Praying sincerely for someone – as far as I can remember, the first person I prayed for was my father.
My father decided to go to Amazon. At that time I was only eight years old and was not really sure where Amazon is. He gave me information that “Amazon is in the other side of Japan,” and I was convinced something obvious but ungraspable fact: the Earth is round. I felt as if the world suddenly expanded so much that I became an ant wondering into a wizardly maze. The universe begins with just one little catalyst. During the childhood, we can find entrance to the universe anywhere. The fact that my father was setting out for the other side of the world made me aware for the first time that the place I live is the Earth. Amazon – it is the most distant place from here because the Earth is round. I was thrilled very much by such simple thing, and various wonders sprouted from there. There is neither top nor bottom in the universe – then why does the Earth have top and bottom, and front and back? The Earth is round and turns – then why is the horizon straight in my eyes and why don’t I feel dizzy? The little ant was getting lost in a wizardly maze. It was the maze of riddles started with Amazon as an opening.
While I was spending each day thinking about this or that, my parents were busy preparing for the trip. My mother was anxious about seeing my father off to Amazon, an unexplored and dangerous place. I was too small and had few clear images on Amazon to understand my mother’s anxiety. Actually I was becoming more curious rather than being worried about that he was going to the other side of Japan.
One day I asked my mother, “How come humans on the Earth can live on the flat world without getting dizzy or being spilled to the universe, although the Earth is round and turning?” Her answer was very simple: “Because we are too small.” I still remember it clearly now. Unexpectedly, her answer convinced me. And it was also somewhat of a relief. I felt as if the Earth told me “You are too small to understand me.” It was like a bottomless affection to me.
A day before my father left for Amazon, a send-off party was organized by employees at the ADA head office. By seeing him coming back home with a headband with a lot of cheering messages, I realized that Amazon is a place where he had to put spirit into it to go. And for the first time, I had anxiety to see him off. Then, the next day, he set out on a trip to Amazon.
Shortly after my father’s departure, my mother, my younger sister and I went to the Togakushi-Jinjya Shrine in Nagano Prefecture. My mother had taken us to the shrine several times but on that particular day we walked up to Okusha, the upper shrine, for the first time. At that time it was still before the repair work and old Shinto gateways and buildings of the shrine were creating unique atmosphere. Walking through the approach lined with large sacred cedar trees was pleasant as if my mind and body were purified. Usually we turned back at the shrine chamber, but it was a special day. “Let’s walk to Okusha to pray for your dad to come home safely”, my mother said. We decided to visit Okusha and started going up the stone steps. Although my younger sister used to get cranky easily in a long walk, she kept climbing up the unbelievably long flight of stairs without any complaint. The old building of Okusha that we finally reached after an hour of walk was standing tranquilly. There were a few people besides us to give prayers sincerely as if they were connecting to something. My mother, my sister and I, too prayed from bottom of our heart for my father’s safe trip home. While my father had gone to the other side of Japan, I spent my days thinking of him much stronger than usual. I was always wondering about him from the most distant world.
On our way to the parking lot, we found a fresh stream. “Wow, beautiful,” my mother was impressed by the clearness of the stream. Three of us were looking at the stream for a while. Natural aquatic plants were shining and the fine beauty of nature that reminded us of my father’s Iwagumi layout was in front of us. It was as if my father was responding to our prayer. In fact, I wanted to think that it probably responded to the prayer of my mother. I was concerned about her, a natural worrier, so much that I even hoped my father to come home safely for more than anyone but her.
A few weeks later, my father came home skinny with a really dark tan. He, however, looked very satisfied. His appearance was already telling us what he had seen and experienced before we heard the stories. He brought us a lot of souvenirs. Missanga (good-luck bracelet), headbands, and bags – their scent was totally new to me. When I brought these things came from the other side of the world to my room, they didn’t go well with any of my belongings and looked as if they didn’t know what to do. My mother cooked his favorite dishes and we celebrated his return home.
Now, 20 years later, my father would come to know it for the first time that a little prayer was offered for him from the other side of the Earth, even it was only for a moment. We, the insignificant being compared with the Earth, are being lost forever in a maze of riddles. However, there is a moment when somebody prays sincerely from bottom of the heart for you. This truth is one of the clues the Earth is giving us at a whim. It’s a feeling I have.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata