31 May, Kyōtarō Nishimura

文字数 3,961文字

As a result of the coronavirus, I’ve spent all my time indoors watching TV, reading, writing, and revising. By measure, it has been a reasonably fulfilling, leisurely lifestyle. Yet, as the days drag on, so does a mounting sense of boredom.
  The Japan Derby was held today. Back when I was a struggling writer awaiting my big break, I moonlighted as a part-time security guard at the Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchū. Although it’s ancient history, I still remember how my daily pittance amounted to a single (and by now long obsolete) ¥500 bill. I looked forward to pocketing a ¥100 bonus for Grade 1 stakes races, and an extra ¥200 on Derby day.
  I saw my fair share of legendary horses in my year at the track, but none compared to Haiseikō. The proverbial horse of a different color, Haiseikō defied his dubious pedigree, opening his career with an undefeated run at the Ōi Racecourse. Upon being traded to the Japan Racing Association, Haiseikō recorded another remarkable winning streak straight out of the gates. This horse didn’t just eke out victories by a paltry nose or half-length. Aided by his large frame, Haiseikō won by tremendous margins, outpacing the meager competition by multiple lengths. His story quickly became an inspiration to legions of outsiders and underdogs across the nation.
  Haiseikō trotted onto the racetrack for his Japan Derby debut with the confidence of a clear, undisputed favorite. All bets were on #5 to trounce the field, a formidable lineup of star-studded stallions in their own right. Yet, even before the dust settled, it was clear that Haiseikō had lost. Spectacularly.
  Rather than eliciting the conventional jeers of outrage, this shocking upset in what was meant to be his crowning hour further endeared Haiseikō to his fans, cementing his status as another breed of champion. Perhaps everyone saw a bit of themselves in Haiseikō: the human workhorses who toiled day to day in anonymity, yet always stumbled short of the finish line; the inveterate loafers who never seemed to climb up the social ladder; even a young and unknown writer such as myself.
  Ultimately, Haiseikō—

our

Haiseikō—went on to win a number of races, but still never quite fulfilled his potential on the G1 circuit. Of course, this made us love him all the more.
  Following Haiseikō’s retirement, his jockey released an album,

Saraba

Haiseikō

(Fare thee well, Haiseikō). An amateur singer, the jockey’s voice trembled, and not just with vibrato. The plaintive, raw recording tugged at more than a few heartstrings. To my knowledge, no other song about horse racing has ever become such a hit in Japan.
  I often sang the tune, too. Even when I forgot the lyrics halfway through, I would always belt the closing refrain, a full-throated, Fare thee well, Haiseikō! I admit that the line never failed to bring a tear to my eye.
  There were no such surprises at this year’s Derby. A properly pristine young thoroughbred proved the decisive victor. While that brand of racing is all fine and dandy, I’m still idly counting the days, awaiting another Haiseikō.


Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Kyōtarō Nishimura
Born in Tokyo, 1930. Won the All Yomimono Mystery Prize for New Writers in 1963 for

Yuganda

asa

(Warped morning), the Edogawa Rampo Prize in 1965 for

Tenshi

no

kizuato

(Angel’s scar), and the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel in 1981 for

Tāminaru

satsujin

jiken

(The terminal station murder incident). Opening new ground with mysteries set in the world of trains, he became a pioneer of the travel mystery subgenre. His works have established him as a writer whose popularity and skill is without peer, being awarded the 8th Japan Mystery Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2004 for his contributions to the field of mystery literature. In 2019, he won the 4th Yoshikawa Eiji Bunko Prize for the Totsugawa keibu (Inspector Totsugawa) series.

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