JAPANESE

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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"


Agricultural activities


During the cold winter, cattle were fed with humble feed; withered stems of sweet potato, rice straw and some rice porridge. I often cut the grass and straw into small pieces for the cows, though I felt very cold and my hands turned red. I often put my hands in front of my mouth and breathed on them. I saw my white breath. I knew that it did not make anything much better, but I repeated doing that, until early spring sunlight began to warm me.

Small purple violet flowers started to bloom in the field of brown withered grass. Then green buds jumped out on the field and on the trees, followed by various wild flowers. Wild white cherry blossoms on light-green mountains were splendid, particularly when they were lit by the rising sun in the morning. Dark, gray rice fields turned green with grass. Then the green turned the pinkish purple of Chinese milk vetch flowers. Flowers! They showed me the energy of life. I used to stand alone with a sickle in my hand, in the middle of the field. I studied one flower of Chinese milk vetch and found that the color is almost pink. I sometimes found a few white flowers and felt pity for them. No matter how pretty or pitiful they look, cows would eat a lot of them. I used to start harvesting the vetches at the center of the field with a sickle in my left hand, as I am left-handed. I gradually learned to use it well by quickly bending my wrist. Then I held the grass with my right hand. Before long, I learned to do it well and I worked hard to feed the cattle.

Seasons turn and the vetches fade all at once. They are very short-lived. Then it is the cows' turn to work hard. After having enough of vetches, they cultivated the brown field. The remaining vetches were smashed by them, mixed with soil, and became good fertilizer for rice. Nature seems well-organized.

Precious rice needs intensive care to grow, just like children. Indeed rice may require more care than children. Farmers always have to keep an eye on the weather. One thing which annoyed me was that I had to carry human feces to the field before the rice was planted. Sometimes, some of it was still fresh and solid. We needed it for our vegetables too; therefore, we had to carry it from urban areas as well. I used to push a big cart with my parents and a cow, to carry feces from a movie theater. It took more than one hour, going up and down the slopes of Nagasaki. When my father ordered me to push, I had to do my best, groaning and sweating.

I remember that we used to stop at the corner of Ohashi-machi. I smiled when my father stopped the cow, because I saw a shop that sold Kaitenyaki, bean-jam pancakes. Leaning against a big tub full of feces, I enjoyed the freshly cooked pancake. My father would smoke his pipe. My mother usually wore a towel on her head as a cap. While eating the pancake, she used the towel to wipe her sweat and gave me some of her pancake, wrapped in newspaper.

As I write this, such childhood scenes clearly come back one after another, to my eyes. I remember about my father in particular.

After a series of hard labors in the summer, ears of rice got heavy in fall, when we were busiest. Autumn is the harvest season for many other crops and vegetables, too. Many school children used to bring their younger brothers and sisters to school, because nobody else could take care of them at home. I also took my sister's hand on my way to school. It got very noisy, like a kindergarten.

Cluster amaryllises bloom when autumn equinox approaches. Bunch of the burning red flowers on ridges of rice paddies are so outstanding that we can recognize them from far away. When it gets colder, persimmons, mandarin oranges, and different kinds of wild akebia get ripe. Some akebia are red and round, others are long, like bananas. They all have many seeds inside. Fall and the other three seasons had different tastes.