Translations of “Kaetteiku Basho” by Makoto Shīna from the original Japanese.
Chapter I: The Cherry Tree Has Withered
We decided to leave the home we lived in for almost thirty years. On the outskirts of Tokyo. It was a place called Musashino, but now residences have been built so there are no traces left of it.
After getting married, when my wife and I began to live in this place, the surroundings had been saturated in vibrant green. Soon ladies gathered nearby, so a well-known women’s university was established, and because there were woods with short sawtooth oaks and pin oaks edging the front of the house, several varieties of wild birds always arrived at the house where I lived.
Moreover, at one time a great rooster had been living in those woods, and every morning at an unreasonable hour the rooster would raise a battle cry. In Northeast Asian country dwellings an awakened feeling somehow comes over you; I secretly loved that rooster, but it seemed strongly unpopular among the homes in the neighborhood vicinity. I guess that rooster was likely kept at a house somewhere. It either ran away – or was thrown away – but it’s more likely that it had been thrown out.
A few months earlier, in front of the elementary school that my children were attending, a man had been selling chicks. They cost ten yen each, so they were all bought up with children’s pocket money. I suppose the homes of the children who bought them just because they were cute were soon in trouble.
Chicks grow in the blink of an eye. Before long, not only are they walking around overbearingly, but they also eat a lot of feed and cause a racket from early in the morning. In the end, the neighboring houses and the adjoining urban homes really could no longer keep them. I guess parents who were absolutely at their wits’ end searched the woods and were tossing them out there.
The unpopular thing about the rooster was that he occasionally attacked people who strolled the path through the woods where he lived. Even though I say ‘attack,’ he would just chase and peck with his beak, but it was still dangerous for children.
At some point, someone called the police. Not only did it become a pretty big hunt, but unfortunately he was “arrested.”
Although I had been watching the entire capture from start to end through the window, I felt somewhat disappointed. Even so, there was nothing I could do.
Five or six years later, even those woods were cut down by the landowner, and houses built for sale were lined up. The sense of loss when those woods were destroyed was even more intense than when the rooster left.
The big green cluster disappeared completely from the landscape outside my bedroom window. At that same time, the scattered woods and empty lots nearby were also suddenly disappearing. It was not just the situation around my house; following a wave of high economic growth, it was also an era when the green surrounding Tokyo had disappeared after reckless residential construction. At the same time, my two children were suddenly not only growing up but on days off they were no longer going to play in the close-knit neighborhood’s forests and fields.
Not only was our house becoming more cramped as the children grew, but it was also cobbled together from each time we renovated extensions of the building. Only the frame had become a fairly large three-story wooden structure.
I am a nostalgically sentimental person who reaches for the past, and my wife often teases me. Maybe that is to be expected. Because when an occasion such as a dinner conversation with my wife arises, I am running my mouth about things like that. Especially when I saw that the cherry tree had withered, though, you could say my wife was also surprisingly distraught.
(to be continued)