SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Sun_Junyue “Don’t’ you think our leaders shall be changed?”

Recently, we may be occupied with many matters, such as job hunting, nursery hunting, actively looking for a life partner, and actively trying for a baby or preparation for the end of life. And we could not care about our surroundings.


One day, when I brought my one-year-old son to the nursery school, I saw a public servant making a speech in front of the station.   During the two or three minutes it took me to exit the gate, wait for traffic lights and cross the street, this politician was just talking about weather on and on.  My son was eagerly listening to his speech .

“My son!  It is just about weather. Not about your future.”


I went to a coffee shop after the nursery school.  When I opened a book entitled “The True Story of Ah Q” written by Lu Xun, an old lady, next to me, spoke to me.


“What are you doing?  Studying?  I am proud of you. We have to study hard in this day and age. My daughter, forty years old and living in Tokyo, told me that, as I can’t speak English, I was not promoted.  The other day, she went to a hospital for a treatment of the pain of her finger.  And a doctor gave her medicine though he could not diagnose a reason for her pain.  She went home and fell down unconsciously.  Strange isn’t it ?  I advised her to go to a big hospital. But my daughter told me she had no time to go to a big hospital because she was so busy with work.  The other day, she smelled something burning when she was warming herself in a “kotatsu”(Japanese foot warmer with a quilt over it) and I advised her to buy new one.  I am afraid there is no “home-center (DIY store)” near her house.  I do not go to her house though I worry about her. I do not like to disturb her life.


Are you married? Ah, you have a child. How about your parents? Ah, you came from China! I do not have any prejudice. I remember there were several Chinese kids in the place where I have been working. Everybody was a good boy or good girl!  China seems very tough now. I have heard of “atariya”(an automobile accident faker).  I think it is sad that a person would purposely hit a car. Your national leader shall do something. Am I wrong?  In Japan, there are no such pitiful things.”


I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t.  I made just an insincere smile. What the old lady said was correct. Lu Xun wrote, in a preface of “The True Story of Ah Q” in Russian language, as follows.  Due to the high barriers among human beings, we are forced to be unable to feel not only physical pains of the others but also mental pains.  After publishing, he said “there were some who thought my novel be morbid, some thought to be comical and some thought to be satirical.  Even myself, I doubted I have had “an awful ice block” in my mind.”  Lu Xun did not write toward a soul of the silent people just for a satire nor sardonic smile, who “live silently, become drooped and dying” even though he has been stubborn and obstinate.


A crazy man who slams against a car which is not moving, and an old woman who told a lie to receive compensation money, which made an innocent young boy commit suicide.  Both of them are souls of the people in the present China. I do not feel at all any sympathy for it and I regret the decadence of our country. I was looking for any apologetic words for our country in my mind , and not thinking about any responsibility of leaders of our country.  Like Lu Xun, I am afraid I had an awful ice block in my mind.


Dear old lady, don’ t you think your national leader should do something?  Your daughter was faint in the “kotatsu” having been kept working busily and had no time to go hospital.  Any people in every country, who has been enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable, are now cannot afford to consider the physical and mental pains of others beyond the high barrier “a nation state”, even though such pains of the others are the  reflection of our own pains. Once they feel a sensation, they would be excited regardless of the color, red or green. Would there be a situation as critical as this reality?


I entered a “Matsuya” restaurant (very popular for bowl of rice with toppings). A lady waiting staff of South Asian ancestry, who has big eyes like a movie star of Indian cinema, served me a cup of water. One boy explained to her that he made a mistake for buying a ticket. But, she could not understand what he said and went to kitchen. After five minutes, a gray haired guy appeared from kitchen and listened to boy’s saying and returned to kitchen again. After five minutes again, he handed a small change to a boy asking him to buy a ticket. Oh, by the way, at “Hidakaya”(popular ramen restaurant) recently, I scarcely see a waiting staff from Japan or China. Most of the cooks who handle a Chinese frying pan are Southeast Asian. Here in “Hidakaya”, nationality, race, distinction of sex and age has no relation at all and it is the world of low-paying workers for low-income consumers. In labor and consumer markets in this era of globalization, stupid fantasy where Japanese eat poisoned dumplings cooked by Chinese, or Chinese boycott any products made by Japanese., simply does not make sense. If I am a producer of a TV program, I like to ask people to speak through microphone like “Hey you!  What brought you to Japan ?” “What is the reason why you kept living in Japan ?” “Why do you keep working in Japan, not enjoying your comfortable life after retirement?”


When I ate up “Kimchi stew” which a lady waiting staff with big eyes has prepared for me, the boy was still kept waiting patiently sipping a cup of tea.


After “Matsuya”, I dropped by a convenient store where a young man named “Ryu” on his name card was displaying goods.  His hourly wage is 820 yen (one yen higher than 819 yen:the minimum legal wage) . If you go to “SESAMI-TEI” (ramen shop in front of “Akamon” of The University of Tokyo”, a bowl of “ramen” would cost you 800 yen (before Tax) . It means that he cannot afford a bowl of ramen, full of sesame, even if he works hard unloading goods, operating cash register and tending customers. Tax which this young man has paid would be used for the deployment of Osprey in Okinawa which Okinawa people are opposing or used for handling the Nuclear Power Plant Accident in Fukushima by Tokyo Electric Power Company, regardless of uneasiness by inhabitants in Fukushima.  1.600 billion yen for the Tokyo Olympic Games is out of understanding of the people who walk the distance of one station to save 160yen.    

I like Miss Christel Takigawa to appeal again to the public “O-Mo-Te-Na-Si”(traditional Japanese way of hospitality) or “Mo-tta-i-nai”(unnecessary use of money, time, ability etc.). 


A chilling north wind at the end of the year pierced to my bones. It looks like rain tonight. Does the Congressman speak about weather again to the public next morning at the station square?  I like him to say one word “Our leaders in this country ! No, leaders in this world !  Don’t you think you have to do something?”


SGRA Kawaraban 565 in Japanese (original)


(Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Chinese Literature, Graduate School of the University of Tokyo)


Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Max Maquito