030000I got a call from my father the other day. Right after I said hello, he asked me a question: What does the English word “respect” mean? Oh, not again.

He calls me to ask this kind of question sometimes. As soon as he wonders something he calls me and ask questions without any introductory remarks or concerns that I might be in the middle of something. It is a pain in the neck. However, it tells me what is going on with him.

“What does the word ‘Manifest’ mean?”
“A public declaration of policies.”
Yeah, it is the time of an election. He must have watched the news on TV.

“What is ‘layout’ ?”
“A design or arrangement.”
He must be struggling with his PC.

“What is ‘Rumba’?”
“It’s a kind of dance style…”
It’s surprisingly hard to explain. Did he watch the electronic sweepers TV commercial? Or he might mean the song of Kiyoshi Hikawa.

By the way, it was the second time that he asked me the meaning of “respect”. It means “to hold in reverence”, I told you before, I said unenthusiastically. “What?” he asked. He has been slightly hard of hearing lately. Conversations with him sometimes doesn’t make sense because he hears things wrong. The other day in a café, he was embarrassed to tell a waitress that he doesn’t know such a person when she just explained to him where the sugar and milk were.

“So, respect means to hold in reverence!”
I raised my voice a little bit.
Now I know he is serious but he even sounds like he’s playing around by mimicking a famous comedian.

Let’s see.
“Respect means to look up to somebody.”

I tried to explain by changing words.
“What? I can’t hear well.”
This is hopeless. Now I feel as if I were the comedian.

“It means to hold in reverence or look up to somebody!”
I screamed out and repeated it. After the third time, he seemed to have caught my words.
“I see. I’ve been wondering what it means because I often hear the word ‘respect’. I got it. Thank you. See ya!”
He hung up.

Young Japanese people often use the word “respect” lately, I thought laughing a bit wryly. He is obviously not keeping up with English words, which are flooding all over. He seems to be interested in English but has no taste to acquire it. Several years ago, he abruptly said to me, “Native English speakers don’t use the word ‘shopping’, right?” There are a lot of Japanese-English words, which don’t make sense for native speakers, but shopping is shopping. Wondering why he said such a thing, I told him that English-speaking people use that word. Then he said wondering, “But this English lesson CD says ‘go sho–ppen’. I almost fell off my seat. The native English speaker’s pronunciation of “go shopping” totally sounded different to him. Unfortunately, the English lesson CD had no effect on my father.

038881However, there was this one time my father got to me. When I was in high school, he took me his friend’s house to see an exchange student from Australia. He must have thought it was a good opportunity for me to speak English with a native speaker, because he knew that I was interested in English. Squeezing out some English words in textbooks from my brain, I tried to communicate with the student. At first, it worked well even with my broken English, but soon I was stuck. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I just wanted to say “fly”, a insect.  But my pronunciation wasn’t right and she didn’t get it and was tilting her head down in confusion. Seeing me at a loss without knowing what to do, my father asked me what happened. I told him that I couldn’t pronounce “fly” properly. He said, “Silly you. You know what? What makes communication work is not words, but your heart.” Then, he made a gesture of a fly buzzing towards to her. “Oh, a fly! ” She made her eyes sparkle and understood what it was. That was the experience which was frustrating but also humiliating at the same time.

What my father said to me at that time is always at the back of my mind. Even with my own language Japanese, I feel that it is hard to communicate sometimes. Especially conveying something is a tough part. Whenever I am thinking narrowly or getting stuck by depending on words too much, the memory brings me back to myself. My father has no knack to learn English and can be really annoying sometimes, but as a matter of fact, I respect him.




The other day, when I was drinking with lovely old ladies, one of them told me a mystic story.

Before she knew she was pregnant with her second baby, her daughter ran up to her and abruptly said, “A baby is coming. A baby is coming in spring!” When asked about the sex of the baby, she answered “a boy”, and a baby boy was really born next spring.

Children sometimes amaze adults with a certain greatness comes which comes from their innocence. When the little girl was asked if the name of the baby was decided, she answered, “Doraemon!” The surreality which kids show in mind-boggling adults is amusing. The siblings are grown up now and they are so close to each other. We had a good time talking that the baby might have come at his sister’s call.

I hear that it is not a coincidence that a person is born. It is often said that they choose their mother before they are born. I once have felt that. It was when I experienced a regression therapy, which even traces you back not only to your childhood memory but to your previous life’s memory.



In my memory, I was not born yet and was looking down from a very very high place. Far below were countless numbers of sparkling grains of sand-like things. It was not a vision, but I could sense it. All of sudden, I chose my mother from the grains of sand with definite confidence that she was the one, and I flew to it as a slit of light. It was for only a moment but I was very hopeful and fully motivated.

The next moment, I was curled up in a womb. It was as if I was trapped in a spaceship, which was about to launch. Suddenly, I was caught up with the terrible feeling of regret. Oh no. What have I done? I was motivated to be born and live a life under the circumstance I had lost memories. But now I remembered how hard it was to live on this earth. It was too late. I was already locked on and couldn’t do anything but be born…… Then I lost the sensation.

Though I had tried various therapeutic things out of curiosity, I was not the type who easily got visions or sensations. So it was the vivid experience and the sense of exaltations I had when I found my mother and regret that attacked me was so real that I remember it well.

I wonder why I was motivated so much. I cannot agree more that I that a bird cries too late when it is taken. I cannot but laugh about myself who has lived up to forty feeling that way. A piece of memory from my early teen years come back to me.

If my memory is correct, it was in a scene of Seito Shokun!, a comic by Yoko Shoji. The heroin Nucky says in her speech: Babies are born with their hands clenched. They were holding happiness in them. But once they open up their hands, happiness flees away. Humans live to catch the happiness again with their hands.

I was so thrilled by the line and told my mother , the one I had chosen with total confidence, about the story. Then she said, “ You know what? You were born with your hands fully open.”

Right. It seems that I had picked paper, not rock when I was born.

Where on earth is my happiness?