[from A Certain Distance, 5]
I remember when I was a boy of maybe five or six, my father would take me to the candy store. There were candies of all sizes and shapes in colorful wrappings. You could get a piece of rakugan sugar candy for 1 sen. And there were toys too. Miniature cars and locomotives; wooden dolls and other figurines. At another shop they sold traditional Japanese sweets like daifuku – sweet bean paste wrapped in pounded rice. This was a real treat. The rice paste was smooth and silky, and pleasantly chewy.
Even as a high school student I would often drop by the candy store for old time’s sake. By that time I was studying for the college entrance exam, though by then I had doubts about making it into medical school. I remember walking home in the twilight of early evening, the eerie rust-red glow of the wooden buildings in the fading light, and the sound of my wooden sandals on the road. I remember the feeling of anxiety I would often have for no particular reason, the sense of being absolutely alone.
It was 1918 and Japan had become industrialized almost overnight. The world war had left Europe deeply damaged, but Japan had become wealthy from all the new business opportunities. A major migration was taking place from the country to the city where there were jobs in the factories and offices.
I’ve never felt all that nostalgic about my childhood or the place where I grew up. I was always more nostalgic for times I had never experienced, for places I had never been. Soon, I too would be headed for Tokyo.