- Songs of nature lovers – Mr. Yoshisuke Nagashima –
When my father was a junior high school student, he was a member of the biology club. Although he loved living creatures originally, he was so mischievous boy and nobody could imagine him to quietly belong to the club, the activity of which is area of leaning. The reason why he decided to join the biology club without any hesitation was because Mr. Nagashima was the advisor of the club. At that time, Mr. Nagashima was still in his 20s and he was the most interesting grown-up as far as my father knew. “He is a great lover of living creatures,” my father could tell it by being with Mr.Nagashima. My father thought that Mr. Nagashima’s extraordinary observation skill is derived from his pure curiosity and passion for living creatures. The very desire to see things becomes our true eyes. If we walk into the nature with the eyes, supremely exciting world is waiting for us. Mr. Nagashima taught this lesson to my father. They were like brothers with big age gap. Mr. Nagashima often took my father to collect insects; they went to mountains and rivers together even on weekends riding on Subaru 360, Mr. Nagashima’s beloved car shaped like a beetle. On their way back, Mr. Nagashima always feasted my father on sautéed pork in appreciation for his help. My father was delighted at such western meal that he didn’t have much chance to eat.
My father also likes Mr. Nagashima’s writing. His writing style is soft and attracts readers naturally. While the topics are technical, entrance is wide. The more we read Mr. Nagashima’s texts, the more we discover something universal that interests us. When my father started writing texts, he noticed that he had inherited Mr. Nagashima’s writing style. He showed whichever the article he had written to Mr. Nagashima. After he started serially publishing articles on Aquarium magazines, every month he visited Mr. Nagashima’s house as soon as he had received the copies. Then he stayed for a dinner prepared by Mr. Nagashima’s wife, and the party started. By then, their tradition was turning into “Karaoke with Mr. Nagashima.” from “collecting insects with Mr. Nagashima” during my father’s school days. Every Friday night, there was a phone call from Mr. Nagashima, “lets’ go to Karaoke.” It was fun watching Mr. Nagashima, who used to have a tin ear, was getting better and better at singing. He is like a brother and sometimes like a friend for my father. However, Mr. Nagashima is his teacher, after all. When my father was eighth grader, it was decided that Mr. Nagashima leaves the school. On his last day of the school, Mr. Nagashima told my father “your idea to let fishes and aquatic plants coexist is right. Be confident and keep working on it.” Since those days, Mr. Nagashima kept supporting my father.
Now my father is in his 60s, sautéed pork and Mr. Nagashima’s singings give him just nostalgic feeling. However, what he had discovered following after Mr. Nagashima still exist in him— in his sparkling aquascapes, where fishes are swimming leisurely.
- The road to cycle with iron-hearted coach -Mr. Akio Kawakami-
Tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) is eaten with Soy sauce. It was one of the styles of Mr. Kawakami, who was coaching the cycling club at my father’s high school. Whatever he said was the rule for all. “Soy sauce for Tonkatsu,” once he had said that, nobody ever tried to reach Worcester sauce, which probably majority of Japanese would use to eat Tonkatsu. My father still eats Tonaktsu with soy sauce.
Back in those days, Mr. Kawakami was iron-hearted coach. He also served as a coach for the Japan national team for the Seoul Olympic, and one of the cyclists, who competed in the Olympic Game, was the star cyclist. Of course the practice led by such coach wasn’t easy task. The morning practice of the cycling club usually started at 5 o’clock in the morning. Being led by Mr. Kawakami on the motorcycle, the members had to cycle 100 kilometers straight away. End time was not set and it was usual that they were given a real workout until sunset. The practice was unbelievably intense and tough. There was no second for them to even think about personal limits; they didn’t have any choice but to keep cycling up the hills ahead of them. They had no margin for slight wince. A brief moment of wince could be fatal— they could slide down a hill at one stretch and mess everything up. This is what running a race is about. Mr. Kawakami’s voice sounded just yelling from the outside. But it stimulated their spirit and guts to maintain the will to concentrate in top condition, and it was echoing within my father and other member’s mind.
Although Mr. Kawakami was very strict coach with a fierce look during the training, on days off, he visited the club members one by one and cared about their everyday life. Sometimes he had them over for dinner. He believed that strong athletes are not only trained on the ground but the whole environment surrounding them will affect on race. When a race gets harder and harder, what comes out at the critical moment is the individual character that cannot be developed only by practice. Mr. Kawakami, who had trained star cyclists, knew it very well. Now my father understands it but even back in those days, he felt a big heart behind Mr. Kawakami’s strictness.
During the last year at the high school, my father was wondering whether he should move into the path of bicycle race or should find a job in fisheries, and asked Mr. Kawakami’s advice. Unexpectedly Mr. Kawakami didn’t try to set which path to take, “to find a job related to what you like also makes you happy. You like living creature, don’t you?” In the end, my father had decided to go the bicycle race school to move toward the path as a professional bicycle racer. Mr. Kawakami cheered my father up at all times. When my father had suffered a setback and gone through a hard time, Mr. Kawakami came to comfort him immediately, taking his hand and saying, ”I’m always on your side.” But my father has developed the resilience in him to pick himself together. The guts and energy nurtured by the iron-hearted coach became part of his bone, blood and cell, and made Takashi Amano robust.
The styles of Mr. Kawakami became the ones of my father’s and some show up on strange occasions. Soy sauce for Tonkatsu, my father says so.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata