Today, my older brother tells you the special stories based on his memories with our father, Takashi Amano.
Track 1: Grasshopper
Whenever I remember the summer vacation when I turned 16, the background music starts. It is a famous folk song Natsuyasumi (Summer Vacation) by a Japanese singer Takuro Yoshida. During that summer, for a few days, I listened to the song over and over until I got fed up with it. Although I don’t particularly like Takuro Yoshida, I can still sing Natusuyasumi from beginning to end. I don’t remember what made me to go there but I went to Sado Island for the first time in years with my father during the summer vacation. Being 16 years old, I was going through a rebellious stage to some extent. Now, I am surprised at myself that I, in that stage, traveled with my father without any protest (um, there must have been some protest). Like always, my father had the definite purpose to go to Sado Island that summer. It was not for shooting or location hunting, but just for catching grasshoppers. Who does travel all the way to Sado Island only to catch grasshoppers? My father did it, because he likes grasshoppers and their song – it is a necessary summer feature to him.
He knows everything about catching grasshoppers: the spots where they live and how to catch them. It takes two days to catch them. Putting a piece of apple or onion in an empty jar, and digging a hole in the sandy beach to set up the traps. And the next day, we catch the grasshoppers that are caught in the traps. For two days we drove from one spot to another. In the car, there were many grasshoppers, my father and I, and the album of Takuro Yoshida. From morning to night, we put the album over and over. When we arrived at the hotel in Ogi-town, we noticed one problem. We had a room to stay in the hotel but there was no place for grasshoppers. If we left them inside the car, they would have died by the next morning because of the heat. We didn’t have any choice but asking a hotel staff. “Is it possible to put the insect cage with grasshoppers in the lobby? Of course they chirp but it makes nice atmosphere” and they kindly agreed. However, they had no idea how many grasshoppers we were traveling with. At that night, the grasshoppers must have given a big chorus show in the hotel lobby. My father and I, the convinced criminals, had no guts to go and see it.
Track 2: A Tuna fishing boat
I had gloomy days. I had a feeling that my world was going to be changed drastically soon. One year, I decided to get on a tuna fishing boat. For some reason, I made a promise to my father to do the mission. Probably it didn’t have to be a tuna fishing boat, but it was meant to be a tuna fishing boat. One of my father’s old friends was working at fishermen’s cooperative in Tottori prefecture, and he just came up with an idea to put me on a tuna fishing boat by using the connection. Although it was a scary scenario for me, after thinking it over, I made up my mind. I did take the decision, but I thought everyday, “I had better change my mind.” I wanted to be someone other than myself. After all, it was a half-hearted decision.
While my mind was not ready for it, the day had come. Being seen off by my mother with a concerned look, we started the 10 hours travel from Niigata to Tottori. At the night we arrived at Sakai port, saying, “it is the Last Supper,” we had a feast. At a wharf where we were having the dinner, we could see the beautiful night view, and it helped me to weaken a sense of reality. I kept wondering what kind of rough world I was entering into from tomorrow. But at the same time, I thought that I had come this far, there was no turning back. Then the day began. We were greeted by a person of the fishermen’s cooperative. “First of all, please watch this video,” the man told us, “Most of the people decided to give up after watching this. Well, you can check how much you are prepared.” It was an image of unimaginably rough sailing of the fishing boat. To be or not to be, that is question, —it was exactly as Shakespeare put it. Even before we finished watching the video, my father by my side asked me in whispers “hey, should we give up?” “Yes,” I answered to him without any hesitation. The world of tuna fishing boat unusually freaked Takashi Amano out. On our way home, there were few words between us. For the first time, I ran away with my father.
Track 3: The photographs after 12 years
There is a scene I still can’t forget. It is my father in a flashy red and blue wetsuits with holding an underwater camera in a middle of rice paddies. I was 18 years old at that time. On a weekend, my father asked me to help his photo shooting, and we went to a country town in Tochigi prefecture. The fresh stream in the town is his favorite spot because of its beauty with luxuriant natural aquatic plants. We were in such a remote area that we could see only few people on the streets and I considered myself to be lucky because I was with a strange man wearing flashy wetsuits who didn’t fit in a beautiful rural landscape at all. As always, my father didn’t care what other people thought about him. Only important thing was his spirit. Anyway, I was the only person around us who laughed at the strange man. Unlike me, he was pretty serious. He started taking photographs of aquatic plants by underwater camera with holding on to weed on the bank to steady him against the flow. Few farmers appeared and looked at my father with a disbelieving look. We had a boxed lunch from the only corner store accessible by a few minutes drive. I ate it on the bridge with the strange man in the wetsuits.
At that time, I was not interested in what kind of photographs my father was taking in the hilarious outfit. 12 years has passed since then, I thought that I wanted to see the photographs he was taking in my memory. Those photographs didn’t make me laugh at all. They are showing beautiful sceneries of natural world that we can encounter only under the water.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata