3. The memory of the homeroom teacher – Mr. Tsutomu Maruyama –
”What did you do during the vacation?” Mr. Maruyama, my father’s homeroom teacher, asked everybody in the class first thing after the summer vacation. My father started the new school term with a special memory and when his turn came, he cheerfully described what he had done. “I cycled to Expo ’70 in Osaka, and saw the moon rock.” With his eyes wide open, Mr. Maruyama said, ”I would like to hear more about Amano’s experience. Can you talk about your adventure in the next class?” So, my father happened to talk about his trip to Osaka in front of his classmate for an hour.
Mr. Maruyama, who was in charge of my father’s class for three years at high school, was a little bit—in fact, very unique teacher. His education style was not those of textbook example. My father also didn’t like to study along with textbooks and preferred to read the books he liked. He was far from a model student. The young man, who loved living creatures, acquired the knowledge of biology through practice and self-education.
At one of the regular examinations, my father was sitting for the exam made by Mr. Maruyama, and it required some creative thinking as always. There were four questions on the examination paper, and students were supposed to choose one of them and write a detailed description. Among them, my father found a question about “plankton”, and thought “yes!” At that time, my father already devoted himself to keep tropical fish and studied about hatching of brine shrimp. Brine shrimp, which is necessary for aqua farming industry, is feed for young fish. Using both side of the paper, my father wrote about the characteristics of brine shrimp and their hatching in detail. Needless to say, his answer caught Mr. Maruyama’s attention. Being moved by it, Mr. Maruyama asked my father to write his answer on the chalkboard in front of the class.
Mr. Maruyama was not an ordinary teacher, but especially because of that, he accepted my father’s unique style and characters and nurtured him without reducing him to stereotype. Later my father came to know that Mr. Maruyama had volunteered to become my father’s homeroom teacher and taken care of him for three whole years. Three years is long enough to have a chance to get a glimpse of each other’s true personality. Mr. Maruyama discovered that my father was doing a part-time job during the school suspension. The reason for it was because he wanted to have a hill myna. Having heard the reason, Mr. Maruyama made my father’s violation of school rules secret to the school without condemning him. When my father found it, he felt the trustworthy relationship between Mr. Maruyama and him as a person, but not as a teacher and a student.
Each person has own way of life and personality. It is fortunate to have someone who keeps reminding you, “Believe in yourself.” The reason why my father can be himself is because there is somebody who warmly watches over him, just like Mr. Maruyama did.
4. The mentor for aquatic plants – Mr. Mitsuo Yamasaki –
My father says, ”Mr. Yamasaki is like a God of aquatic plants.” Back in those days, my father didn’t have enough knowledge of aquatic plants, but he tried out many ways to make original style of planted aquarium with experiencing repeated failures. Seeking for ideal planted aquarium, he taught himself by reading literatures and books. But still, the more he practiced, the more questions piled up in front of him. “I wish I could ask somebody for advice,” and he called up the respected teacher, Mr. Mitsuo Yamasaki. On the phone, he answered to my father’s questions kindly and precisely. Having heard his sound advice, my father felt as if the scales had fallen from his eyes. He called up Mr. Yamasaki whenever he had come across questions on aquatic plants. Relying on Mr. Yamasaki’s frank personality, my father often put questions to him. No matter how busy he was, Mr. Yamasaki talked in the same manner. In a relaxing tone he shared his knowledge to my father very politely. It seemed as if Mr. Yamasaki knew everything.
When my father met Mr. Yamasaki for the first time, he was still a professional cyclist. After participating the race in Kyoto, he finally visited long-sought “Yamasaki Suisen”, the aquatic plants garden established by Mr. Yamasaki. He welcomed my father with a big smile, and showed around the garden. What made my father surprise more than anything was Cryptocoryne Affinis, which is said to be most difficult to grow, clustered together lively. To see my father’s reaction, Mr. Yamasaki, who is usually modest and humble, took pride in the plants saying, “they look incredible, don’t they?” with his eyes sparkling.
Mr. Yamasaki has not only a wide knowledge but also a talent for writing. His serialization on Aqua Journal, “Mizukusa Kobanashi (Anecdotes of Aquatic Plants)” is excellent series that we can see his deep perspective of the world. I am one of the keen readers. When I started my serialization, “Green Tunnel”, Mr. Yamasaki was the first person to send me an impression. Although Mr. Yamasaki and my father have known each other over several decades, it was only last year when I met him for the first time. I started communicating with him because of Aqua Journal and, being linked by the luck that I was living in Kyoto at that time, we decided to have a meal together. Four of us, Mr. Yamasaki, his wife, my sister and I, met at Sijyo-Kawaramachi. Mr. and Mrs. Yamasaki invited us for tasty Kyoto-style cuisine at the restaurant that Mrs. Yamasaki had made a reservation. Mr. Yamasaki, who I finally met, was a charming person (I hope my description is not rude) as I had imagined. He gave interest to every small topic and enjoyed chatting. I was glad to see him talking about the episodes of my father with smiling face.
This time, to write essay about Mr. Yamasaki, I asked my father about reminiscences of him. “Even though I had come across series of failure, the reason why I didn’t give up was thanks to Mr. Yamasaki,” my father said it over and over. Next time I have a chance to see Mr. Yamasaki, I would like to sincerely tell him each word I have heard from my father.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata