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[New Series] As One Every Day – December 2021

A Family Landscape...and More Than Family

Kazuki Sakai

My father, who is still working, has turned 90 years old.
He is the third generation of his family to run a small business that has been in business for 145 years, but as expected, he is going to close the company next spring, so a family meeting was called.

It was a weekday, but the train was unexpectedly crowded.
A group of people, probably on a late autumn vacation, were talking animatedly.
"・・・Please refrain from talking in a loud voice, as it may disturb other passengers.”
Timely? I couldn't help but chuckle at the timely in-car announcement.
An elderly couple in the back seat seemed to be in the middle of a trip to retrace their memories. All I could hear was the wife's voice, and the occasional exchange between the two of them didn't quite mesh.
"Darling, look! It's Mount Ontake."
They seemed to be waiting for that moment, which was only visible for a few seconds, with pleasure.
"It's been decades. How nostalgic! I'm so happy just to see this view!"
" Yeah, yeah..."
As usual, the husband was a man of few words, but at this moment, they seemed to be breathing in harmony.


Looking up Mt. Jounen for the first time in two years, I walked home feeling a bit unsatisfied.
Oh well, it occurred to me that the peak should have been covered with snow at this time of year, as I had a childhood image in my mind. I wondered if it was due to something like global warming.
When I opened the side door of my parents’ house, I was greeted first by my brother, who was one step ahead of me.
My brother is two years older and works as a doctor in the north eastern part of Japan. He said that he had been working hard since the pandemic, but now that society was in a bit of a lull, he took the chance to take a week off.

When I was offering incense and souvenirs at the family Buddhist altar.
Mother called us from the kitchen,
"Come on, let's have lunch first."
My father also came back from his outing, and the four of us sat around the dinner table.
"What a shame to display such coffee cups! They are faded and dated ones that we've been using them since junior high school. You should throw them away."
My brother said, pointing to an old cupboard.
"Which one? Oh, they are valuable and so I can't just leave them. Why don't we still keep it?
My father responded.
That's why you're filling up the house with things you don't need and not getting rid of anything. ・・・・・"
My parents were not afraid of my brother's forceful argument. Listening to them in a daze, I thought to myself.
"It's been decades since our family of four has spent time together like this. My brother went to Sendai for university, and I went to Tokyo, and after that, we had parties at our home with each other's children during the Bon and New Year's holidays. However it might have been the first time since I was a child that it was just the four of us with my parents."

My brother and I have had no intention of becoming the fourth generation successor, and so we have been living away from home for a long time. As I spent a few days cleaning our home and sorting out the company, I learned that not only my mother's nephews and nieces have been very concerned about my parents and visited them frequently; they live neaby. But also judicial scriveners, tax accountants, legislators, traveling salesmen and many friends and neighbors continued to support them, .
I also got to see again many faces of my father and mother that I did not know at all, or rather could not have known, as a child. At the time, they were sad, heartbroken, and angry, but now everything has become funny, and the four of us laughed and laughed at .
However, there is still a lot of work to be done.


When I got back to Suzuka, I met Yuki Sakai and Sink Kudo, who came from Saihate Village for the community tour.
It was the first time I met both of them.
Sakai's last name is the same as mine, and our names are very similar, so I didn't feel like a stranger and started talking to him.
Then, I found out that Yuki's mother and my father's hometown were very close.
If we go back a few generations, we must be relatives.

When the interview between Mr. Sakai, Mr. Kudo, and Mr. Ono of the Suzuka community was released last month, I was strangely impressed by a passage that said, "The relationship between people in the As One community is like a family, or maybe more than a family.

What is a family?
Is the family the smallest unit of society, or does society change depending on what kind of family it is?
Even if one of the family members does something that is unacceptable to the rest of the world, it can be a bond that protects each other without blaming each other, saying that there must have been unavoidable reasons for doing so, or it can be a chain that binds each other, thinking that family should be like this.
Now, there are so many different types of families in the world today that it may be difficult to understand what they are originally.
And what does it mean to be more than a family?

After the tour of the Suzuka community, Sink said, "Everyone gets along really well. Though they are straightforward about what they're doing, they are in a very casual way."
I heard him say that.

Yesterday, the government announced that the entry of foreigners would be completely banned again, which had been eased since November 8. Ms. Jung-in, a student of ScienZ Academy from Korea, had been waiting to enter Japan to return to the Academy for a year because of this pandemic. She was scheduled to come to Japan on December 11 after going through the visa application procedures in a super express manner from the 8th, but that was also rejected by a touch. It's a pity, but we'll have to wait for the next chance.
On the news this morning, the manager of a construction company in Suzuka City said,
"This decision by the government is a blow. We accept technical interns from overseas and it's impossible for us to replace these valuable foreign workers in Japan. There will be cases where we cannot accept work."

"Why are we looking forward to Jung-in's return so much?"
In the corridor of our community hall called the Suzuka Culture Station, I was having such a thought about this, while looking a young child run into the chest of an Academy sister with saying "Onee-chan!(MY big sister)" and the Academy student looking at her with so much affection.
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