Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring
Journey to hot spring 1
The golden rays of the afternoon sun lit up the cars of the limited express.
As the train moved along the snaking stream, the dazzling sunlight shone
on the faces of an old couple and their grandson. The steward came into
their car selling lunch boxes, snacks, beer, and coffee. The old man quietly
asked "Do you want a beer?" Tsubasa Uemura, his grandson, replied
"I prefer coffee." He ordered two cans of beer and coffee. He
placed one beer in front of his wife. Tsubasa sipped his black coffee.
The old woman opened her beer quietly, proposed a toast to her husband,
then took a sip and put it back in front of her. She might only finish
one third of her beer and pass the rest to her husband. He used to say
that women should drink at least a little.
Tsubasa looked out the window and saw a stretch of the river and the forest reflected in the water, creating spectacular scenery that recalled the work of Kaii Higashiyama, a famous Japanese painter. Tsubasa then realized that he was far away and felt uneasy.
His grandparents sat quietly, though they seemed happy being together. They communicated by making eye gestures and they understood each other. One of them gestured "Look, the river is beautiful", the other nodded "Yes, we see the bountiful river." This silent conversation, the language Tsubasa did not understand, went on and on.
"Their communication style is so much better than mine,"Tsubasa said to himself. "I always had long chats with friends until I was satisfied, thinking that would make my worries disappear, but rather the conversation caused new worries."
His grandparents did not talk much. They spoke with their hearts. They had established this communication style in the course of their 50 years together. Tsubasa remembered one girl who said, "I would like to be with someone with whom I can talk about everything, without speaking words". He wondered if she meant his grandparents' style of communication.
Of course, they were different at the beginning. Grandfather used to be a playboy during his youth. He was a man who never helped in the household work. When he was over 60 years, his wife fell sick. His relatives came to his house to assist in the housework but they could not do anything because they had no idea how his wife ran the house- this forced him to manage his daily life at home by himself. Just after his wife fell sick, he transformed himself into a feminist. Before he made any decision, he listened to his wife's opinion first. After that, he thought about what his wife liked and looked for whatever he could do to help her in the household work. The people around him were confused about his sudden change.
This trip bewildered Tsubasa's family. Tsubasa Uemura was a first-year graduate student doing his master's degree program in electronic engineering. His grandparents suddenly said that they wanted to make a trip to a hot spring in Takafu-cho for their health, without considering how busy Tsubasa was writing his thesis. Since his parents who lived together with his grandparents were busy and did not have time to accompany them, Tsubasa stood in for his parents. He was given enough pocket money, though he was not interested in a hot spring in the deep mountain. He wondered how people could live there without tennis courts, movie theaters, and jazz bars running through the night. He wondered if there was a convenience store.
Grandfather finished his beer soon and took his wife's as Tsubasa had expected. Both sat quietly but they were connected. Tsubasa questioned whether he could find a partner with whom he could communicate in silence as his grandparents did.
As the train traveled through the mountains, the temperature dropped. Tsubasa felt cold through the window. Here and there the broadleaf trees had turned red and yellow. "What a nice place" "Yes, it is" The old couple whispered. Tsubasa was sleeping and he was not sure whether their conversation was aloud or in their hearts.