Otsuki Award (Japan)
Flowers Are Not Only For Watching
Yoshinobu Gomi, Tokyo (44, masseur, male)
Photo:Yoshinobu Gomi

This year cherry flowers came into bloom later than usual. Thus, it was an unusual pleasure that the school entrance season in Tokyo this year was welcome by cherry flowers in full bloom. In the first weekend of April, the wind was still cool, even chilly. But on the day following the chilly weekend, the climate was different. When I went out of a building after finishing a massage assignment in a company, I felt warmth in the air and comfortable spring breeze. As I walked toward JR Kamata Station, got on the train at the station, got off the train at a station nearest to my place, and left the station. It wasn't dark yet. I felt it was a bit of a waste of time if I went straight back home. Why not walk somewhere? But where? What came to my mind was the cherry tree street in the compound of T hospital. I lived in that neighborhood until about six years ago. When the cherry blossoms were in bloom, I saw a pink belt vaguely through the windows of my then apartment on the 5th floor.

Braille blocks were installed from the railroad station to a post office, half way to the cherry tree street, and about a two minute walk through the walking trail gets me to the entry to the cherry tree street. I drew a map in my mind, walked to the post office and further walked to the entry to the walking trail. There I realized there was an automatic vending machine at the corner. While I was walking, I remembered I once bought drinks from this machine and had decided to buy a canned coffee.

Holding a white cane under my arm, I picked up a 100 yen coin from my wallet and put my eyes extremely close to the machine. But with my level of vision that can recognize light-dark contrast only, I could not tell the types of beverage. I had no other choice, so I spoke to the people passing nearby. But perhaps because of the delay in timing or my small voice, a few people just went away without noticing me. There was a lot of people walking nearby, but all of them walked quickly away. If only braille characters were attached on the machine, I could know what beverages there were. But I had to admit I can't get what wasn't there. Then, came the voice, "May I help you?" I heard a man coming closer to me from a little distant place. It seemed he passed by once but returned for me. I felt greatly thankful and happy because I couldn't get the coffee so easily at all.

Holding a coffee can I finally bought, I walked on the walking trail for about 100 m and got to the entry to the cherry tree street on my right. I moved up the steps from the walking trail, walked through a pathway for a while, turned to the left, and found a street flanked with cherry trees for a length of about 50 m. I sat on a low block fence at the side of the pathway and took a breather while drinking hot coffee. I heard comings and goings of footsteps and conversation of people walking along the cherry tree street.

"Flowers have begun to fall! So soon." I heard the conversation of elderly women. I heard a couple speaking in English move up the steps and walk by just in front of me. The sound of heals came closer to me from behind and came to a sudden stop just beside me. I heard the sound of groping in the bag, the tinkling of a bell and immediately thereafter the popping sound of a camera shutter. A woman took a picture of the cherry tree street with her cellphone. Then the footstep of heals went deeper away along the street. I heard birds singing. The sky was getting darker, and fluorescent lamps along the street began to turn on one after another.

Now it's time to go home. But I also want to walk along the street. With my present eyesight, I may not be able to enjoy the night cherry blossoms. But what's wrong with my eyes not being able to see? What's important is to try how I see things, not whether or not I see things. As my vision declined, the number of things I could not do certainly increased. But I feel so sorry I have to give up seeing assuming I can't see from the beginning. It isn't fun at all in the first place. So I stood up and walked straight toward the hospital building at the end of the cherry tree street. I stopped at the parking lot at the end of the street and walked back. While I was walking, I looked up and saw. I saw white light of fluorescent lamps and that was all I saw. No cherry blossoms. It’s too bad I couldn't see the flowers, but at least I vividly realized how I would see if I could. I was pleasantly refreshed with the sense of satisfaction.

I returned to the entry of the street. The moment I stepped into the walking trail, an elderly man spoke to me, "There are stairs. Watch your step." I thanked him. Then I stepped down to the walking trail and walked back the way I came.

I arrived at my apartment. While I was waiting for the elevator to come, I heard a women coming from behind. So I said "Good evening." She instantly smiled back to me, "Hello. It's hotter than I expected, isn't it?" Yes, she smiled although I couldn't see. I knew she smiled from the tone of her voice. Although I can't see flowers, I can imagine how they look and can feel how cherry bloom viewing is like. Such an adventure of imagination also gives me the fun of a small break from my routine life. I am sure what matters are not whether or not you can see but whether or not you are willing to enjoy your life.

The idea of this walk was something that popped into my head, but as it turned out, it was a good walk. The sky was completely dark in front of the door to my apartment. The night breeze, however, was very pleasant and refreshing.


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