6 May, Hiroko Minagawa

文字数 3,901文字

Social Distance


A boy clad in a brightly colored red, blue, black and white cloth danced. The park was little more than an empty lot. Rarely did I see people there.
  I pulled my mask back up over my nose. My mask, made from scraps of swimsuit fabric, smelled more like the sea every time I washed it.
  You don’t need a mask when there’s no one around, but that wasn’t the message that was going around. It was almost like a civilian task force had been created—cut off your long sleeves for the war effort just say no to perms—the things people said reminded me of what the old ladies from the Something-something Women’s Association used to shout during the war, their kimono sleeves tied back at a slant.
  A month has passed since they called for self-surrender (excuse me, “self-restraint”)—to be exact, since the declaration of a state of emergency. Today was supposed to be the end, but it’s been extended. Going for walks is still allowed, so I walk around nearby every day to make sure that my legs don’t get any weaker.
  I stood about three meters away from the boy and looked. He was perhaps five years old. What looked like a long shawl was in fact three carp flags that had been swimming in the sky until yesterday, for Children’s Day. He was probably playing with them one last time before they went back in a box until next year. I felt the rhythm in my body. I’m old, I’ve lost my hearing, and I didn’t know the melody, but I could feel the rhythm itself. A young woman was sitting on a bench near him, playing the guitar.
  “So shall they dance.” I heard the boy’s voice, directed toward me from three meters away, clearly, miraculously.
  The woman said something to her child from behind her mask, bowed to me, then said something else. “I can’t hear,” I said with my mask on. Did the smell of salt reach her?
  But I understood that the child had misspoken. A measure meant to put distance between people can sound like a fun dance to a child.
  The first measure against the coronavirus that the members of the Diet held a debate on was not medical: it was about issuing coupons for meat and travel. They had to take care of the special interests first. When asked about the total number of infected people, a senior bureaucrat in the administration said irritatedly, “I don’t have them in front of me.” When told the number of tests administered was low, the bureaucrat turned into a weasel and responded that that didn’t mean there wasn’t the will to test. Policies to reduce hospital beds have not yet been withdrawn.
  Once again, a miracle happened. I heard the sound of the guitar that the woman was playing clearly, though I know I’ve lost my hearing. It’s autumn now, by the desolate sea, I think, joining in with the melody without making a sound. The vividly colored cloth gracefully undulates; color and sound are now one.


Translated by Morgan Giles/Arranged by TranNet KK

Hiroko Minagawa
Born in Keijō, Japanese-occupied Korea, in 1930. Enrolled at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University’s School of Foreign Languages. Made her literary debut with “Arukadia no natsu” (Arcadian summer), for which she won the 20th Shōsetsu Gendai New Face Award. She is also the winner of many prestigious awards including the 38th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for

Kabe:

Tabi

shibai

satsujin

jiken

(Wall: Travelling performer murder case), the 95th Naoki Prize for

Koibeni

(Scarlet love), the 3rd Shibata Renzaburō Award for

Baraki

(Mourning rose), the 32nd Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature for

Shi

no

izumi

(Fountain of death), and the 12th Honkaku Mystery Award for

Hirakasete

itadaki

kōei

desu

(Dilated to meet you) . Won the 16th Japan Mystery Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013 for her contributions to the field of Japanese mystery literature. Was selected as a Person of Cultural Merit in 2015.

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