Tsukazaki Kyohei found the correct entrance to the Shinkansen train that he was going to take, and climbed up the flight of stairs to the platform. The train was already there with the doors wide open. A buzz of noises came from within the train.
He boarded the train from the door nearest to him with furrowed brows. The Bon festival* had already ended and his parents said that the trains wouldn’t be crowded, but the carriages were packed. There were seats facing each other which could accommodate four people, but at least three people were already sitting on them. Kyohei wanted to find a two-people seat and so continued to walk down the aisle.
In the train carriage, there were many passengers with their families, bringing children about Kyohei’s age of elementary school grade five. Everyone was in great spirits, while laughing and talking loudly.
Kyohei felt that these people were like idiots-- it’s only the beach, do they have to be that excited? It’s only the sea. If you really want to play, the pool is more fun. There are neither wave pools at the sea, nor huge waterslides too.
Kyohei realised that there was no one sitting at the furthest end of the train carriage. There was already someone sitting on the seat facing it, but it was already considered lucky to be able to find an empty two-people seat.
Kyohei walked over and dumped his backpack on the empty seat. Sitting opposite him is a man of tall statue, wearing glasses and reading a magazine. There were strange-looking pictures on the magazine with a glossary that Kyohei has never seen before. The man remained expressionless to Kyohei taking the seat and continued to read his magazine. He was wearing a shirt with a jacket and did not look like a tourist.
Across the aisle sat an elderly man with white hair on his oversized head and a round-faced elderly lady. The two of them seemed to be a couple. The old lady passed a cup of tea poured from a bottle to the old man who took it and nearly choked from swallowing a huge gulp of tea in one mouthful, and even complained that it was her fault for pouring too much. The two of them were dressed ordinarily and did not seem like they were on a holiday. They could probably be on their way back to their hometown.
Soon after, the train departed. Kyohei took out a plastic bag containing his lunch from his backpack. The onigiri wrapped within the aluminium foil was still warm. The tamagoyaki and karaage in a container were Kyohei’s favourite foods**.
Kyohei drank from a bottle of mineral water while eating his onigiri in huge bites. The scenery outside the window was the sea already. It was a clear, sunny day without many clouds in the sky, and the surface of the sea was shining from the reflection of the sun, while gentle waves hit the shores with white splashes.
“Kyohei, we are going to Osaka for a while, for only this period. Instead of waiting at the hotel for us, you may as well go to the beaches and enjoy yourself.” His mother Yuri said three days ago. Before that, Kyohei had never thought that he would have to stay in a faraway place at his relatives’ house all by himself.
“Is it fine like that? Harigaura is really far!” his father Keiichi questioned while drinking whiskey.
“No problem, he’s in Grade 5 already! Kobayashi family’s Hana already went to Australia by herself!” Yuri continued hitting the keys on her computer’s keyboard. She was calculating the store’s profits which she does every night.
“But that’s because her parents brought her to the airport, and then there were relatives in Australia who picked her up from the airport over there. If it’s only taking the airplane, it’s still fine.”
“Isn’t that the same? Kyohei only has to take the Shinkansen train. The place isn’t far from the station, and with a map, there should be no problem.” Yuri said directly to Kyohei.
Kyohei only responded with an “oh”, without looking up from his video game. That’s because he already knew that whether he agreed or not, his parents would still send him off to the unmemorable Harigaura island during the period of time while they were in Osaka. Similarly, it happened several times before. While his grandmother was still alive, his parents would send him to her house whenever they were busy. After his grandmother’s death, he was placed at his aunt’s house instead.
Kyohei’s parents managed a souvenir shop. They were often busy with business trips to promote their store. Sometimes Kyohei would go together with them, but definitely not during his school semester. Because of that, Kyohei did not feel that it would be a big deal even if he had to spend a night all alone by himself.
This time his parents were going to Osaka to prepare for the opening of a new branch store, and wouldn’t be back for a week.
“You’re right, he’s already Grade 5. It shouldn’t be a problem. Fine, Kyohei, you can go to the sea for one week. There are many delicious things over there! I will ask your aunt to cook plenty of delicious fish dishes for you.” Perhaps the whiskey made Keiichi loosen up. Although it was just a formality, the married couple still had to make a decision for their son together. It had always been like this.
The express train proceeded along the railway tracks. Kyohei finished his onigiri and started to play his video game. While he was halfway through, the mobile phone in his backpack suddenly rang. Kyohei switched his game to the sleep-mode and stuffed it in his pocket. His mobile phone is one designed for children.
The call was from Yuri. Kyohei accepted the call impatiently.
“Ah, Kyohei, where are you now?”
She actually asked such a question. Aren’t you the one who planned everything and bought the train ticket?
“In the train,” Kyohei responded softly. He knew some train manners.
“Oh, I see. So you managed to board the train.”
“Yes,” Don’t treat me like an idiot— Kyohei thought.
“When you reach there, be sure to greet them properly. Don’t forget to hand them the gifts!”
“I know. I’m going to hang up now.”
“Remember to do your homework! Just a bit is fine every day. Don’t let it pile up to the last minute or you will have a headache.”
“I know,” Kyohei answered shortly and hung up the phone. All these were already mentioned before leaving the house, isn’t she just repeating what was already said? Why do mothers like to nag over the same things?
Just as Kyohei was about to keep his mobile phone and continue playing his game, he heard a low voice saying “Hey”. He could not determine if the voice was calling him and ignored it, but he heard the voice again. “Hey, kid.” This time it sounded fierce.
Kyohei looked up from his game and turned his attention to his side. The white-haired old man was staring at him a fierce look on his face.
The old man pointed to Kyohei’s backpack with his wrinkled hand.
“Switch it off! Don’t use the phone!”
After he finished saying that, he pointed to the wall of the train carriage. “See!” There was a notice with the words “Priority seat. Please switch off mobile phones in the vicinity.”
“Now you know. Not here.” The old man said triumphantly.
Kyohei took out the mobile phone from his backpack, but didn’t turn it off and instead showed it to the old man.
“This is a kid’s phone.”
The old man furrowed his white eyebrows and looked confused.
“Even if I switch it off, it will switch on by itself automatically after a while. If I don’t know the password, it’s impossible to switch it off completely. Therefore, I can’t help it.”
The old man thought for a while, and stroked his chin.
“Then you have to sit somewhere else! You can’t sit here. This is a priority seat.”
“Dear, it doesn’t matter.” The old lady sitting opposite said, and smiled to Kyohei. “Sorry about that.”
“No, no way! This is a rule set by society.” The old man’s voice grew louder. Other passengers were starting to look in his direction.
Kyohei sighed. What an irritable old man. Picking up his backpack and the plastic bag containing his rubbish, he began to stand up.
Just then, a pair of hands reached over to him and pressed down on his shoulders, preventing him from standing up. The hands even snatched away the mobile phone that he was holding.
Kyohei was taken aback and looked over to the person in from of him. The man was expressionless, and with one hand, he reached for Kyohei’s plastic bag and took out the aluminium foil which was previously used to wrap the onigiri.
Kyohei didn’t even have the time to utter anything and the man had already spread open the aluminium foil, and wrapped the phone in it.
“It’s fine now.” The man handed it to Kyohei. “There’s no need to change your seat.”
Kyohei accepted it silently, and felt as if he had just witnessed a magic show. It’s fine just with this?
“What’s with that! What do you mean by doing that?” The old man didn’t give up arguing.
“The aluminium foil can obstruct the radio waves.” The man said while looking at his magazine. “The reason why mobile phones have to be switched off in this train carriage is for the well-being of the people who use artificial cardiac pacemakers. Now the radio waves are already blocked even without switching off the phone, and thus the purpose has been achieved.”
Kyohei was slightly frozen, and stared back and forth between the old man and the younger man. The old man looked at a loss, and when he realised that Kyohei was staring at him, he muttered some words embarrassedly and shut his eyes. The old lady saw that the commotion has subsided and heaved a sigh of relief with smiley eyes.
After a while, the passengers began to get excited and many people stood up to retrieve their luggage on the racks from above. The name of the next station was announced and it was near the sea.
The train soon stopped and almost half of the passengers alighted. Because of what happened just now, Kyohei thought of taking this time to change his seat. He didn’t expect that the man who sat opposite him to stand up, retrieve his bag and move over to three seats away.
Kyohei felt that he was beaten, and hesitated for a moment whether he should get up. Looking over, he saw the cross old man sleeping and snoring.
There were many stations along this line which stop near to the sea. Every time the train paused at a station, the number of passengers diminished. Harigaura, the destination that Kyohei was heading for, was still far away.
The snores from the old man grew louder. The old lady seemed accustomed to it and was looking out of the window as if everything was normal. Kyohei couldn’t concentrate on his game and finally decided to change his seat. Taking his backpack and plastic bag, he stood up.
There were many empty seats in the train. Kyohei walked down, hoping to be as far away from the old man as possible, and saw the back of the man who sat opposite of him just now.
He had one leg over his other leg and was reading his magazine. Kyohei could not help but took a peep from behind. A page of crossword puzzle was spread out before the man. Many boxes were already filled but there seemed to be one question which was bothering him.
“Temperance.” Kyohei muttered softly.
The man turned his head in surprise. “What?”
Kyohei pointed to the empty boxes of the crossword puzzle.
“From the fifth row: who can solve the mysteries of the bones? For this question, I think the answer is Temperance.”
The man stared at the crossword puzzle and nodded.
“You’re right; it seems to fit. Who is this person? I’ve never heard of this name before.”
“Temperance Brennan is the main character of BONES***. She can unravel many mysteries from the bones of corpses. It’s a foreign drama series!”
The man frowned, and while looking at the cover of the magazine, he muttered “I see, it’s a fictional character. Why does this kind of people appear in crossword puzzles of scientific magazines? This is sly.”
Kyohei plonked himself in the seat opposite him. The man continued with his crossword puzzle. The pen which had stopped moving was now moving again.
The man extended his hand towards his bottle of tea, but when he picked it up and realised that it was empty, he placed it back.
Kyohei pushed his own half-finished bottle of mineral water in front of the man. “This is for you to drink.”
The man opened his eyes wide unexpectedly, but shook his head gently. “No, no need.”
Kyohei was slightly disappointed, and placed his bottle back in his backpack. At that moment, the man said a sentence. “Thank you.” Kyohei looked up in surprise and his eyes happened to meet the man’s. This was the first time their eyes met directly and the man hurriedly looked away.
Harigaura station was approaching. Kyohei took out a folded piece of map from the pocket of his shorts. The map wasn’t hand-written, but printed. The inn “Rokugansou”**** was marked on it. This was faxed over from the inn yesterday.
It was two years ago when he went to Rokugansou. During that time, Kyohei went together with his parents, not by train but by car, and so today was the first time Kyohei would be walking to his relatives’ house from the train station.
Just as Kyohei spread out the map to take a closer look, the man suddenly asked him “You’re going there by yourself?” while probably thinking that elementary school children were not suited for that.
“This is my relatives’ house.” Kyohei answered, “My aunt and uncle operate an inn.”
The man nodded his head in understanding, and then asked “How is it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m asking you, is this inn good? For example, are the facilities new? Is it beautiful? How about the scenery? Is the food delicious? Are there any special features?”
Kyohei tilted his head and thought for a moment.
“I’ve only been there once and can’t remember it well. But the building seems old and it’s located a distance from the sea, so the scenery isn’t much. As for the food, it feels ordinary.”
“Hmm. Can you lend me the map to take a look for a moment?”
Kyohei handed the map over to him. The man used his pen to scribble the telephone number, address and the name of the inn onto an empty space of his magazine, and then tore off the written portion.
“Also, how do you pronounce this? Is it Ryokugansou?”
“It’s Rokugansou. There’s a huge rock inscribed with the name in front of the inn!”
“I see. Thank you.” The man passed the map back to Kyohei.
Kyohei folded up the map properly and placed it in his pocket. The train was emerging from the tunnel at the moment and the colours from the sea seemed even more vivid.
*You can read about Bon festival here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bon_Festiva
** Onigiri = rice balls. Tamagoyaki = grilled layered egg. Karaage = fried chicken.
***”Bones” is an American Fox television drama series. You can read the Wikipedia page of the main character here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_%2
**** “Rokugansou” was written in the kanji “緑岩荘”. “緑”could be read either as “roku” or “ryoku” depending on the compound words, so Yukawa-sensei was seeking confirmation. (Oh yes, the man is obviously Yukawa Manabu! Yay!!!)
I spent a long time translating just the first chapter so I doubt I will translate the whole book which has 64 chapters. Maybe I will do a short synopsis of the subsequent chapters... maybe. Perhaps I will just go and watch the film and write a comparison post of the film with the novel. It depends whether I have time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Comments are welcomed!
- Current Mood:accomplished