Sakawa MONOGATARI
 

V  PERSONA (2)

 

Leaving our neighbors in Ter Apel.


We had a big farewell party, our last week in Ter Apel, the Netherlands. Neighbors helped out with borrowing and putting up party-tents, they brought chairs, and all of a sudden there was a microphone. Visitors made speeches and songs. Our doctor came, as well as the leader of the fire-workers. We had been interviewed for the newspaper some weeks earlier. Tears flowed. On some moments I secretly wished to have sneaked away on the sly. But I have to confess, it was a rich day though full of emotions. The weather was excellent. Some weeks after entering Japan we got 2 CD-ROMs with recordings of our party. We both could not watch without our eyes being filled with tears.
I decided to write a general 'letter', being my recording of leaving the Netherlands and entering Japan, of the sad confrontation of my mother-in-law's health-condition, of my prejudices towards computers, of happy and joyful encounters with Urado's fishes and Kochi's Yosakoi Matsuri.

Dear special neighbors,

in Düsseldorf the KLM prepared only a small airplane, because it was holiday-rush-hour. The original planned bigger airplane had to be operated elsewhere. Passengers had to be cancelled and even sent to Schiphol by taxi. It's called overbooking. Bad for the nerves. We were told, that the computer also had 'knots'. To calm me down the clerk got the enlightened idea to offer me a chair in the 'business-class'. I observed myself still being vain in translating the message to Fumika super-cool. Oh, vanity of vanities! Later on there proved to be only one chair type in the small airplane, model 'leg-cramp'. 'Business-class'': no way! How does a man come to say this? That Sunday showed hustle and bustle to extremes.

At the passport-control, departure Amsterdam Schiphol, E TJ-gate, the uniformed member of the constabulary [marechaussee] asked me where I intended to go.
Japan.
Emigrating.
Today.
Now.
The Dutch state gave me an admirable and big send-off, because the man in his high desk replied: "just in time".
With this wise, reassuring statement and keen insight, we left the country of the Netherlands, laughing.

Flight. Always a kind of dull: a bit on one side to the left, little bit leaning to the right.
Closing my eyes. Sir, something to drink? And so on.....

Arrival in Kansai, Osaka, August first 2005! no wind, shining morning. With an unmanned train to the main building. Gigantic queue for non-Japanese: own population first.
At the passport-civil-servant's-desk I mentioned, that she would have been treated more correct, arriving in the Netherlands, than I was in Japan. Obviously there is still a small ambassador hiding in me, as well as a clergyman.
That's not my fault, she told me in measured tones, extremely fast, almost hissing, for the sake of appearance still controlling. I put my papers back in my shoulder-back and all of a sudden she flung, very un-Japanese, her pen unequalled fast and powerful in a corner of her glass box. A light feeling of justice caught me. Days later I realized, that originally I did wish, that everybody of the passport-section combined with the customs-department, supported by their music-bands, would happily fling one's arms round my neck, endowing me with loud kisses, in order to wish me an indelible Yokoso, welcome in Japan. Lacking this, probably inspired me vindictive for my reprimand. The result was a small compensation.

Being with Fumika we never had a luggage-control.
Bus ticket to Itami. Pretty warm already. 45 Minutes waiting. An hour driving through a part of the concrete jungle, which Osaka is. On the national airport also busy as hell, but many machines leave for Kochi. My stress disappears.
Luggage-control.
[Serious..] Is there a bazooka in your suitcase, sir?
I would say no, but there is a hard paper-roll with drawings inside -and- oh, yes, we put some long candles in it too, presents.
Ah, so ka..Ao you allow us to look again, sir? Thirty kilograms are dragged again to the machine and carefully monitored. Fumika's words get credibility.
[Serious...] Excuse us, but we also saw something irregular in your other suitcase. Same ritual. THERE!! Is that a gas-bomb?
A what?
No, that's my hairspray, explained Fumika after a glance on the screen.
Ah, so ka...

In Kochi we are picked up by Kazuhito, 25 years, oldest son, super shy. Linea recta to the [Red Cross] hospital. Setsuko-san, Fumika's devoted mother, lies in the intensive care. First we have to wash our hands extensively and change our footwear.

A body connected to machines. We cry in shock and try through sweet little words to seduce her to share the slightest part of visible life.
Toothless mouth moves almost invisible.
What??
Mouth moves. No sound.
Fumika lays her ear gently on the moving lips for listening. Translates-
PAIN!

Later on a physician explains by means of Röntgen photographs, which we are not able to read. Prediction cannot be made.

Super hot and high humidity: free permanent sauna in Kochi. Three sons did assemble there. Did almost not eat for days. That's what young men are doing during their mother's absence. It's also somewhat a muddle in the house.
Fumika removes mountains. Unbelievable: shopping, tidying up, a cheerful word for everybody, cooking, washing machine, a fast glance at the mail.

In one of the suitcases a holder with 1.200 saccharins, a special offer, has been pushed open during traveling. I know for sure, this is a favorable token from the Gods. The sweeteners are everywhere: between my papers in archive-boxes, inside plastic maps, between socks and clothes, inside my shoes and attached to presents. Gods always are subtle, it's their job. I appropriate this painstaking task to get the good genius back in the bottle, feeling extremely sleepy. The jetlag had its claws on me.

One after the other the sons depart. The last one stays five days. We visit my mother-in-law; she progresses, this being a comparative notion. She recognizes me and even remembers my name.
Our communication consists of holding hands, caressing her upper arm, back and under her feet, stroking her hair and set it right, as well as larking about with each other. Setsuko pinches unexpectedly in my hand and I shout dramatically itai. She then laughs satisfied and looks roguishly to me: 'I am not to be trifled with, you just have to know that'.
Another time I tickle her under her feet and she reacts in an alert way with a glance saying; 'there he is again'. Trustworthy communication. Safe.
Some weeks ago I pushed lightly and playful on her chin with one finger. Readily she performed a grimace and kept it for a while. All the three of us burst into a joyful laughter. In that way I compensate my lack of knowledge of the Japanese Language, that afternoon all of a sudden, also provoking, she produced an English word, that Japanese people actually never use: 'Darling'.
Human life is a miracle and my mother-in-law makes you laugh.

After one week Fumika's jobs are jobbed. Friend Masako, the seller of our plot, the architect and twice a person of a construction company dropped by. We hired a larger safe-deposit-box at the Kochi bank. At another bank I took my saving money, piles, like in old fashioned movies. Only ¥ 10.000.000, about Euro 75.000,-- are warranted. After the rest account-holders may whistle for if a bank goes bankrupt. If something of that kind threatens to happen, I believe the bank will be the last one to inform one, I mean on time. Anyway they don't pay interest.

We have been looking for a computer for me. It makes me seriously neurotic. Just as new mobile telephones, with their extended functions of sorts. I don't understand them, I don't want to understand them and above all: I don't need them. My just and only wish is typewriting.
With an electrical "Brother"-typewriter from Holland under my arm, I asked around for a modification from 220 Volt to 110 Volt, or another functioning simple typewriter. I am perplexed and shocked by the reactions of the shop-staff.

....Typewriter...?- stand open mouthed / -stand gaping / - be dumbfounded

- nervous laughing full of disbelief / - compassionate

- bewildered, thunderstruck, amazed, perplexed
- what did you say? Typewriter? What is that? This..? Never seen before [giggle]
- what for, you use 'this'?
- shaking one's head
- on this question I cannot answer
- staring at me with glassy eyes, as if I just stepped out straightaway from a historical manga or from the Flintstones
- variations of the above.

I did not assess the situation as being that earnest.

The alternative: a complicating computer with a printer plus a lot more of what I don't want. No escape possible. Good old times when life still was transparent and practical.

In her magnanimity and as a wise citizen of the world Fumika takes me under her wings, trying to calm me down with limited success. I am still not at the end of the matter, though there has to be done 'something'.

I look outside -fish are jumping- in the Urado bay at which our apartment is situated. Summertime, the touching song from the Westside Story, is brought into my memory through shoals of fishes, which mark the water at different spots through an intensive movement and sparkling.

There is another movement, the Kochi Maturi [festival], the Yosakoi Mature. Yosakoi's meaning is something like welcome good things / welcome happiness. 177 Groups of each around 100 — 200 persons, who come to sing and dance in the most splendid, self-designed clothes, kimonos beyond any imagination, every day from 14.00 — 22.00 o'clock. They keep dancing and singing through streets with a moving gladness and energy, incessant, they cannot be stopped, also not by an intense heat and humidity. Participants are of all ages. The streets are filled with visitors." everybody is cooperative and enjoys immensely.

These days we quietly enjoyed your digital 'video'. What a rich present! What a technical ingenuity. At this point I have to climb down with my elegy about computers. Our farewell, 'our' street audio-visualized: so sweet of you! This touches upon a tender string. We are able to see you again in our garden on our computer screen, looking at our 'house-frogs': the last half hour before we left.

The last minute: there is another movement. As by arrangement you line up next to each other in the Sellingerstraat.
I hardly can look.

That damned little French sentence: Merde!
Partir c'est mourir un peu.
C'est vrai,
very, very true.

Made a 'record of': 11 08 2005..


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