Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring
In the light
The cry of birds was heard in the distance. "Chi-chi! Chi-chi!" The sound increased as it drew nearer and the noise hit Tsubasa's ears. He got out of bed. "What is this? Too noisy! I did not hear this when I stayed here last time." His parents pulled their quilts over their heads. When they finally got up, the grandparents were already awake and watching outside from the deck. The dawn's light began to dye the east and rosy clouds floated in the pale purple sky. Tsubasa's skin tingled in the cold morning air. It felt very good.
The loud noise turned out to be a flock of birds which had made their nests on a tree near the log house. Hundreds of birds woke up, said good morning to each other, and prepared for flight. When the terrace door was opened, their voices filled the room. The morning concert lasted for about 10 minutes and then they were all gone. The gentle morning sun filled the neighborhood.
"Did I wake you up? grandfather asked Tsubasa. "I bet it's been a long time since you were woken up by birds." "Yes, this may be the first time," Tsubasa answered and headed off to the bathroom.
Tsubasa, who was usually awoken by a robot in the controlled air of Roppongi, had never risen to the cry of birds and the morning chill and the sun's warm light.
"Kohei-san, I will make some coffee," his grandmother said. "No, I will do it, Nobuko-san," replied grandfather. "Thank you." Tsubasa gasped when he heard his grandparents calling each other by their first names. He realized: of course they have first names. They were usually called Grandfather or Grandmother. How did his parents address them? He had never heard his parents call them by their first names.
They all took breakfast on the terrace. The sun through the trees cast light and shadow on the table. The wind whistled from time to time. Was that the sound it made blowing through the trees? It seemed like a familiar memory from his childhood.
The food was very delicious - coffee, locally baked bread, simply cut vegetables fresh from the garden, apples, and milk. Everything tasted better than the food they ate in Tokyo. Why was it all so good? Because of this beautiful morning? "Don't you think the vegetables and the bread are very delicious?" "Yes, the tastes are different, and not only that, the atmosphere here is different too."
Tsubasa's mother enjoyed the highland green vegetables. He watched her put mayonnaise and salt on the cucumbers and turmips. The hearty county bread smelled good. They were all happy.
Tsubasa noticed that his grandparents looked much younger. How could they change so much in six days?
"Here they are, the birds are coming again." When grandmother called grandfather, he pulled out his RUICA from his pocket and took a photo with its built-in camera. Analyzing the photo, RUICA used its image recognition function to search for information about the birds. "Well, these birds are called Narcissus Flycatcher. They have yellow chests. Their call is not pretty." If the image was not clear, the system could search using birdcalls. "With this device, I enjoy going bird-watching around the forest."
Grandmother said, "I am interested in flowers. The device is like a picture book, a notebook for memos and also my diary." The couple seemed very happy and comfortable using RUICA as a regular part of their lives. "If there is enough data, we can connect to the Internet." Grandmother pointed her RUICA at a vegetable basket in the kitchen. The ribbon binding the turnip leaves had an RFID tag. On RUICA's screen, the turnip was displayed as it looked in the field, looking juicy and yummy. The farmer's face, information about the produce, and scenes of the field in different seasons were displayed. "Reliable information such as how many times pesticides were used is important," said Grandfather. "However, information about the farmers who cultivate the crops is also vital for us to have trust in the food." The device displayed the face an honest-looking old man: "We raise our crops as carefully as we do our grandchildren." Grandfather looked at Tsubasa and pointed his RUICA toward a tag on a package of mushrooms. On the screen appeared a picture of grandfather wearing a straw hat and the message, "I picked these mushrooms." Tsubasa's mother was surprised. "Oh, is this you, grandfather?" Grandfather said, "Yes, I helped to pick those mushrooms. It was fun."
Grandmother said "I packaged them. I enjoyed it. We got two packages of mushrooms and some local currency for that work." "The local currency has its own special feature," added grandfather. Tsubasa asked. "What is it?" His grandfather replied, "You will see if you go to town. Let's go there later."