The fourth Sunday of July is Oyako Day

Oyako Day Essay Contest 2011 Winners

Olympus Prizes
・Olympus Digital Camera μ_Tough
・Olympus Binocular/TripLight
Sogo-Seibu Prize
・Dept. Store Surprise
oticon Prizes
・headphone & healing music CD by oticon
Milton Prizes
・water for mama & baby
・Skin Care Set
The Mainichi Newspaper Prizes
・"Mottainai" goods from Mainichi Newspaper
・Epson Compact Printer
・Diatomite stove from Suzu city (large size)
Olympus PrizesOlympus Digital Camera μ_Tough
My Mother's BackFUKUSHIMA Muneyuki
The other day, I washed my mother's hair and back. I think it must be difficult for a mother to ask her son to do that. There's some pride and regret that gets in the way. As hard as it was to ask, my mother always liked to be perfectly clean, so she finally did. I had no reason to refuse, so I rolled up my sleeves and trouser bottoms and joined her in the bathroom.

Once there, I saw that my mother had lost weight and her back seemed smaller. We often hear about “Washing your father's back.” To a child, the back of the man that raised you can only seem like a tremendous thing. But, I didn’t have a father, so all I had was the back of the mother that raised me. However thin or diminished it might have become, that back was still, more than anyone else's, imposing.

Fighting to stifle this flood of emotions, I washed as I could. Unfortunately, I'm not a professional hair washer, nor have I often been asked to wash someone's back, so I can't say I did a very good job. Muttering, “Does it itch anywhere?”, a line I'd picked up somewhere along the way, I concentrated on my washing.

I did a thorough job of getting all the soap out of her hair and washing her back, then announced it was finished and turned to leave. Just at that moment, from the other side of that back, came a “Thank you” from my mother. “Of course,” I answered.

When I think of it, among all the expressions of gratitude I've ever gotten from my mother, washing her back didn't shape up as much of an occasion. So, there was really no need to thank me. Rather, I myself had been looking for such an occasion to show my own gratitude to my mother.
But for me to say “Thank you” on such an occasion seems awkward and odd. So please let me wash your back again. “Shall I wash your back?” is my way of saying “Thank you.”

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Olympus PrizesOlympus Binocular/TripLight
Lost MemoriesSHIMAZAKI Nozomi
At the time, I was working in Los Angeles. Early in the morning a call came in from Japan. I struggled through my drowsiness fumbling for the receiver and discovered one of my mother's closest friends at the other end. “Your mother. She's got early-onset Alzheimer's.”
It was such a shock. What had happened in the four years I'd been gone?
“From here on in, she'll need full care. Maybe I need to quit my job.”
“I'm sure I won't be able to go abroad anymore.”
“Will I be able to make a family?”
More than anything, I feared my mother had been somehow transfigured. My head was swimming with dark thoughts when I landed in Japan and discovered my mother had come out to meet me.
My mother looked up at me with her bright smile and said a little timidly, “Welcome home”, and nothing more.
I cautiously questioned her.
So, what have you been doing? I was intent on hearing about her recent life, but she barely answered any of my questions. My mother had always been so joyfully talkative.

My first job on arriving was to thoroughly clean up the house. My mother had lost the capacity for putting things properly away. The house was a veritable garbage heap. Bit by bit, I pulled her life back into order. With my mother's memory failing, she had taken to leaving written notes all over the house.
“Bank book by red chair. Stamp in drawer at entrance. Mail for Nozomi, send May 15. Nozomi arrives June 20. Nozomi's birthday August 15.... ”
I could see that I was still at the center of all her thoughts.
To secure her fading memories, the thoughts she wanted to hold on to were spelled out in shaky letters on bits of paper. I gradually came to see how much my mother thought of me. It was utterly impossible for me to abandon her in such straights. I didn't know how long it would last, but I made up my mind that the two of us would continue on our three legs to the finish line. The four years I'd been away were a tremendous loss, but I decided I would gladly put in 2 or 3 times as much time filling in my mother's empty memory and the distance I'd put between us.
(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Olympus PrizesOlympus Binocular/TripLight
My Father and IHASHIMOTO Nozomi
When I was little, I used to like holidays when my father was at home.
He's a steady, serious worker. I guess you'd have to call him a square.
Nevertheless, he'd spend his holidays guffawing over variety programs, reading manga and generally looking more like a wide, gentle rectangle.

I used to like to sneak into my father's bed while he was watching television more than anything else in the world. I don't think we spoke to each other. He'd always have Cola by his bedside, and even when the cooler was on, his body was hot. In the next room, I could here my mother running the vacuum cleaner, or I would hear the sound of her feet coming and going across the floorboards. I remember how safe this made me feel.

I'm more of a misdrawn circle than a square. When I hear words like serious or perseverance, I wince. How is it that a precisely drawn square and an off-skew circle could get on so well? When I decided I wanted to go to Osaka and become a singer, the person it was hardest to tell was my father. But, from the beginning, somehow, somewhere, I knew he would forgive me. I don't think he was against it either. Once I had decided, he was there for me, encouraging me along my path.
Two years later I came home and got a job. Then after a year at work, I went back to Osaka. It's what I really wanted to do.

I think my father gave up trying to understand a long time ago. How does he see my way of life? No permanent employment, not even able to explain what I'm doing very well.
Still, on the morning of my birthday, my father's email is always the first to arrive, saying “I wish you even more happiness.”

It looks like my father changed his way of thinking to include me. Even though I've moved so far from his hopes, he is always there for me, without so much as a word about his own feelings.
He is such a strong-headed and decided person, but as a father, when it came to his family, he changed his way of thinking. I think he is an incredible person for that. I never would have made it this far without him.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Sogo-Seibu PrizeDept. Store Surprise
Magic StoreMIZUSHIMA Koichi
There's a department store in the next town that even today, I still feel is special.
When I was a child, it was the place where I would have long talks with my mother. It was a magical place.

My parents ran a barbershop that was part of our house. Most days, they would keep working till ten at night. Even on Sundays, when most of my friends would go out on day-trips with their parents, we would never go out.

The only exception was when I got colds. When I caught a cold, my mother would take me to the big hospital in the next town rather than the local clinics. And every time, on the way home, we would go up to the top floor of that department store, where the food shops are, and go back to the same big restaurant where both of us would order fried rice with a cream soda.

I'm sure I must have had some terrible fevers, but it was always special, a time when I would talk to my mother and tell her about school, friends, my younger sister, going on as if in a dream. I'm sure I was foggy-eyed, but I kept talking to feed my mother's splendid smile.

I knew this was the only time my mother had a chance to be with me, and even though people lined up to wait for tables, I would talk on till I couldn't talk anymore. And my mother would laugh and listen.

Our fried rice and cream sodas would sit there. I think we never consumed more than a swallow or two. But the very luxury of that waste has left me with a memory so clear I can taste that marvelous combination even now.

My mother is 72 now and still works in the barbershop everyday. Now, I think maybe it's my turn to listen to her talk.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

oticon PrizesSENNHEISER headphone & healing music CD by oticon
Magic WordsKOGA Atsuko
“If it's you, it'll be fine!”
My mother used to say this and it helped me time and again.

Some twenty years ago, I went to Osaka to participate in a quiz program.
It was my first time in front of lights and cameras and I was shaking like a leaf. I totally lost my self-composure and went through the whole rehearsal without hitting the button once. In my confusion, I ran to the public phone at the studio and called my mother and that was the simple, generous thing she said to me. Somehow those words took all my worries away. I went back saying, let's just see what we can do and I no longer had any trouble ringing the button. I answered question after question, won the quiz and even got to go abroad.

My memories of childhood are so bright, filled with the sound of my mother's laughter and the steady flow of her own special cooking spread endlessly across our small, round dining table.

My father was a craftsman and in summer, my mother would bring ice-cold towels, fresh out of the freezer, to my father's atelier.

The image of all those ordinary days are now locked preciously in my heart.
She didn't leave any possessions to her daughter or grandchildren, but I would like to pass on the warm feeling of all those home-cooked meals and how strong her encouragements made me feel.

So mother, you're gone now, but thank you for those magic words.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

oticon PrizesSENNHEISER headphone & healing music CD by oticon
Fools and FamiliesWATARAI Katsuo
“Please behave yourself”
When he grabbed my collar, I looked up and felt I'd grown old at that very instant. Up till then his rebelliousness had been limited to words. He'd never laid a hand on anyone. In a brief scuffle, my son had stopped me from striking my wife.
“It's my mother and I will talk to her”
That sounded my utter defeat. Since when had this little fool become such a man...I swallowed with a bitter taste.
My son had fallen ill with an incurable disease when he was young and had fluttered between life and death.
“Papa, it hurts, but I'll hold on”
I'll never forget the color of his face, like ashes, when they carried him by stretcher to the operating room.
When he woke up again after an interminable sleep, he whispered faintly “Where am I?” At that moment I thought, “I will never make any demands on this son. Just his being alive is enough for me.”
As he grew up, you could say we spoiled him: he did what he pleased. When it was time for his high school entrance exams, he said he wanted to be a musician.
“Let me do what I want till I'm thirty”
He went to a third rate school, formed a band and after graduation worked like an ant and sang & danced like a cricket, my son, who could dream in broad daylight.
“Ok, take your hands off me”
I quieted down and my anger faded. With both of us looking at her, my wife was thoroughly confused by my son's indignation. My own son admonished me.
“You should be nicer to your wife. She worries about you. And she has to go out to work, which is a terrible thing.”
In my heart, this stupid old fool was applauding him.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

oticon PrizesSENNHEISER headphone & healing music CD by oticon
Some Thoughts from a Disaster ZoneHONDA Kosei
The eleventh of March: the Tohoku earthquake, the tidal wave and finally the nuclear disaster. The absolute need for refuge sent many of our friends to far off places.

Though I live 60 kilometers from the reactors, the radioactivity snuck up on us. Regular distribution of needed products broke down and foodstuffs disappeared from the shelves of the supermarkets and convenience stores in a flash. Even the water supply was shut down and we had to line up at the mayor's office or visit the temple's wells to get water. We made many trips a day, hauling large water tanks by car. My daughter's in sixth grade and my son, in his last year of middle school, had to put off his high school entrance exams.

We're not in the middle of an evacuation zone, but many people have moved away. When I ask them what we should do, my daughter and son shake their heads.
“We're fine here. This is where we live.”
“I don't want to leave my friends.”
That's what we talk about while we transport our heavy cans of water back and forth across the town. I don't know when it happened, but suddenly my children have gotten stronger.

Her brother's graduation ceremony went off without a hitch but my daughter's was canceled. She was frankly discouraged, almost to the point of being bitter about it. The ceremony was canceled, but there's more in the world than just the fear of the radioactivity that we can't see, there's solicitude and care in things that we can see. If she can learn to transform experience into hope and courage, isn't that a gorgeous enough graduation?

My daughter likes to sing. She's been practicing “tabitachi no hi ni” everyday. On the 23rd, the day her graduation ceremony was scheduled for, I suggested we sing “tabitachi no hi ni” together. My daughter's clear voice twined with my deeper one, and when the song was over, I saw my daughter smile. Suddenly color had come back to a mournful world devoid of smiles with people unable to sense the season's changes.

Our children, on the receiving end of a once in a thousand years tragedy, let them be people who can share the pain and suffering of others. Let them find our future and draw the picture of what's to come. This is what I prayed as our song fell into silence and its last notes fled to the sun.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Milton PrizesMineral water for mama & baby
Late ArrivalTANIGAWA Yumiko
I don't remember feeling anything about the first time I gave birth. When my daughter came off the delivery table and I first saw her face, it didn't muster a twitch of the kind of romantic things we hear about, like “Thank you for coming to life” and such. I was just relieved it was all over.

Months later, there was still no sign of maternal feelings. Sometimes, it seemed like I was taking care of someone else's child. Often when I watched her sleeping face, I would think things like, “Whatever happens, this person will be leaving home” or “Parents and children are separate people” and “I shouldn't get too wound up in her life”.

Six months after giving birth, when I went in for one of my regular check ups, they thought I might have breast cancer. They put me through test after test until finally we got to the one last test that could only come out yes or no. While I was waiting for the result, I was filled with terror. Please don't let it be cancer. I want to keep breastfeeding my daughter. I want to see her grow up. I want to see what life she chooses and be with her as long as I can. When I looked into my daughter's innocent eyes staring up at me, I would break down in tears.

It's not very pretty, but it was the possibility of my own death that awakened my feelings for my daughter. My test came out negative and I didn't have cancer, but it changed what I thought about my daughter forever. I realized that her eventually leaving home wasn't what was important. Who knows, I might even be dead before that happens. And if that were so, shouldn't I spend every moment I could with her now? Make every hug and kiss a real one so as to nourish my daughter's coming life and surround it with a rich bed of memories. That's what I began to think.

This spring my daughter had her first birthday. As a mother, I'm now a one year old. Sometimes I try too hard to be the perfect mother, but mostly I'm just happy to be with my daughter. When I look at her, I thank her for being there. That frigid mother from a year ago has been blown away in a storm of kisses.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Milton PrizesMineral water for mama & baby
The Mail of TearsYAGIZAWA Kazu
This April, I left home and started life on my own. When almost all my fellow high school classmates were leaving town to go off to college, my mother obstinately refused me permission to leave. “When I think that you might be sad, it makes me sad. When I think how living alone is tough and might make you cry, I get worried and it's painful for me.” Just listening to a mother who could say such things was enough to depress anyone. When I actually did begin living alone, it certainly was a new experience for me. Some things were frankly troubling, but not having a controlling mother around gave me more freedom. For the first few weeks, I got mails from my mother every morning and night saying things like: “What are you eating?” or “How are you feeling?”, things that expressed her worry over me. When I got involved with campus life and finally even got a late night job, it was rare that I took time to answer her mails. Then, she gradually stopped sending them.

Life went on that way till one day, when I was riding on a bus, a mother with a baby got on and took the seat just across from me. This baby was too young to understand words, but the mother kept speaking in a soft voice, kissing the baby's head and showing the baby reflections of itself and the passing colors on the windowpane. Looking at these two, I remembered my mother and I together. When the child you've cherished for some twenty years leaves home, it must be difficult for any parent. My own parents were no special exception. I felt selfish and ashamed. That's when I realized how unhappy she must have been when my mails stopped coming and, for a long painful moment, I couldn't stop my tears.

As soon as I got off the bus, I sent my mother a mail, “It's been a while since I've sent you a mail. I'm sorry. Thank you for everything.” And there was an immediate answer to this wayward daughter's late-coming mail, “That's fine. I'm glad you've understood.” For once, I felt my mother was really somebody. “That's my mother” I thought, as my tears transformed into a smile.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Milton PrizesMineral water for mama & baby
A Daughter's PrayerNARUOKA Kayo
“Come along, my sweet and lovely”
Every night I chant these words while rubbing my daughter's back to lull her to sleep. Maybe it makes her feel safe, but mostly it works and I soon hear the sound of her steady breathing.

With this and that, three years have slipped by. My daughter started kindergarten this year: she's already three years old. I'm also a third year mother, wondering if I'm getting good enough grades to pass into fourth. Sometimes I get mad and yell at my daughter. Sometimes I forget the promises I've made her. To top it off, she told me the other day that the food was better at the kindergarten. My hurried cooking's been written off for what it is. I guess I'm flunking out... “Come along, my sweet and lovely, sorry you've got such a lousy mommy.” There are evenings when I rub her back and hear this refrain in my heart.

One night like so many others, she pulled my sleeve and said “Mamaaa, let's do Come Along.” While I rubbed her back, “Come along, you know, at school we always pray to God. (My daughter is at a Missionary School) Mama, let's pray too. Dear God, Please make me happy...Come Along. Aren't you going to make a prayer too?”
“No I'm fine. If you're happy, everything's OK.”
“I'm going to make a prayer for Mama. God: somehow, somewhere, make Mama...uh...happy!”
No sooner said than granted! I can only be proud of a little girl who could make such a selfless prayer that so fills me with happiness.
But there is one little thing that I would like to ask for.
“For the sake of my daughter, please let me graduate to a higher grade.”

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

Milton PrizesMineral water for mama & baby
Always, AlwaysKAKIMOTO Kiyomi
My younger son was selfish and full of pranks. When we'd all get sick of his behavior, I tried to scold him by thoughtlessly repeating something like, “Your brother listens to what I tell him, doesn't he? We found you abandoned in an orange crate under the bridge. Your not my child.” He slipped under his bedcovers with a sullen look. It never occurred to me that he might believe such a thing, so I didn't give it a second thought and went off to bed.

The next morning, when the alarm clock went off, I felt something around my wrist. On closer inspection, I discovered that my right hand wrist was bound by a jump rope. My younger son had snuck into my bed sometime during the night and the other end was attached to his left wrist. Two large tear tracks were clearly visible on his sleeping face...

He must have really believed he was an abandoned child. I was startled to realize that my thoughtless invective had actually wounded this child. To look at him there sleeping, I saw a cherubic five year-old. (I'm sorry...I'm so sorry...) Soon he woke up. The first words out of his mouth were, “I'm your child too”. “Of course you are,” I answered. “Both you and your brother will always, always be my children.”

All at once, his face broke into a wide smile and, sweeping off his pajamas, he flung them across the room. A beautiful shot dead on the flower vase. (Ahhh, I've been had!) Well, this time let's let him off easy! Just look at him: when he's down, he goes way down. But he's quick to come up again. That's just like me. There's no getting around it, we're mother and son. And will always, always be mother and son.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

TRINITYLINE PrizesSkin Care Set
My Present from AboveTOMITA Masumi
When I was a teenager all I had to say was “I'm never getting married”. My father was a master at being pleasant with everyone, then ranting and raging at my mother for trivial things. I couldn't forgive him for running her down in public and I think it caused me to move from being complexed over men to being complexed over marriage.

With the passage of time and before I knew it, I was married myself and had two children. Then my husband became clinically depressive. Maybe it was his illness, but he started getting mad for a trifle and was totally incapable of controlling his emotions. He would throw tantrums and break things. When I spoke with my mother, I would say, “he's just like Daddy. I went out and married the same man!” When my father spoke about my husband, he would just say, “he's worthless” and get mad about it.

About the same time, my father checked in with cancer. It quickly spread from the lungs and he was diagnosed with neoplastic meningitis. If his present therapy didn't help, he had two or three months to live. And since the brain was attacked, there was a good chance that whatever happened, he would end up demented. That's when I visited my father at the hospital and he said to me with a sigh, “Depression is a nervous disease. Your own emotions don't play out the way you intend them to. Since I got sick I can begin to understand that, but I think it must be terrible for him. I was so hard on him...I feel bad about it”.

Since then, everything I've ever held against my father has just slipped away. I don't have any heart for it when I see him suffering through all the side effects. For the moment his chemotherapy is working, but it is so hard. I just want to devote myself to him and make the most of the little time we have left together.

I thought I would never marry, but now I'm glad I did and I believe that my children are the most precious things I have. My emotions are all wound up and it's so hard to say, but I would just like to tell my father thanks, just once before he goes.
Dear God, thank you for giving one last moment to this father and daughter.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

TRINITYLINE PrizesSkin Care Set
Late-Blooming PianistTANAKA Chihiro
I guess you could say that my mother is a very social person. I mean she's always had a lot of friends. But maybe it's clearer to say that she's always doing something new, and therefore always making new friends.

Otherwise, my mother works at the reception of a small hospital in the neighborhood and in the afternoon, along with the housework, still has some time for herself. She likes to take classes. Up till now she's been through things like painting, artificial flowers, gym, tea ceremony, beads...and with each class she makes new friends. When she was in her late fifties, she started a new course: piano. She said, in all simplicity: it looks like fun. And off she went.

Once she started, she would practice every chance she got and piano became a common subject of conversation. “It's such a wonderful melody, it makes me feel good” ...or “Today my fingers are light”, whatever, my mother's quite good at making herself happy.

Finally, I got a chance to see my mother practice. Her teacher was my age. “Today my daughter's come to watch” my mother chirped in a voice just a bit higher than usual. She sat down and opened her musical score with a kind of tense look. Then she played haltingly and seemed a little shaky. Looking back and forth between her hands and the score, she occasionally used the pedal and generally threw her head and body this way and that in reaction to the music. She looked about as clumsy as a tin toy.

It really wasn't much of a performance but her teacher congratulated her heartily saying, “I think you're playing is so much better than before” and my mother, looking a little embarrassed, agreed, “Yes, it's so wonderful!” That was the end of that day's lesson. Encouraged by her teacher's praise, she added, “I practiced 3 hours today” as proof of her dedication.

In defense of my mother, she still prepares fresh meals for my father every night. Along with rice, she fixes three side dishes. Going beyond 2 dishes is the measure of my mother's gratitude. “He's never put a hand to any housework, but on the other hand, I get to do what I want to” is her clairvoyant arrangement.

I feel like I should keep my eye on our house pianist.
If she gets just a little better, maybe she can play at my wedding.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

TRINITYLINE PrizesSkin Care Set
Work Like a HorseYORITOMI Masahiro
Both of my parents were born at the beginning of the Showa period. It was a generation of children that grew up during the war trying to evade air raids, then lived through the brittle poverty of the post-war rebuilding. They lived without luxuries, just clinched their teethe and made their way thru it. Because he lost his father early, my father hardly went to school after eighth grade. He mixed with older men and went to work. My mother too, who liked to study and dreamed of going to high school, was part of a large family and had to give up school to help her older sister. She went to work at a far off spinning mill as part of a group employment project.

These two people got married, and starting with me, had a boy and two girls for whom they did everything they could. Thanks to their determination, the three of us went thru high school, college and masters programs. Through all that time, when I thought of my parents, I imagined them working. Working like carriage horses with no vacation in site. Single-mindedly sweating at the task. That is still how I see my parents. Yet, even though they struggled so to make ends meet, they managed to take us on family trips. I still remember the set of miss-matched volumes from the Everyman's literature collection lined up on their shelf. They bought it hoping their children would read some famous stories.

When I think back on it now, those books were the very symbol of their love for their children. And because of those books, both my sisters and I came to like reading. I even went on to become a high school teacher of Japanese. Those shelves crammed with books were equally crammed with the loving care of two parents who worked like draft horses for their children.

Now, my parents are almost eighty years old. My father's had a stroke and my mother suffers from heart disease. They live on, supporting each other as a couple. We won't be going on anymore family trips like we used to in the past, but I am not likely to forget everything my parents have given me. Maybe it's from having grown up watching them work so hard, but I too prefer work over holidays. They say that in the Japanese word for work: hataraku, there is “hata” meaning others and “raku”, to soothe or make easy.

Now, I feel deeply that seeing my parents work was exactly that for me.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

TRINITYLINE PrizesSkin Care Set
A Snowy DaySUZUKI Ryoko
It was when I was still little. I was in seventh heaven because I'd gotten good at riding my bike. I decided to go to the other side of the broad highway. My friend lived in an apartment there where I liked to play. Both my parents were out to work, so this time, without a word to anyone, I set out on my own.

It was the cold time of the year. When you play with a good friend, you lose all sense of time. Before I knew it, night had fallen and I'd gone beyond my curfew.
“You're mother's gonna be mad!”

I ran out in a fluster, out into a dark road where I couldn't recognize anything. The stunning lights over the highway flitted by me and frightened me. With only my frail bike lamp to light the way, I struggled up the hill I had come flying down that afternoon.

When I finally made it to familiar ground, the path I took to school everyday, it began to snow, something that hardly ever happened in the region. My tires slipped. I fell to the ground and started crying. I wailed as loud as I could while pushing my bike with numb hands. I completely forgot my well worked out excuse for being late and was oppressed by the impression of being on some long, unending march.

When, at last, I made it to the front of our house, I saw my mother and father, my grandfather and grandmother all gathered in the garden. My mother rushed out and grabbed my snow covered body and I let out a cry of relief, “Mamaaaaa.” My mother held me whispering “My little fool, my little fool”.

Most of the time my mother didn't pamper me. She was more of the distant type. That night when I fought my way home and one other time, the morning the grandmother I loved so much died, are the only two times she ever hugged me so completely. Twenty years later, I can still feel the solidity of her chest and hear her soft whisper.

Now I'm a working mother just like she was. I feel so deeply all her emotion when she muttered in my ear, “My little fool, my little fool.” The first little fool was for me, for being empty-headed and blind to all around me. But maybe the second was you. You blamed yourself for being at work and not being at home.

Forgive me mother. It's taken me all this time to understand. Thank you for holding me so utterly tight in your arms.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

TRINITYLINE PrizesSkin Care Set
My Father and IMIYOSHI Yuki
I've left home to go to college in Kobe now. We had a holiday the other day and I went by the Ijinkan where something happened with my father that I will never forget. It was when I was in seventh grade. The whole family had come to Kobe on a trip and when we stopped for lunch, I realized I'd lost my handkerchief. I'd probably lost it on our way back from the Ijinkan. It was raining that day. Even worse, the Ijinkan area is thronged with tourists. I'd pretty well written it off when my father said, “Let's try to find it.”

With those words, my father and I set off back up the hill we had just come down. I didn't know what to think, walking next to my father, who was scrutinizing the surrounding area with the utmost seriousness. It'd be nice to find my handkerchief, but I really had no idea where or how I'd lost it. Finding it seemed extremely unlikely. Yet my father pressed on, going back to all the places we'd visited and checking every nook and cranny. Finally, my father's utter earnestness got to me, and I too set myself to the task. But still, we couldn't find it. Even my father gave up. We turned and went back down the hill again. Between the two of us, there was little to say. Somewhere along the way, I lifted my head and that's when I saw it, “There it is!!”

The handkerchief was sitting neatly folded over a store sign just level with my eyes. Some kindly person had picked it up. My father broke his silence and said, “If we'd gone back to Okayama without finding that handkerchief, you might have felt bad about it if you hadn't looked hard for it. And then maybe you'd remember this whole trip as the time you lost your handkerchief. But if you search so hard that you're forced to give up, even if you don't find it, you go away with the memory of our search together. That was my idea. Anyway, I'm glad you found it.”

When he said that, I understood why he had insisted so much on looking. For him, whether we found it or not was not the issue. And for me, more than any handkerchief, my father's thoughtfulness made me happy. So it is that I remembered the two of us walking along this hill on that rainy day as I walked down the same hill alone today.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

The Mainichi Newspaper Prizes"Mottainai" goods from Mainichi Newspaper
Blood RelationNAKATA Yuki
I'm the younger of two children. Three days after I was born, I fell ill with some strange disease which caused me to cough up about two thirds of my blood. My condition became critical, but my father saved me. After receiving such a tremendous infusion of blood from my father, it's almost laughable how much our characters are alike. We both speak loudly and come on strong. In fact, so much so that some people think we must be mad when were quiet. Many people find us intimidating when they first meet us. However there's a flip side too. We're very sentimental and warm-hearted. Maybe it's even better to say that we're too warm-hearted. We often get dragged into trouble because we don't hesitate a second to help someone in need.

What's even more surprising is that our timing is exactly the same. Going to the toilet, taking a bath, drinking some tea, let's eat this or that, and on and on. So much so that I make a game of delaying what I do just a bit, just to see. And generally, my father does as expected, or rather, just as I wanted to, and then I follow. We're more like twins than father and son.

When I went through puberty, I couldn't stand this relation with my father and stayed away from him. I never spoke to him. I didn't even say hello. Once I moved away from him, I had trouble knowing what position to take. I grew into adulthood and got married that way.

Then my first child was born. The first time I held that child, the child my wife had risked her life to put into this world, I broke down in tears. And then I told her, “Thank you.” Next, my father held that baby. And when he did, he broke down in tears and then thanked my wife over and over again.
“My happiness is double” my wife said, and she cried too.
For the first time I felt that life had doubled my happiness and cut any sadness by half. And with that, my distance from my father was cut in half.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

The Mainichi Newspaper Prizes"Mottainai" goods from Mainichi Newspaper
DiaryKUDO Yuka
I have one son who will soon be 2 and a second child who will be born in 3 weeks. They are both still so young. When they grow up, I have something I want to give them. It's a diary.

12 years ago, on the night before my own coming of age ceremony, my father gave me two used notebooks. They were filled with messages my father had written when he'd thought about me. It started with this note: “Finally! I'm going to have a child. It looks like this summer I'm bound to be a parent. I'm going to be a father!”

What he felt when I was born, what happened until I was one, what words I could say by the time I was two: it was all there, noted in detail. His joy in seeing me grow up, his pleasure in just watching me and sometimes his anger when he scolded me. It all came back to me. The first time he slapped my cheek, “Yuka was crying. The hand I hit her with hurts. I feel bad about it, but I want her to grow up with some good sense, so I slapped her.” I still remember how he screamed at me.

My sixth grade summer homework was calligraphy. I was so bad at it, but my father, who had a practiced hand, patiently showed me what to do. No matter how many times I tried, it never looked any good. “I'm sick of this. I can’t get a handle on my summer homework.” My father answered encouragingly, “Don't give up. I'm sure you can do it.” When I finally got something on paper that pleased me, I was so happy I cried. “There you go! It's good you didn't give up. Perseverance is a kind of power.”

It took me three days to read everything, with my tears often wetting the pages. When I finished it, I was finally able to thank my father for everything, “Thank you, Papa. I'll always treasure this. When I get to be a mother, I want to do the same thing for my children. Thank you, really.”

The powerful love my father showed me, I hope I can do the same for my children and that they will be able to read it all in my diary.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

The Mainichi Newspaper Prizes"Mottainai" goods from Mainichi Newspaper
Family TowersTERADA Ryutaro
“Next time I'll take you to the Sky Tree when it's finished”
That was my youngest son talking. All I could think was that I was hardly at an age where I needed to get taken anywhere, but I was still happy.

Come to think of it, when my mother visited Tokyo, we went up the Tokyo Tower together. My mother was so happy to go to the top of such a tall building for the first time. It changed the way I thought of her to see her so childishly happy. When I said I wanted to go to Tokyo University, my mother was the one who backed me up. She worked hard to pay my educational fees. Since I never thanked her directly, going up Tokyo Tower together was my only show of gratitude.

Now my mother has gone to a place even higher than Tokyo Tower. I will never see her again. But my son is going to take me to an even higher building, the Tokyo Sky Tree. He's going to take me just as close to my mother as I can get. Maybe I can even show my son to my mother. Maybe it'll be my last chance to show my gratitude to her.

For now, let me say it frankly:
Thank you, mother.
And you, my son, thank you too.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

EPSON PrizeCompact Printer
A Collection of the HeartSHINMEI Emi
Let me introduce you to the baby who lived in my belly.
Term: 33 weeks, weight: 2220 grams, height: 46.9 cm.:
he was a healthy baby boy. We enjoyed reading
picture books together, going to look at flowers,
and eating good things.

Then, when it was time for him to come out into the world,
he never once opened his eyes or even took a breath,
but went off on a trip to a different world.

That's why our family album was a little empty.
There are pictures of me in the children's room
with my big, full belly and another of me with a child
whose eyes are shut tight and who looks like he wanted to say something.

For those of you who think how desolate we must feel,
well at first, it was all so pitiful: how else could we be but empty.
Now, one year later, I think things have gone the other way.

We didn't have many photos
and we didn't have many memories,
But one by one, we rooted them out to look at them,
those feelings and those images,
and one by one, we've placed them carefully in our hearts,

where they are there to stay,
for these two parents,
an album of the heart,
But this one full, not empty

(translation © victor woronov 2011)

OYAKO DAY PrizeDiatomite stove from Suzu city (large size)
Together, Over & BeyondHITOTSUYANAGI Makoto
New projects from my third grade daughter, depending on how you act on them, can get to be quite a challenge. All at once the way I've been bringing her up can be put into question and even our basic relation can shift.

Spinning tops, double under, stilts, back hip circle, crawl. My daughter's already been over a lot of hurdles, with help from her father, a Showa type raised on sports based television. Give her an idea how it's done → when she's struggling, cover her with a storm of encouragement: “If you keep at it, you can do it” “It's all about effort” → my daughter on the verge of tears. That's the essential process. Then, one day, the next hurdle was the unicycle. I don't think the thing even existed when I was a kid. I can't be her model. Nonetheless, I check the essential method and tips, then make a royal show of coaching her. The usual storm of encouragement finishing with my daughter on the verge of tears. She bit her tongue and finally got the hang of it. We spent a lot of time on it, so her satisfaction was equally great. I too was greatly pleased.
“I did it! I kept at it and I didn't quit, just like Papa said”
That wrapped up my take, but there was an addenda, “You should try it too. If you make a real effort, you can't fail!” “What!?”
Thus began a long period in which I dedicated 5 minutes a day to the unicycle. As a Showa Dad, it was a bout of blood, sweat & tears. I worked on it for two months. About the time the kids at the playground had stopped even noticing me, it finally came to me. “hey...,” “whoa...,” “I got it!”

The feeling I had in that moment of accomplishment topped off the whole period for me. My daughter and I had lived the same sensation. As a parent, I'd shown my colors. It was like a banquet for one, drunk on ambrosia. “But next time, let's push the envelope and go ride on a merry-go-round.”

A few months later, my daughter joined the school music group, so her next challenge was the accordion. The wonder-coach would have to sit this one out. And maybe from now on, a quiet retirement. That particular hurdle was one I knew I would have to face. I get the feeling that for each mile a child grows up, she moves two miles further from her parents. But no matter how far she goes, she doesn't tear off. There's an invisible thread that spins itself into being.

(translation © victor woronov 2011)