My father was good at writing since he was a child. However, it doesn’t mean that he particularly liked to write texts. As a child, he didn’t feel proud of being a good writer; rather he felt a bit of confusion about the reason why his essays received praise from various people. He simply followed his heart and put whatever came to his mind into writings, and it was the adults who were delighted to read them.
Although my father was one of the students who gave people a lot of trouble at school, he had a gift for writing an essay and fine arts. Perhaps there was a warning from the teacher, one day, his mother, who rarely interfered with him, asked my father whether he had a homework or not. As anticipated, my father spent his time only for playing and didn’t even start working on his homework. Moreover, he said that he didn’t plan to do—he thought he’d rather getting in trouble than doing homework. Thus, he was taken to the kitchen and being yelled at by his mother. The homework was writing an essay. His mother told him, “Do the homework here and right now!” “What should I write about?” my father answered back. “Didn’t you have some special memories to write about?” “Well, about Mari.” “Then, you write about it.” So, unwillingly he picked up the pencil and started writing an essay. His mother decided to stay with him until he finished his homework and kept an eye on him. My father pulled out the memory of Mari that he kept in his heart for the assignment. Since Mari passed away, he had hesitated to touch that memory. Mari was a dog he had before and he treated her very kindly. It was a Spitz with white fur and was a very clever dog. He wrote about his memory of Mari and the grief he faced afterward. In the end of the essay, he described one particular scene he saw after Mari’s cremation. When my father was walking on the rice paddy path to home with his grandfather, he glanced back and saw white smoke rising straight into the sky. Quietly, he observed it. The very moment existed only for him, and he kept it carefully in his heart. However, to write about Mari he pulled out the scene and put it into words, because he simply felt that the scene was something very precious for him. The essay he submitted the next day moved the teacher more than expected, and it even became a topic of conversation among teachers. In the end, the essay won the highest award at the essay contest in the district. The news made his mother surprised. The deciding factor for award was the description of the last scene. He didn’t compose it with special intension but described it naturally, and that’s why it touched people’s heart. For the young boy, it became a significant experience.
My father also wrote stories voluntarily. His grandfather, who lived together, liked the stories my father wrote. Writing off short stories, he brought it over to his grandfather and received pocket money. To him, it was about making pocket money but not being dutiful grandson. Whenever he came up with a story, he put them into writing with stretching his imagination. The other day, for the first time, I had a chance to read one of his stories. The manuscript written by my father when he was a young boy were bound neatly with strings and kept in his desk drawer. On the manuscript paper, which turned brown across the ages, I saw big letters almost sticking out of the each block of manuscript paper. They were firm handwriting done by pencil. “The Tears of Evil.” To see the title, my mother and I burst into laughter. It was a story of stray samurai and farmers set in the Bunroku period (between end of 1592 and October 1596) that seems almost impossible for a kid to imagine. But when I read it further, I noticed it was the pure imagination of a young boy that made the story attractive. First I thought it has a lack of consistency but it actually has a proper structure and concluded with the message of human love. While I was reading the essay, I felt as if the young boy were running across the manuscript paper at full speed. I thought that he might have written it in one go. Neat handwriting can be seen only on the first page; his handwriting gets increasingly messy and errors and omission appears more on the rest of the pages. But the messier the handwriting becomes, the more powerful the story gets, and I couldn’t help but to be drawn to the story. I don’t know the reason why only the manuscript of “the Tears of Evil” remained among the many essays he had written, but probably it was because his grandfather’s most favorite one. Did he make a story of Bunroku period deliberately because his grandfather liked historical novel? We just imagine what my father thought when he wrote the story.
“You have to consider the reader,” my father told me over and over when I was writing an essay for Green Tunnel. Since writing was another profession of my father, he had written essays on various topics, but his writing always had something to make the readers feel comfortable. What he always kept in his mind to write texts were suggestiveness, rhythm, familiarity and the power to capture reader’s heart. It was also important for him to choose the words natural to him. All those texts from his childhood are the origin. We tend to start making our own expression based on individual experiences as we become adult. However, he preferred to describe something universal. His writing has a comfortable way of making balance and a thoughtful consideration to leave moderate space for readers. Giving yourself to your own world and having a neutral point of view. Probably both of them are important for the essays of grown-ups. However I also love the boy’s essay that only the young boy can write— free, pure and lovable essays, as if the boy is running barefoot on the manuscript paper. There is a joy for readers to imagine about the author. Even if we can’t actually meet the author, we can see them on the text. I can see my father, the boy, this person and that person. Perhaps, writing an essay is about conveying a message of “human love” after all. I feel as if I can see the proud smile of my father with the heart of young boy.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata