July 18, 1954. From the morning, there was a feeling that it was going to be an extremely hot day. The buzzing of myriads of cicadas was giving a rhythm to the mellow and damp morning air. Chiyo Amano was in midst of such atmosphere at the beginning of the day. In the past 10 months, a hardworking woman, Chiyo had not taken any break to be on the safe side for the baby, and she went out to do some field labor as always. Her family and friends were worried about the full-term pregnant woman to work in such hot weather, but she seemed to be cool. As anticipated, while she was weeding in rice paddies, she started to have contractions. It was her third birth, therefore she had neither sense of panic nor anxiety. But as she was rushing into a bathroom, she recognized that the baby was about to born. So, she hurried back home. Back in those days, it was very common to do a home birth. 4-year-old Kazuhiro was told by the busy adults to wait outside, so he held his little brothre’s hand and stayed outside of the house. The dust of gravel path, damp air that sticks to their skin, and the noisy cicadas– all these familiar things seemed something he encountered for the first time. Even the voice of adults who were busy preparing for the birth sounded different to usual. The only real thing for him was the sensation of holding the tiny hand of his brother.
It was a baby boy. He was born premature with a poor build. Being told by the midwife “He might not have much lifetime,” the family could only wish for the sound growth of the baby. When the baby had got exhausted and turned pale, Chiyo hold the baby in her arm and ran to the town in a big hurry to see the doctor. Such critical condition had lasted for a while, but fortunately the baby grew up steadily. Although he was a weak baby, he was not treated special. Since he was the third child, his parents were rather relaxed and treated the baby differently to how they did to the first two boys. How he got his name was one of the examples. One day, because it was about the time to domiciliary register of the baby, the boy’s father, Genichi, alone went to the village office. The name of the baby was not decided yet. At the family registration section, he did not hesitate to ask advice to an official, who happened to be an elegant young lady. She confidently wrote off the name on the paper. “How about Takashi? This character is very nice one.” Showing the name in Kanji, Chinese character, she said with a beautiful smile on her face. “Takashi Amano.” The numbers of strokes, how it looked, and the sound seemed all good. Genichi also liked the Kanji, and immediately made up his mind.
Every time Genichi talked about the story behind the name, Takashi, the little Takashi took offense. And he talked back, “My name has the Kanji for Buddhist monk!” Despite his lanky appearance, Takashi grew up into a healthy boy both mentally and physically. Among the three boys in the family, Takashi was especially talkative. When all the family got together at the dining table he talked about this and that with stars in his eyes. Sometimes he explained all sorts of things happened in a day, or sometimes he blew smoke saying that “I can already cycle to Oodori River”, even though he was still too small for simply riding on a bicycle. On such an occasion, Chiyo said that “Here comes a big mouth again!” and everybody laughed at his childlike innocence. Based on various daily scenes, he developed stories freely. Takashi couldn’t help but be happy when people laughed at him or gave compliment. He liked to be with elderly people who payed attention to him, and in fact, he was very popular among them. “Can you bring Takashi along? He is so entertaining.” When his grandmother, Matsu, went on a trip with her friends, they even asked her to bring Takashi along. If he sat straight on the low table and performed a comic chat, kids and elderly people in the neighborhood were amused and gathered.
After he learnt reading and writing, he started producing essays and stories. With the limitless knowledge that he acquired from the books and the encyclopedias, many wonders that had scattered in him like countless dots linked gradually. It was a joy to realize there were more and more unknown things for him and he had the curiosity to find out what they were. Something existed beyond the crossing point between the imaginary world and the real world in front of him. The little Takashi often looked up cloud in the sky. He particularly liked cumulonimbus in the summer sky. Laying on the grass or the roof of the house, he looked up the sky for hours. A man in the neighborhood, who often saw the unique boy said, “the boy will grow up to be something.” Takashi’s brothers were looking at their little brother from distance. They could see that Takashi’s own world was sprouting one by one in him. Even though three of them were raised in the same environment, they found the place to develop their own personality. For little Takashi, clouds in the sky, the countries he traveled on a world map, fishes he saw on picture books were all connected. The more he looked and got to know, the more interesting the world get. A variety of things were born inside him, and they grew bigger and bigger for his small body to hold. They were strong like growing cumulonimbus in the summer sky.
There is always full of life around Takashi. Takashi has been enthralling his audiences with his story on the big stages. There is no sign of lanky little boy except the smile; the big and sturdy man is standing there. His story is very dramatic as if we could hear his mother Chiyo says “here comes a big mouth again.” It is the true life story of Takashi Amano, which is unbelievably extreme and wild, and also funny and moving.
July 18, 2016. There were thin clouds in the blue sky. The myriads of cicadas were shrilling and rice in the paddies swayed in the breeze. “Happy Birthday, Takashi Amano!” The countless messages arrived here from all over the world.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata