It has now been five years since my daughters Himi and Fumi left my home and moved over to Canada to live with their mother. Since that time we have only been able to see each other during summer vacations from school and winter holidays. The air fares back and forth across the Pacific have been quite a burden, as have the telephone charges resulting from weekly hour-long calls, but I have never begrudged those expenses; our time together has been too important to us. Although I am not a 'lonely' man living here in Japan, I have of course always looked forward to the summer visits from my two 'little' girls.
This year though, the pattern has changed. As I write this, Fumi is here, but her older sister Himi did not come this time. Those of you who have been following my family's adventures for a long time may be quite surprised to hear this, but Himi is now a legal adult; she is no longer my 'child'. When our family moved to Japan she was just three years old; when my Hyakunin Isshu series started she was six; when it finished she was fifteen ... and now she has turned 18, and where she lives in Canada, that is the age at which one becomes an adult.
It is thus not surprising that she is not so interested in coming here this summer to spend time with 'Daddy'. I understand this, and had known that this day would arrive sometime. It is here a bit earlier than I would like, but there is no point in protest; she is nearly ready to make her own way through the world, and her plans will certainly not include me, just as mine did not include my own parents when it was my turn to leave home, thirty years ago.
As I won't be able to sit and relax and talk with her this year, perhaps the best way to speak with her is with a letter. If I put it here into this Hyakunin Issho, perhaps she will read it ... perhaps.
* * *
I was quite saddened a couple of months ago when the plans for this summer were being discussed, and it became apparent that you wouldn't be coming over this year. I had been hoping that perhaps I might be able to squeeze in one more year before you 'flew away'. It has always seemed like you have enjoyed yourself when you have been over here with me, and I thought that maybe you too would have been looking forward to the visit. But recently, the more I hear about your new activities and the kind of life that you are leading, the more I realize that things have changed too much for us to keep to our old patterns.
How you have changed during this past year! As you approached your eighteenth birthday and the end of high school, you so eagerly reached out to join the adult world - to do all those things that you think adults do ...
Most adults have a car, so you bought one too, acting by yourself, using the money from your part-time waitressing job. It was disappointing to see that you quickly got yourself into a tangled mess of transmission repairs and insurance problems. It's easy for me to suggest that you should perhaps have waited until you had a bit more experience, or that you should have let us help you, but I guess you are thinking that an adult can buy a car by herself ...
Adults of course can legally drink and smoke, and you are doing your best to show that you are an adult here too, although I regret that you seem to have taken the word 'can' and changed it into 'must' ...
Adults are free to treat their own bodies in any way they wish, with body piercing and tattoos, and here too you seem to have decided to 'try everything on the menu'.
Adults of course don't have to be in bed by a certain time, or even come home at night if they don't want to, and you are certainly being an 'adult' here!
Yes, it really seems as though you have completely become an 'adult', at least by your own definition of the word ...
I guess you are rolling your eyes at me right now, because you feel that I am being a bit sarcastic. Well, if a bit of sarcasm like this is the worst you get from your father then you're not doing too badly - you and I have never fought with each other about behaviour, and we're not going to start now! To tell the truth, I'm not really worried about you - because I know that I've got time on my side.
Sometimes as I sit here working in the evenings, I think back to those days years ago when you and your sister were still living here. After you went to bed each evening, and we said goodnight, I went into the next room and returned to work on my blocks. You went to sleep to the sound of my hammer and chisel, tap tapping on the wood. Many people would complain about such noise when they were trying to sleep, but perhaps because you grew up with that sound always there, it never seemed to bother you.
Weren't those wonderful times the three of us had together! It's hard to imagine how we could have been happier - each of us busy with our own projects but working together to keep our household running smoothly. We were good members of our community too, contributing where we could and earning the respect of those living around us. And each one of the three of us certainly enjoyed plenty of personal achievement in our own area, you two with just 'growing up', and me with my printmaking and my family!
In my books, this whole question of 'being an adult' is a trivial point - the behaviour that makes up a 'good' person doesn't seem to be so different for a child or for an adult: make sure your family knows you love them, make sure you contribute your share, both in your immediate family and in the society at large, and make sure you have good goals for personal growth and achievement, for that is what will give some direction to your life.
So going by my standards, you were already behaving like a real 'adult' during those years that you lived here with me. I know that your standards are different; at age 18 your own thoughts are of getting away from your family and studies and having fun with your friends, and this is just as it should be for someone your age. I think though, that not too many years will pass until you discover where the really important things in life are to be found, and when that starts to happen, I'll take great pleasure in watching you take your real place in society ... as an adult.
Talk later, Himi-chan
All my love,