Website about Takehiko Fukunaga(C)1998 Yuichi Toyokura

The Flower of The Grass
written by Takehiko Fukunaga

"All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of the grass."
The First General Epistle of Peter


I was addicted to a sarusuberi tree. The tree stood by itself in the lonely figure, in the yard behind the large lecture hall, what was called Jukohkan. At the hall, something was screened about once a month to express sympathy for patients in a sanatorium. But I had never seen movies there, as I was not in good health yet. I only walked about in the yard, on a calm and warm winter's day. I could see fountain, surrounded by yamabuki,tsubaki and kaede trees. There were a few mochi trees glorying the green nice leaves, as if I could appreciate pictures by Theodore Rousseau, everlasting ume trees living with cold over there, a small summerhouse in the center of the yard. From the summerhouse, I could see the sarusuberi tree stands by itself in the lonely figure.

The sarusuberi tree spread its grotesque branches in the sky. The branches were stripped of leaves, as if dead and very smooth. Once I stood by the tree calling me, I could not help but passed my hand over its branches. They were really smooth like baby's skin, but dry as bones. If you could believe it, the tree comes into leaf flourishingly in summer and flower in crowds for a hundred days. Now the tree spread its hundred branches winding in the sky in vain. It stood by itself, all alone in the world.

I already overwintered twice here, in the K village sanatorium on the outskirts of Tokyo. In the first winter, I went through an operation for filling the chest gap caused by lung resection. But I had a poor outcome ,and was not able to walk about before this fall. So I had never walked about in the yard behind Jukohkan in summer, and never seen the sarusuberi tree came into leaf and flower. From what I knew, the bare tree stood by itself ,spreading its winding branches.

I walked about in the yard with Shigeshi Shiomi. I put on tanzen without my arms through the sleeves. Shiomi put on an overcoat with his white hospital clothes on ,and his hands in his pocket. As usual, I passed my hand over the sarusuberi branch. It was much colder than winter air, and winding as if showed its life nature.
"God's works are awesome. This branch keeps its breath," I said to him.
"Is this a sarusuberi tree?"
"Yes. Don't you know why? If you can believe it, the tree comes into bud in spring and flower in summer. I feel it is strange."

As Shiomi was about to go through an operation, I might say platitudes to encourage him. On a frankly personal basis, I did not know if I could pass through my next summer. It is a natural feeling longing for fine health. Nevertheless sick people, who have a series of misfortunes, keep in mind that their health is on the knees of the gods. We might have never pass through our summer with each other.

"That's nonsense," he said. "It cuts a miserable figure ,too pathetic to live. The best thing to do is passing away. What riles me up is its pretending to be dead. I'm going to get you!"
Shiomi extended up the leg ,and lifted the heel aginst the trunk of the tree with his shoes on. And he said happening to take the edge off, "Let's go over there."

I was also addicted to a rear gate by the chapel of rest. There was a stroll road compassing the premises in the hospital. Having been flourished in summer, the grass died at that season, and trees of nara, kuri, and kunugi are lost, with which the stroll road was edged. And then you could see hospital rooms from the stroll road, and even patients confined to bed view many open-air houses roofing with thin boards, over dead growth of trees.

The chapel of rest stood coldly by itself on the outskirts, in the grove, in the neighborhood where the ward had disappered form the stroll road. When I opened the door which was always put a lock on, there was a room of 8 mats beyond an earthen floor. The next room of 6 mats was a waiting room, and a dissection room took its place on the reverse side by the thick wall. The building was built like the malice of fate with her mouth open.

In the morning of winter, I looked out leaning on the window of a sickroom, and saw that two nurses lowered a stretcher and carried a dead body with the old attendant. The frozen clouds made a gray layer and hang down low, and the sun like the stain of ink is throwing few lambent lights on the ground. On these occasions frost got down cold on the white cloth hung on the dead body. One or two bereaved families followed later silently, and the procession progressed slowly toward the chapel of rest.

We looked out leaning on the window. Through the cold air we clearly heard sevral voices of the nurses who carried the stretcher, while a meaning was not understood. We sometimes heard even unfettered laughing, felt at ease, without rein on.
"How disgraceful!," I said.
"In short, it is office work. It is routine," Mr. Sumi said. He was a mechanical engineer. Since he was reading the English technical books by self-education, he sometimes used English word.
"In this case, they should not do that kind of thing. I wonder what they intend to carry."
"The nurse who goes in front is Tanaka," Mr. Sumi said. Tanaka was the nurse often said to be a beauty. Although she was always prim stiffly in front of the patient, she often laughed by women. When I passed along the passage in front of a nursing room, I sometimes heard that she laughed in the room.
"What a prude," I said. "I am disagreeable in an insincere woman."
Voices and a procession kept away gradually. Then Shiomi said to no one in particular.
"She is not insincere, only merely young."
I looked back at him. Shiomi was puffing the cigarette, sitting cross-legged on the bed. "Those nurses are alive," he said continually, "and have no relationship to whether patients will die. The dead fellow is dead. The nurses are alive, crying and smiling. That's all. The dead fellow is a perfect stranger to them. A poet like you may say, "They looked like the moth flying around firelight of death."

translated by Yuichi Toyokura(24 May,2009)