Chapter 3: Spring: Among Showers of Blossoms
Waiting for spring 1
In March, the snow in Takafu-cho had melted little by little and the sky had begun to clear. Takashi had entered a local junior high school. He was still living with the Kishigami family and had gotten used to his new environment. Yukio visited him every weekend. Whenever Yukio came to Takafu-cho, he helped Kanalu split firewood and prepare mochi (sticky rice cake) in his yard. He was very good at splitting firewood and pounding mochi. Takashi wondered why his father was so good at these tasks, so he asked:
"Papa, have you split firewood before?"
Yukio replied, "Yes, in my school days I used to work at summer camps. You know, splitting firewood, pounding mochi, playing golf and baseball are all based on the same fundamental rule. We use centrifugal force to power these actions. We use the energy generated by moving against gravity."
"It sounds like a scientific experiment." Takashi said.
"Yes, "Yukio answered, "Everything in our life can be an application of the experiments we learned at school. Cooking is a combination of chemistry and physics. If you understand mathematics, you can tell the difference between the interest rates for consumer loans and bank loans. If you have wide knowledge of art and history, you enjoy more in your sightseeing trips."
Tetsu joined their conversation."If you can speak foreign languages, you can make friends with people all over the world."
Surprisingly Tetsu and Yukio had become good friends; on weekends, they drank together and talked about a wide variety of subjects. To Takashi, his father seemed to be subtly different from the father he had known. Takashi respected Tetsu, and began to like his father more as this relationship developed. Takashi saw new aspects of his father, and realized he had not tried hard enough to understand his father before.
Tetsu explained that when you learn how to do things using your body, you will not forget until you die. If you feel through your five senses, you will remember the sensation throughout your life. Therefore, the sooner you experience many things, the better. "You know that to study means to feel, to experience, and to think logically. Studying is interesting."
Kanalu said, "Tetsu-san, the Spring Festival is just around the corner. Will you arrange for Takashi-kun to participate in the children's practice? He will have a physical experience of the joy of spring."
"All right. It's about the time to start the practice. Let's go."
The Spring Festival was an important event in the snow region nationwide. After the long winter, it was time for the whole world to enjoy the rebirth of nature with sprays of flowers, trees bright with new leaves, and the color of soil under the melting snow, and the community shared in the joy. At the Spring Festival in Takafu-cho, people carried miniature shrines and had a huge parade as they did in the Autumn Festival to celebrate the harvest. Children in the town practiced dancing, playing flutes and drumming for the festival. Because schools were closed during the period, children liked the festival very much. During the festival, many tourists visited the town. Natives who lived outside returned home to get together with families and friends.
At the end of the 20th century when the town's economy was declining, this Spring Festival had a difficult time surviving. There was a lack of people to carry the miniature shrines, and a lack of children to perform the tradition of the music and dancing. The town started improving when an increasing number of senior people moved in from cities with the goal of working in the agricultural and forest industry; and then middle aged people, with their families, began returning to their home town. Thanks to the availability of Information technology, it had become easier for people to work in their local communities.
There were many attractions in the town: untouched beautiful nature, the health-restoring pure hot spring, with its abundant free flowing water that needed no recycling, tasty drinking water, and refreshing air. There was also a wide variety of fresh local foods. Young people who once said that there was nothing in the town realized that there was a lot that was good to eat there and came back home. The residents' pride in their town attracted visitors. The town's festivals, which were the heart and soul of the residents lives, revived as the community revived. The festivals had attracted a large number of tourists, which boosted local employment.
Before the festival, many people, including children, teachers, local government workers, housewives, and Japanese inn owners gathered at the community center in the evening. Despite the chilly air, they sweated from practicing drumming and dancing. The drumming and dancing teachers were local residents. Some worked at the municipal office, and some were owners of Japanese inns. Some of the farmers' wives were superb performers of the flute and beautiful dancers.
Takashi went back and forth among the children and came to a halt in front of the drums. The beats, the vibration rather than the sound, echoed into his body. It sounded like something he felt from the earth. He remembered the messages he received from the earth when he walked in the mountain snow. The messages said, "You can live. You have the right to live on earth and you have a purpose in life."
Takashi turned to Yukio and Tetsu and said, "I want to beat the drum." Takashi, who rarely chose by himself, had made a choice. Yukio and Tetsu thought Takashi had grown up.