Sunday, January 25, 2015

仕事に出かける時の自分、どんな顔してますか?

今日は日曜日だけれど、マイクは朝からHTML5 Conferenceという会議に意気揚々として出かけて行った。その晴れ晴れしい顔。見ている方まで楽しい気持ちになる。この人は、本当に仕事が好きなんだなあ、とあらためて感じる幸せな瞬間。思えば、「情熱が持てる仕事に就くことの重要さ」を教えてくれたのは、他でもないこのマイクだ。

今から6年前。私は30歳。9年ほど住んだアメリカを去り日本に帰国。ほどなく友人が慶應義塾大学のとある団体の研究室での事務職を勧めてくれた。空から降って来たような話だった。その研究室に居たのがマイク。彼の専門はWebで、何も知らない私に色々と教えてくれた。でも私の仕事は専ら事務や雑用。仕事にはすぐ慣れたし、同僚は皆親切だったが、いつしか私は退屈な毎日を送るようになる。その傍ら、マイクや他の同僚は仕事に熱い。熱くなれる何かと毎日向き合っている。そんな人達に囲まれて仕事をするうちに私も考えるようになった。私も私にしかできない、そして私自身が本当に熱くなれる、情熱が持てるような仕事に就きたい。

At W3C Keio SFC office. Look how BORED I look!! :)


Flirting? Yes :)

それから私は再び渡米をし大学院で3年間、言語学の勉強をしながら、学部生に日本語を教えることになる。正直、かなりハードだった。言語学の基礎的な知識も無い上、日本語を教えた経験も皆無だった。もう32歳になっていた私は一回りも若い同級生に体力の差を感じながらも、負けず嫌いなところだけは群を抜いていたので、頑張りすぎる日々が続き、体調を崩したり、情緒不安定になることもあった。その間もずっとマイクは応援してくれた。嬉しいことがあった時には喜びを分かち合い、壁にぶつかった時には最善の策を講じてくれた。だから、そうして取得した修士号はマイク無しでは語れない。


Graduation. Purdue University. May 2013

今私は自分が本当に熱くなれることをして、お金をもらえている。初めてのことだ。こんなにも幸せに満たされた気持ちになるとは、想像もしなかった。ケンタッキー州に住んでいた時に大学でピアノレッスンをしてくれたミスター・ルイスが口癖のように言っていた言葉を思い出す。先生はその時72歳。歩くのもままならないようなおじいさん先生だった。でもまだまだ現役でピアノを教え続けたい。この仕事からは一生引退したくないんだ。と言っていた。英語では、"I love my job, and I never want to retire!!" だったかな。もの凄く印象的だった。当時私はケンタッキー州にある自動車工場で購買やプランニングの仕事をしていた。それなりにやりがいもあったけれど、辞めたくない仕事なんて存在するのか?と懐疑的だった。今、ミスター・ルイスの言葉がホンモノだったことがわかる。私も日本語教師という職からリタイアしたくないと強く思うから。一生続けていきたいと思える仕事に出合えた幸せを噛み締めて、この気持ちを忘れずにいたい。

Sunday, January 4, 2015

読書感想文:東京タワー オカンとボクと、時々、オトン

実家に帰省して一週間も経つと、いよいよ退屈になってくる。テレビも見飽きた。そこで二階の本棚から何冊か読みかけの本を持って来て、こたつに寝転がって一冊一冊読み潰していった。「東京タワー オカンとボクと、時々、オトン」(リリーフランキー著)はその中の一冊だ。



この本がベストセラーになった2005年。私は米国ケンタッキー州のはずれにある小さな町に住み、トヨタ自動車系列の会社に勤めていた。その年の暮れ、正月休みで一時帰国した時にこの本が目に留まり、買ってみて途中まで調子良く読んでいたものの、物語終盤でいざ「ボク」の「オカン」が死ぬ、という場面になってたまらなくなり、パタンと本を閉じたままになっていた。読んでいられなかったのだ。その時は、あと何日かしたらまた家族を残し、一人アメリカに戻らなければいけない、ということからか、親が死んでしまう話など読むに読めなかったのだ。あれから9年。私は帰国しまさかの結婚もして、両親も元気に同じ日本に住んでいる。今なら読めるだろう、と意を決して、そのしおりの挟まった本を再び開いた。



大きな間違いだった。何度となく涙で目の前の本の文字がかすみ、何度となく本を閉じた。親の死。親を持つ者には誰にも必ず訪れる、悲しすぎる出来事。できれば想像もしたくない。他人事に思っていたい。だからたとえ本の世界であっても、直面したくないのだ。そう実感した。

それでも涙を拭き、鼻水をかみ、何度も中断しながらもこの本を9年越しに読了することができた。物語の終わりに、「オカン」を亡くした「ボク」(リリーフランキー)は乗降客でごった返す東京駅にたたずみ、こんな風に綴っている:

『...今日も東京には、どこからか人が集まり溢れかえっている。
それぞれが...ひとりで生まれ、ひとりで生きているような顔をしている。
しかし、当然のことながら、そのひとりひとりには家族がいて、大切にすべきものがあって、心の中に広大な宇宙を持ち、そして、母親がいる。
この先いつか、或いはすでに、このすべての人たちがボクと同じ悲しみを経験する。

...人が母親から生まれる限り、この悲しみから逃れることはできない。
人の命に終わりがある限り、この恐怖と向かい合わずにはおれないのだから。』

当たり前の事だけれど、こうして文字にされると、しみじみと考えてしまうような文だ。
私は本を閉じて、こたつでテレビに夢中になっている親の姿を見た。
優しい言葉のひとつでもかけてあげたい。
「ありがとう」と言えるうちに何度も何度も言ってあげたい。

現実と向き合うのは、思ったより難しい。



Saturday, January 3, 2015

露天風呂にて

お正月休み。私の実家のある信州松本に帰省している。風呂好きな私と夫は近くの温泉銭湯に毎晩足繁く通っているが、2日ほど前の晩、閉店前のその銭湯の露天風呂で、小学校の時の同級生にばったり会った。その子とはもう何十年も会っていないわけだけど、当時と全然変わっていないのですぐに分かり、私から声をかけた。聞けば彼女も帰省中で、今は仕事で沖縄に住んでいるという。でも4月からは東京でパートナーと赤坂にあるマンションで同居するらしい。思いがけず思いがけない場所で会えたことに2人とも興奮してしまい、時間を忘れた。気付けば閉店の時間。「なおちゃん、またね!」と明日また会えるかのようにして別れたけれど、今度会えるのはいつなんだろう。のぼせかかった頭でぼんやりと考えながら、この唄を詠んだ:

寒空の 露天で幼な友に会い
おもひで話に 湯の花揺れり

Under a wintry sky
At an outside bath
Saw a childhood friend 
Talked about old times
Hot spring minerals bloomed like flowers


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Film review: Ian Thomas Ash's "-1287"

I knew it was going to be a sad film. It was about this woman with a terminal cancer, and from the film title "-1287" and trailer, we can infer that it's about her death, and probably that the number -1287 is some number of days having to do with her death. The entire audience in the small theater where I watched it knew it too, and we all expected to shed some deserved tears in the end.

The ending was pretty much what I think we all predicted—but what we weren't prepared for was to experience the death of someone close: someone who is so much alive with  sense of humor pouring out, and genuine laughter from her belly. After the showing of the film, one of the audience members (while sobbing) said, "I'm so sad and can't find words because I feel like someone I knew has just died." That may sound a bit too dramatic if you haven't seen this film, but I shared this sentiment, and so did the rest of the audience, I'm sure. I couldn't stop crying. It wasn't so much about her death itself that made me cry— instead what moved me was how she lived and the tender and honest conversations she had with the filmmaker (Ian Thomas Ash.) And how she wanted to be loved—"truly truly truly" loved by someone, and how she wanted that even until the very last days of her life. 


We know death happens to all of us one day. What we don't know is when that one day is going to be and how to come to terms with it. And we really don't think about it so much because we somehow effortlessly forget the fact that we all die one day or maybe because it's just simply scary to even imagine. When the movie star Ken Takakura (he's often noted as "Japan's Clint Eastwood") passed away last month, I came across many tweets saying something like, "I never thought he would actually die one day!" As silly as those tweets may sound, that's probably how we think of our own death too: we just can't imagine we all die one day! 

In "-1287", through the lens of Ian, we get to know Kazuko, a lovely woman in her 60s, who loves cooking and reading books in English. It begins with a shot in her kitchen where she's cooking for him. Then he starts asking her questions. The film consists only of dialogues between Ian and Kazuko: dialogues of two complete strangers to me. But to my surprise, I was quickly drawn to their world and the tender moments the filmmaker shared with Kazuko. The tender moments of the two of them were so intimate and perhaps so personal that I sometimes felt shy or even wrong about watching it. It's not because of what they talk about; Ian asks Kazuko fairly general questions: who she is, about her family and her hobbies—and then he moves on to ask her about her illness, and about big questions: life and love.

What made me feel a bit shy watching was I think the tone of his voice. He's shooting the film so we don't usually see him on the screen. We saw him occasionally when she held the camera, but we mostly just heard his sweet, calm, warm, modest, and sometimes very interrogative tone of voice. And how happy & shy she looked, responding to his voice, which revealed a unique intimacy they embraced together. Their conversations (carried out mostly in Japanese, sometimes in English) were incredibly real and honest; not even a tiny bit was phony. I don't even know how I know that, because I don't know her in person but I was somehow able to sense that she was true to herself, and to Ian, the filmmaker. Maybe it was more about him. She wanted him to hear her story. Her true story—the true her, that she'd probably never shown to anybody before. 

After the film, Ian was invited on stage so we could ask him questions and/or share our thoughts with him. One woman in the back said, "I'm turning 70 so I'm Kazuko's age, and I envy her that she had a friend like you. I have a husband but we never really talk. I wish I had someone to tell honest stories to each other, like you and Kazuko did." She continued, "Maybe it's my generation thing, or maybe it's a Japanese thing. We don't really talk!"

I looked at Mike who was sitting next to me and I thought, no, it's not a generation thing or a Japanese thing. We're a bit younger and married internationally, and we do talk but we don't tell honest stories to each other, the way Ian and Kazuko did, either. Then I thought, do I tell honest stories to anyone really? To my parents? To my brother? To my best friends back home? 

We never know what the future holds; we don't even know about tomorrow. But there is one thing that we know for sure: we all die one day, sooner or later. That much we know. I think about this fact a lot lately thanks to this film—but give it a week or two, I can assure you I won't be thinking about it a lot anymore. But I just don't want to forget the conversations between Kazuko and Ian and how she lived and shared her honest stories with him, and with us.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

3週間くらい前の書きかけの日記

書きかけの日記のようなものをフォルダ内に見つけた。未完成だけど、この先何が起こったのか全然思い出せないので書き加えず、載せてみることにした:


10月23日 木曜日

六時五十分起床。目覚ましは六時半に鳴ったが三回ほどスヌーズボタンを押し、ようやくベッドから這い上がる。ひんやりと冷たい空気。冬のようだ。外はどんより、昨日から雨が降り続いている。寝癖がひどいのでシャワーを浴びる。やっと目が覚めてきた。まだマイクはベッドに居るようだ。私が大学で日本語を教える月曜と木曜はふたり同じ時間に家を出て、同じ電車に乗り込んで出かける。髪の毛を乾かしているとマイクがゴソゴソと起きて来て、ボサボサ頭のままキッチンで私のためにコーヒーを淹れ始める。まずは一杯、私がお化粧をしながら飲むためのコーヒーを淹れてくれる。それから休む間もなく私が授業中に飲む用のコーヒーを続けて作り、ポットに入れてくれる。七時四十五分。ふたり慌ただしく家を出る。外はまだ冷たい雨が降る。私は短めの茶色のブーツを履いて出たが、階段の途中で気変わりし、家に一旦戻り紺の長靴に履き替えた。七時五十三分。渋谷から来る新宿駅行きのバスを交差点で見かけて、ふたり走り始める。永福町や方南町から来るバスもあるが、いつも混んでいて座れないので、いつだって空いていて座れる渋谷バスを私達は「ゆとりバス」と呼び、好んで利用する。八時ちょっと過ぎ。新宿駅に着く。朝のラッシュで駅構内は幾十もの人の波が寄せては返し、うまく歩けない。マイクの手を握りそのひと波ひと波をすり抜けてなんとか小田急線の地下改札に辿り着く。改札の左横にあるおむすび屋で私は小さいタラコと鮭のおむすびを二つ、マイクは大きい明太高菜のを一つ買う。改札をくぐり、階段を上がり、ホームへ。マイクはキオスクでコーラを買う。八時十八分発の急行片瀬江ノ島行きに乗り込む。乗る車両は出来るだけ前の方。私はどの車両でも構わないのだが、マイクは端の車両の方が比較的人が少ないのでそれを好む。席に座り出発までの数分、私達はつい今しがた買ったおむすびの包みを開け、もぐもぐとやり始める。私は小さなタラコのむすびを食べ、鮭の方は後で食べるようにバッグにしまった。ふと車内の広告に目をやると、東京農業大学の「収穫祭」というイベントの広告がある。今日ちょうど「収」という漢字を教えるので丁度いい、とマイクにその写真を撮ってもらう。そうこうしているうちに発車の時間。私は一昨日届いた黒柳徹子の本を読み始める。一言一言が面白く、ゆっくり噛み締めて読みたいのだが、もう100頁くらい読んでしまった。早く続きが読みたいが、いつまでも終わって欲しくない本だ。こういう本に出会えた時は本当に幸せだ。八時四十分。成城学園前着。ここでマイクとは暫しのお別れ。彼はこのまま1時間ほど電車に揺られ、湘南台駅まで行く。アイラブユーと言い、電車を降りる。隙あらばキスをして降りるが、今日はしなかった。私でも人目が気になる時がある。

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A new translation of "Love" by Tanikawa

Love

Love  It's easy to say
Love  Not too difficult to write either

Love  We all know the feeling
Love  It is to like someone until you grow sad

Love  You always want them to be near
Love  You wish them to live forever

Love  It's not the word, love 
Love  Not just a feeling either

Love  It's to not forget the distant past 
Love  It's to believe in a future you can't see

Love  It's to think over and over again  
Love  It's to live at the risk of one's life

---Shuntaro Tanikawa
(English translation by Naoko Smith



  
あい
(『みんなやわらかい』より 1999年)
          谷川俊太郎

あい 口で言うのはかんたんだ
愛 文字で書くのもむずかしくない
 
あい 気持ちはだれでも知っている
愛 悲しいくらい好きになること

あい いつでもそばにいたいこと
愛 いつまでも生きていてほしいと願うこと

あい それは愛ということばじゃない
愛 それは気持ちだけでもない

あい はるかな過去を忘れないこと
愛 見えない未来を信じること
 
あい くりかえしくりかえし考えること
愛 いのちをかけて生きること

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Words from Berlin

My bible here : "Berlin Guidebook" by Masato Nakamura

So I'm in a hotel room in Berlin, watching local news on TV, munching on chips, drinking grape juice and trying to write a digest of my stay so far. Mike and I decided to come to Berlin and have a little vacation before and after his meetings on Sep 10th and 11th. I had never been to Berlin or Germany before, and my teaching job at a college doesn't begin until the mid-September, so we couldn't think of any reasons not to. 

as I write this blog at a hotel room...

We arrived here last Wednesday, so it's been exactly one week since then. Everything seemed "wunderbar!" the first couple of days; we enjoyed the gorgeous fall weather (coming from muggy Tokyo where it was still the midst of summer), there were no yucky mosquitoes (while Tokyo seems to be suffering from a pandemic of Dengue fever, believed to have been spread from mosquitoes in Yoyogi park), everyone speaks English, we didn't have any problems getting around the town (thanks to the excellent subway system in Berlin), trains run on time and more frequently than the ones in Tokyo—plus it's never crowded even when everyone seems to be heading home. I was like, wow! I could imagine living here! 

First exploration day! Near Kurfürstendamm street, Berlin

On our 3rd or 4th day here though, I was already starting to notice shortcomings of this "wunderbar" city, and this makes me realize how quickly I take things for granted and start bitching about what I miss or what I don't have. For example, I was getting annoyed by not being able to find public bathrooms easily, because there are *always* toilets at the train stations in Japan (though when in Japan, I often complain about the presence of filthy traditional Japanese toilets and how unnecessary they are.) Even if I find toilets here, we usually have to pay to use, so before I know it, I naturally began to rant, "Come on! Who needs to pay to pee? It's the most basic of minimum human rights we should never have to ask for!!"

Subway station, Berlin

In addition to the lack of free public toilets, I began to notice how dirty some streets are here; there's trash littered around in some places even though there are trash bins available (for everyone to use, for free!) at every corner. I often heard people outside Japan saying how clean the streets in Tokyo are, but I'd never thought Tokyo was such a clean city before I came here; I was wrong! Considering there are 20-30 million people living there and no trash cans available on the street, Tokyo does hella good job keeping the city as clean as it is.  

Mauerpark—with some garbage scattered on the grass, in spite of several huge dumpsters in the park

I assure you that when I go back to Tokyo I'll find everything to be marvelous the first couple of days but I will soon find something to complain about; whether it's the humidity or mosquitoes, I don't want to do that! So that's why I wanted to take time to write my reflections while I'm still in Berlin. 

Trying to look pensive at Nikolaiviertel

There are things that Berlin and Germany in general do so well, so much better than Tokyo or Japan do; how they face and handle some of the darker chapters in their history is one. We went to the Holocaust memorial (Holocaust-Mahnmal) just a couple of blocks from Brandenburger Tor. There, you'll see thousands of stone monuments laid out in all different heights. We couldn't find any sign or a board explaining what they are so we decided to walk in the narrow paths in between the monuments. Within a few seconds of being down there, you'll realize what these stones represent and at the same time, you start having some indescribable fear. However, in order to escape from that scary maze, you'll need to continue walking in the narrow paths. The taller the stones get, the scarier it gets; you never know what's going to happen at the very next corner. I almost bumped into someone at the corner who was also finding his way out. 

Holocaust-Mahnmal, Berlin
These stones were laid out pretty close to each other and are a lot taller than us, so we needed to be careful not bumping into other people coming from different directions.

We then found this very insignificant looking sign just a few minutes walk from the Holocaust memorial and learned that it was where Hitler and his wife committed suicide. We couldn't believe how so unremarkable it looked compared to how those Japanese war criminals are treated (as gods) in Japan. There, too, we feel like we eye-witnessed great efforts and commitments of German people, not wanting to repeat that not-so-proud part of their history again, without hiding or turning their back from it. They must not be proud of their dark history during the Nazi regime, but they must be very proud of how they dealt with (and still dealing with) history and accepted and made amends for past wrongdoings. I am amazed and saddened by how hard it is for Japan to do the same. 

Where Adolf Hitler committed suicide — his underground bunker

Other than having free public toilets at the train stations, perhaps, there are things Japan/Japanese people do so well, too; superb customer service is one. I always thought that cliche "o-mo-te-na-shi" is overrated, but now I have to disagree with myself-then. Of course there are rude people everywhere you go, but Japanese people normally tend to go out of their way to be polite and kind—though not necessarily always friendly—especially to their customers. When you are a customer in Japan, you should be treated like a king or even a god (as in "customer is god" お客様は神様です), but in foreign countries, I'm not god, and I sometimes even feel like I'm actually working for them! 

Monday evening after we came back from Hamburg, I took a short nap. When I got up and opened the curtain, there was "super-moon" gracefully floating in the sky; that same moon that Japanese people enjoyed several hours ago. I realized some things are the same, even on the other side of the world. Everywhere you go, there are pros and cons. No place is perfect—though Sweden or Switzerland seem to be perfect, but I'm sure I'll find something to bitch about once I visit there. So, once I'm back in Tokyo, I promise I will try to focus on the bright side and won't complain too much, for a week or two at least! :)))))

Super-Moon in Berlin! (Monday, Sep 8th, 2014)

More later... 

Photoautomaten is obligatory, isn't it?