22 July, Masaki Kinoshita

文字数 4,003文字

The Gloomy Outlook of a Face Mask Farmer

The time is approaching for face masks made with loving care to be shipped out to market. There’s a farm here the size of a baseball field, where masks are produced. Aligned are trees double the height of the average person, where face masks growing in abundance hang from the branches. They’re growing faster than usual, and masks that have become too ripe are already scattered on the ground. It’s a relief to see that not many of them are the pleated masks that sell at high prices.
  Grandpa, are you throwing away that mask? asks his granddaughter who is visiting from Tokyo.
  We can’t sell them because they’re a little damaged, but they’re fine for us to use.
  He picks up a pleated mask on the ground, pulls the ear loops, and fits the mask on his granddaughter’s face.
  Wow, this is really big.
  The government complains if our masks are small.
  The objective of the mask farmer is to distribute his products under the brand referred to as Abenomask. The government will pay a good price for that. But it isn’t easy to meet the detailed criteria, which include size.
  Grandpa, this mask smells super nice. It’s great when it’s freshly picked.
  We’ve always been known for the lovely fragrance of our masks. We’ve been mask farmers since the Edo Period, and our seeds are second to none.
  You’ve been making them that long?
  Everyone in the area has been growing masks for a very long time, and each farm has its own special seeds.
  It’s an old custom in this region for women to take mask seeds as their trousseau when they get married. The old man has always dreamed of giving his granddaughter the mask seeds that have been passed down in his family for generations when her time came. But unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.
  Oh, grandpa! I see a mask with a four-leaf clover.
  The granddaughter jumps on the spot. She has spied four pleated masks overlapped and growing on a branch.
  Can I pick that four-leaf clover mask? Can I?
  Those masks were precious items. There’s a saying that when a person gives a loved one a four-leaf clover mask on the twenty-second of July, they will be together forever. The old man would have normally shaken his head no, but he nodded to his granddaughter and said, Okay.
  An amendment to the seedling law was recently passed in Parliament, which forbids the propagation of masks by individual farmers. Only mask seeds designated by the government will now be permitted, which is supposed to be a step to prevent mask seeds from flowing out to foreign countries. It means he will now have no choice but to part with the mask seeds that have been in his family for generations.
  He picks the four-leaf clover mask from the branch and gives it to his granddaughter.
  Here you go. Who are you going to give it to?
  That’s a secret.
  Clutching the mask to her chest, the granddaughter begins running. The silhouette of her tiny body eventually disappears outside the farm.

Translated by Eriko Sugita/Arranged by TranNet KK

Masaki Kinoshita
Born in Nara Prefecture, 1974. Graduated from Kindai University’s Faculty of Engineering, Department of Architecture. Won the 92nd All Yomimono Mystery Prize for New Writers in 2012 for Ukita no suteyome (Ukita’s abandoned wife). The work was nominated for the 152nd Naoki Prize, and won the 2nd High-Schooler Naoki Prize, the 4th Japan Historical Writing Club Awards for New Writers, and the 9th Seiichi Funahashi Literature Award in 2015. He also received the 7th Osaka Book One Project Award in 2019 for





(The most loose-lipped man in the universe) and the 7th Kodō Nomura Literary Award the same year for





(Ekin paints darkness). His most recent work is



(Three generations of the Mamushi family).




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