©GLOBIS

I recently traveled to my hometown Mito with my fourth son. It was cold and raining in Tokyo that day, but we left home unconcerned, without taking our umbrellas with us.

We boarded on Super Hitachi from Ueno Station at 10 a.m.. It was raining all the way, but by the time we reached Mito, it oddly stopped raining. The sky looked as if rain drops would fall any minute, but it held off, though it was gray and cold.

Walking out of Mito Station, I turned on my video camera in front of the statue of Tokugawa Mitsukuni (“Mito Koumon”). Suke-san and Kaku-san guarded him from both sides. We walked up a street and arrived at Sannomaru Elementary School, which school I attended. It stood on the former site of a han school called “Kodokan”. “This is the elementary school your daddy went to,” I explained to my fourth son. Since it was built on the site of Kodokan, a white wall that remained from its former days had formed the outer rim of Sannomaru Elementary School.

Walking along that wall, we came to the entrance of Kodokan. We toured inside. Fujita Touko, known to have greatly influenced Saigo Takamori, built this han school at the behest of shogun Tokugawa Nariaki to educate his son, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, who became the last shogun. The cherry trees in the garden were just getting ready to bloom.

Mito Second Junior High School, situated on the site of Mito Castle’s Ninomaru (second citadel), is another school I attended. Here, Tokugawa Mitsukuni compiled the Dai Nihonshi (“The History of Great Japan”). It’s the origin of the Mito-gaku (Mito School). In other words, this was the place that developed the psychological support behind the Meiji Restoration.

I walked hand in hand with my son. Since it was very cold, I took out my gloves and gave one to my son. We each wore one on one hand, and held the other hand that didn’t have a glove. The sight of a big glove on my son’s small hand warms me up as pleasant memory.

We then arrived at Mito First High School, which is on the site of the Honmaru (main citadel). We entered the school, went to the reception and asked if we could meet the headmaster, despite not having an appointment. Just then, the headmaster happened to pass right in front of us, and led us straight into his office. The dean had come as well, and we warmed ourselves over a pleasant chat. Both of them are my senpai (seniors) of Mito First High. I should really be very humble given those circumstances, but the headmaster has treated me well ever since he heard my speech at a class reunion that happened to take place last February in Tokyo.

The headmaster had asked me to give a speech at the school this June, so this chat also served as a meeting for that event. My fourth son wandered his eyes around the room and enjoyed bouncing on the sofa throughout the talk, but eventually ran out of things to do.

So I respectfully thanked the headmaster and left the school, heading toward Kairakuen, one of the three greatest gardens in the nation. We ate Mitsukuni Ramen, named after Mito Koumon, which is said to be the first person in Japan to have eaten ramen. Afterwards, we walked around the park, where the plum trees were blossoming all over the park, even reaching the shores of Senba Lake. As wind blowing from the lake was very cold, we decided to warm ourselves with hot cocoa and ginger tea at the new Kobun Cafe.

We had fun at a playground nearby and got onto the D51 steam locomotive.. I started rolling my video camera in front of the location where they filmed the movie Sakuradamongai No Hen (The Sakuradamon Incident). It started raining, so we returned to the Kobun Cafe, and called a taxi. On the way to Mito Station, I showed my son the house that I spent my childhood until 18.

We had some time before our train’s departure, so we decided to secretly experience a manga (comic) cafe. I logged onto the Internet and did a quick bit of work. My son looked like he was playing a game he had rented. We then rode the Super Hitachi from Mito Station back to Tokyo.

My son fell fast asleep during the trip.

This fourth son of mine has three elder brothers and one younger one, so he’s always caught up in their quarrels. He was two years old when my fifth son was born, so he was told early in his life to do things on his own. I had decided that today I would allow him to be selfish for an entire day, as if he were my only son.

The train arrived at Ueno Station. Without nudging him awake as I would usually do, I carried my sleeping son and got off onto the platform with him in my arms. I walked to the ticket gates carrying him, already much heavier than I had thought he would be. He seemed to have woken up after a while, but I kept walking with him in my arms.

Now I have done my 4th father-son trip already. 
Only my fifth son hasn’t had his pre-school father-son trip with me. One more to go.

March 24, 2010
Written at home
Yoshito Hori