I was 16 years old, in autumn, when I first went to Europe. It was the first trip with my father. It was the trip I came to know Takashi Amano for the first time. Speaking from the conclusion, this trip became, in a way, a significant one for myself. One day, my father told me that he was going to Germany and Italy on his business and I could come with him if I was interested in. Without question, my answer was “Yes!” For a 16 year-old self, Europe was still in the world of my imagination and it was incredibly distant place to me. During puberty, I was over influenced by American culture, while I had only a vague sense of admiration for Europe. ”I might be more famous than Kimutaku (one of the most popular Japanese actors) in Europe”, my father said jokingly. I gave a short shrift to him saying “Yeah, right…” Actually, however, it was not a joke.
It was a cold night when we landed Germany after more than 12 hours flight. Although we were exhausted with the long travel, German people from the local distributor invited us for a dinner. In addition to my first trip with my father, it was not just a trip but a business trip. As soon as we arrived, I braced myself up not to bring trouble to my father and people around me, and not to be clumsy. We directly went to the restaurant from the airport, for dinner. We were recommended to have a dish with rabbit meat, but I really didn’t feel like eating it. I had a slight stomachache because I was very tired and also nervous. I was wondering whether it was fine to refuse the offer or not. Then my father who was sitting next to me said clearly without hesitation, “I can’t eat heavy meal right now. I’d like to have something light, please” I was relieved and ordered only a soup. One of the employees of ADA also traveled with us as an interpreter. Probably he tried to be polite, he ordered rabbit meat. My father looked at him and said with a laugh “How can you eat it!” That is my father – a Japanese who clearly states his intention by saying “No.”
Although the schedule was tight from the next day, I took a walk with my father around the hotel in some mornings whenever we can. He likes to go for a walk in the morning when he goes to new places. We were in a rural area and the surrounding houses were old stone-built. The gardens were kept nicely and beautiful. In Germany, there are regulations for landscapes and people have high-levels of consciousness. My father was often impressed by not only their environmental awareness but also their national character to keep the landscape beautiful. He told me while we were walking.
The German distributor organized the lecture on Nature Aquarium by inviting the instructor, Takashi Amano. Many German people were delighted to see my father and listened to him passionately. In fact, it was when I became knew, for the first time. The reason why my father is doing landscape photographs and nature aquarium simultaneously; I came to know his philosophy. Among those excited German people, I was being thrilled. I was thrilled by Takashi Amano – the Japanese who gets out of Japan and gives the presentation that attracts so many German people. He might really be more famous than Kimutaku. Saying “this is my daughter,” my father introduced me to many German people. In my heart, I was actually a little ashamed. “I have just come to know about my father’s job. Well, taking this opportunity, I am trying to know it more. Maybe I don’t know about Takashi Amano more than you do”. For the first time, I met Takashi Amano not as my father, and started to take interest in him. Interest is not the thing that you can naturally have because you want. Even if it is between father and daughter, opportunity and timing are important; probably it is applies to everything. In a foreign country, Germany, at age 16, it came to me.
I had another reward during this trip to Germany, which was meeting with Masako. She is a Japanese interpreter living in Germany and older than my father. She moved to Germany when she was young, got married, and raised her children. She has lived much longer in Germany than in Japan. I met her at the meeting prior to the lecture. There are people whom you instantly like from the moment you meet. To me, it was Masako. My father said, “half of her life could become a novel”. The reason why she moved to Germany permanently and her life after the immigration were very dramatic. She has overcome so many difficulties. Probably these experiences make Masako kind and lovable. At impressionable age, it has a significant meaning to meet a person like her who is getting older in such attractive way. It seems as if she always tells me that no matter which path you go in your life, as long as you are happy, it is fine. On the day we left Germany, Masako slipped a stuffed pig and an envelop into my hand. She told me “pig is a lucky charm.” There was some money in the envelope. The stuffed pig has been always my treasure. Even now I stay in touch with her. If I name people who I admire, one of them is Masako. I would like to be a person who can say, “don’t worry,” humming a tune with a smile.
We stayed in Germany for four or five days, it was dull and overcast everyday. Driving through the foggy forest by a car, I wondered whether I would ever come back to this country again. Fate is, however, interesting; ten years later, I turned out that I lived in Germany. The precious things I had encountered in Germany, probably remained deep inside of me more than I assumed at age 16. Or perhaps such kind of things grow bigger as time goes by, and evolve into new forms.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano