Visiting My Hometown

With two companions in tow, I paid an early-spring visit to my hometown, the village of Kiyokawa-mura in the county of Ono-gun in Oita Prefecture. We were making the journey to fulfill the wishes of my two companions, who had been expressing a desire to see my hometown for the past 10 years.

It was way back in 1963 that I first left the village for Tokyo, seen off at the local bus stop by the people of the village just like a soldier heading off for the front. At that time, young people leaving the village without fail would say, "Look after things while I'm gone!" I said the same thing myself. It was only later that I realized that once you left the poor village, even if you did return later, there was no place for you.

When I was a student, I did return home for a long period. It was a real turning point in my life. I used to talk with my father about what I should do from now and so on. My father would always express himself not in words but in his attitude: Decide for yourself. "So, when are you going?" It was then that I realized there was no place for me in my beloved hometown. Now that I think about it, I would probably have been just as confused if I had been told that I could stay as long as I wanted. But I was strangely sad. It took me 24 hours to reach Tokyo by the Hi-no-yama express train.

I was really short of money in those days. I wrote a letter to my father, and he replied by postcard. Reading it, I couldn't find any mention about when he would send money. "Everyone here is fine," he wrote. "Do your best, too." That was all. I think that my spirit of independence was generated by that postcard.

If I might make a bit of a digression, Mr. Sanai Takizawa, the founder of Clarion Co., was very kind to me. In 1970, when I was about 25 years old, he once said to me, "Wada, let me tell you about the art of borrowing." At least from the time that I had received that postcard from my father, I was very independent-minded, so this came as something of a surprise. "If talk of asking for a loan takes one minute, then talk of repayment should take 100 minutes," he said. "But for most people who borrow money, talk of asking for a loan takes 100 minutes and talk of repayment takes no time at all." Since then, these words have become part of my genes.

From Oita Airport we went to Beppu. The next day we would be arriving in my hometown at last. My companions were deeply impressed by everything they saw?the mountains, the rivers, the whole landscape. Halfway up Mount Mitake, which rises 700 meters above sea level, they took photographs of the magnificent scenery around them. "It's unbelievable," they exclaimed. "Magnificent!" Awestricken by the grand environment, they stood quite motionless. As for me, I had been seeing this scenery ever since my infant days. Perhaps that is why even today I have a liking for Cezanne's Le Mont Sainte-Victoire and Gogh's paintings of Arles. At the same time, I think it was this scenery that created in me the habit of taking a panoramic view of things. Because I had a bit of an artistic taste, the colors of nature and the freshness of the air throughout the four seasons penetrated my mind and body and formed the core of my own way of looking at things and way of thinking.

My companions visited my birthplace, stayed at the home of my elder sister's family, and were strongly impressed by the natural warm-heartedness of the local people. In particular, they were amazed by the fact that my family home there has no key. Even today, there is no key. The journey to my hometown was also a journey back to the natural human landscape.

In early spring of the year after I moved to Tokyo, I sent this poem to my father:
I wonder whether spring has arrived
in my distant hometown.
Here, in the capital up north
Daphnes are blossoming.