3 April, Kozue Osaki 

文字数 3,750文字

The buntans have arrived from my husband’s home town in Kochi Prefecture. A variety of citrus fruit, a buntan resembles a grapefruit both in size and color, and is harvested in early spring. It’s similar to a natsumikan, in that you can’t eat the skin that surrounds each segment, but with a buntan it’s relatively simple to release the flesh from its protective casing.
  I’d never come across this particular fruit until just after I got married—over thirty years ago now. Back then we lived a rather lonely life in a company-owned apartment in Sapporo City in Japan’s north, with its short summers and long winters. We’d get frequent deliveries from my mother-in-law down in Kochi. A cardboard box would arrive, filled not only with buntans, but also sansai—wild-growing edible shoots—preserved in salt; or beans, both green and broad varieties, harvested from her allotment; homemade miso and umeboshi pickled plums.
  I’d been raised in Tokyo, the daughter of a typical company employee. I’d never participated in the traditional return to the countryside for the summer obon festival or new year’s holidays, nor experienced the pleasure of receiving gifts of fresh produce from one’s relatives. I learned to rinse the sansai over and over in water to remove the salt; I’d shell the broad beans, be caught out by the unexpected tartness of the umeboshi. The miso, I’d have to mash through a strainer until not a single chunk of soybean remained. It was all completely new to me.
  There’d be a note with the delivery, stained with the leaked juices of the vegetables. It would read something like:
  We’re doing fine here. No need to worry. You two look after yourselves.
  My own parents would write:
  Hokkaido is so far away! When are you coming home? So-and-so lives right by her parents and is such a good daughter to them. . .
  Constant reproaches and recrimination. The two styles couldn’t have been more different.
  My workhorse of a mother-in-law was always tough on herself and exacting towards others (her daughter-in-law included). She wasn’t a particularly easy person for me to be around, but I was always aware of the depth of her love. She passed away several years ago, but I know she would be fretting about the coronavirus. If she were still with us, I’m sure she’d be hard at work making homemade masks. She was such an excellent knitter and seamstress. . . .
  This box of buntans was sent by my brother-in-law and his wife. They’ve taken over my mother-in-law’s beloved allotment, and are still growing vegetables. I want to visit when the eggplant and tomatoes are in season. Perhaps the coronavirus situation will have settled down by summer. . . . Or will it take longer than that?
  If the situation continues much longer it will affect Kochi’s famous Yosakoi Festival. (*Note: the cancellation of the festival was officially announced April 27.) I’m suddenly aware of how depressed I’m feeling. The Olympics have already been postponed. The unthinkable just keeps on happening.
  Right about now I could do with a pep talk from up there in heaven. But she’d probably just get mad with me. No doubt it would go something like, Stop whining like a little kid. It’s your job to be encouraging other folks! in Kochi’s distinctive Tosa dialect.

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai/Arranged by TranNet KK

Kozue Ōsaki
Born in Tokyo. Formerly worked as a bookstore clerk. Made her literary debut in 2006 with






memo≫》 (Red riding hood delivery: The seifūdō bookstore case files). Recent works include




(Book bus Megurin),




(When I opened the door), and




(Gold on the other side).




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  • 明朝
  • ゴシック
  • 横組み
  • 縦組み