CONCERTS ON 2015

Concerts on 2015:

  • 6th March-St.Bride’s church in Fleet street in London.
  • 25th March-St.Luke’s church in Sevenoaks in Kent.
  • 7th April-Southwark cathedral in central London.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Yu-Fen Lin(piano).
  • 15th May-All Saints’ church in Marlow(as part of the Wycombe arts festival.) in Buckinghamshire.
  • 9th June: From 13:05.-Wesley’s chapel in central London.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Maria Milanova(piano).
  • 23rd June:From 13:30.-Chapel at the Royal Marsden hospital in South Kensington in London.
  • 27th June:from 12:00.-St.Mary’s church in Slough in Berkshire.
  • 27th July:from 13:05.-St.Martin-within-Ludgate church in London.
  • 30th July:from 13:00.-Emmanuel church in Cambridge.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Yu-Fen Lin(piano)
  • 2015- 8th September-From 15:15. Southwark cathedral in London.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Gemma Kateb(piano).
  • 22nd October-From 13:05. St.Mary-le-Bow church in London.Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano)
  • 11th November:From 13:00-All Saints’ church in Herford in Hertfodshire.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Gemma Kateb(piano).
  • 18th November-From 13:30.  Chapel at the Royal Marsden hospital in London.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano)

CONCERTS ON 2016

Concerts on 2016:

  • 9th January-From 12:00. St.Mary’s church in Slough in Berkshire. Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Alessandro Viale(piano).
  • 25th February-From 12:45. St .Mary’s church in Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.
  • 26th February-From 12:30. St.George’s church in Beckenham in Kent.
  • 11th March-From 12:30. Unitarian church in Brighton in east Sussex.
  • 14th March-From 12:40. Christ church in Woking in Surrey.
  • 16th March-From 13:00. Lion Walk United Reformed church in Colchester in Essex. Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano).
  • 18th March-From 13:15. St.Bride’s church in London.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano).
  • 7th April:From 13:00-Emmanuel church in Cambridge.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Gemma Kateb(piano)
  • 18th May,2016-From 13:05. St.Botolph without Aldgate church in London.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Gemma Kateb(piano).
  • 26th May,2016-From 13:00. United Reformed church in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano).
  • 1st June-From 12:30. St.Luke’s church in Sevenoaks in Kent. Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Alessandro Viale(piano)
  • 3rd June-From 13:00. St.John’s church in Waterloo in London. Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Alessandro Viale(piano)
  • 11th June-From 13:00.  St.Leonard’s church in Seaford in Kent. Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano)
  • 12th July-From 13:00.  St.Mary’s church in Watford in Hertfordshire.   Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Maria Milanova(piano).
  • 21st July,2016-From 13:00. St.George’s church in Borough in London.Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano)
  • 28th July,2016-From 12:45. Wesley Memorial church in Oxford.  Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano).
  • 10th November,2016-From 13:00.   United Reformed church in Maldon in Essex.   Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Petra Hajduchova(piano).
  • 24th November,2016-From 12:30. St.John’s church in Harrow in north London.   Fumi Otsuki(violin) and Alessandro Viale(piano).

THE JAPANESE RUSTIC LIFE IN 1950S . 5

The nature, culture and living in a small village in Japan just after the last world war, reflected through the boy’s eyes.

Chapter 5 The sports festival at the primary school in rural area (1953)

Written by Y. Otsuki (Sendai, Japan)

Translated by Y.Otsuki (London)

 

 

“TEAM WORK in sports”: The most popular activity at the sports festival was the running race against different neighbourhoods, run by someone from each neighbourhoods and generations. The representatives from the village, that consisted of the valleys, hills, rice fields and forests, came from every generation, from teenagers to those, who were over 50 years old, a participant every 10years. The boy’s neighbourhood attended as well, but he was never elected for it as he was an outsider and well-known for not able to run fast. Supporters sat down to watch the race, and excited to see it. One of the favorite proverbs for the Japanese people is “Harmony is the greatest virtue“. It means that in Japan, as in other collective countries, individuals usually believe in plans and ideas agreed upon by a majority rather than their personal ones, even if they think they are better than the group’s. It also means that the majority tends to relentlessly persecute or ignore the dissentients or individual that is somehow different. The boy’s father was certainly from the village, but his mother came far from a city near Osaka, and the family came from Sendai (30miles north of the village), one of few big cities in northern Japan during the war, and that meant they had many different habits and quirks compared to the people in the village. As a result, they experienced the discriminations, even though they lived in the area, where the father side of the family was from. For the discrimination to have less severe, mother had to learn the dialect of the village and children had to wear the traditional clothes, kimonos, worn by the village people, not western clothes. Therefore, at the sports festival, the loud support by the village people, who excluded his family like this, was scary for him as if the crowd was trying to persecute him.

A typical example about Japanese people, who are easy to unite; marathon/running race is one of the most favorite sports to do and watch on TV or goes there. More than that, they are happy to watch a long distance road relay, called “Ekiden” on TV, or goes there to support them. In Ekiden, runners in each team run while carrying the cloth loop, like a baton in short distance relay race. Supporters watch the runners around the relay points carefully as well as being excited to see the winning and losing of the teams. Some runners show better performances than his past records for sake of his team’s victory. In unhappy cases, the runner would fall in ill, such as muscle spasm, because of the cold weather, dehydration, because of hot weather. But in Ekiden the responsibility of delivering the cloth loop to next runner makes his decision difficult, and he has to struggle with preceding steps. In worst case, he repeats fall/stand and fall/stand, and or claw, and this kind of behaviours will become the some great recollections for the supporters for a long time. This means that we are impressed by and enjoyed to see the strength and dedication for his responsibility as a team. Do you think whether such a behaviour of the supporters as sadistic?

 

GEOPOLYTIC Consideration of Team Play: Individuals to harmonise and unite into a team with strong responsibility, but sacrifice individual expressions. This is what the Japanese are impressed most. Such a disposition for them might be attributed to its geographic characters, according to some historians. That is, countries in east Asia/Oriental countries, including Japan, have been faced threats from China, such as invasions, colonisations and rebels as Korea and Vietnam were both colonised by China for a long time while Japan was attacked by allied forces of China and Korea twice in 12th century. These on 12th century were surpassed against Japan on its military power, but fortunately failed as typhoon came at the middle of these occasions. These made national superstition, that whenever Japan was under the great crisis/attack, “the god of weather” or “Kamikaze” in Japanese would come to save it. Besides, some historians maintain an opinion that Japan had a threat of invasion by China thousands of years ago, such as 1st or 2nd century. Japan as divided into small countries, governed by small tribes, having a territorial battle for each other at that time, which was somehow similar to an example, such as Italy. In the late 2nd century, once the certain information of the Chinese threat was brought to them, the tribes stopped fighting to prepare for it, and resulted to national unification. This opinion hasn’t been a common view yet, but can explain character of Japanese excellently, who easily make groups together and avoid conflicts.

 

BREADS in Japan: In the bread-biting race, we usually use the type of the bread, called “Anpan”, which is a round-shaped sweet bread, that contains the Azuki bean paste in the middle. It is one of the most popular breads in Japan. (“Pan” is the Japanese name for the breads, taken from “pao” in Portuguese.”) The breads were introduced by the Portuguese in 16th century, though it hasn’t become popular, and were only available for high ranking shogun warlords and their families.  Since the end of 19th century, breads became more and more popular gradually, and now breads are eaten more often than ever before while rice is eaten far less. They do sell similar breads as in west, especially showing the admiration for the French breads, as well as their original ones, and the “Anpan” is one of these, invented by a baker in Tokyo in 1874. The Azuki beans has been eaten as the most popular Japanese sweets for thousands of years, in a soup or a paste for the rice cake (“Mochi”) on mainly for important celebrations. (Similar beans do exist in Korea as well, but is salty, and slightly strange for the Japanese.) There are many filling for the breads, such as curry, fried noodles, Korean Kimchi. Recently, a French bakery, “Gontran Cherrier” opened its new branch in Sendai. They sell new type of bread that contains a grilled ox tongue, which is the specialty of Sendai, and is very interesting that the French shop also showed the interest in the Japanese way of the fusion cooking.

 

The boy is running fast, and his heart feels like it is going to pop out of his chest. But he run and run.           Fast!  Fast! Fast!

Coming up to the corner, his upper body is pulled away and he tilts his body, his field of view tilting as well, almost making him fall down. But he run and run.                                 Fast! Fast! Faster!

He suddenly notices the sound of footsteps, made by the other competitors behind him. He tries to put his legs forward as far and as fast as he can, but he does not feel that he moves forward even a bit as if a rope is pulling him back. But he run and run.

Fast!  Faster! Faster!

The goal tape comes into his sight as he comes around the corner. The other competitor’s footsteps gain the volume gradually. His legs cannot move as fast as he wants them to. But he run and run.

Faster! Faster!  Faster!

Just a little more running to the goal. The other competitors draw closer and closer, and he can hear their breathing down his neck. But he run and run.                                    Faster! Faster! Fastest!

He can almost feel himself touching the goal tape. The other competitors are rushing behind him, just inches away. But he run and run.

Faster! Fastest! Fastest!

One more step to the goal. He can see seams on the tape just in front of him.  Over his head, the sky view is turning around and around and spectator’s loud cheer whirls. He almost falls down. But he run and run.

Fastest! Fastest! Fastest!

“Oh, I did it!” Cutting the goal tape, the feeling is fantastic. I won!

Win! Win! Winner!

 

I won. However, did winning need to cause so much stress? For him, it was the first time for all these, to won at the sport festival, to run as fast as he possibly could, to feel stressful at the sports festival and to have a strong desire for not to lose.

 

That day, his primary school was having the annual sports festival under the autumnal clear sky. He won at the “loach carrying running race”, which was one of the activities and among the hardest one with the tricky obstacle, based on 200m (about 183 yards) running race.

That is, runners had to run while carrying a loach, which was taken from water in the buckets, placed at the middle of the course. Of course, if you dropped it you had to grab it again and run again to the goal. Several boys in the same class did this race. At that time, there was only one class for each year in this school.

“Loach” is a rod-shaped freshwater fish and its length is about 5 inches. This fish has a skin so slim that it is very difficult to grab and keep it with bare hands. Thus, carrying it while running, means extra fun for people to watch, especially seeing how runners struggle, trying to catch the fish and hold it while running.
As you might know, eel has similar physical characteristics as the loach, so it can also be used for this kind of race. But their population in rivers is much smaller than the loach, which means it is more difficult to collect the eels for this purpose. The eel is also much more expensive than loach, and people prefer to sell them to fish markets/restaurants, instead of the use for the school race. Moreover, eel is a lot much slimy and powerful than loach, which makes it almost impossible to grab and run while holding it.

By the way, there are small populations of people who take part in religious activities regularly in Japan, but almost all of us have an unconscious belief, a mixture of imported and indigenous religions, such as Buddhism from India via China and Shinto, indigenous belief. According to the Buddhism, we are forbidden to kill any living creatures. Christianity also forbids killing, in the Old Testament, which should mean killing humans only. On the other hand, it does concern all the fauna. Though I am not sure about the reason for this, because I am not an earnest Buddhist, it might state that every living creature has a mind and spirit. Meanwhile, Shinto teaches that every living thing, including plants, has spirit. Consequently, the Japanese, who believed in all of these belief said that you couldn’t eat any flora or fauna, and mustn’t take their lives. Then we introduced some compromises. For example, we had been officially, or rather religiously, forbidden to eat meats of domestic animals until about 100 years ago, but were allowed to eat fish, whale and vegetables. And we had to pray to the creatures for apology for killing them and appreciation for providing their lives for the meals.

We have various festivals, probably one every day somewhere in the country, and some of them originated from ceremonies of apology to killing plants and animals. Therefore playing with creature is worse than killing it. “Catch and release” method, popular in fishing for pleasure in western culture doesn’t suit our culture. That is, we think of “catch and release” method as one of more cruel activities towards animals, or more would “eat whenever catch” with praying.

In this sports festival, grabbing the loach means causing it more suffering, which is thought to be relieved by eating it, accompanied by praying. I would be happy, if you could understand the cultural differences between Japan and the West.

 

The boy had been the last one in any of the races since he entered the primary school. The main reasons for this were his inferior physical abilities, because of being the youngest and smallest of his class, and more importantly, stepping back at the sound of pistol signalling the start, by his fear of loud sounds. Of course, he worried about his slow running, and practised to find a way to run faster, by among others, imitating a boy who was able to run fast, but he wasn’t able to progress a lot. But this time, unlike all the others, he won the loach carrying race. He thought about the reason of his winning, as he always, due to his self-critical nature, reflected everything he did. The main reason for his good success was his skill of catching the fish. That is, while others were struggling with the fish in the bucket, he caught it instantly and could run right away. He could keep this advantage of not wasting time at the beginning until he reached the goal. And he was able to run while carrying the fish in only one hand without any problem when the others had to keep it with both hands while running, because of their poor skills in fish handling, which stopped them from running very fast.

Although he fully appreciated the great feeling of winning, it didn’t give him any confidence for the running races, and he had to accept that in all his time at primary school, with one exception, his second prize in “bread biting race”, he was going to be last.

The bread biting race is similar to the loach carrying one, a short distance race with an extra obstacle. That is, there is a gate within the breads hanging by threads from the bar at the middle of the course, instead of the loaches, and competitors jump up to the hanging breads and have to bite one without using their hands, and then run to the goal. As the breads are shook aimlessly by the winds and foreman is swaying the supporting bar, the participants cannot bite them easily, and their progress makes people laugh.

The boy was able to open his mouth while trying to see how the bread moved and was able to catch the bread much easier than others, and because of him not wasting time, he won the 2nd prize.

There is another one, called “candy biting race”, which is similar. There are candies scattered in white flour on the table in the middle of the course.

The competitors have to catch candies again without using hands. This is difficult beyond people’s expectations as they cannot use their eyes to search for the candies, and no one have ever practised for it. Thus catching any candy is completely accidental, not related to runner’s physical fitness or skill. Spectators/supporters enjoyed chatting with each other about their expectations and results of winners as they are incapable of anticipating results for this race. If a slow runner happens to catch a candy first, he is chased by other fast runners. He runs towards the goal as fast as he can, but the distance between him and others is rapidly shortened. Can he get away or will other get ahead of him? Supporters are watching in excitement. The race is a kind of handy-race with chance, instead of harming individuals by evaluating physical fitness. Furthermore, the runners search for the candies by stirring flour with their faces. This results in them having funny faces covered in flour, which brings another laugh from the supporters. This laughing is caused by known reputations of individuals, according to their power, personality, status, poverty or wealth, are turned temporally over by the flour. For example, rich mayor of the village ends up the last with a white face and it makes all the supporters laugh. That’s why this candy race is only suitable for adults. There is the comedy effect that removes to show the responsibilities of the works of the adults, in candy-biting race. That’s why it is funny when it has done by adult.

The sports festivals were/are held at primary schools, secondary schools and high schools all over the country once or twice a year, just like the school entertainment festival, presented in “The Japanese rustic life in 1950s, No.2”. At his primary school, the sport festivals were held in spring and autumn every year, and these were one of the highlights of the social events at the village. Almost everyone in the village went there with their lunch, and enjoyed to see the activities, performed by children, such as running race, dancing, the acts of imitating the cavalry battles, ball-toss games, tug-of-war etc., as well as games for adults, including the running race against the  different neighbourhoods, folk dance and so on. One of most liked and exciting activities was the running race against the different neighbourhoods. As the boy was an outsider in the village, he couldn’t understand why they were so excited. At the lunchtime, all the children enjoyed eating with their family, talking about the most enjoyable moments of the morning part of the festival. However, none of his family was there, his mother was a teacher, his father worked far away and his sisters were much older than him, so he had to eat a cold lunch alone. So, he disliked the sports festival.
The End

THE JAPANESE RUSTIC LIFE IN 1950S .4

The nature, culture and living in a small village in Japan just after the last world war, reflected through the boy’s eyes.

Chapter 4 Introductorly Scientific Activities

(The way to get ride of boring life)

Written by Y. Otsuki(Sendai, Japan)

Translated by Y.Otsuki(London)

 

In the previous chapter,” The Japanese Rustic life in 1950s. 3 Opening Bus Sevice” , the home page part was mostly shared by describing the features of local and nationwide society, then I would like to describe mainly the way how I was growing up in this chapter.

What is your first memory in your life?: What is your first memory of your life? As the life is shaped by the series of memories obtained daily, the start of series is worthy to be paid respect. My first memory definitely symbolises the series of my sad life. I was crying on the wooden floor at 2-3 years old. Through the floor, I could see a medicine box, in which there was some drug, striking some terror into my heart. I can recall further clear scene concerning this memory, but unclear about exact age and the situation around me at that time. And I have never talked about it with my family as it was too hard to ask them for some reason.

This kind of dark memory as written by author  is simply a “boring progression” to put it bluntly. I can certainly recall certain events. Examples:

 

  1. Curry rice trouble – We had a curry rice for dinner, which was one of the great dishes at the time, when I was 4 or 5 years old. Once we ate just a bit, and rushed for water as it was too salty. It seemed that my mother mistook the amount of salt to add, and then she had never attempted to cook it again. Still now I have to make up my mind when I eat a curry rice.

(During correcting the English in this essay, the corrector pointed out that readers never perceive the content of this topics, and I almost delete it. Soon after I got telephone call from him, and said that he ate too salty meal at Chinese restraurant in London and realised deeply what I meant. So I thought there might be many people having similar experience and feeling simpathy to me, and I would like not to eliminate this topics.)

 

  1. D.J.game – At similar time as above, my sister and I used to enjoy this game, taught by our father. That is, you make a small hole on a vinyl record (SP record). The hole’s position is offset from the centre of the record. (Of course, there is the hole, already in the centre.) Set the off centre on the axis of the turntable on the record player and start. Naturally, the sound changes a lot from the original one, depending on the position of where an alternative hole is made. I was engrossed in this “D.J.game”, but not long after, I had to give up this game as it meant many of the vinyls became unusuable. There were endless memories like this, that I could write.

 

By doing nothing we learn to do ill.: But these memories of little fun in various forms were like small islands, that were floating in the sea, called “boredom”, that I felt all the times. Until I was 5 years old, my family lived in an area, that was about 2 miles from the village centre, which has a primary school, that was accessed by going up the mountainous path. My mother used to peddle around from one rural area to another one while carrying me on her back. After she became a primary school teacher, my sister carried me to her primary school. It was a common among the poor familes that elder siblings took their younger ones to look after them while older ones study there. Even now, some example occurs in less developed countries in Asia and Africa.

I was very bored of school life as I couldn’t naturally follow the class, and I learned that the school is the place to idly while away the time. Then It took a long time until I realised that the school was a place to study, and started paying more attention to study when I got to the graduate school of the university.

My family moved from the area, that I mentioned before to the area ner the school 2 years before going to the primary school, which was why I didn’t have friends before entering the school. My sister was 5 years older than me (5 years was a big difference for a child.), and was a model student, winning prizes every term, and it meant that she didn’t have much time to play with me. After entering school I made some friends, but was still lonely, and others were mostly children of the farmers, and they had to work at the farm after the school. They practised skills necessary for farming through that work, and then became farmers. On the other hand, my mother supported our family as a teacher and there was no field to work on, and there was no other work to do for me.

 

There are famous Chinese proverbs came from “Daigaku”, one of valuable humane learnings in China as:

“Ordinary mortals, having nothing to do, will do evil.”

“Idleness is the mother of all evil.”

“Idle hands are the devil’s playthings.”

It seems to be made by politicians, who aimed to force people to work to work (ot work very hard). But there are Japanese people, mainly older ones, who are still influenced by these proverbs, and can’t enjoy the relaxing holidays, and always rush to buy souvenirs.

 

In northern Japan, there are many people, who are suffering from haemorrhoids, of which the morbidity rate is the worst within Japan. The sickness is said to be caused by stagnation of blood flow in the gastric origin, and in some cases, putting strain into buttocks for a long time is thought to be one of the cause for this sickness. Many people in this area thinks that it is time consuming to stay in the toilet for a long time, so they read a book there as well, and it means that the toilet becomes a small library. Therefore, some people in this region seem to stay in the toilet for a long time, sometimes several minutes. That is, the origin of morbidity ratio of this sickness can be attributed to the serious character of this region’s people, who used to be unable to live without hard work as a harsh climate there means poorer agricultural products.

My mother had always been talling me Chinese proverbs to me as many typical ordinary people did, so that I feared the feeling of bordom and tried to get rid of it. Fishing as I mentioned in “Japanese rural life 1” in youtube was one of them, and the others, such as mountain vegetables/mushroom picking, adventures in the mountain, swimming in summer, sleighing in winter, helping the farmers, climbing the persimmon tree and spending half the day digging the hole in the ground etc. Although I read many children’s novels almost every day, but had never done the homework properly. My mother forced me to study with a self-study book named “DRILL”, bought at the beginning of each term, and that always pressured me to study from ”DRILL” books, but I didn’t once open them.  Then I became unpleasant to this word.  It was really ironic that I became a professional for the “drill” material at the university.

 

To get ride of boring. : Doing science was also one of the ways to stave off the boredom, which always stuck in my mind. During catching fish in the river, my mind was caught by the question, such as “Why does the river flow in the river?”, then making a small dam seemed me to provide some solution, but failed. Another question came to my mind when looking at the sky from the persimmon tree., “Why are there stars of different sizes?, Why don’t  they drop down?”, but it was impossible to find answers due to the lack of the availability of the astronomical knowledge.

During a walk in the forest, a question arose, “Why do snakes have no legs?” Performing an operation on them, the answer was never obtained. With every question, I managed to find answers via hypotheses and experimentation, despite limited knowledge. But during the dinner with my mother and sister, a question happened to arise, “Why am I here with them?”. It was impossible to make any hypothesis with thinking for several days.

The episodes, described in youtube are a little bit normal ones among my experiments. (The other examples will be described in other chapters.)   Many primitive considerations and experiments were not based on correct scientific knowledges/practises, so that they only resulted in starving off the boredom. Consequently, such half hearted study meant that I didn’t employ the correct scientific methods, instead with methods, different to correct one. The reason why I worked more than 12 hours every day at both university and office wasn’t because I loved my job, but was simply to pass the time. (Maybe you are being too reserved or too humble to say like this?)

 

Confucius, famous chinese philosopher (BC552-449), said, “I aspired after study when I was 15. I became independent at 30. I threw away my hesitation at 40. I understood my duty of life at 50. I became able to listen to other people’s words without prejudice at 60. I became able not to be contrary to morals even though I follow my desire, at 70.

The auther is now younger than 70 years old and not saint, but cannot find any reason to do wrong. Still I do not feel at easy without do something.

 

4‐1 Electricity Generation

The boy had been thinking about how to generate electricity for several weeks. There was no library in his primary school nor in his village. Asking the teacher was probably the best way to get an answer, but the boy was too shy to do so. Asking his mother would mean that he’d get told off. He knew that if he asked his sister, she would tell him the wrong answer. In the boy’s class at the primary school, he was daydreaming about electricity generation, without listening to the teacher, as usual. He couldn’t think of how water could generate electricity.  He thought that the electricity and fire were closely related as both were operated in high temperature, but the water, which could extinguish the fire, didn’t seem to be related to the electricity in his imagination.
Once upon a time, he was able to see the bright spot on a stone in the stream while washing dishes on the well behind the home after the dinner. He happened to get an idea, and talked himself, “Oh, this is amazing. It might be some kind of the operation of the electricity.” This bright spot seemed to be a spark, according to his imagination. The water can make sparks, which will start to operate the electricity, which might be similar to  this method; To hit the stone by hammer many times will cause the sparks. This kind of idea was not unreasonble for him as the eletricity operation in his area were only for lights for each home at that time, and this was the main cause of his imagination for the electric operation. Besides he had already thought the difficulty of starting the sparks into the electricity in electric conductive water when he imagined like this.

Nevertheless he wanted to talk to his mother as she was in the peaceful mood, which happened rarely, and said, “Look, can you see the electric operation here, Mum?”, and then he got a rather cold reply as “Yes.” from her. However he was satisfied with this response as he expected it as it was better than being told off.

 

 

4‐2  Badminton

There were no equipments for sports at the primary school in the village at that time. Somehow, his family had a set of the racket and shuttle cock for playing the badminton. One day, his sister was cheerful enough to him teach how to play it, but she gave up teaching when she realised that he couldn’t learn to hit the shuttle on the racket easily.

Therefore, he decided to learn by himself, and started to try to hit the shuttle many times, but he couldn’t improve, or progress easily. He thought the reasons for not able to do it deeply. By looking at the patterns of the way how the shuttle hit, he realised that he didn’t watch the shuttle when it hits as his head turned towards the ground in order to hit it strongly. Then he tried to stare the shuttle all the time. As he still couldn’t hit after doing this new way, he tried to find other reasons/problems very hard.

The shuttle was tossed, and it went up to the air and then fell slowly down. On the way down, his shuttle can be hit by a racket swung over his head. Generally, the process can easily be done by an average child. But there was something difficult in it for this boy. So, he analysed the reasons why his racket couldn’t meet the shuttle. In the “too early” case, racket was swung in the air under the falling shuttle. In the “too late” case, the shuttle was already near the ground when the racket went forward to hit it. In some cases, he swung the racket in time, but it just didn’t meet with the shuttle. So, he concluded that the main problem was that he just couldn’t identify the spot, where they would meet, and couldn’t see clearly the trajectories, made by the shuttle flying, solely in the clearly blue sky without any marking.

He considered how to identify the “meeting point” for a while. Suddenly, the hitting surface of the racket came into his sight. He said to himself, “Ah, if the sky was segmented into small squares by lines, crossly weaved into a frame as in the racket then the “meeting  point” would be in a specific place, and it would be possible to hit a shuttle.” And so, he tried this plan. At first, he watched the trajectories, that the shuttle flew and memorised the specific place of the “meeting point”.  Then he tossed the shuttle and swung the racket towards the memorised area. Do you think that it was successful? As you would expect, of course, it was a failure. He repeated this method many times, but there was never a happy meeting time for the shuttle and the racket. He found, the main problem was that the afterimage of the place had completely disappeared at the moment of hitting. It was impossible to perform further analysis by boy’s small brain, so he gave up playing the badminton. (After he grew up, he repented of stopping the analysis. Because, if he could continued it further, he might be able to get some kind of computer analysis methods like finite element method.)

 

 

4‐3  Ore

The boy had a mysterious golden shining ore in his treasure box. He thought that it was a real gold ore, but in fact it was a valueless pyrite one. He already knew the worth of gold, though he didn’t know its cash value. Therefore, he thought hard about the way to increase the value of the ore, to earn bigger cash, for several days which meant that it was very important for the boy, who easily lost interest.  And so, with all of the  knowledges and experiences of his life, he came to a conclusion, “Like a lily bulb, that grows in the soil for only one summer, the ore might grow in earth for a certain time period.” The boy dug a hole in the garden of his house and buried the ore deeply, because he was afraid that everyone would find out, when the ore grew bigger and bulged the soil surface in a more shallow hole. Of corse, he didn’t forget to make a marking on the hole. After several days he completely forgot about it. A year later he happaned to recall the ore, hidden in the ground. By retracing his memory, he found the marking and dug the ore out. Unfortunately, the ore didn’t grow at all. He concluded that the different soil properties might be the reason. The garden’s soil was soft, meant for farming while ore needed hard soil to grow. He made his mind to retry growing the ore in the hard soil, that it needed, sometime in future, and kept it in his treasure box.

 

4‐4  Practise to ride the bicycle 

It is definitely true that the war, conducted by foolish politicians/army generals meant that there were great sacrifices for the nation, which especially on children. Even 10 years after the world war, people in Japan were still suffering from poverty. Too many children wore dirty and worn out clothes and shoes. Some of them were suffering from scabies, which spreads easily by bathing rarely in humid weather there. In his school, typical Japanese meals, called “Bento” were common to eat for lunch. Usual Japanese lunch consists of rice and some side dishes in a square box. At that time, they were too poor to bring any side dishes. The box was crammed with white rice and a red pickled sour plum in the middle. The Japanese flag called ‘Hinomaru’ is a white rectangle and a red circle in the middle of it, and you can find the similarities between the shape on the flag and the lunchbox. Then this lunch was called ‘Hinomaru Bento’. The children, who were able to bring this kind of lunch were at least still happier as there were many children, who couldn’t eat any lunch at all.

There were no toys for children in average families, epecially in rural areas at that time. In his village there were no bicycles for children, so they could only use adult ones, which gave them a matured feeling. They couldn’t reach the pedals of bicycles as their legs were short, but they tried a method, called the “triangle riding method”. That is, the bicycle is constructed by the triangle frame between the saddle, pedal and handle. They reach their foot through the triangle frame, and the another one  to the pedal on the other side. This riding technique is slightly difficult to keep the stability as it is necessary to incline the bicycle during the riding. The boy was so small, powerless and awkward that he couldn’t perform such a difficult task. He tried it on the farming road, and fell down on the road, ditches and sometimes in muddy rice fields many times. Naturally, he was often told off by his mother by making his clothes dirty.

He thought about the reason why he kept falling down. As soon as he started to use pedals few times, the bicycle started to totter and handle rotated, and rolled out off the road and fell on to the rice fields.
Then he recalled the sad experience at the school entertainment festival (see the Japanese rustic life 2 in youtube), and fixed the handle with a straw rope. Unfortunately the fixed rope was weak, and the handle totated easily, unlike what he expected, and fell down to the rice field. This time, he became covered with mud heavily and town down his trousers, and was told off by his mother more harshly. This experience stopped his passion for riding the bicycle, and he didn’t ride again until few years later.

THE JAPANESE RUSTIC LIFE IN 1950S .3

The nature, culture and living in a small village in Japan just after the last world war, reflected through the boy’s eyes.

 

Chapter 3. Opening the Bus Services (1954)

Written by Y. Otsuki(Sendai, Japan)

Translated by Y.Otsuki(London)

 

Charcoal Bus: Of course, Japan had already been producing cars by using American car manufacturing technologies before the second world war. Japan was short on all resources, especially domestically-yielded metals, became very scarce due to weapon production. The government forced people and companies to deliver all kinds of metalworks such as; industrial machinaries, poles, rails, manhole covers, kitchenwares, bells, bronze statues etc. There were also some more extreme examples, such as Buddhist alter decorations, which had been treasured by forefathers for a long time. The buses also decreased to an all-time low. There was a similar situation with regard to oil. Japan had very little oil resources and relied on imported oil. Following the outbreak of the second world war, oil imports were extremely limited by the allied powers.

An alternative oil, taken from pine tree sap was developed and used mainly in non-military industries, then for the war planes. Buses couldn’t use such a precious oil and “charcoal buses” were developed as a result. The mechanism of the charcoal buses is as follows; the conventional buses were equipped with combustion furnaces in order to generate carbon monoxide by incomplete combustion of charcoal. This was put into a carburetor, so it could mix with air and then syphoned into engines as fuel, rather than using gasifiled oil. As Japan is rich in wood, this system was helpful to get rid of oil shortage. However, this came with several problems.

In order to start the charcoal bus, one hour of preparation time was necessary to produce a good amount of carbon monoxide. The conductor had to perform this role, which was difficult for him on winter mornings. On steep slopes, the buses couldn’t run, because only a small amount of was produced from carbon monoxide. The passengers often got off the bus to help push it up the slope-like the early years of motorization in US.

During the period after the years, which explained above, the oil had already been imported through the general headquarters of allied powers, so the charcoal buses started to disappear when the system was returned to its original state(dispatching the furnace).

Work after the last war: The traditional Japanese working style had been the apprenticeships.  That is to say, when some shops, factories etc. had labour shortages, they hired employees from rural areas through private connections and employment agencies. The employers usually letted their empolyees to live their families and work by educating everything to live as well as more specific skills. The wages were very low, and holidays(to go back home) only happens once a year. Superiors among these workers were able to be independent with a financial support by the employer, after working for the employer for several ten years. This employment system still survives partly in Sushi bar and some service trades.

Japan had closed its doors Western countries except Holland for more than 250years from early part of 16th century.(In this period, Japan had diplomatic relations with China and Korea.) In mid-19th century, America forced Japan to open the trade once again. Many people from other powerful western countries immediately rushed there, because they already knew that Holland amassed a huge fortune with its exclusive trading and using tricks to make more profit.

The new government, established in 1868, knew how those western countries were exploiting the wealth from Africa,America and rest of Asia. It made a desparate effort to build up a strong army as well as introducing advanced items from West. Unfortunately, Japan had already lost most of its money, even thought it used to be one of the richest countries in terms of gold and silver (after discovering the gold mines in the 8th century.). So, the government promoted the establishment of export industries. One of these was the silk-reeling industry. Silk makers built their factories in rural cities, and produced cheap silk by gathering together female workers from farmers at a low price. The government scudd to military power until the second world war, and ended up driving Japan into tragic poverty. Afther the second world war, many people were forced to live in extreme poverty. That is, the war destroyed many industries and there were few means by which to rebuild in such a situation. Then, the government set their eyes on teenagers, who had just graduated from secondary school. In the year that bus service began, the government sent them from northern part of Japan to Tokyo. It was called “mass employment”. They were hired by small enterprises and shops etc. as workers or clerks, but couldn’t become indepent as in the traditional case.

The policy had been used nationwide for 20years, and supported the revival of the post-war economy by sending a huge number young people to work. This policy was especially famous in northern region of Japan. Ueno station in Tokyo, one of the  terminal stations for trains that carried the workers, was the epitome of “mass employment”, and included in the lyrics of popular songs. For example, someone yearns the people of Tokyo to hear their dialect, because they miss home. This poem is famous for evoking a sense of northern Japanese people’s homesickness, although the time composed is different from the oneof the mass employment plicy carried out.

ふるさとの訛りなつかし

停車場の人ごみの中に

そを聴きにゆく     石川 啄木

Loving very mushc the dialect particular

To my native place, I go to the crowd of people

at the station to hear it. ( Composed by Takuboku Ishikawa, Translated by Teruo Suga)

As making free translation by Y. Otsuki;

Unable to stop yearning my hometown

I stood amongst the crowds of people

at the station to hear its dialect.

 

A girl, who had lived in the village, wearing the stained clothes and with dirty hands was now back at home, on holiday, from Tokyo, one year after “mass employed”. She was wearing beautiful fashionable clothes and make-up. In the boys’ cases, they went by car from Tokyo by saying that a car is cheaper than owning a house. This is an example of the differences in the values between rural areas and Tokyo. He wanted to show that he lived in the new era. This was also another kind of civilization and enlightenment.

 

The village was located on the foot of a small mountain, where a brook was running from west to east with water flowing into the rice field. There was a village centre with a primary school and a grocery shop as the only public facilities. It was facing a road along the northern side of the brook. However, people can’t usually be seen there because of the small population of the village. On a sunny day in May, the road was unusually crowded on both side of the brook. “It’s coming, it’s coming.”  As soon as these shouts were heard coming from the leader of the crowd, the nose of the bus appeared from the corner of the road. Yes, today is the memorial day of the opening of the bus service between the village and the town. The bonnet-bus came along heroically casting a shadow over the people in the northern side of line formed by villagers.

The bus, regrettably not one of the new models, that was stained arrived at the terminal in front of the school. The door opened and the conductress got out, and so did the driver.

The daughter of the richest family in the village presented a bunch of flowers to the driver, and the representative of the young men’s association presented some to the conductress. “Bang, bang, bang” – the sounds of the fireworks echoed three times across the mountains surrounding the village.

 

The village is about 3 miles west of the town. Up until that time, there were limited ways to commute-either walking for one hour, or cycling for half an hour (although cycling was only taken up by rich families). From this day onwards, it only took 20minutes by bus. The people of the village had been wanting this for such a long time. The bus staff seemed so heroic, like astronauts.

Of course, once the bus service became regular by going about its daily routine, the driver lost the admiration of the people, who lived in the village. It’s the same in the case of the astronauts-they become heroes, due to the uncommoness of the their job. So, although astronauts will be heroes forever, because embarking on space flight is not a part of everyday life, their activities are not seen in wider society. In other words, the contribution of astronauts to everyday life is certainly less than the bus crews’.

At least bus crews have been heroes among the villagers for several months. The conductress was especially idolised by the young men in the village and as soon as she knew it, she applied more and more make-up each day since she couldn’t change her uniform. Then, a rumour about the conductress’ romance spread. On the other hand, the women in the village were too shy to romantically approach the bus driver.

 

Several weeks after this commemoration day, a teacher from the boy’s school asked the pupils to write about their ideal future job. There were less than twenty pupils in his class. They were all farmers’ children, except for this one boy. The farmers’ sons couldn’t choose any other job, apart from farming. The eldest son of the family had to succeed the farm owner, and others will live a life, full of labour, just like workhorses. Daughters had more paths, that they could take due to marriage prospects. However, they didn’t have the right to choose who they married, because everything was arranged for them.

The farmers’ children had never considered their futures outside the farming. Therefore, writing this essay wasn’t particularly meaningful for them, or might have upset their parents. This time round , everyone’s ambitions had changed a lot. Now all the boys wanted to be a bus drivers, except for one boy. Naturally, all the girls wanted to be bus conductresses. The one boy, who didn’t wanted to be a bus driver, was wandering what his answer to this question would be. In a previous essay, the boy had written that his dream was to become a diplomat, but gave up in search of something more realistic, because he lost confidence, due to bullying by other boys. A year earlier, his elder sister married a man, who worked as a bus conductor.

So the boy had been thinking about being a bus conductor in the future. On the contrary, he didn’t want to write the same answer as everybody else. What do you think he wrote in the end? As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even remember. At least he didn’t write “bus conductor”, which would seem to be a breach of faith of his brother-in-law’s profession. He was deeply regretful for considering it.

THE JAPANESE RUSTIC LIFE IN 1950S .2

The nature, culture and living in a small village in Japan just after the last world war, reflected through the boy’s eyes.

White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby I cannot follow it.

 

2.SCHOOL ENTERTAINMENT FESTIVAL (1952)

Written by Y.Otsuki (Sendai, Japan)

Translated by Y. Otsuki (London)

 

People repeated what he had be done by their parents. Later in life, the same boy became a father and when his son reached the secondary school, he taught his son the authentic way of reading the poem from the textbook as you can hear on the radio. Of course, he remembered the sad story as I’ve just told, so he advised his son not to practise.
But his son was so decile when he read authentically at the school as he followed his father’s instructions that he received many laughs from his classmates. “What did the teacher say?”, the father asked his son. “Nothing”, he replied curtly. This is an example of the present state of the Japanese schools.

 

By the way, according to pioneer-like systematic study on folk tales by Vladimir Propp, the structures of folk tales can be divided into several patterns of stories, which are applicable to every country, even if there are small differences among them, or so I have heard.

Since Japan opened its door to the west in the mid-19th century, it learned many aspects that helped to build modern society as we know it today, especially post-war democracy. We have apparently been living in a modern society since that time. But the spiritual side of various aspects of contemporary Japanese culture are still influenced by the feudal society between 17th and 19th century. The emperor is the king of Japan, but had already lost his practical governing power before the start of the 10th century. During the Tokugawa period(from 17th to 19th century), Japan was divided into aboout 270 small countries. The shognate, however, held a power as practical dominator like scrap&build of countory, control of commercial activities, diplomacy etc. Therefore each country dared to dominate his people strictly to protect itself against neighboring countries as well as shognate, who could not travel to other places without their gevenment’s premission.  (They are now referred to as “prefectures” approximately.) In some countries, they even had their own languages, which were different from others, so that they could easily differentiate between foreigners, and especially find out (Ninjas), who were dispatched from the central government by Tokugawa. The information was circulated through only three routes, as an official injunction from Shogunate to the lords, domestic and illegal trades. Consequently, each country (country/prefecture in present time) had kept its own distinctive culture, which has continued to the present day. Nowadays, people can communicate with each other anywhere in Japan, thanks to mass media and education has spread the standard Japanese language. However, we can still see the diversity of the unique customs, festivals, foods and lives in every regional  prefecture. If you are planning to take a trip to Japan, I recommend that you take some time to enjoy the various regions, where great beauties are present-not in Tokyo, kyoto or near Mt.Fuji.

After you’ve acquired a taste of the regional/rural cultures and have seen the differences between them, you will become a true enthusiast of Japan.

About the folk tales in Japan – its prototypes were already made in 10th centure when Japan was unified by the centralised goverment in Kyoto, formed by the emperor and his nobility members. As the centralised government fell apart, folk tales also made various derivatives, depending on the regions and as a result, it became the huge number of folk tales. Most of them have happy-endings, like Cinderella.

example: Long time ago, there was a village, which suffered from droughts every year. One day, a village elder received a visit from some animals (eg.monkey, bear, frog, fish etc.) or ogre, that offered him a plan for saving the village. Of course, it indicated that it wanted to have one of the elder’s three daughters as its wife. This would act as  bargaining chip for successfully salvaging the village. The elder persuaded his oldest daughter to marry it, but she refused. He asked the second one, and she also refused. Finally, he asked the youngest one and she thought deeply and then accepted. Then the village got the rain fall, which resulted in abundant crops, such as rice, barley, vegetables etc.  After that the girl had to go to its residence and marry it tearfully. In some version of this folk tale, her husband was very good to her, and they lived happily together with their children. In other version, after several years later she killed her husband, came back to the village with a lot of treasures, or there was no place for her to live, even if she succeeded in gaining backing from the animal world. There are many versions like these, which are interpreted by modern studies.

Moreover, there are many folk tales about “repaying kindness”,”filial piety”, being born inside a peach or a bamboo shoot etc.  Essentially many stories of heroes were based on someone, who grow up to be a great adult through overcoming many hardships. These originated from the fact that Japan is based on a rice-growing agricultural society (unlike meat-eating hunting societies in Europe, middle-east etc.) That is, agriculture (traditionally, rice growing and producing) needs to make use of people, who can efficiently work at the same level (no need for Picasso type geniuses, who may be very unique, but find it hard to work in teams.) , while it is important to have a fantastic hero in in hunting societies (eg. western societies.).

Thus each village had a public education programme, which sought to bring up the children to become like-minded adults, and they used the folk tales as one form of textbook to achieve this. In some cases, children experience the community life for a short time to study the ways and rules of the village, including, living, cooperative work, rights and duties etc. And they usually have some adult-like ceremonies at the end of this training-nothing as wild as bungee jumping. In other words, agricultural society don’t need geniuses like Einstein, but equalled skilled groups of people, whose combined result would be as great as Einstein’s. Therefore, even if geniuses are born, according to probability, he/she is either ruined while they are growing up in Japan or they find better lives in the west. This remain much the same even today. Nowadays, such systems no longer exist, due to the modernisation of the agricultural industries, migration to the big cities, and changes in village society life, such as spreading of individualism and breaking free from closed society.

Such mutual estrangement has brought about democratic society, but is also the cause of new problems.  Some of the folk tales have been rearranged and rewritten by Lafcadio Hearn, and I would like to recommend that you read them if you are interested.

Fasten it up with rope!“, “No, no, say it loudly”,Fasten it up with rope!“, “No, no, say it loudly“.

Such a verbal exchange had taken place over and over again so many times between the boy and his mother. The boy shedded tears. “One more time!“, the mother shouted. The boy was made to say “Fasten it up with rope!” in the room, which was situated  furthest from the sitting room, where the mother and the elder sister were sitting there. Unlike western houses, traditional Japanese houses are divided by paper doors, which means that one can easily hear sounds coming from the other rooms. You can experience this in traditional Japanese inns, called “Ryokan”.

It was a custom at that time that every primary school held an annual entertainment festival all over Japan (This is still the case now, and usually in Autumn.). The festival programme consisted of the drama, dance, choirs, reading etc.

The boy was going to play the role of the one, who says, “Fasten  it up with rope!” in the drama, called “Taro Urashima”. The story of this drama is very famous in Japan, and it is known fact that it was established during the 12th-13th century, but its prototype was likely to have already existed before the 10th century. The plot of this drama is as follows:

A long time ago, the children in the village were bullying the tortoise when a fisherman was walking the seaside. The fisherman, called “Taro Urashima” took pity on it and bought it for some cash. He released it into the sea saying, “Never come back to the seaside, so that you won’t be captured again.” Later, same tortoise approached Taro as he walked around the same spot at the seaside. The tortoise said that it would take Taro to a place, called the “Dragon palace” as thanks for saving him. Taro rode on the tortoise’s back deep into the sea, and soon arrived at the palace.

In the castle, there was a mistress, called “Queen Otohime”, who governed the entire sea. Queen Otohime, who looked like a heavenly maiden, also had many servants, who looked like marine lives. Taro was given a cordial welcome by the Queen Otohime, and had a pleasant stay every day. After the stay, which seemed too long to count, Taro casually recalled home, and became eager to go back home. Queen Otohime recommended that he stayed there when he told her of his wish to go back home, but she was unable to change his mind. Queen Otohime gave him a beautifully decorated wooden box when he left the castle, and told him not to open it.

Taro went back home riding on the back of the tortoise. In his village there was no one, who knew him. So he opened the box that he was given by Queen Otohime as he didn’t have a clue what to do with it. Just as he opened the box, he suddenly became very old.

It means that he had spent a particularly long time at the dragon palace.

I suppose there are similar folk tales in every country. At any rate, the major players in this drama are the fisherman, Queen Otohime and the tortoise. On the other hand, the boy’s role is a comparatively minor role with only one line. As the cast of the drama was decided by its director(the class teacher), the pupils, who were cast, were chosen, because of their appearance, academic results, behaviours etc. In short, whoever won the teacher’s favour. The boy didn’t favour well, and that’s why he ended up getting the minor role.

Fasten it up with rope!“, shouted the boy. His mother said, “It’s not enough! No dinner until you can say it loudly.”

The festival was held at the assembly hall of the primary school for the whole day. After the last world war, there wasn’t much choice of the entertainments in the rural village. But this was one of the biggest festivals for the residents of the village as well as the families of the pupils. The audience were taking the opportunity to chat to one another or eat lunch, using the performance as a place to socialise, instead of appreciating the children’s play and only turned their attention towards the stage when they were struck for conversation. This is a similar situation as in a typical contemporary Japanese home, where people watch TV without really concentrating. The boy knew that even if he played his role earnestly, he would never get any attention. That’s why he couldn’t appreciate that night’s practise to shout his line loudly. But because dinner was dependent on the result of his practise, the boy had to practise hard. “Fasten it up with rope!“, the boy shouted as loud as he could. “OK, that’s fine. Why didn’t you say it like that from the start? Once more.” His mother said. Without the moment’s delay, his sister helped him to finish practising, “Mother, that should be enough”, she said.
The next day, the boy had been thinking and thinking until the moment that the performance started whether he should read his line as he did during the previous night’s practise (which would likely to result in a laugh) or whether he would get away with resigning himself to saying to say his line quietly and risk being scolded by his mother. The moment for his role came around quickly. “Fasten it up with rope!“, the boy shouted loudly and instantaneously. The roaring laugh of the audience suddenly hit the boy. He sweated heavily and he didn’t have any memory of what he did after that.

THE JAPANESE RUSTIC LIFE IN 1950S .1

The nature, culture and living in a small village in Japan just after the last world war, reflected through the boy’s eyes.

I can’t hear “White christmas”

 

 

1.THE ODD FISH ‘CAMANPIS’(1952).

 

Written by Y. Otsuki (Sendai, Japan)

Translated by Y. Otsuki (London)

The boy could roughly understand the difference in behaviour between the fish in ravine, but he couldn’t explain that of the Camanpis. While the boy was fishing, he tried many techniques; placing the bait gently in front of the fish, changing the height, moving the bait up and down, left and right, further away and closer. This time, the boy tried all the ideas he could think of, but none of them could attract the Camanpis. The boy’s experiences tells him that when something touches the fish’s body, they all escape. But in today’s case, as soon as he brushes the bait against the nose of Camanpis, it happens to take a bite. Is this a new behavioral pattern or merely a fluke? The boy thinks that, compared with fish-catch in other ways, such as hand-catching or fishing with a pole, fishing with a line held directly by hand offers him same amusement as engaging in psychological fights with the fish.

Then there comes the question, “What shall he do with these fish?” Yes, the boy ate them. After the second world war, Japan was in a state of extreme poverty. The boy’s family used to live in the biggest city in the northern part of the country before they moved to a small village in a mountainous area to escape air raids by US army during the War. They lived by peddling sundries, which they bought in the city. They hastily acquired farming land. Life was so hard that they tried selling household items to farmers in exchange for food. This was known as “Bamboo sprout living”, because by selling household items, especially clothes one by one might give the  impression of bark peeling from a bamboo sprout.

Of course, the boy often played with children of farmers in this village, but he was usually alone, because his family was sometimes estranged by villagers.  The boy’s family originally came from different area from northern part of Japan. His mother’s dialect was that of the south of Osaka, so ultimately the way she pronounced words was different from the locals. Moreoever she taught at the local primary school, so the villagers couldn’t express their repulsion of her directly. Instead, the boy might feel the effects of it through their children.

For the boy, the fish caught was a valuable source of protein as a snack. (Of course, the boy didn’t have the knowledge of “catch and release” manner in fishing.) The boy grilled the fish lightly on the charcoal burner, dipped it in soy sauce and then grilled it again. The boy invented this recipe by himself and it is very delicious even now. Of course, the boy was able to eat bigger fish when he caught them by pole fishing, hand-catching or digging mud. The boy also gathered fruits from the mountain and fields, which were cultivated partly by farmers. Using these kinds of methods to avoid hunger was common among the children in the village.

There was a snack, ‘Skanpo’common among this village children, which is never eaten now. Skanpo is a type of green grass with thick trunks. The trunks were soaked or dusted in salt and then eaten. The taste was purely sour, but at any rate it was an escape from hunger. ‘Umeboshi’ (pickled plums) are also extremely sour and salty pickles and are often eaten for breakfast even now. In some cases, it is dipped into Shochu, one of the special Japanese alcoholic drinks for the sake of seasoning. The recipe of Umeboshi is:

Green-coloured Japanese plums are gathered from the trees and washed in water. The dried fruits are then soaked in salted water under some load for about a month. The fruits are dried under the sunshine for several days in the summer. Each fruit is wrapped in Shiso leaves and soaked in salted water again, under a load for more than 6 months. The longer it is soaked, the more delicious it becomes. I have heard, Umeboshi produced in a handred years ago is very delicious, even though very expensive worth 6,000pound/piece(150yen/pound).

 

Returning to the snack of the village children, Umeboshi is also one of them. They suck the sour juice from the folded “bamboo sprout snack” which contains Umeboshi inside it. At the time, when there was a lack of food, such non-sweet foods also became snacks. In other words, they knew that sour tastes would diminish an apetite. In comparison with the above mentioned snack, the spoils of the boy were superior nutritionally, which resulted in praise of his bone and teeth by doctors, even after he became an adult.

In this essay, I am going to describe the Japanese way of living, culture, children and nature in the commom small village just after the war, reflected through the boy’s eyes. If you are interested in them or have any questions, please write me a comment on this home page. It’s my pleasure to tell you about this.

In a steep ravine, there was a narrow brook with a rapid stream and a stone in the middle of it. The stone was as big as the one sat on by the Mermaid princess in Copenhagen, which created a pool against the steep flow of water.

From a distance, It seems that a straw hat on top of the stone is forming a shadow on one area of the pool’s flar surface.  As a matter of fact, a boy is wearing that straw hat and he kneels down on the stone, staring at the surface of the water at least one hour. A fishing line is hanging down into the water from the tips of his arm, which is outstretched and quivering slowly. The bait, usually earthwarm, just sits at the bottom of the river. As the reflection of the sunlight on the water’s surface is diminished by the boy’s hat, the boy can see the underwater world in great detail, except for the ripples aroused by the wind and stream. The boy has acquired some fishing skills, even before entering the primary school. For example, the way he swings the fishing line almost makes the bait seem alive. One fish is facing the bait as it pokes its head out from behind the stone it has been under. While there are many kinds of small fish, swimming around and sometimes biting on the bait, it seems like the boy is only aiming for that fish under the stone.

Only  the small-sized fish can inhabit the ravine, maybe due to the rapid flow and the fish that the boy is aiming to catch belongs the group of the fishes that are comparatively bigger in size around 4-6 inches. It has a body with a square-sectional head, which gradually becomes round towards the tail, and it has a light brown zebra pattern integument, which is probably so that it can blend into the colour of  the riverbed. It also has a strange face, which seems to jar on one’s nerves. It usually moves slowly, but occasionally makes rapid movements that are typical of a wayward character. This attracts the boy, who understands the behaviour of various kinds of the fish in the brook as well.

One thing that attracts the boy further is fish’s name, “Camanpis” , which doesn’t have a Japanese-like pronounciation. Instead, it sounded like foreign origins. Of course, the boy doesn’t know the origin of the name. Each Camanpis may have its own territory, and only one of them occupies one of the pools created by a big stone by itself. Just as the boy catches the Camanpis from under the stone, another takes its place in the pool. Then, it moves forward with half of its body and approaches the bait until it is about 4 inches away from it. The boy is wondering whether to swing the bait or keep it fixed in one place. He recalls that he had already succeeded by moving the bait away from the Camanpis. Whilst he is deciding on his next move, he stands firmly in place so he can take in the sound of the brook.

The boy anticipates the perverse character of this fish and pulls the bait upwards. As he does this, it moves straight to the place where the bait has been. The sudden pull of the fishing line results in the fish escaping. Failing to catch a Camanpis and then trying again lasted for more than one hour. It never bites the bait when it exposes its whole body on the sandy bottom, even if the bait almost touches the tip of its nose. The boy has experienced this many times. Therefore, the boy should restart his match of wits once fish goes back underneath the stone. The boy unintentionally draws cold water from the brook using his left hand and pours it over his back.

Though dipping his hand into the water may let this fish notice the presence of the enemy, the boy does this to try and tell the fish to go home by way of a warning as well as the fact that it is too hot. As expected, this fish hides itself under the stone once again before poking out its head, and seems to be checking out the current situation. The recent memory of the enemy’s presence must have already been erased, because of the fish’s small brain. The boy wins with his bigger brain. The boy, with not-so-big brains struggles to count how many times he has done such things before concentrating on the next round.

When the position between the fish and the bait has been decided, the boy recognizes the success pattern he has already had and unconsciouly exclaimed “Yes!” as he feels the blood pulsing through his body with excitement. In the next moment, a small fish disturbes the bait which confuses the boy as well as the Camanpis. Because small fish is also a fish, the boy catches it and puts it into the bucket. The new bait is hooked onto the hook and put into the water. The boy has to restart from zero. The boy can’t keep his attention fixed on one thing for too long, so naturally he is looking dimly at the clouds, which are being reflected on the water surface. This takes the battle out of using the fishing line. The boy is so absorbed in watching the metamorphosis of the clouds brought about by the ripples in the water that he doesn’t notice that a fish has taken the bait. The boy notices and pulls the line. The boy congratulates himself on his win, even though he is displeased with this fluke.The boy is not yet a full-fledged fisherman. Fortunately, It wasn’t the Camanpis.

Re-gaining heart, the boy drops some bait into the water, drawing up another scenario until he wins. Of course, the boy has changed the bait, because he thinks bait which has been bitten by one fish can’t attract another one. The boy sences a slight vibration through the line. The boy gives the line a strong pull upwards by aptly bending his finger tip. His voice resounds naturally “I did it! “

CONCERT REVIEW

The concert on 7th October,2014 at the United Reformed church in Farnham,Surrey.

The 18th annual season of Music at Farnham United Reformed church began on Tuesday 7th October with a concertgiven by Fumi Otsuki,the Japanese violinist,accompanied by Neus Guiu Retort from Spain.

Their concert opened confidently with the striking 1st movement of Mendelssohn’s sonata in F for violin and piano,a rippling movement,which provided some 15minutes of sheer joy.

Smetana’s From the Hoemland gave the audience the idea of the way the composer felt about his native Bohemia.

From the opening to the fiery ending with many changes of mood these virtuoso pieces were throughly delightful.

The 3rd item was a little more right-hearted:the Rondion on the theme of Beethoven by Kreisler,very tuneful and enjoyable.

Finally Fumi played the maginificent 1st movement from the violin solo in G-minor by J.S.Bach,an impressive piece of musical architecture if ever there was one.

(written by John Mansfield. Taken from http://www.musicatlunchtime.org.uk/ )

(This review will appear in Farnham Herald newspaper.)