The Face of Jizo (Chichi to Kuraseba) is said to be one of the masterpiece of postwar dramas, and published by Komatsuza in 2004.






The Place             Hiroshima

The Time             July 1948

The Characters   MITSUE, age 23

                 TAKEZO, her father






Music plays as the house lights fade and, after some time we hear the rumble of tympani and see flashes of lightning coming from somewhere far away, and these flashes reveal a simple house—no more than a glorified shack.  The time is 5:30 pm on the last Tuesday of July, 1948.

The house, located on the east side of Hijiyama in Hiroshima, belongs to Mitsue Fukuyoshi, and consists of a kitchen adjacent to the entryway, a six-mat sitting room with a folding table and a few other pieces of furniture, and an eight-mat bedroom with a bookshelf, writing desk and closet.

Mitsue, age 23, wearing wooden clogs, dressed in an old-fashioned white blouse and a renovated mottle-patterned pair of traditional work pants hurriedly rushes into the house.  For a handbag she carries a cloth shopping bag with wooden trim.  Lightning flashes again when she steps into the sitting room, and she stumbles to the floor, clutching her bag to her chest, and puts her hands over her eyes and ears.


MITSUE  Daddy, I’m scared!


The door of the closet slides open and we see Takezo, her father, wearing a white open-collar shirt, perched on its shelf.  He is holding a large square cushion over his head so as not to hear the thunder.  


TAKEZO  This way, over here, Mitsue, quick.  Get in.  (tossing a cushion to Mitsue)  What’s the matter with you?!  Get the cushion on your head and get yourself in under here.


MITSUE  (somewhat shocked, yet glad to see him)  Daddy, so that’s where you’ve been.


TAKEZO Where in the hell did you think I was, eh?  You tell me where and when to go and that’s where you’ll find me.  Where else would I be, eh?


MITSUE  But it’s ridiculous, I mean, preposterous…I…you…


TAKEZO  Quit babbling and get the hell in here, will ya!  (a flash of lightning)  See, there it is again.


MITSUE  (crawling into the closet below the shelf)  Daddy!


Takezo sits on the shelf above his daughter as the storm subsides.


TAKEZO  You’ve got three things going for you now, okay?  Me, the closet and the cushion.  No flashes or booms are gonna hurt you now.


MITSUE  But, daddy, I’m 23.  A bit of thunder shouldn’t scare the living daylights out of someone my age.  It’s downright embarrassing, daddy, and besides, it really gets to me.


TAKEZO  (firmly)  Don’t blame yourself, Mitsue.


MITSUE …Oh, I dunno.


TAKEZO  Look, it wasn’t so long ago you were the tomboy of the athletics club at your girls’ school, doing laps with the best of them, right?  A bit of thunder didn’t stop you then.


MITSUE  (nodding)  There were only three of us altogether in the club, so I ended up having to run everything from the sprint to long distance stuff.  Who had time to worry about thunder?


TAKEZO  That’s my spunky little girl.  So what happened to turn you into such a little scaredy-cat, eh?


MITSUE  I dunno, I just am.  I’m scared to death.


TAKEZO  Since when?


MITSUE  Since about three years ago, I guess.


TAKEZO  Ah, the bomb.


MITSUE  I guess.


TAKEZO  Hey, remember Nobu from the Tomita Photo Shop?


MITSUE  He took a lot of pictures of all of us, yeah.


TAKEZO  He was one of the top photographers in Hiroshima.  Took great pictures.


MITSUE  Yeah, if you call those racy pictures great.




MITSUE  You let those army officers use our home, the Fukuyoshi Inn, as a clubhouse, and you got your  hands on a lot of goods that way, I remember.


TAKEZO  Ah, so I did.  We had rice and sake pourin’ outta the closets, and canned salmon and corned beef, cigarettes, caramels, yeah.  Mummy died when you were a tiny little baby an’ even if you were starved for a mother’s love I didn’t want you to be without the things you needed, so as long as I had the breath of life in me…


MITSUE …you would lure as many women as you could with cigarettes and rice and take them to some hot springs resort and that’s when Nobu took those secret photos of them that he showed to those officers and then you…


TAKEZO  (interrupting)  That very same Nobu now sells little jellies that he gets from God knows where.


MITSUE  I know.


TAKEZO  Such talent as a photographer and he wastes it peddling black-market jellies!


MITSUE  Serves him right for taking nude pictures in the hot springs!


TAKEZO  You gonna listen to me or not, eh?


MITSUE  Sorry, daddy.


TAKEZO  What happened was, he says, every time one of his magnesium bulbs popped he couldn’t get the flash of the bomb out of his head, like it was a photo in real sharp focus.  It scared the daylights out of him, and so, he says, he  gave up photography.  So that’s why you and he go to pieces, ‘cause the flashes and the booming remind you of the bomb.


MITSUE  I dunno…


TAKEZO  Well, you gotta know.  You got your reasons to be scared and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.  Nobody blames a victim of the bomb for gettin’ shook up over somethin’ that flashes, even if it’s just an innocent little firefly.  You got a right to be scared.


MITSUE  Is there a right for being scared?


TAKEZO  If there isn’t, there should be.  Any bomb victim who says he’s not afraid of thunder is a phony victim.  


MITSUE  I wouldn’t go that far.


TAKEZO  Well, maybe…okay.  


Takezo exits the closet and crawls onto the narrow verandah by the sitting room.  


TAKEZO  Oh, gee, the sun’s come out.


MITSUE  (crawling out a bit)  Yeah, the sun!


TAKEZO  Thunder seems to have moved on out to sea at Ujina.


MITSUE  That’s a relief.


Mitsue, relieved, stands, goes to the kitchen and returns with a little earthen-ware teapot and two cups.


MITSUE  I’ve got some barley tea I made before going to the library this morning.  Want some?


TAKEZO  Just what the doctor ordered.


Mitsue pours two cups and gulps hers down right away.  Takezo lifts his cup to his lips but puts it down without drinking.


TAKEZO  Can’t drink it.


MITSUE  Yeah, guess so.


Mitsue gulps down her father’s tea as he watches her.


TAKEZO  Oh my God.


MITSUE  What is it, daddy?


TAKEZO  The sweet bean jam bun!  The one Mr. Kinoshita gave you at the library today.  What if it’s been squished!


MITSUE  Oh no!


Mitsue grabs the bag that she was clutching so tightly and takes out a bun wrapped in newspaper.  The bun somehow has retained its shape.


TAKEZO  It’s still all plump and round!


MITSUE  He got it at a stall by the station.


TAKEZO  You don’t see bean jam buns like this these days.


MITSUE  Mr. Kinoshita says he was stopped dead in his tracks when he caught sight of them, I mean, they just kind of shot out at him, so he bought one but then his legs kinda turned to lead and he had to buy another before he could finally get away.


TAKEZO Gee, this is one hell of a bean jam bun, that’s all I can say.


MITSUE I was sitting at the library checkout desk and he walks up to me and says, “Here, two’s too much for me, you take one.”  (She divides the bun in two)  Let’s eat it now.


TAKEZO  Yeah, well, except that I can’t, you know.


MITSUE  Yeah, I forgot.


Mitsue, chewing, wraps the other half in the newspaper.


TAKEZO  (swallowing his saliva)  Kinoshita, the young fellow who gave you the bun, told you he was teaching at the University of Arts and Sciences, didn’t he.


MITSUE  Yeah, he’s attached to the physics department, he says, from this September.


TAKEZO  What do you mean “attached”?


MITSUE  I mean, you know, a kind of tutor.


TAKEZO  He wears glasses thicker than two milk bottle bottoms and totes around that huge briefcase wherever he goes and speaks real calm and soft, no, he’s one hell of an intellectual, that fellow, if you ask me.


MITSUE  He was lecturing at the Navy Arsenal’s institute at Kure till the bomb dropped, he was a technical officer, a lieutenant there.


TAKEZO  A bit rough around the edges for a navy man in my book.


MITSUE Not all men in the navy are like you think, daddy.  Anyway, he went to his old school at Tohoku Imperial University as a graduate student for two years after the war ended and came back here in early July, this month, and he says that just after the bomb dropped here in Hiroshima all he did all day was wander around what was left of the red burnt-out city.


TAKEZO  ‘Bout how old is he…30 maybe?


MITSUE  Twenty-six.  That’s what it says on his library card.


TAKEZO  An’ you’re 23, so it’s a perfect match.


MITSUE (at first smiling, then in anger)  What’s wrong with you, daddy!  He’s just somebody who goes to the library.


TAKEZO  Somebody who just goes to the library doesn’t go around giving away bean jam buns!


MITSUE  Ridiculous.  I’m not going on with this.  Look, it’s time for dinner.  You going to stay, daddy?


TAKEZO Up to you.


MITSUE  Okay, give me a hand, then, with the cleaning up.


Mitsue dons an apron, goes to the kitchen and washes a wooden bento box.  Takezo also puts on an apron and picks up a duster, but his heart isn’t in cleaning.


TAKEZO  About that young fellow Kinoshita, you know, he wouldn’t give you a bun if he hadn’t taken a shine to you.  You oughta get that straight, you know.


MITSUE  You see too much in a little bun, daddy.


TAKEZO  Even a bun can carry a lotta weight.  It’s you who should have the courage to look into it a bit more deeply.


MITSUE  Mr. Kinoshita gave it to me to thank me, that’s all.


TAKEZO  More than just thanks in my book.


MITSUE  Oh, daddy!  (entering the sitting room)  Now, please come here and sit down.  Four days ago, on Friday last week, a man came up to the desk at the library just after noon and said, “Do you have objects related to the atom bomb?  I was told at City Hall to enquire at the library.”  It was Mr. Kinoshita.  We normally tell people that there are no such materials there, but something about the way he asked was so sincere that I explained to him, “The occupation forces keep a very close eye on anything to do with gathering information on the bomb.  They forbid going public in any way, assuming that we would be allowed to obtain things in the first place.  Besides, as an atomic victim myself it takes everything out of me just to forget it.  Nothing about what happened that day in August will make a story or anything like a picture or a poem or a novel or, for that matter, a subject to be studied.  One instant pulverized people’s whole world, and that’s why we do not collect things on it.  Not only that.  If there were such things, we’d destroy them for good.  I have burnt absolutely everything that would remind me of my father.”  So you see, daddy, the bun was only to thank me for that, nothing more than that.


TAKEZO  You got two little checkout desks next to each other at the library, right, with one girl at each.


MITSUE  That’s right, Miss Takagaki and me.  So?


TAKEZO  Ever since the bomb you’ve not been yourself.  You keep everything to yourself and keep people at arms’ length, mopin’ around with a scowl on your face till you get home.  While Miss Takagaki always looks on the bright side of things, right?


MITSUE Yeah, so?  What are getting at, daddy?


TAKEZO  I mean, what makes a fellow like Kinoshita go for a Miss Grumpyguts like you instead of someone, well, more approachable like Miss Takagaki, eh?  That’s the crux of it.  Anybody’d think he’d go for her first.


MITSUE  It’s his privilege.


TAKEZO  That’s what I’m sayin’.  That fellow Kinoshita has one hell of a head on his shoulders.  And as for you, you always had a nice disposition and knew what was what, I mean, you graduated second in your class, didn’t you.  Kinoshita saw the real you and took notice.  That’s what’s behind that sweet bun of yours, take my word for it.


MITSUE  I can’t stop you if you make up preposterous things like that.  (entering the kitchen)  Just sit there for as long as you like with your little stories.  They’ve nothing to do with me.


TAKEZO  There’s another hidden meaning in that bun, I’m convinced of it.


MITSUE  Will you please stop bringing up that bun!


TAKEZO  Look, this thing is crucial for you, Mitsue, and I’m not going to rest until I get to the bottom of that bun.


MITSUE  You come here out of the blue and go on and on about some stupid bun, I tell you, I can’t think straight anymore, my head….


TAKEZO  You can’t think straight because you fancy that fellow Kinoshita too.  It’s love at first sight, for the both of ya, and it won’t be long before you won’t have eyes for anybody else.  Hard as a rock on the outside but drippin’ with sweetness on the inside.  Your heart is just one big sweet bean jam bun.


MITSUE  (screaming)  Not on your life!  I don’t let myself get keen on anybody and that’s that.


TAKEZO  If you weren’t keen on that fellow you would’ve pushed that bun right back in his face then and there.


MITSUE  Quiet!  Absolute quiet.  That’s the main rule at our library.  “Thanks for your help.  Here, have a bun.”  “No, I couldn’t possibly.”  “No, please, I insist.”  “It’s against the rules to accept a bun from library visitors.”  You think we can just blabber away like that at the library desk?  The head librarian and the deputy head librarian, not to mention Miss Takagaki right beside me eavesdrop on everything that happens.  It was all I could do to take the bun without making a peep.


TAKEZO  But you made a date with him for tomorrow, didn’t you, to meet during your lunch break at Sennenmatsu near the library.


MITSUE  I wanted to say no but…


TAKEZO  But you can’t just blabber away at the library desk, eh?


MITSUE  …so, well, I just nodded okay.


TAKEZO  So that means…


MITSUE  You watch me tomorrow, daddy.  Watch me tell Mr. Kinoshita in no uncertain terms never to speak to me again.


TAKEZO  Why do you always turn everything around, eh?  There’s no  harm in fancyin’ the fellow.  You’re keen on him an’ he’s keen on you.  Get yourselves together and live happily ever after.  That’s what’s really at the bottom of that bun he gave you.


MITSUE  I can’t be happy, so just stop talking, daddy.


TAKEZO  I’m head of your fan club, you know, an’ I won’t let go of you.


MITSUE  Head of my fan club?


TAKEZO  Yep.  Think about it.  I started showin’ up last Friday, right, when your heart started throbbin’ for the first time in a long time when you caught sight of that Kinoshita fellow comin’ into the library.  My torso was born out of that throbbing.  Then when he started to approach the checkout desk a soft little sigh slipped from your lips.  Isn’t that right?  My arms and legs grew out of that sigh.  Then you made a silent wish, didn’t you, that he would choose your desk to come up to.  My heart came to life out of that wish.  


MITSUE  Is that why you’ve been hanging and milling around, to get me to fall in love?  (Takezo beams)  Love is out of the question.  I can’t fall in love.  Stop pestering me about it, okay?


TAKEZO  If you don’t stop suppressing your feelings like that, you’ll end up living a life dull as ditchwater, you know.


MITSUE  Keep your nose outta my business, will you, daddy?  I’ve got things to do.  I’ve got a dinner to make, and a lot of things to prepare for tomorrow.  We’ve got a Children’s Summer Storytelling Club where for 10 days the library staff tell stories to kids.  Every day about 30 or 40 children get together in a little pine forest at Hijiyama where there’s a cool breeze.  They love our voices mingled with the sound of the breeze that blows through the pine branches.  They look forward to it every day and I’ve got to be absolutely prepared.


Mitsue starts chopping cabbage with great gusto.  Takezo watches her for a while, then dusts his way to the entryway.  Mitsue now chops the cabbage with even greater vigor.  Fade to blackout.




Music plays and lights go up to the same house whose eight-mat room is illuminated by a naked 30-watt bulb.  There is smoke from a mosquito coil on the verandah.  It is the next day, Wednesday, after 8pm.  Mitsue sits at a low writing desk writing with a pencil.  She is dressed as she was the day before.  She begins to tell her story, glancing sideways from time to time at what she has just finished writing.  She reads without emotion, correcting words when she feels necessary.


MITSUE  The city of Hiroshima has been known since ancient times as “the beautiful city on water straddling seven rivers.”  These seven rivers flow into one, the Ohtagawa, on the northern outskirts of the city.  A long time ago I took great pleasure in traveling every week with my classmates in Japanese literature to the villages along that river where the people there told us stories that had been handed down to them.  But the truth is, our real reason for traipsing around there was not the stories but the oysters in miso and the pine mushroom rice and the yam jellies in miso and treats like that.  The story you are about to hear is one told to us by someone very old at that time.  If my memory is correct, grilled sweetfish was served with it.  (clearing her throat)  Now, in the mountains just a stone’s throw from the Ohtagawa there lived an old man and woman.  The old man was a dyed-in-the-wool miser and loafer who would sooner die than do a decent day’s work, and the two were able to get by thanks to the old woman who did everything from washing clothes and cutting and gathering wood to grilling sweetfish.  One day the old woman left the house to catch some sweetfish.  She was so thirsty that she took a drink from the river and, lo and behold, all the wrinkles on her face vanished into thin air.  She took another drink and her back went straight as a pin.  One more drink and she turned into a ravishing young beauty.  She rushed home to tell the old man the news and he hollered, “You’re not the only one who gets their youth back. Just you wait and see the handsome young thing I’m gonna turn into.”  He ran out of the house, and though night fell, he didn’t return….


Someone is making a rumbling noise with a mortar and pestle in the kitchen.  It is Takezo, wearing an apron and a twisted towel headband.  He occasionally swats at mosquitoes with a fan on the counter, grinding dried small fry.


MITSUE  Daddy?


TAKEZO  Oh, will this heat never let up!


MITSUE  I didn’t know you were here.


TAKEZO Where’d you think I was, eh?  Haven’t seen ya for a whole day.


MITSUE Can you stop that rumbling?  I can’t rehearse my story with you doing that.  (She goes into the kitchen and turns on the light)  What exactly are you doing?


TAKEZO  I got some small fry here and I’m addin’ miso, whadda ya think, eh?  Take a look, see how your old dad has ground it up good.


MITSUE  How did you guess that that’s what I was planning to make?


TAKEZO  You had the small fry and the miso here…doesn’t take brains to figure it out.  Now, in goes the miso just like this….


He throws some miso from a bowl into the mortar and again grinds away.


TAKEZO  And now we mix in the finely chopped chillies.  (to Mitsue)  Chillies.  Finely chopped chillies.


Mitsue takes some chopped chillies from a little bowl and puts them in the mortar.  Takezo skillfully grinds everything up.


TAKEZO  And you have it, small fry in miso, specialty of the Fukuyoshi Inn.


MITSUE  (taking a taste)  Mm, not bad at all.


TAKEZO Your old man hasn’t lost his touch after all, eh?  So, what happens next in that story of yours?  What becomes of the good-for-nothing old geezer?


MITSUE  Even though night fell, the old man still didn’t return home.  So the old woman, worried about him, goes out looking for him with a lantern.  And when she gets to the bank of the river, she sees a bratty little baby bawling its eyes out.


TAKEZO  Kids these days aren’t gonna go for a story like that.  It’s too highbrow for ‘em.


MITSUE  No one’s forcing them to like it.


TAKEZO  No, you gotta put a bit more spice into it.  Look, make it like this.  The old geezer doesn’t come back, even when the night falls.  There’s neither hide nor hare of him.  So the old woman, worried sick, goes out with a lantern to find him.  And when she gets to the bank of the river, all she finds is a pair of dentures lyin’ around.  (Mitsue is not impressed)  Well, the old geezer drank too much water, that’s why.  He went straight through bein’ a baby and got himself unborn.  


MITSUE  I get the point, daddy.


TAKEZO  It’s a lot funnier than the punch line you’re givin’ ‘em.


MITSUE  (shouting)  You can’t fiddle with a story like that!  You gotta relate the older generations’ stories to people who come after them as they are, faithfully.  That’s the philosophy of the Folktale Research Club at Hiroshima College for Women.


TAKEZO  That club of yours was given a real talking-to by the inspector from the prefecture six years ago, wasn’t it.  He said that if you had time to study folktales you could be down at the factory working.  We got a war on, he said, this is an emergency.  Your club broke up around the end of 1942, if I recall.


MITSUE  Yeah, but the spirit of that club is still alive inside me.


TAKEZO  That’s just what you said to that Kinoshita fellow when you two had that argument at lunch time today, isn’t it.


MITSUE It wasn’t an argument.  It was a…debate.


TAKEZO  Maybe, but the folks who wanted to take a nap in the cool breezes by the little pine forest at Hijiyama were so jolted by your hollerin’ they all woke up alarmed.


MITSUE  I tell you we were just having a…discussion.


Mitsue goes back to the sitting room and tries to commit the story to memory.  Takezo divides the food in the mortar into two portions and puts them in two lidded china containers.


TAKEZO  Apparently Kinoshita first got interested in the bomb when he came across a roof tile that was in the bomb zone.


MITSUE  Yeah, he told me.


TAKEZO  That year, at the end of August, he came here to Hiroshima from Kure to catch a train home to Iwate, and while waiting for the train he roamed around the burnt-out city.  He came to Ohtemachi around midday and sat himself down where there’d been a temple, and no sooner did he open his lunchbox than he felt somethin’ sharp, like needles sticking right through his fancy navy pants into his bum.


MITSUE  Apparently he sat on a piece of roof tile thrown there by the bomb.


TAKEZO So he sees that the tile is covered in these thorns that are all over it, all stickin’ out in the same direction.  The tile’s surface had melted to form it in that instant of heat, that single instant of unbelievably intense heat.  God, that’s one hell of a bomb, he thought.  I gotta find out more about it, what really happened in that intense heat, I gotta know.  So he went pickin’ up all the tiles he could find as he made his way back to the station.


MITSUE  Yeah, he told me that too.


TAKEZO  You took one of those tiles for safe keeping, didn’t you.


Mitsue takes a furoshiki from the top shelf of the bookshelf.


MITSUE  I didn’t take it, daddy!  He forced it on me.


Takezo takes the furoshiki from her and unwraps it on the dining table to reveal a flat candy box made out of paper.  He removes the lid and is stunned.  Inside the box are a five-centimetre-square piece of tile, a medicine bottle twisted out of shape and a few pieces of glass.  Mitsue removes these for him from the box with much reluctance.


MITSUE  These slivers of glass were removed from the bodies of bomb victims.


TAKEZO  It’s…inhuman.


MITSUE  The tile from the bomb.


TAKEZO  It’s so sharp.


MITSUE  A medicine bottle twisted out of shape by the heat.


TAKEZO  Awful.


MITSUE  Mr. Kinoshita says he’s got scores of beer bottles like this in all weird shapes and big sake bottles warped into the shape of a horn and, he says, there’s a huge standing stone lantern where the surface is all just foamy bubbles from the heat, and a grandfather clock with the shadow of its hands burnt into its face….  And the lady who runs the place where he’s boarding is trying to run him out even though he hasn’t even been there a month.




MITSUE  Yeah, and every time he comes back with more objects the landlady complains, “That stuff you keep bringin’ in here gives me the creeps.  You got so much it’s gonna go right through the floor, so I’ll just have to up your rent.”  She’s on his back all the time.  She really gave it to him two nights ago when he came home for dinner with tiles like this in a petrol can.  There was just a little mound of rice in his bowl and almost nothing in the soup either.


TAKEZO  It makes ya wonder about people, I tell ya.


MITSUE  And that’s why Mr. Kinoshita came to me today and said he knew he was asking a lot but could I keep his stuff from the bomb in the library.


TAKEZO  It’s not possible, is it.


MITSUE  One word from MacArthur and we could.  I felt sorry for him and I didn’t want to refuse him on the spot so I asked if I could sleep on it.  So tomorrow I gotta see him again during my lunch break.  Some people who come to the library are a real pain.


TAKEZO  Lend me your handkerchief for a moment.


MITSUE  Wha…?  Okay.


Takezo wraps one of the lidded containers with small fry in miso in the handkerchief.


TAKEZO  Small fry in miso.  For that Kinoshita fellow.  Lid on an’ everything.  You make sure you give it to him tomorrow.


MITSUE  Daddy, how long are you going to go on like this?


TAKEZO  God knows why, but men have a thing for girls’ handkerchiefs.


MITSUE  Will you please mind your own business and stop imagining things and then reading everything into them!


TAKEZO  Oh well, then give it to your boss instead.


MITSUE  My boss’ wife gets jealous at the drop of a hat.  It might cause trouble.


TAKEZO  Well, then, I think you better give it to that Kinoshita fellow after all.


MITSUE  (angrily puts the wrapped container on the writing desk) This is the last time I’m going to let you do something like this!


TAKEZO  Look, forget that and think about what you were arguing about with Kinoshita instead, all right?  


MITSUE  Well, just before we parted he asked me if it wasn’t a good idea to use his atom bomb objects in trying to tell the children about what happened to me in the bomb an’ everything.


TAKEZO  That fellow sure has a good head on his shoulders.


MITSUE  I told him it was out of the question.  Our philosophy is not to tamper with the original stories.


TAKEZO  There you go again!  I mean, it’s one thing to stick to the letter of the stories that you’ve heard on your trips, but…


MITSUE  But he kept on pushing the stuff that he collected on me and wouldn’t take no for an answer even though I told him over and over that it was out of the question.  Then I started shouting, I guess.  Well, that’s the long and short of it.


TAKEZO  Just a minute.  I just had a brilliant idea.


MITSUE   Yeah, I know, you’re good at that, you and your big ideas for things that can’t be counted on.  Every time you have one of your brilliant ideas you start up some new business or try to get your hands on some new woman or fritter away what granddad left on anything but your little inn…


TAKEZO  Everything left to me would have gone up in smoke with the bomb anyway, even if I had increased its value.  You might say I saw past things.


MITSUE  That insults all people who worked their guts out.  My God.


TAKEZO  Okay.  Look, all you’ll end up doin’ is arguin’ till the cows come home if you just repeat those stories.  You should tell stories that everybody knows but just slip the material that Kinoshita collected in, that’s all.  He’ll be really tickled if you do that.


MITSUE  The summer holiday storytelling is for children, daddy.


TAKEZO  Sure it is.  Look, just take a story, look, like Momotaro or The Battle of the Monkey and the Crab or, say, the Little Inch-High Warrior and kinda work the atom bomb into ‘em.


MITSUE  How am I supposed to do that?


TAKEZO  You’re the expert, figure it out.


MITSUE  The occupation forces keep an eye on absolutely everything, daddy.  You can afford to pretend that things don’t matter because you have no idea how powerful the occupation army is.


TAKEZO  (yet another brilliant idea)  Got it!


MITSUE  I’ve got to go and memorize my stories.  You can leave any time you please.  Do visit again, will you?


TAKEZO  This is it this time.  You’ll be telling your stories to the kids and the wind will rise and carry your words here, there and everywhere.  They will enter the hearts of those kids and come out, riding the wind straight up to the sky where they will turn into little rainbows.  There will be no proof, just the Hiroshima wind that is fighting for you, blowing through the hills of Hijiyama.


Takezo puts two of Kinoshita’s objects into the lower pocket of his apron and one in the upper.


TAKEZO  May not do you any good, but just listen to me, okay.  The Little Inch-High Warrior…no one who doesn’t know the story of how the Little Inch-High Warrior arrived in Kyoto sailing in a rice bowl.  Well, he hops into the red ogre’s mouth to save the beautiful princess and sticks a sewing needle, which he uses for a sword, all inside the ogre’s tummy until the ogre, in the end, surrenders.  He’s powerful, the Inch-High Warrior, yep.  But the Little Inch-High Warrior of Hiroshima is even more powerful.


MITSUE  The Little Inch-High Warrior of Hiroshima?


TAKEZO  And the curtain goes up on Mitsue Fukuyoshi’s Apron Theater!


MITSUE  Apron Theater…?


TAKEZO  Apron pockets can really help dramatize a story, you know.  Now, up to the part where he hops into the ogre’s belly it’s the same.  But that’s where the story takes on a completely different tack.  


Takezo takes a tile from the lower right pocket and holds it in the air.


TAKEZO  Having found himself inside the red ogre’s belly, the Little Inch-High Warrior of Hiroshima pushes the tile from the bomb zone hard against the ogre’s lower tummy and says, “Hey, ogre!  Unplug your ears of all your wax and listen to me!  In my hand I have a tile that was burnt by the atom bomb in Hiroshima.  You know that an atom bomb was detonated at a height of 580 meters above Hiroshima in the morning, on that day.  One second after that there was a fireball with a temperature of 12,000 degrees Centigrade.  Hey, get that?  12,000 degrees.  The surface temperature of the Sun is 6,000 degrees, so that day the sky was lit up with two Suns floating there at 580 meters above the ground.  That’s two Suns, for one second then another, side by side, up in the sky.  Everything on the ground, the people and the birds and the bugs, the fish, the buildings and the big stone lanterns, it all melted in a flash.  Every single thing under the sun bubbled, foamed and melted.  Roof tiles melted too.  Then the atomic blast itself arrived.  At 350 meters a second, an atomic blast faster than the speed of sound.  The melted tiles were blasted too, and they grew little needles which cooled into jagged thorns like sharp little icicles, like the blades of a grater or iron spikes.  With these terrifying spikes I’m gonna grate your liver into slivers of pulp!  Grate and grate and grate and grate!”  And the red ogre writhes in such excruciating pain that his red face just gets paler and paler.


Mitsue is terrified by this story.  Takezo produces the medicine bottle from the lower left pocket.


TAKEZO  Before you know it, the Little Inch-High Warrior of Hiroshima pulls out a medicine bottle that was all twisted up by the heat.  “Hey, ogre!  Now I’m gonna shove this medicine bottle up your bumhole from the inside.  I hope you drop dead from constipation!”


Takezo produces a piece of glass from the upper pocket and raises it in the air.  His voice becomes tearful during the following.


TAKEZO  “Hey, ogre!  This here is a piece of glass that pierced human flesh.  Every window in Hiroshima was blown out by the blast, shooting slivers of glass into human bodies, turning people into porcupines….”


MITSUE  Stop it!


TAKEZO  “With the blade of this glass I’m gonna make mincemeat outta your large intestine and your small intestine and your appendix!”


MITSUE  I said stop it!


TAKEZO  …it was so inhuman, what people did to people just like them, lining up two Suns in the sky.  (putting the mortar and pestle away)  No, it might be too much for the people of Hiroshima to take, slippin’ things from the bomb into a story, any story.  Gotta keep that in mind.  All I wanted was for that Kinoshita fellow to be keen on you, but I was wrong.  Yeah, just another of my big ideas.  (disappearing at the back of the kitchen as he carries the kitchen items)  Just be content with the small fry in miso for that fellow when you give it to him.


MITSUE  Thank you, daddy, for everything you’ve done for me.  Daddy?  Daddy?


Takezo is gone.  The lights fade to blackout.




Music plays and the lights come up on the same scene, the next day, Thursday, after midday.  It is raining.  Drops from the leaking ceiling fall into strategically placed bowls and teacups, five or six of them in the sitting room and six or seven in the eight-mat bedroom.


On one side of the sitting room stands Takezo with a small pot in his hand.  A large pan and a pot for cooking rice are at his feet.  He is surveying the ceiling for leaks like a teacher watching over students taking an exam.  Finding a new leak between the sitting room and the bedroom he hums what sounds like a children’s song as he hops between the bowls and cups as if playing hopscotch, and places the small pot under the leak.


TAKEZO  Yesterday’s rain was clever.  It came down at night and stopped in the morning.  


He now returns to his position and soon detects another leak over the writing desk in the bedroom.  With the rice-cooking pot in hand he heads for the leak.


TAKEZO  This rain doesn’t have the brains it was born with.  It started in the morning and hasn’t stopped all day.


He pushes the writing desk aside and places the pot under the leak, but picking up the desk he is at a loss for where to put it down.


TAKEZO  Rain, rain, go away.  You’re old man’s a brute and your old mum’s a floozy.


He returns to his original position with the writing desk in hand, and while looking for a place to put it down notices letter paper and an envelope on it.  He puts the desk down, sits at it and reads the envelope.


TAKEZO  “Mr. Tadashi Kinoshita, care of Mrs. Takizawa, Kogomori 2-chome, Fuchu Town, Hiroshima City.”


Takezo grins a toothy smile, then reads the letter, sometimes to himself.


TAKEZO Dear Mr. Kinoshita.  Allow me to express my gratitude for your visits to the municipal library.  …always busy when you kindly appear…(He feels a drop of rain on his head and puts the large pot on it to catch the rain)…seeing as this is such an important matter, I have taken the liberty of writing…the things that you have collected from the bomb zone…if you have nothing against my home…as I live by myself there is room…it does have a few leaks here and there but…as it is stiflingly hot these days…take good care of yourself…yours truly.”


Mitsue returns.  She stands in the entryway, shaking water off her Japanese umbrella.


TAKEZO  Home already?


MITSUE …Oh, daddy.


TAKEZO  Yep, I’m making myself right at home.  It’s just past noon.  What’re you doin’ here?


MITSUE  The rain spoiled our storytelling.


TAKEZO  God only knows why it doesn’t rain at night.  Poor kids.  …What’s up, come back to get somethin’?


MITSUE  No, I just left work early.


TAKEZO  Feeling sick or somethin’?  (suddenly alarmed)  Oh no, you’re not nauseous, are you?  Is it the dizziness, the ringing in your ears, constipation, diarrhea?  Do you still suffer from radiation sickness?


MITSUE  Not recently.


TAKEZO  That’s a relief.


MITSUE  The only place it aches is here.  (She lightly presses her left upper arm)


TAKEZO  That sets my heart at ease, if that’s all it is.  Who knows, maybe that godawful monster of an illness has finally been driven away.


MITSUE  Yeah, he leads you to believe that you’re out of the woods and then, bam, he catches you by surprise.  You can’t relax until you’ve taken your dying breath.


TAKEZO  Yeah.  It’s really awful, what you’ve gotta carry in you.  …Well, get a load a that.  (on the verandah, looking up)  We did it.  It’s finally stopped raining.  If it’d gone on any longer I’d’ve run clean out of things to catch it in.  Couldn’t very well drag the bathtub into here, could I’ve.


He puts away five or six of the bowls and cups and unfolds the dining table for the two of them.    


TAKEZO  So, everything work out, then?


MITSUE  What do you mean?


TAKEZO  The small fry in miso.  That Kinoshita fellow.  Was he happy to get it?


MITSUE  Oh, that.


TAKEZO  Didn’t he say, “Oh, I just love small fry in miso”?


MITSUE  Haven’t given it to him yet.  (She takes the container in the handkerchief from the same handbag she had before)  Here it is.


TAKEZO  What’s it doin’ here?


MITSUE  I didn’t go to Hijiyama.


TAKEZO  Why not?


MITSUE  Well, it was raining for one thing…


TAKEZO  You got an umbrella.


MITSUE  I mean, the paths are all slushy and I could slip and hurt myself…


TAKEZO  Your clogs are still plenty good.


MITSUE  Besides…




MITSUE  I thought it best not to go on seeing Mr. Kinoshita.


TAKEZO Not that again.  People who keep repeating themselves only become laughingstocks.


MITSUE So I fixed up books in the library workroom instead of going.


TAKEZO  You can still make it if you leave now.  


MITSUE  Then I saw Mr. Kinoshita walking toward the library from the direction of Hijiyama.  I thought it better not to meet him so I left work early.


TAKEZO  (shaking)  I’d smack some sense into you if these were the old days!


MITSUE  It’s better this way, daddy.  I can’t let myself fall in love with anyone.


TAKEZO  If you keep acting unnatural like that you’ll lose all heart, Mitsue.


MITSUE  Take my word for it, I’ll be fine.  Let me be, okay?  (She starts to clean up)


TAKEZO  Don’t you mess with the head of your fan club!


MITSUE  What’s got into you now?


TAKEZO  You’re tryin’ to pull the wool over your old man’s eyes with your bare-faced lies.  How long you gonna go on pretendin’ that you don’t fancy him, eh?


MITSUE  Look, all I said was…


TAKEZO  Who needs to ask you?  (pointing to the letter)  “Yours truly.”  Who needs to say another word, it’s all here.


MITSUE  It’s just a polite phrase that all women write.  


TAKEZO  “As I live by myself there is room…”  Do all women write that to some fellow who comes saunterin’ into their library, eh?


MITSUE  I wrote it as a joke.  I planned to throw the whole thing away.  Give it to me.


TAKEZO  If you don’t want it anymore, I’ll throw it away for you.


MITSUE  Oh, daddy….


TAKEZO  (putting the letter and envelope in his pants’ pocket)  Why do you insist you can’t fall in love, eh?  Sure, you don’t have the sort of looks that go knocking men off their feet, but then, I guess I’m half to blame for that.  But you’ve got respectable-enough features, an’ that’s due to me too.


MITSUE  Ridiculous.


TAKEZO  The point is, it’s a good enough face for that Kinoshita fellow, so why worry?


MITSUE  I’m telling you, that’s not the point.


TAKEZO  …So maybe the point’s the radiation sickness, eh?  You can’t let yourself fall in love because you never know when it’s gonna hit you again.


MITSUE  But he said he would stake his own life on looking after me if it came to that.


TAKEZO  Well then, you two seem to have it all sewn up.  Ah, I see, you’re worried about the little one, when it comes into this world.  Radiation sickness does get passed down to babies, they say.


MITSUE  If that’s our fate then we’ll bring it up best as we can.


TAKEZO That what he said too?


MITSUE  More or less.


TAKEZO  Well, whether it’s more or whether it’s less, if you’ve gone that far, you certainly don’t need me.


MITSUE  And it’s all the more reason why I can’t go on seeing him.


TAKEZO You tellin’ me the closer you get to each other the farther you wanna be?


MITSUE  More or less.


TAKEZO  I’m really gonna flip my lid if you don’t stop this nonsense.  What you said two days ago is topsyturvy from what you’re gonna say two days from now.  I tell ya, you’re doin’ so many backflips and frontflips, I can’t tell which end is up.  


MITSUE  (suddenly formal)  Kindly be seated, father.


TAKEZO  …I will.


Takezo sits in front of Mitsue.


MITSUE  There are countless people who, by all rights, should have been able to lead a happy life.  Who am I to elbow my way past them and make a claim on happiness?  If I did, I’d never be able to look them or myself in the face.


TAKEZO  Who are these people you’re talkin’ about?


MITSUE  People like Akiko Fukumura, for instance.


TAKEZO  Akiko Fukumura?  Her?


MITSUE  We went all through middle school, high school and college together.  For eight years we always sat next to each other because our family names start with the character for “Lucky”, and for eight years we were on the track team together.  It got so that everyone just called us Lucky One and Lucky Two.


TAKEZO  Yeah, an’ when you were both absent one day, the teacher took roll call and said there was no such Lucky!


MITSUE The two of us started up the Folktale Research Club at college, too, with Akiko as president and me as vice president.  It was the two of us who made the strict policy that original stories are not to be touched.


TAKEZO  And you stuck to it?


MITSUE  That’s right.


TAKEZO  You two were always competing with each other on grades, weren’t you.


MITSUE I could outrun her, but never once did I outdo her on grades.  I always came in second on that.  It’s your fault, daddy.


TAKEZO  Hey, don’t throw that in my face all of a sudden.


MITSUE  Besides that, she was really pretty.  Everybody called her the prettiest girl in high school and college.


TAKEZO  Must’ve been ‘cause of her mother.  She was a real goodlooker.  She ran a little sewing school, and a widow to boot.  Gee, one look from her and all I could do was stand there with my mouth open.


MITSUE  So you wrote her a letter, didn’t you, and sent it with some rice and canned salmon and corned beef.  “Mrs. Shizue Fukumura.  It would give me great pleasure to accompany you to view the nighttime cherry blossoms at Hijiyama.  Very kindly yours, Takezo Fukuyoshi.”


TAKEZO  How’d you find out about that?


MITSUE  Akiko showed it to me.  She said, “Don’t you think ‘very kindly yours’ is a bit weird?”


TAKEZO  How so?


MITSUE  It’s the sort of thing women write.


TAKEZO  Who lets their letters get read by other people anyway, eh?  That widow turned out to be nastier than she looked.


MITSUE  She treated me like a real mother, very tenderly.


TAKEZO  And she should’ve been your mother too, you know.  All she had to do was change the second half or her last name from Mura to Yoshi.


MITSUE  (again formally)  Akiko was the one who should have had a chance at happiness.


TAKEZO  Why’s that, then?


MITSUE  She was prettier than me, and more clever and more popular, and she saved me from the bomb.


TAKEZO  …Saved you from the bomb?


MITSUE  If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be alive today.


TAKEZO  That’s absurd.  You and I were the only people in our garden then.  Akiko…whadda ya talkin’ about?


MITSUE  She saved me with a letter.


TAKEZO  A letter?


MITSUE  She was teaching at the time at the Second Prefectural Girls School and had gone to the airplane factory at Mizushima in Okayama with her ninth and tenth grade pupils.  I had received a letter from her the day before and I was so happy that I spent the whole night writing a reply.  The next morning I decided to mail it on my way to the library, and I was walking through our garden toward the wooden gate in back with the thick letter in my hand….


TAKEZO  I was on the verandah, wasn’t I.  I was polishing brown rice with a stick in a big sake bottle when I saw you passing the stone lantern and said, “Be careful, Mitsue….”


MITSUE  I turned toward you when I heard your voice and waved.  It was then…I saw a B-29 just beyond our roof and caught sight of something shining, glinting.  “Daddy, they’re dropping something on us.”


TAKEZO  “Funny, there’s been no air raid warning.”  I stepped down into the garden.


MITSUE  “I wonder what they’re dropping now?  Propaganda flyers maybe.”  As I was looking up my grip loosened and I dropped the letter by the stone lantern.  “Oh God.”  I bent down to pick it up, when, out of the blue, everything under the sun turned a pale white.


TAKEZO  I saw it full on, two suns of blazing fire.


MITSUE  (with pity)  Daddy…


TAKEZO  It was a great ball of fire, blindingly white at the center with a weird kind of yellow and red outline.  (pause)  What happened then?


MITSUE  I was shielded from the heat coming from the fireball by the lantern.


TAKEZO  Oh, that big stone lantern!  Gee, it cost me an arm and a leg, but it was sure worth it.


MITSUE  If I hadn’t received that letter from Akiko I wouldn’t have been kneeling down by the lantern.  That’s why I said she saved my life.  (She covers her face with her hands)


TAKEZO What is it, Mitsue?


MITSUE Akiko had taken the first train that morning from Mizushima to Hiroshima.




MITSUE  She was on her way to the school to fetch some things she needed for her evening tutorial, mimeograph things and a couple of reams of coarse paper.


TAKEZO  What’d she do then?  Oh no….


MITSUE  She stopped off at her mother’s at Nishi-Kanonmachi then set out for school exactly at eight.  She was hit by the bomb when she was by the Red Cross offices at Sendamachi.




MITSUE  Her mother didn’t find her till a whole day after.  By then she had been laid out on the dirt floor at the back entrance of the Red Cross.


TAKEZO  Oh my God, the poor little girl.


MITSUE  Her buttocks were completely exposed ‘cause the back of her pants had burnt off, and there was a little patch of dried stool…


TAKEZO  I’ve heard enough.  Now I think I know why you feel you can’t seek out happiness like ordinary people.  But, Mitsue, look at it this way.  You’ve gotta live out Akiko’s happiness for her.


MITSUE  I can’t do that, daddy!


TAKEZO  Why not?


MITSUE  Because I promised.  …Her mother.


TAKEZO  Her mother?


MITSUE  Well, something akin to a promise.


TAKEZO  What’d you promise, eh?


MITSUE  I met up with her mother three days after the blast, in the early evening of August 9th.  I had run off to Mrs. Horiuchi’s house in Miyajima on the 6th and stayed there till the morning of the 9th.


TAKEZO  Mrs. Horiuchi?  The name rings a bell, but….


MITSUE  My old flower arranging teacher from school.


TAKEZO  Oh, old Mrs. Horiuchi.  Lucky for you to have had such a nice teacher.


MITSUE  She urged me to go back home, so I left that morning and got home around noon.  The whole city smelt like grilled fish.


TAKEZO  Yeah, grilled into oblivion.


MITSUE  I just cried and cried picking up your bones, daddy.


TAKEZO I know.  Thank you.


MITSUE  Then I went to Akiko’s, but everything around there was burnt to the ground, an’ when I got there her mother was lying in a tunnel dug into the garden.  She was on her stomach ‘cause her back was covered in these enormous blisters.


TAKEZO  Oh, the poor woman.


MITSUE  She looked really happy to see me an’ she got to her feet and hugged me really tight and thanked me for coming.  But when she started telling me about Akiko she all of a sudden turned white as a ghost and she just looked right through me and….


TAKEZO  Go on.


MITSUE  …and she said, “What are you doing alive?”  …  “Why are you alive when my daughter isn’t?”  … By the end of the month she was dead too.


TAKEZO  This might not help any, but really,

Akiko’s mum wasn’t really in her right mind, and I’m sure she didn’t mean it and….


MITSUE  No, it was unnatural for me to have survived, daddy!


TAKEZO  What on earth makes you say such a thing, eh?


MITSUE  I don’t deserve to live.


TAKEZO  Don’t you ever say a thing like that!


MITSUE  Listen to me, daddy!


TAKEZO  I’m not going to listen to a word of this.


MITSUE  Almost all of my friends are gone.  Etsuko who died while standing in a fire-prevention reservoir.  Kaori, just walking along, her tongue swollen out of her mouth like she was chewing on a huge eggplant.  Fumiko had gotten married just after graduation…she died with her baby at her breast.  The baby, too, went to the other world soon after, pressing its little face to her breasts, without even an inkling of what this world is like.  And Michiko, my friend at the telephone exchange.  Two of her coworkers were too scared to move, so she put her arms around them and told them to be brave ‘cause she wouldn’t leave them, until she died, too, right there.  It’s three years now, daddy, and I have still had no news from other friends.  And there’s you, too, daddy….


TAKEZO (He holds up a clenched fist)  You and I have our old agreement, remember?  You should try to keep that in mind, Mitsue.


MITSUE  That’s wrong, daddy.  To die in Hiroshima was the natural thing to do.  To survive here is unnatural.  That’s why my being alive now is wrong.


TAKEZO  Dead people don’t see it that way.  I’m perfectly at peace with what happened to me, actually.


MITSUE  I don’t deserve to be alive.  But I don’t have the courage to die either.  (It has started raining again)  So I’m just going to live a quiet life and, when I get the chance, leave life just as quietly.  It has been three very hard years for me, daddy.  Please at least give me credit for managing to stay alive.  (She stands, goes to the front door)


TAKEZO  Where you off to now?


MITSUE  I’ve got to get back to repairing those books, so I guess I’ll go to the library.  I doubt if Mr. Kinoshita is still there.


TAKEZO  Hold on a minute.


He takes the envelope and letter out of his pants’ pocket and pushes them on her.


TAKEZO  You take this to the post office on your way.  … Special delivery!


MITSUE  Don’t be ridiculous, daddy.


TAKEZO  That’s an order.  From your father.


Mitsue takes the envelope and letter from her father.  She is shaking.  Takezo, discovering leaks from the rain, starts going around the room placing cups and bowls below them.


TAKEZO  Rain, rain, go away.  Your old man’s a brute and your mum’s a floozy.


Fade to blackout as the rain pounds ever harder on the house.




The music crossfades with the sound of a three-wheel car’s engine as the lights go up on the house.  It is 6pm on Friday, the next day.  Two teacups used by Kinoshita and the driver of the car are on the sitting room table.  Objects brought by Kinoshita fill the space from the bedroom to the garden.  On newspaper spread over the bedroom floor are cases of beer bottles with twisted necks, other such large bottles and a large sake jug misshapen by the heat of the blast, a round face clock 30 centimeters in diameter whose hands are stopped at 8:15 and a half-burnt bridal doll.  Tea chests, orange crates and other such boxes are piled up along the wall.

Three stones from atop the lantern sit in the garden, in addition to a football-size head of Jizo, the guardian deity of children, with melted face.

The sound of the car engine grows faint as Mitsue enters the house, a smile still on her lips.  She removes the teacups to the kitchen then starts wiping the table with a tea towel when she suddenly gazes at the head of the Jizo and her smile freezes.  … She gathers her courage to edge to the verandah, then, barefoot, enters the garden and turns the head of the Jizo toward her, giving out an unintended shriek.


MITSUE  It’s…daddy on the day the bomb dropped!


As if responding to the call Takezo enters, tapping his shoulders with a bamboo pipe used to blow on embers in a fire.


TAKEZO  Well how do ya like them apples, it’s me in the flesh!


Mitsue looks back and forth at his and the Jizo’s face, her body stiffening, and abruptly turns the Jizo back the other way.


MITSUE  I didn’t know you were here.


TAKEZO  Not a very clever entrance this time, I’m afraid.  Anyway, that Kinoshita fellow seemed to say that he’d be back with more things from the bomb zone again.


MITSUE  This is apparently exactly half of what he’s got.


TAKEZO  Gee, he’s surely put together quite a collection.  I mean, you can’t blame that landlady of his, can you.  Boy!


Mitsue dusts off the soles of her feet, steps onto the verandah and enters the house.  She finishes wiping down the table and continues to do one thing or another in the kitchen, but she obviously cannot come to terms with the upset of a few moments before.


TAKEZO  How far did his driver say the boarding house was from here?


MITSUE  3.4 kilometers one way on the button, with six traffic signals and one railway crossing in between.


TAKEZO  Taking into account, then, the time necessary to load up the little car, I would estimate that he’d be back here in 30 to 40 minutes.  You make sure you thank him properly for everything and offer him a bath.


MITSUE  A bath?


TAKEZO  (holding up the bamboo pipe)   Nothin’ hits the spot like a bath on a hot day like today.


MITSUE  Have you been heating up our bath, daddy?


TAKEZO  You bet.


MITSUE  You’ve done everything….


TAKEZO  Twenty years bein’ a widower wasn’t a complete washout, you know.  How does that fellow like his bath, eh, boilin’ hot or on the tepid side.


MITSUE  How should I know?


TAKEZO  Yeah, you’ve got a point.  Well, I’ll aim for somethin’ in between.  When he comes out you’ll have to give him something cold.


MITSUE  I’ve got a bottle of beer that I bought.


TAKEZO  Good going.  But the driver’ll have to content himself with water.  Even cold water is a treat on a hot day like this.


MITSUE  I’ve got a block of ice that I bought too.


TAKEZO  Oh, and you’ll have to ask the driver to leave early.  Make sure he doesn’t overstay his welcome, got it?


MITSUE  He mentioned that he had other business right after.


TAKEZO  That’s what I wanna hear.  Make sure now you’ve got new towels ready.


MITSUE  I’ve bought ‘em.


TAKEZO  And you’ll need a bar of soap.


MITSUE  I bought that too.


TAKEZO  And a pumice stone to rub off dry skin?


MITSUE  Bought.


TAKEZO  And a sponge?


MITSUE  Bought one.


TAKEZO  And a man’s bathrobe, you’ll…


MITSUE  Bought…no, what would I have that for?


TAKEZO  Yeah, wouldn’t look good to people if you went around buyin’ a man’s bathrobe, I guess.  Now, there’s no need tellin’ you that it’s a bit premature for you to go scrubbin’ his back for him in the bath.  I mean, that too wouldn’t look too good if it got out.


MITSUE  Shouldn’t you be putting more firewood under the bath, daddy?


TAKEZO  I don’t need reminding.  Now, what’re you plannin’ to serve him for dinner, eh?


MITSUE  A beer and small fry in miso to go with it.


TAKEZO  Good going.  


MITSUE  Marinated sardines.


TAKEZO  Thattagirl.  That’s the thing.


MITSUE  Soy-flavored rice.


TAKEZO  (licking his chops)  So what and what goes into the rice, eh?


MITSUE  Sliced burdock, finely chopped carrots and then deep fried tofu and small fry.


TAKEZO  I can’t take it anymore.


MITSUE  Topped off with a slice of melon.


TAKEZO  (sighing)  You don’t have room for one more, do ya?


MITSUE  Nothing would make me happier, daddy, than to see you eat.


TAKEZO  You think you’ll be getting some time off for summer vacation?


MITSUE Vacation?


TAKEZO  Yeah well, that Kinoshita fellow said when he was just leavin’ that it would be nice if you could go with him up to Iwate if you got time off for summer.  Said he wanted to get home once before the new semester started in September.  Said his folks would be really happy to see you up there if you went.


MITSUE  I guess I’d get time off if I wanted.


TAKEZO  Then go with him, for cryin’ out loud.


MITSUE  I’ve always wanted to go to Iwate, where Kenji Miyazawa came from.


TAKEZO  Kenji who?


MITSUE  Miyazawa, the poet and children’s story writer.  His books are really popular in our library.  I like his poems too.


TAKEZO  What sort of poems?


MITSUE Oh, “The Morning of Last Farewell” and “January on the Iwate Light Railway” and “Once Around the Stars.”


TAKEZO  Oh, once around the stars….


MITSUE  (singing)  “The Scorpion with red, red burning eyes/ The Eagle with wings so gracefully unfurled/ And Little Dog his eyes so blue and bright/ The long Snake of light shines in its own world….”  The poem has lots of constellation names in it.


TAKEZO Daddy wrote a poem about the stars when he was in elementary school too, you know.


MITSUE  You did?


TAKEZO  (singing)  “The night has come again tonight/ And dozing off I count the stars/ Three, four…seven stars/ In the heavens the stars twinkle/ On the ground the burglars burgle/Through the trees….”  I better go check on the fire.  I’ll just skip the rest of the song.  But the teacher gave me a B for it and pinned it on the classroom wall.  (exiting)  His asking you to go home to Iwate with him was a sort of proposal, you know.  You got that, didn’t you?  “Through the trees the raggedy owl bums/ While the temple raccoon pounds his belly just like drums….”


Takezo exits brandishing his pipe in the air.  Once she has seen that he has gone, Mitsue again enters the garden and looks at the Jizo’s face.  She appears to have made up her mind about something, and hurries back into the house, takes a large furoshiki from the closet and begins packing her things.  Takezo returns.


TAKEZO He’s got a stubbly beard, too, so you’ll have to get a razor.


MITSUE  I don’t keep razors in the house.  Too many bomb victims slit their throats or their wrists with them.  Some cut their left wrist and stuck their arm in the bath till they bled to death.  


TAKEZO What’re you, packing or something?  Doesn’t look like the sort of stuff you’d take on a summer holiday to Iwate.


MITSUE  I’m going to go to Mrs. Horiuchi and ask her if I can give her a hand teaching flower arranging.  If I leave right now I’ll probably be able to catch the 7:05 train to Miyajima.  


Mitsue finishes her packing, sits at the dining table and, with pencil in hand, opens up a blank sheet of letter paper.


TAKEZO  That Kinoshita fellow’ll be back, so you should give another thought to that plan of yours.  You can’t just invite somebody into your home and kick ‘em out just like that.  It’s downright rude.


MITSUE  I’ll leave him a note at the front door where he’s sure to see it.  Don’t worry about it.


TAKEZO  What about that fabulous dinner you cooked up for him, eh?  You want it to rot and the flies to get at it?


MITSUE  He can have it all to himself.  That’s what I’m writing him.


TAKEZO  But the bath!  Whadda ya gonna say, “Please feel free to take a bath” or somethin’?


MITSUE  After that I’ll…  (staring into space for a moment)  …kindly close the shutters when you leave, lock the door securely and leave the key with the next door neighbor.  And the last line is…I am happy to hold onto your invaluable objects for you.  But please forget about me.  Sincerely yours….


TAKEZO  Aren’t you even going back to the library?




TAKEZO  Has that stubborn old sickness come back again?




TAKEZO Yes, it is that sickness!  (stepping onto the verandah)    My…my existence here came out of the throbbing of your heart, from the heat of your sighs, from the faint whispers of your wishes.  So I’m not gonna allow you to write something like this!


Takezo grabs the pencil from her hand.


MITSUE  Give me back that pencil!  It’s exactly like one Akiko had.  I had it in my pants’ pocket when the bomb dropped.  I saved that pencil, it means a lot to me.


TAKEZO  You’re sick, Mitsue.  There’s a name for what you’ve got, too.  The symptoms appear in people who have survived their friends and the patient is riddled with guilt and never forgives herself for being alive.  The name of the disease is “Guilt-ridden Survivoritis.”  (breaking the pencil in two)  I know how you feel, Mitsue.  But you’re alive and you must go on living.  You’ve gotta get over this sickness right away.


MITSUE  The person I feel so awful and guilty about is you, daddy.




MITSUE  Of course I feel really guilty about Akiko and the others too.  But I was just trying to cover up and deny what I did with that guilt.  Nothing will hide the fact that I left you where you were and ran away like a horrid little girl.  (She runs into the garden and uses every ounce of her strength to lift up the head of the Jizo)  Your face was so badly burnt then, daddy, melted away just like the face of this Jizo.  And I just did nothing, left you there and ran away.  


TAKEZO  Look, we’ve been over that.  It’s settled.


MITSUE I thought so too, daddy, but that’s because I hadn’t remembered anything, not even a little fragment of what happened then.  But seeing this face brought it all back to me so clearly.  I’m the daughter whose father fell into a sea of flames worse than hell and I ran away from it.  A human being like that has no right to be happy.


TAKEZO What you’re saying is totally absurd.


MITSUE  Remember, daddy?  I came to and the house was collapsed on top of us.  I knew something terrible had happened but I didn’t know what.  I knew I had to get out from under there as quickly as possible and I managed to wriggle my way out, but you couldn’t budge.  You just lay there on your back with pillars and beams and all these pieces of wood everywhere on top of you, so many of them, and I screamed with all my might, “Somebody, come and save my daddy!”  But nobody came.


TAKEZO Because the same sort of thing was happening all over Hiroshima.


MITSUE  I had no saw or axe, not even a mallet.  I tried to lift up a big pillar using another pillar as a lever but it wouldn’t budge.  I even dug at the earth but that did no good either.


TAKEZO  You did all you could’ve.


MITSUE  Then I smelled this acrid smoky smell, and I saw that our hair and eyebrows were on fire, crackling….


TAKEZO  You tried to cover me by laying on top of me, and over and over again put out the flames that came off me.  I was grateful, but I knew that we’d both die if you just kept on doing that, so I said to you, “Get outta here, Mitsue!”  You said, “No, I won’t!” and stayed, and we just repeated that over and over again, “Get out!”  “No, I won’t!”


MITSUE  Then you said, “Okay, let’s play scissors paper stone.  I’m gonna put out a stone, so you don’t have a prayer of winnin’.”


TAKEZO “Ready or not, here I go!”  (He holds out a fist)


MITSUE  (also holding out a fist)  I see through you, daddy.


TAKEZO  “Here I go!”  (fist)


MITSUE  (fist)  You’re not going to get away with it, daddy.


TAKEZO  “And let’s go!”  (fist)


MITSUE  (fist)  I’ve been on to you since I was a little girl, daddy.


TAKEZO  “Ready let’s go!”  (fist)


MITSUE  (fist)  You always let me win on the next one, don’t you.


TAKEZO  “And here we go!”  (fist)


MITSUE  (fist)  Oh, daddy, you were always so kind and gentle….


TAKEZO  Why in the hell don’t you put out paper, eh?!  Can’t you see that I want you to win and get outta here?  Now stop being so horrid and show a little respect for your father, will ya!  (gasping for breath)  Do as your father says for this one last time, I’m beggin’ you.  If you don’t run away right now I’ll die on ya right here and now.  … You see?  Both your surviving and my dying were based on a mutual agreement.


MITSUE  But the fact is, I left you there.  I should have died beside you, daddy.


TAKEZO  You are so stupid!  How’d you ever get so stupid, eh?  Didn’t they teach anything to you in that college of yours?


MITSUE  I, uh…


TAKEZO  Listen to me, will ya!  When you were next to me then, didn’t you just cry and cry and tell me how inhuman it all was, how horrible, that we had to part like that?  Remember?  Didn’t I say to you, “A parting like this should never happen again, till the end of time.  It’s not human.”  Were you able to hear my last words, Mitsue?  “Live.  Live my life for me too!”  So, you see, you will go on living because of me.


MITSUE  Because of you?


TAKEZO  Yes.  Go on living so that the world will remember that tens of thousands of people have had to say goodbye like that and it’s inhuman.  Isn’t that what that library where you work is for?  To tell people those things?


MITSUE  I, uh…


TAKEZO  You’ve got your work cut out for you, to tell people sad things an’ happy things.  If you don’t get that through your head, then you’re really the stupid pigheaded daughter you say you are and there’s no way I can ever depend on you.  Just as soon have some other child instead.


MITSUE  Some other child?


TAKEZO  A grandchild…a great grandchild.


Mitsue slowly goes into the kitchen and takes hold of a knife.  She peers at her father for a while, then starts to finely chop a burdock root.  She suddenly stops.


MITSUE  When will I see you again?


TAKEZO  Depends on you.


MITSUE  (with a smile that we haven’t seen for some time)  Might be a while.


We hear the car’s engine in the distance.


TAKEZO Oh God, I forgot to top up the firewood.


Takezo exits upstage and Mitsue calls out to him…


MITSUE Daddy, thank you!


The sound of the car gets louder.  Blackout.






Translated by Roger Pulvers






INOUE Hisashi
This page was created on 2010/09/22

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INOUE Hisashi

Playwright and novelist. November 16,1934~April 9, 2010. Born in Yamagata Prefecture and graduated from Sophia University in 1960. He won many literary prizes, including the prestigious Naoki Prize for Handcuffed Double Suicide(Tegusari Shinju) and the Asahi Prize. In 1984 he founded Komatsuza, a theater troupe dedicated to his work. Komatsuza still remains active today, producing Inoue’s dramas and touring with them throughout Japan. He was an outspoken antiwar and antinuclear activist, and in 2004 he established a group defending Japan’s Peace Constitution with other intellectuals, including the Nobel Prize winner Ōe Kenzaburō. He was designated a Person of Cultural Merit in 2004 and became a member of Japan Art Academy in 2009. From 2003 to 2007, he served as the 14th President of The Japan P.E.N. Club.

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