A father's international flair
As Japan opened up after World War I, he seized opportunities to travel and found love.
We had just finished breakfast, and my father, who usually left early for his Saturday game of golf, was in a rare talkative mood. "So," he said, motioning me to sit down, "you're nearly14. Let me tell you what I was doing when I was your age.
"Every morning," he began, "I would get up at 4:30 and go off to the paddy fields to catch dojo – mudfish. They are small fish, as you know – not worth much. But people like to put them in a fish stew, and when I had a bucketful, I would take them to the market. I'd bring the money home, usually not even 1 yen [then worth about 50 cents], and give them to my mother. I know your mother gives you chores each morning – mop the floors and brush my shoes. Just don't forget what I was doing at your age."
Continuing his story, he recalled that he had been born in Tomioka, 200 miles north of Tokyo – a city I had never visited. His father was a Zen Buddhist priest without many parishioners. "So my mother had to scrimp and save to bring up her seven children, of whom I was the last. When I was 7, my parents sent me off to be an apprentice in a temple in the next town.
"But I was miserable, and soon came running home. The next day, my mother sent me back. Again, I ran home. After the third time, my mother said I could stay, but only if I helped out even a bit with the family income. That's what took me to the paddy fields to catch mudfish, even on cold winter mornings."
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