Photo/IllutrationChildren make lemonade at a hospital in Tokyo to raise donations to support kids suffering from cancer. (Asahi Shimubn file photo)

Shiro Eishima, a sixth-grader living in Yokohama, was diagnosed with cancer when he was 3. He endured a 15-hour major operation to remove a brain tumor.

“When I had the surgery, I was disappointed because I couldn't see the annular eclipse of the sun I had looked forward to seeing,” he recalled.

Shiro, now 12, left the hospital at the age of 5. He spoke crisply and clearly about his childhood experiences while searching his memory.

A bit to my surprise, he said he had some pleasant memories about his prolonged hospital stay. He fondly remembers how he ran around in the hospital with his fellow child inpatients who, like him, were attached to an IV stand, and got excited as they saw flashes of lightning in a dark room.

When he was a third-grader, Shiro started a lemonade stand, selling lemonade in public squares and in front of train stations for 100 yen (91 cents) a cup to support medical treatment for other children who had cancer. His business idea was inspired by a movement initiated by Alexandra Scott, an American girl who started a lemonade stand to raise money to help other kids with cancer.

Shiro has written a picture book entitled “Boku wa remonedo-yasan” (I am a lemonade seller). The book, published this summer, is based on Shiro's experiences operating his lemonade stand.

Some childhood cancer patients suffer from such aftereffects as mental disabilities and paralysis even after they grow into adulthood.

Shiro injects himself with growth hormones at home six times a week.

“This is a disease I have to live with throughout my life,” he says, talking like a grown-up. “I feel sorry for my younger brother who must have missed me every time I went to the hospital or had to go there for treatment.”

I decided to interview Shiro after we received a letter from him in July asking us to write about his picture book to promote it. His letter featured an illustration of a smiling lemon.

I was intrigued to find out what kind of boy had created the book.

When I asked him what his future plans were, Shiro said, “I want to open a lemonade cafe where patients and their families can get together and talk.”

I would like to be the first customer of his cafe on its opening day.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 1

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.