Peace Park, and the night view from Nisyou-kan in Nagasaki. And then, they traveled to Fukue Island of the Goto Islands. Looking at one of the photographs taken in the island, my mother got excited and said, “I remember there! Cape Baltic fleet.” It is the photograph of the lighthouse of Fukue Island, which is located in Japan’s westernmost point. My father knows a lot about history, but when it comes to the time such as the end of Edo period and beginning of Meiji period, one of those dramatic times, he can give ready answers to any questions. So, there was no reason for him not to get excited about the history that the Baltic feet of the hostile army was first found at the Cape during the Russo-Japanese war. Wanting to talk with somebody about it by all means, my father started talking to a seemingly local man, and in the end, they talked nonstop about the battle of Tsushima that led Japan to win the Russo-Japanese war. The local man, who had become a friend with my father, brought fresh steamed big chestnuts, and the three of them were pleased to eat the chestnuts over looking at the sea. My father tends to be carried away when it comes to something he likes – whatever it is. Sometimes he becomes absolutely absorbed in something, cannot stop talking, or sometimes gets in a bad mood. Perhaps, he has been always like that since he was child. The boy used to be reckless is now told by his wife, “It is so hard to follow you.” When they were walking around in the Village of Fukue Island, my father found a crab nest and started bothering crabs like a child. A crab got angry with him. It came out of the nest and gave him a counterattack. Unexpectedly, he was pinched by a crab and met with defeat. “Ouch! ouch!” My mother burst into laughter to see my father being in a panic hilariously. When they were at Fukuoka Airport to return to Niigata, my father told my mother. “Why don’t we go to Okinawa now?” Although it sounded like a joke, he was probably half serious. My mother said, “We don’t have money any more”. They boarded the plane to Niigata with a laugh.
From the album, one envelope came out. The envelope contained two black and white photographs. One was the class photo taken in the Inawashiro Lake in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima, where my mother visited on the school trip when she was a sixth grader. Among the dozens of children, I immediately found my mother. The expression with knitted brows and straight eye was surely my mother even though she was still a girl. Maybe… I took a close look at other students, and I found him as I expected. A lanky and tall boy with sloping shoulders. In that innocent face, I see someone who I know. (I see something) Looking at his nametag carefully, I could see “Takashi Amano” clearly. My father was standing diagonally backward of my mother. “I knew that they were in the same class” somehow I was happy. Even after I showed my mother the photo, she was still surprised saying that she didn’t remember at all, but I was moved a little to see that twelve-year-old my parents were in the same photograph. Another one enclosed was the photograph of stars. The trajectory of the star is drawing lines and forming dozens of circles. I assume it is one of the photographs of starry sky that my father took one day in practice. Although two photographs stayed together without particular reason, I believe there is a meaning.
The boy and the girl. I find enviable beauty in the photographs of the girl taken by him 14 years later.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata