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写真     One Friday evening, being asked by one of my colleagues if I had any plans after work, I answered with a smile, “Yes, I’m going to buy manjus.” And I headed to Ginza station by changing trains. I wanted to buy a box of awa manjus, a kind of sweets with sweet bean paste wrapped in a millet at a two-day market of Fukushima’s products, held in the station yard. Since I saw the market’s ad, I had my heart set on to buy awa manjus this day.

     Awa manjyu is yellow from the color of millet. There used to be a Japanese sweets shop in the town I grew up. I was a high school student then. One day when I was bored and spacing out in class, a yellow awa manju suddenly came up to my mind. From that moment on, I got an urge to eat an awa manju and couldn’t think of anything else. Classes seemed longer than usual. As soon as school finished that day, I came home and asked my father to drive me to the sweets shop. When we arrived at shop, I jumped out of the car and rushed into the shop with almost shouting.

     “Awa manju, plea…”

     But before I finished my line, the old lady of the shop told me, “They sold out in the morning.”

     “……”

     Facing a totally unexpected reality, I lost my words. I didn’t expect that there was possibility that the awa manjus would be sold out. I spent the day just looking forward to eating an awa manju. The balloon of hope became so big that it blew out. Not being able to accept the reality, I shed tears in front of the shop.

     I was so shocked that I don’t have any memories of what happened later that day. But the next day, I remember my father plunking a pack of awa manjus in front of me saying, “Eat as much as you want.” The pack made a loud thump. I guess twenty awa manjus were in the pack. I think my father was irritated to have seen his high school age daughter crying that she couldn’t eat a manju. Strongly sensing the entanglement of such of his complicated feeling and love, I couldn’t say anything even though I thought it was by no means possible for me to eat them all at once. So I kept eating manjus for a couple days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

     Arriving at Shinjuku station around six, I headed to the Hibiya Concourse and found a booth, which was selling local Fukushima products. I told the vender lady that I wanted to buy Awa manjus. She promptly replied with a smile that they were already sold out.

     I am an experienced grown-up. So I cannot be shocked. However I found myself terribly shocked. Both of the fact that I couldn’t buy Awa manjus again and that I was a respectable grown-up but being shocked by such a thing literally gave me two punches. “The awa manjus already sold out around two o’clock,” the lady said delightedly to me, who was standing there in a trance. It annoyed me a little bit. Giving me such information was like pouring salt on a wound. The market was supposed to be open the following day but I had work, so that day was the only chance for me. The Akabeko’s (a papier-mâché red cow) swinging its head stirred my sadness.

はこ     The last time, my father bought awa manjus for me the following day but it wouldn’t be happening this time. Feeling lonely in this big city, Tokyo, I got a LINE message from my friend asking for a drink. We decided to meet up at a neighboring Japanese tavern.

     I appealed to her the intolerable severity that I couldn’t buy the awa manjus. Comforted by her, I felt much better by the time I got another pint of highball. However, when I looked up the sky after parting with her, the yellow round moon breaking through the clouds made me feel something beyond expression. Why does the awa manju always challenge me like this? I felt powerless.

     The following day, I worked trying not to think about awa manjus. When I checked my iPhone at lunch time, I received a LINE message from my friend. She wrote, “I got it!” No way! But feeling that I shouldn’t expect too much, I asked instead, “ What did you get?” She sent me a picture of a package of awa manjus. She said she got it on the way to meeting with one of her clients, but I knew that she went all the way to the shop to get it for me. I almost cried with delight.

     So, the awa manjus, which I couldn’t have bought myself the previous day were delivered again. Since I had given up, I savored the pleasure and the taste all the more. After the rain comes a rainbow. It’s just a manju, yet a manju. For me, awa manjus are sweets bringing fortune, that are full of my father and friend’s love. I cannot eat them without tearing and thanking them.

あわまんじゅう

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         A few days ago at a nearby flowershop, I found a lotus planted in a big n a big plastic pot with two buds. I was amazed to found out that it was possible to grow a lotus like that, which is one of my favorite flowers. So I bought it on impulse. The lady in the flower shop poured out the water in the pod, and put it in a big shopping bag for me. I pushed myself hard and brought it to the balcony of my apartment. When I put water into the pot, it turned into an instant pond. Hitting on a good idea, I bought five medakas at a pet store and released them in the pond.

 I had medakas a few years ago. I had found a variety of gold fish sold at a stall on the Jizo street in Sugamo. Maybe I was feeling lonely at the time. Having goldfish as a pet seemed to be a good idea. But I ended up buying ten medakas taking advice from the vender because he said medakas have the ability to endure a variety of environments and would be easier to keep. I fed them every day, often changed the water and they were fine for a while. However, there was the enemy, the mid-summer. When I came home one night, I found one medaka, which had been swimming energetically, floating with eyes like dried whitebait. One after another, medakas died and then there became none. I felt sad, feeling like I was a woman who was not even able to keep medakas. So I had been restraining myself until now.

So far, medakas are very much alive. Every time I look into the pod for feeding, I wish none of them were floating like a dried whitebait.

When I told someone that I started feeding medakas, she asked me “Wow. What do medakas become when they grow up?” She meant it. Holding my laughter, I told her that medakas would be medakas, and remembered a song by Warabe, a Japanese singer group.

Medaka siblings live in the river. illust34 What do you become when you grow up?

I would be a koi carp when I grow up.  I would be a whale when I grow up.

Sounds full of hope and fantasy. However, the ending is like this.

But when they grow up, they are medakas swimming smoothly 

 It wakes you up and makes you face the reality. After a moment sadness, I am convinced. Yeah, that is right. Medaka cannot be a koi carp, nor a whale. A medaka is a medaka. I think it is important to know that. Medakas have their goods too. They can swim smoothly. They are wonderful creatures, I think. 

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