１７ Ｊｕｌｙ， Ｈｉｒｏｋｏ Ｒｅｉｊｏ
“Nice job, Okko! Etsuko and I will clean up. Kō made you dinner and left it in your room, so you can change and go back.”
With those instructions from her grandmother, Okko was relieved.
Today was Harunoya Inn’s first remote banquet.
When the shopkeepers of Hananoyu Onsen Street made their reservation for a get-together, they decided to take a page from Shūkō Inn’s playbook and try out their popular remote banquet plan.
The shopping district promotion association president was the only one who came to Harunoya—the other five participants participated online.
Nobody at Harunoya Inn knew very much about the Internet. The future CEO of Shūkō Inn, Matsuki Akino, had to teach them how to set everything up; just putting a computer in the Yellow Rose room and learning to use the web meeting app was a whole production number.
The plan was to deliver special banquet lunch boxes to each of the people who would participate from home, but the remote members didn’t end up receiving their food until just before the event was about to start.
Once it was finally underway, someone’s picture would freeze on them making a weird face, or people would suddenly leave the screen.
Then, right in the middle of it, Mr. Sakuraoka, who was staying in the Pussy Willow room on the Telework Getaway Plan, had a little too much fun with the outdoor bath to himself and keeled over, dizzy from the hot water.
Before anyone could figure out what was what, the banquet ended.
“Ahh, that was crazy. . . . Urgh, masks are so hot!”
After washing her hands and returning to her room, Okko tore off the mask her grandmother had sewn for her. Her face was all sweaty from the nose down.
She stretched her arms around her back, but her obi, tied huge and wide almost like bird wings, wouldn’t come undone.
It had been Okko’s idea to tie the obi like wings—
angel!—but the “angel
musubi” required two obi belts, so there were a lot of layers.
“Hey, Miyo, can you get this off for me?”
She tried asking her helpful ghost friend. But there was no reply.
Somehow she managed to get the obi off by herself, but she looked wild—her hair was all over the place, and her kimono had come open.
Near the ceiling, she saw the upside-down figure of a ghost boy come into view as he cracked up, showing his chattery overbite.
“Uri-bō, don’t laugh at me!”
The two ghosts who had always been there for her weren’t around anymore. They had gone far away.
She knew that, but it comforted her on days that were too busy, like this one, to talk to them as if they were still with her.
She had the feeling that’s what they would say to encourage her.
Yeah! She nodded to herself, took the cling wrap off the plate on her desk, and bit into the shredded kombu rice ball.
It was still a little warm.
Translated by Emily Balistrieri/Arranged by TranNet KK
Born in Osaka. Graduated from Kyoto Saga Art College. Received acclaim and made her literary debut with her submission to the Kodansha Children’s Literature New Face Award. Her works include the Waka okami wa shōgakusei! (The young landlady is an elementary schooler) and the Inōryoku furenzu (Superpower friends) series,
suizokukan-bu(Nagahama high school aquarium club),
natsu(Pumpkin! The summer of a simulated atomic bomb),
futari(Want to be duo), and
futari(Want to change duo), among others. The Waka okami wa shōgakusei! series was adapted for anime in 2018, with the animated film drawing critical acclaim.