April, 2003 

This page is written monthly by Harumi Okochi,
and sometimes Harumi's friends join.
We'd be happy if you look at ou
r previous issues.



Father's Camellia

My father, Hatsushi Yamaguchi, died in 1995. He was 89 years old.
When camellia blooms in spring, I think of Father and the happy memories of my childhood.
I would like you to meet my father on this page, and meet his Tsubaki (camellia).

Father's toy horses
Father was born in 1906 in a small village near Karatsu. 1906 was a Year of Horse, (that comes round every 12 years). Moreover it was a Year of Fierce Horse that comes round once in 60 years. He was always conscious not to be too fierce, and that, in a result, made him as gentle as a sheep. He was the only son among 6 sisters.

Principal, pupils,and village folk.
His parents went to Korea (at that time, a part of Japan) with children and lived there. Father came back to Karatsu by himself to go to high-school. After graduating, he went back to Korea to support his family as a school teacher. He continued to study by himself to get qualification, and became a principal of a very small school for Japanese children in a Korean village.

Sumiko and Hatsushi with Naohiko
He met Sumiko Tomita in Pusan, Korea, by an arrangement, and got married. Sumiko, my mother, was 19 years old. Though they were poor, they were happy with a son, Naohiko.
But Naohiko died at the age of two, because there was no doctor near-by.
Mother's grief was deep and she could not rise for some time, but when she knew she was going to have another baby, she stopped crying. My sister Yumi was born in 1941.

Father's departure day to the war.
The baby is me.
Then the Pacific War started in December, 1941. Father went to the war in 1944, some months after I was born.
When the war was over in 1945, Mother had to leave Korea without knowing where Father was. It was the hardest journey she ever had.
She tied me on her back (I was 1 year old), and pulled my sister Yumi's hand ( Yumi was 4). In the other hand she held what little property she could carry.
We came back to Karatsu to wait for Father here.
Sometime later, Father came back safely.

Our house and Father at the pine tree.
My brother Mabumi was born in Karatsu in 1946.
Father could not find a job as a teacher in this small city.
So he started a business. Somehow it went well, and we had a house in 1950. It was small, but we were happy.

Camellia and me ( 15)
Father planted a small camellia tree in the center of his tiny garden. In spring it bloomed gorgeous flowers both in red and white on the same tree.
We children and the camellia grew up together.

Two years before his death.

After we grew up and left home, they lived a quiet life. Mother was rather weak in health, but Father had no trouble at all. I believed he would live to be 100.

Young camellia tree about 60cm tall.
On a cold winter day in 1995, Father was heart-attacked and died. It was all too sudden.
After his death, I could not let Mother live alone in that house. She was 79. I made her move close to me.
We had to sell the house. How I wished if I could move the camellia tree! But our camellia had grown too big. I had to give it up.
I found some young trees underneath, which shot from the fallen seeds. I dug them up and planted here and there in my garden of Yoyokaku.

The first bud

Mother is now 87 and still living near me. She forgets everything. She even forgets that Father is gone. She talks to me as if she were talking to her husband. I answer in a way Father might do. Then Mother gets satisfied.

This March, I found the first bud on one of the young trees.
I thank God for the blessing.

Mother's treasure, Wooden 'Obidome'
An ornament necessary to fasten Obi
when we wear Kimono

Recently, when I was looking for something, I happened to find an old wooden Obidome of camellia which Mother had never shown me. Then I knew that camellia was my mother's favorite flower and that Father planted the tree for Mother. I had thought that Father liked camellia without any special reason.

"Market Day"
Father's hobby was painting.
This picture was sent to
a relative in Japan before the war.
This is the only one that survived.

Of course we do not need any special reason to love a particular flower. But if we do have a reason, the flower becomes more heavenly, doesn't it?

What is your special flower?
Please tell me, friends

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of Ryokan Yoyokaku

  Mail to Harumi Okochi