7 July,  Shizuka Ijūin

文字数 5,507文字

Logarithmic Growth


The

ancient

lunisolar

calendar

divides

the

passage

of

time

into

a

multitude

of

auspicious

dates,

harkening

back

to

an

astrological

understanding

of

the

world.

One

such

date

is

the

ichiryū

manbai

bi,

or

day

when

a

single

seed

multiplies

ten-thousandfold.

As

a

single

rice

seed

produces

enough

grains

to

feed

many

mouths,

the

event

customarily

indicates

dates

that

bode

well

for

a

fertile

harvest,

and

by

extension,

good

fortune

when

even

the

smallest

metaphorical

seeds

are

sown.



 * * *

I imagine that the children of authors are an unusual breed. Whether their childhoods are uniquely charmed or cursed is hard to say. Although I would lean toward the latter, perhaps I should be slightly more diplomatic, and instead propose that growing up as an author’s son or daughter is not all bad, but does put one at a certain disadvantage throughout life.
  Four or five years ago—how time flies—I arranged to meet up with my daughter for sushi in Kanda-Misakichō, a stone’s throw from the antiquarian bookseller district in central Tokyo. These father-daughter dinners were an infrequent occurrence, and we had only recently begun to nurture our tenuous familial bond, meeting at most once or twice each year . . . if at all. From the time she was an infant to the time she entered junior high, we had little relationship to speak of, and never so much as met face-to-face like a normal family would. Of course, this was in part due to the divorce. After her mother and I went our separate ways, I led a terribly frenetic lifestyle throughout my twenties and early thirties. In that sense, perhaps I could indeed be categorized as a bad father.
  How have you been, kid?
  I’m good. And how has my father been holding up?
  (She always referred to me in the third person.)
  Same old, same old.
  Well, I guess no news is good news.
  Such was the gist of our conversation, as we struggled to fill the awkward silence with two hours of small talk, moving from the sushi shop to a shadowy bar counter. As she stood up to exit the bar, we concluded the evening with a terse, Alright then. . . . This generally summed up the extent of our estranged relationship.
  But I digress.
  That evening in the sushi shop, my daughter remarked, out of the blue:
  Today was the

ichiryū

manbai

bi

.
  Huh? Is that some new holiday, like Valentine’s Day?
  No, but I guess you could draw a comparison to one of the traditional holidays. Maybe something like Doll’s Day.
  What did you say it’s called, again?
  

Ichi-ryū-man-bai-bi

.
  She took out a pen and jotted down the spelling on a piece of scrap paper left over from a wooden chopstick wrapper.
  It’s supposed to be a lucky day to start something new.
  So, did you embark on something new today?
  Yes, I decided to write a new novel, just like my father. . . . No, I’m joking. I’ve tried a lot of different things so far in my life, but none of them would work as material for a novel.
  You’re preaching to the choir.
  You’ve been a writer for over thirty years. I do admire your dedication to the craft. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy.
  People often say that writing’s ‘challenging,’ but I’ve never felt that way, not even once. No, really. That’s the truth. And I do take my writing seriously.
  I know. It’s impressive how many books you’ve published.
  Well, quantity over quality. . . .
  Please, no need for false modesty.
  After my daughter disappeared into the night, I idly unfolded the chopstick wrapper she had left behind on the bar counter. After pondering over the words,

ichiryū

manbai

bi

, penned in her nondescript hand, I stood up, and putting the paper into my pocket, left the bar to head back to my hotel. As I wandered the city streets, I paused to look up at the cloudy midsummer night sky framed between the skyscrapers, and muttered under my breath:
  Come to think of it, the Tanabata holiday was also today. What a grey and lousy night. It looks like Orihime and Hikoboshi will have to wait another long year to meet.
  Clicking my tongue in dismay, I continued walking, and instinctively reached for the cigarettes in my shirt pocket. I smoked, feeling the tepid night breeze on my skin.
  But I gave up cigarettes long ago. This story is nothing more than a distant memory, an old tale to be filed in the dusty annals of one family’s history.


Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Shizuka Ijūin
Born in Hōfu City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, 1950. Graduated from Rikkyo University’s College of Arts in 1972. Made his literary debut in 1981 with the short story Satsuki (May). Won the 12th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers in 1991 for

Chibusa

(Breast), the 107th Naoki Prize in 1992 for

Ukezuki

(Receiving moon), the 7th Shibata Renzaburō Award in 1994 for

Kikansha

sensei

(Locomotive teacher), the 36th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature in 2002 for

Gorogoro

(Heavy feeling), and the 18th Shiba Ryōtarō Prize in 2014 for

Nobo-san:

Shōsetsu

Masaoka

Shiki

to

Natsume

Sōseki

(Mr. Nobo: Masaoka Shiki and Natsume Sōseki). Received the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2016.

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