[from A Certain Distance, 1]
So many changes have occurred during my lifetime. I can still remember the iceman arriving at our house with his hand-pulled cart, and the first electric light in our little town. And now I sense another change on the horizon, unarticulated as of yet, but I sense it coming. A certain scent. Something on the breeze. A subtle change in the quality of light as the sun crawls slowly across the sky.
The city pulsates with excitement. Everywhere there is new construction – a new freeway, a high-speed train, the new television tower that looks just like The Eiffel Tower. And of course the Olympic Stadium. It is 1964, and as I write, the city prepares for the Olympics – the sign of Japan’s having rejoined the family of nations, as well as its economic recovery.
The laughter of young people filling the city streets as they go about their carefree lives can’t but warm the heart of an old man like me. After all, there was a time when I thought I’d never hear laughter again. But I notice something else lurking behind the smiles. A new disease seems to have accompanied the country’s outward economic health – that of forgetting. Nobody likes dwelling on dark times, but it seems the gap in the official memory extends beyond the war years to include pretty much the entire Modernist period. I believe an American expression I have learned would be appropriate here – it’s called throwing out the baby with the bath water.
So it is I have resolved to take up my pen and write about those years – the years of my life. My name is Yoshio Arai, and this is my story.