The residence of Goroji Suga is located at Dai, in the suburbs of Kamakura
City. It is on a hill in 10 minutes from JR Ofuna Station by taxi.
The property is 150 tsubo (495 square meters) and the floor space of the
two-story house is 50 tsubo (165 square meters). The grass surrounded by
a gold spindle tree hedge has an atmosphere of a small garden.
He lives with his son's family, keeping his carefree life of his age.
In the Japanese-style room next to the hall is set up a family Buddhist
altar of his wife passed away 10 years ago, while his study and the bedroom
are kept neat and tidy reflected by his character.
In early summer 2003, Tsubune, a junior of Hitotsubashi University (former
Tokyo Commercial College), visited Suga at his house with a watermelon
grown at Chiba-Yachimata town as a gift.
He entered the front door and saw his senior sitting on the porch facing
the grass, not knowing Tsubune's appearance. The stoop on the back shows
the loneliness of an old man.
Tsubune noticed a tiny sparrow on the old man's palm to his surprise. He
watched it holding his breath five meters away.
The sparrow seems to be pecking something on the palm or to be listening
closely to the landlord.
On the sunny grass several other sparrows are walking and stopping here
and there in a quick step.
"Good afternoon, sir."
The elderly turned round to the junior's whisper, while the sparrow flew
to the persimmon tree with others around the grass.
The elderly looked back and then got his eyes to the grass.
"I decided to part with this house. I have to say farewell to the
He simply whispers to the grass.
"I have lived here for thirty years. You can't stop yourself from
aging. Now it is too hard for me to maintain the grass.
"Pardon me.....?", says Tsubune.
"My son Koichi is busy in the company and his wife Sachiko-san is
also pretty tough of raising their children. We talked together and decided
to move together to a condominium."
Tsubune is just staring at the senior finding no words.
"We noticed a suitable condominium is going to be built not far from
"Where?", the junior asks him still in unclear mood.
"About 15 minutes on your foot from Ofuna Station. 2 minute-walk from
the station of monorail. Koichi and Sachiko-san are also pleased."
"When are you going to move, sir?"
"It will be ready this fall, so around the time. It's a tough work
to pack up the goods. Before that, I would like to talk to you here. .....
Well, those are now unnecessary books to me. You may take anything you
There are a bunch of books at the corner. The encyclopedias of Heibon-sha
and Shogaku-kan are piled up, and beside them books of Noh play, yokyoku
songs, rakugo, history, natural heritages, ..... And also a group of many
books related to his alma mater.
Tsubune asks him abruptly, "May I have all of them?"
Several days later, Tsubune drove a wagon all the way from Urayasu City,
Chiba Prefecture, and received every book.
The loading space was so heavy with a number of books. He had to take extra
care not to fail to turn the wheel on the way back.
The big volume of books related to the alma mater mainly belonged to the
history of Hitotsubashi University since its birth as a private school.
It was natural because Suga served an important post of Josuikai (the organization
of the graduates) for eight years.
When he was a managing director of the organization, a big and wide-range
document collection of the school's 100-year history was edited. It was
in Showa 50s (1970s). The budget of 100 million yen at that time is still
spoken of. Suga was a main person of the job from fund-raising to the edition
of the huge collection. The result of the big project for several years
is now left as scores of books.
He gave all of them to Tsubune, too, saying like the way of Master Kokontei
Shinsho's rakugo talk.
"Whether they become garbages or fertilizers depends on you."
Suga family moved to a newly-built codominium late September. Their home was on the 10th floor of the 10-story building, which has a good view of Suruga Bay and Mt. Fuji. Especially Mt. Fuji shows its various captivating figures from the window according to a day and a time.
"It's the 37th view of Mt. Fuji, isn't it?!", says Tsubune, associating
it with Katsushika Hokusai's famous wood-block-print series of "The
36 Views of Mt. Fuji." Hokusai is one of the most prominent painters
in late Edo period.
"Yes, it is the best eye medicine for the elderly," Suga is satisfied.
The problem is that his residence on the hill has not still been sold yet.
Suga is actually worrying about it.
The angel of the hour was Ms. Eriko Fukami, a painter at the age of 43.
She had often talked to Mari Nomizo, her niece, that she was looking for
a suitable house."
After her husband, a professor of Women's Art University, her alma mater,
passed away of cancer several years ago, she began to teach Western art
history at the same university in an attempt to distract her mind, and
besides, opened a painting class at her condominium in Kita-Kamakura. The
class was limited to several people, but applicants came one after another
through her friends.
The oil paintings of herself had a good reputation among professionals,
and the exhibition held at a gallery on the Ginza every year was more and
more favorable year by year.
Mari, her niece, lives in Ofuna area of Kamakura City. Aged 28, she is
in the midst of her youth. As she learned Spanish at Tokyo University of
Foreign Studies, she is good at Spanish and English, and besides, can manage
French and Portuguese considerably.
Using her special skill she has worked for a travel agency as an attendant
for three years, and now a part-time employee. Because of her ability and
the traveling-abroad boom, she is requested for the attendant work so often
that she is rather choosy about destinations nowadays
Aunt Eriko, 15 years older than her, requested Mari to help her as a manager
and Mari accepted it on condition that she could learn oil painting under
Mari noticed an ad insert in the morning paper. She asked the real estate
about the house and investigated it in her own way. She reported to Eriko,
"I found a nice house. It is on a quiet hill near Ofuna Station with
a good atmosphere around. It is 30 years old, but in a good condition.
The former residents seem to have lived carefully. It has a big garden,
so you may enjoy your favorite gardening. There are a supermarket, a drag
store, and even a hospital down the hill. Neighboring houses are also residences.
But, the price is ....."
Mari Nomizo really had a thorough investigation. Her notebook is filled
with every item of the ad insert added by her investigation evidence and
also the detailed discussion with the real estate.
Besides since she lives in Ofuna, she is well informed about the surrounding
Eriko is listening attentively to Mari, looking through the notebook.
She finally said, "I would like to look in it tomorrow."
The residence on the hill, renovated a little, welcomed Eriko Fukami in
the middle of November.
She was impressed by the hall just from the entrance ahead. The walls are
in an ivory color which must look cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
On the second floor all open panels and fusumas parting each room are decorated
by the art and craft of Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, which is said to be a
hometown of the late wife of the former landlord. And also the appearance
of the garden..... "Where are the wonderful garden rocks from?"
Eriko, settled into the new house, was interested in the former resident.
When Eriko's moving work mostly came to an end, Goroji Suga, the former
landlord, began to visit the residence on the hill often by taxi in a near
distance with the inborn willingness to help others.
The new landlady was pleased with a person to consult. Greetings to the
neighbors, daily chores in the area, informations on a new life and so
on. Suga's advice for each troublesome matter was reasonable.
Eriko also gladly welcomed Suga each time. She treated him with tea, lunch
and everything for his liking. Her careful consideration did not make Suga
feel any concern from her at all.
With such a lady close to him, Suga felt youth left long long ago again,
and came to have an affection for Eriko who was far younger than him like
a grand daughter.
Eriko had a frank and open temperature. Her face was fair skin in rimless
glasses with clear dimples on both sides. She was taller than stooped Suga.
She, a good listener, had Suga to feel comfortable while talking.
Suga's wife had passed away ten years before. Eriko's husband, too.
The situation of both was the same, but the age gap was too large, thinking
of over 80 of the elderly man and the lady nearly 40 years younger.
First of all, Eriko should be impossible .....
Eriko married Toshiyuki Fukami, an associate professor of Women's Art University,
at the age of 28, six years after her graduation from the same university.
Fukami, in charge of the Western art history, had a good reputation for
a deep knowledge of Renaissance and baroque art at that time.
Eriko majored in his class, which was the starting point of their relationship.
Contrary to Eriko's desire to the art history, Fukami spotted her aptitude
of painting. Under Fukami's advice, she came to put her strength on oil
Fukami proposed marriage to Eriko at her graduation. But at the same time,
he strongly recommended her to study in Florence, Italy, so as to spread
her ability widely. Since Florence was where he used to study, he knew
everything around and had numbers of friends there. So his preparation
was perfect making use of his experience.
Eriko, on the other hand, longed for it in private. Therefore she felt
like depending on his favor.
Her parents were against her idea, but finally they accepted her ego.
The several years for Eriko to stay in Florence were a long interval even
though it was their mutual consent. During the days Eriko went to the museum
almost every day, applied herself to a copy of Renaissance pictures, learned
under a famous painter and was devoted to painting night and day, and in
the result, she could work out her own style.
The accident she was involed in during the time was kept under cover between
the couple themselves, but it was impossible to erase it.
One day of the year before Eriko planned to return to Japan, she left the
Uffizi Gallery, winding up the copying work in the evening.
After buying some foods at a grocery store, she was going home along the
What was she thinking of, forgetting herself?
She is now in a back alley. Too late for her to notice it, though she has
been warned this area is dangerous.
The alley is deserted and dim. The buildings on both sides are dirty with
no one living.
Several dark-skinned men looking like seasonal workers are loitering around
a tentative table. They may be playing cards killing too much time. There
are several empty bottles of wine at their feet.
Though they must have been ready and waiting for such a chance, their eyes
get light for the sudden and young prey. They stand up slowly licking their
lips and smirking faintly. .....
"If I hadn't recommended her to study there ....."
Even though his heart was totally broken, his fiancee's accident was "What's
done cannot be undone."
Toshiyuki Fukami vowed to protect her forever admitting it was the great
crime he commited himself.
Where did she have such a power inside? Eriko completed her study in the
abyss of mental despair.
When they got married, a couple of critics had already accepted her painting ability and had introduced her in specialized books. It goes without saying that it was thanks to her husband's support.
Fukami was soon promoted to a professor. His ablity was accepted by the
world of art history.
However, the heaven was merciless to the ideal couple envied by everybody.
Since Eriko had a surgery to remove an ovary, they could not be blessed
with a baby, and when she was finally released from the mental illness
at the age of 40, Fukami, her husband, was told with terminal liver cancer
and died after 5 months.
Eriko had nothing but to paint pictures. Being tortured by the desire to
kill herself, she smeared the paintbrush on a canvas everyday, taking on
an lecturer at her alma mater in addition.
Even so, she could not remove her agony. She opened a painting class at
home in order to make her busier.
Her oil paintings had a good reputation as if knowing nothing about her
The media came to pay attention to her, which was so troublesome to her
that she left the roll of a manager to Mari Nomizo. Mari's fearless personality
fitted well in this roll.
Eriko seemed to recover calmness in the appearance.....
Elderly Suga and Eriko Fukami became fairly closer than Tsubune's understanding.
She was a precious adviser about art appreciation to Suga, because it was
especially his hobby.
Suga's appearance of joy like a baby made Eriko feel at ease, meanwhile
Suga did not resist the wavering of his mind since he considered the reality
as the rest of his life and was enjoying it.
Elderly Suga went to his former and presently Eriko's residence so often
and talked at length forgetting everything, though at first he had been
just a good adviser to her. Each of his talk was comfortable to her ears,
which made her feel warm like wrapped in floss silk and forget about the
huge age difference. Her longing to her late husband Toshiyuki Fukami seemed
to be softened little by little at the same time.
"I can never understand your feeling! Love and reason do not go together
Though teased by Mari Nomizo, her niece, with a serious look, Eriko came
to accept Suga's love.