Chapter 1. Autumn: Autumn in Hot Spring
Making furniture 2
Tsubasa asked Kanalu, "You've asked for so much data on my grandparents' room. They are only going to rent some furniture for a short stay, so why do you need this data?"
Tsubasa heard Kanalu's warm laugh and saw his face on RUICA. Did everyone find Kanalu as charismatic as he did? Kanalu seemed like the kind of guy who would attract both men and women. Tsubasa switched his RUICA's mode to show his own face side by side with Kanalu's.
"Even though they may be here temporarily, we want to provide them with their familiar living environment. Humans tend to rely on habit, such as knowing how many steps are from the bed to the wardrobe or to the bathroom. Even though they have been using their current furniture for only two years, since they moved to your condominium, providing them with same size furniture in the same room layout will help prevent nighttime accidents. Of course, we will change the furniture if they agree. We corrected the hardness of the bed when they came here."
"That's true," Tsubasa said to himself. "Ryoko-san worked hard to fix the hardness of grandmother's bed, but I have not heard anything about it since."
"Did the change work out?" he asked aloud.
Kanalu responded, "Yes, it did. I think that since then, your grandmother has not suffered from any back problems, and she always has a good night's sleep." Tsubasa could see how sensors had provided useful data. At the same time, he wondered where the data would end up.
"Kanalu-san, the room data is private information. How long will it be kept?" Tsubasa asked cautiously.
"It is up to the individual. We got permission for retrieving the data from Kohei-san and Nobuko-san. When we delete any data, we ask the customer concerned to confirm the deletion. Some long-term customers may ask us to retain their data."
Tsubasa said, "Do they ask for your advice in when they add or lose family members?" "They do. I also think the data could be used to track how the family has changed. Furniture is material goods, of course, but it is also part of the record of family history. A couple may add a new baby chair to the table and chairs that they bought during their newlywed days. As their baby grows up, the chair would be removed from the room and a cupboard and a desk may be added, or new wardrobe replace an old one. By retaining the data, the family will have a continuous record."
Tsubasa asked, "But what would be the purpose?"
Kanalu smiled. Seeing the smile, Tsubasa was reminded how much more experience in life Kanalu had.
"When you walked around Takafu-cho holding RUICA, did you see old people who walked through the town overlaying the current street with the old street of the year when they were born?" asked Kanalu. Tsubasa replied, "Yes, I saw this often. My grandparents liked to do it a lot."
"Just as the town's memory is its asset, the memory of house and furniture is a family's asset. Memory is invisible, it cannot be converted into money, but it is part of a family's identity. We make furniture that will be adaptable enough to be used as people grow and age, and durable enough to last for a long time. We use trees which are over one hundred years old to make our furniture. Therefore, it is our obligation to make furniture that will last for a century.
Tsubasa remembered seeing the phrase "One hundred years" hanging in Kanalu's workshop. It had not rung a bell with Tsubasa, who was only 23. For Kanalu, who was just 10 years or so older, these were words to live by.
Tsubasa finished gathering the data on his grandparents' room that day. Ryoko was not involved in the exchange of information. Tsubasa was disappointed, but also relieved.
The next day, as Tsubasa worked on his master's thesis in the research laboratory at his university, he suddenly decided to search for Kanalu Aso on the Internet. He could not find anything, and thought he might have misheard the name. There was no information on KANARU ASOH either. He suddenly remembered: "CANAL, which connects two oceans." Then he searched for CANAL ASOH. He could not believe what he found: an article by Canal Asoh, a lecturer at Oxford University. Tsubasa could not hold back a wild cry at his discovery. His fellow students left their work stations and rushed to his desk. Looking at the screen, one senior student said, "You are inattentive to your studies. You should know this man. He is the genius whose thesis at the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers won a special commendation when he was a university student." Tsubasa tried to appear calm. "Do you know where he is?"
"I don't know. I had heard that he left England for some reason, but I don't know what he's doing now. Do you know anything about him?"
Tsubasa slipped his hand in his pants pocket and started to bring out RUICA, but then stopped. He felt reluctant to tell people about Kanalu without his permission; furthermore, he liked having secret knowledge. Tsubasa shook his head and went back to his PC. He wondered why Kanalu quit his career and moved to a country town. Did he want to forget his dead wife? No, for he named the device RUICA after her. Tsubasa felt the RUICA fitting comfortably in his hand. It was a tool that he wanted to keep forever.