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"Grandpa! Your leg! What happened?"


Memories of Fun


Life is not only pain. In my neighborhood, there was a leader of kids. I had so much fun with him. More correctly saying, he helped me a lot in a variety of games. In other words, we obeyed him for some unknown reason.

We sometimes caught white-eyes, birds. The bark of the ilex tree gets sticky when beaten by stones. When a captured white-eye sings, other white-eyes are attracted and stick to the glue we made from ilex bark. I often received a female white-eye when we had caught several. Female birds were not valued because they cannot sing beautifully.

Spinning tops was another fun we had.

We also played marbles, imitated sword fights and did many other things for fun. Children are indeed geniuses of playing. We played with many odd things.

On Children's Day in May, my mother used to make dumplings with rice flour. First she used the stone mortar to grind glutinous rice. Saccharin was added to the bean paste, which is wrapped by the soft rice cake. It was nice and sweet. Saccharin was as sweet as sugar. However, if you have too much saccharin in your mouth, it tastes bitter.

"Bon" or Buddhist summer festival, "Kunchi" or autumn festival, and New Year holidays: those were a few occasions when we received some pocket money and went out. School also closed at noon on Kunchi. I remember watching a circus with a candy in my mouth.

One morning, when I was in either 4th or 5th grade, my eldest brother said, "I'll take you to the movies if you successfully smash all the worms in our cabbage patch." I think it was the only occasion in my life that I searched for worms that seriously, turning each leaf to check carefully. On the early evening, he came back to see how I worked, while I was finishing my important duty. "All right. Let's go to the movies," he said. I was so delighted.

That was the first time in my life I saw a movie. It was Gary Cooper's western film. With guns in both hands he fired and killed bad guys, one after another. I clapped hands without thinking. American movies have a lot of kissing scenes, which I had never seen before. I just had to turn away and look down while they were kissing.

My mother made beautiful box lunches for sports meetings and excursions, in which I could not fully participate.

When we were in the 6th grade, we had a school trip to Unzen. I couldn't wait. My second-eldest brother was already working as a seaman. Without going to college, he later became the chief engineer of an ocean liner. I adored his uniform. He bought me my first pair of shoes, actually two pairs in different sizes, because my feet were not the same size. I really appreciated them. I knew he had to pay double to get one pair for my different-sized feet. Every day, after coming back from school, I tried them on. I was so delighted. Then at last, the day I had been looking forward to finally came. My brother said, "Hide, here's some pocket money." It was 500 yen, the biggest amount I had ever received. My mother gave me a bag of rice, uncooked. We had to carry rice wherever we went and stayed, because of the food shortage. In high spirits, I departed for a 3-day school trip. It took 4 hours by bus to Unzen. I enjoyed everything I saw through the bus window. Dinner was most exciting. I gathered my courage to take a bath with my classmates in the big hot-spring bath, though it turned out to be a bitter experience. I did not care too much, though; it was important and memorable that I was able to take that trip.

My family seemed to start counting on me more or less, and they quite often assigned me to take care of the cow. The duty was quite heavy for me, cleaning the cowshed and preparing the feed. Trying to cut the feed, I hurt my fingers several times, when I was a beginner.

One day, when I was gathering grass for the cattle, I saw my uncle, who lived in Inasa, walking toward my house. His bald head was easy to recognize. My little brother and I often got excited to have him, mostly for what he gave us. Our uncle from Inasa was a skillful craftsman. In those days, he was swamped with orders for sliding doors and other wooden interior woodwork. He and his wife had frequently visited us and taken care of us, which was a great comfort when I was still suffering badly after the A-bomb attack.

On that day, he visited us after a long absence. Because I had seen him coming, I packed the grass I gathered and hurried home. We spent a short but happy time together. Then he went home, saying "I'll come again."

Twice a year, it was our family's seasonal function to bring them some of the vegetables we grew, for Bon, the Buddhist festival in August, and the New Year. That summer, for the first time, my father said, "Hide, I think you are big enough to visit your aunt in Inasa alone. Bring them our vegetables." I was too excited to sleep the night before I went to Inasa. In the morning, with my sleepy eyes, I left home with a lot of vegetables covering my back.

"Good day!" I said. Opening the door, I found my uncle working. Removing his reading glasses, he looked at me and said, "Wow, you made it! Hey, Hide's come!" Then my aunt came out and said, "Hide! How nice to see you! Of course, you'll be staying with us tonight. Come in! Come in!" They always welcomed me in that way. On that day, I was quite surprised at their manner, because it was the first time for me to go there alone. She was a busy and quick person. At night, I was taken for fishing to Nagasaki port, which was about a 10-minute walk. With watermelon in my mouth, I said "I got one!" We caught many gobies, 15 to 20 centimeters long.

My uncle, who always understood and supported me, passed away 2 years later, of cancer at the age of only 60. His sickness must have been related to his frequent visits to the area damaged heavily by the A-bomb soon after the blast. I felt very sad. At his funeral, however, I could not help laughing at how the fish-shaped woodblock danced when hit by the Buddhist monk.