After a natural disaster Fujita Tsutomu, son of Fujita Goro and Fujita Tokio, does some reminiscing about his family. Saitou/Fujita family.
September 5, 1923
Bending over, I pick up a small wood carving of a wolf that was given to me by my father when I was just a child. It seems none the worse for having been knocked around, and I am pleased that this particular memento from my childhood survived. I have to admit that I'm not surprised. Any item that survived being played with by my brother and I, should be able to survive any misfortune that befalls it.
We've been picking through the rubble the best we can, trying to find anything that remains usable or salvageable from our life before the quake. What household goods didn't get smashed are jumbled with debris from the building itself, spreading a clutter of material that makes it a challenge to even walk around in here, much less find anything. I heard from someone that the shaking lasted for four minutes; it seemed far longer to me.
They were truly minutes of terror, as Midori and I scrambled to herd our children out of the house and into our large backyard. We reached safety none too soon. Fortunately, we were all together, gathered around the table for the noon meal and close to an outer door when it hit. Otherwise, some or all of us could have been crushed. Luckily, there was no fire on the hearth, as Midori had prepared the rice for the onigiri early that morning. If she'd been cooking, what's left of our home would most likely have burned, as happened to so much of Tokyo. It took three days to put out all the fires. Our house is not near other structures, so we were spared the trauma of flames leaping from a nearby building. However, the children haven't had a good night's sleep since the quake, due to all the aftershocks that remind them of the terror of that day.
Although we survived, albeit emotionally shaken, but physically unscathed, I can't say the same for our family's home. The place is in shambles now, a victim of a force of nature. It was certainly the most intense shaking I've ever experienced. The structure just couldn't take it. We heard the grinding and cracking of wood before parts of the ceiling collapsed to the floor. I'm glad that my mother is not here to see the ruins of her beloved home where she spent the happy years of her married life raising us. It wasn't a particularly large house, but it was spacious enough for all of us, including Midori and I after we married, and our seven children as they arrived one by one, much to my mother's delight.
After Father passed, she lived for her grandchildren. I'm glad that Midori and I were able to give her so many. I think she needed to have something to keep her going when he was no longer with her, to take her mind off of her loss, and to give her life a focus again. Although as children we always felt loved and cared for, Father was her true reason for living. As an adult, I came to understand this, especially when he was no longer here. A little over two years ago, she passed on, joining him. I like to think that they found each other in the afterlife and are now happily together. Father was gruff on the outside, but Mother could see beyond his outer shell to the fair-minded and principled man inside.
The two of them endured a lot throughout their lifetime. He rarely spoke of their early years, so I never pressed him for details. It wasn't until the very end of his life that he chose to disclose a few things. Mother was more forthcoming, telling us about the Boshin War and their exile to Tonami. Those dangerous times even followed them to Tokyo. Mother told me that for years after the war was over, old enemies looked for opportunities to settle the score. Even though Father's side lost, it wasn't enough for some of them. They still wanted him dead.
As a result, when we were growing up we were always cautioned to be on alert. In addition, we were taught how to handle a blade. It seemed to me at the time that the danger to us was merely a figment of my parent's imagination. Regardless, our father's mission was to prepare us to protect ourselves, and his lessons were taught with great intensity and diligence, much to his delight and our chagrin. One year was nothing but torment for Tsuyoshi and I when Father was constantly, or so it seemed to us, popping out of nowhere, trying to whap us with a shinai. Needless to say, the two of us were never as prepared as he though we should be. More times than not, we were caught off-guard. He would then remind us, rather tersely, that we were 'not prepared for the way of a man'. Unfortunately, Father did not live long enough to see me serve during the War of the Japan Sea as part of the Wakamatsu regiment on the warship, Mikawa. If he had, perhaps he would have reminded me that it was because of 'his' training early in my life, that I was able to complete my duty to our country in such an admirable way. That thought causes me to smirk.
I've never forgotten what my father taught me. I've passed my sword skills on to my boys. Not only is knowing how to use a blade part of our family's heritage, it is a method of teaching self-discipline, and it was my father's wish that his grandsons walk down the same path as his sons, but my boys and I keep the action in the dojo. I have no desire to lurk around corners and scare the life out of them, like was the case when I was growing up. But Father was from a different time. It was either protect yourself from an unexpected enemy, or die. He was determined that we learn to expect the unexpected. It is a good thing to remember, especially in light of the ground shaking a few days ago.
Now that I am grown, I can understand why he raised us as he did. He wanted to make honest, productive men out of us, men who would always be prepared to protect and provide for those under our care. He wanted us to be men who would be a credit to our country. I'd like to think that he achieved his goal with Tsuyoshi and me.
I often feel regret that my parents adopted out my youngest brother, Tatsuo, to Mother's cousin. But again, with age comes understanding and the Numazawa family had no heirs due to the loss of their clan, a casualty of the war in Aizu. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like growing up with two younger brothers. At least Father would have had one more sword student to test with his shinai, making things a little easier for Tsuyoshi and me.
Midori managed to retrieve a few undamaged cooking utensils from her kitchen. She boarded with us while she attended the Women's Normal School, where Mother was an instructor, and Father was a bookkeeper after retiring from the Tokyo Police Department, where he was an inspector. A smile can't help but grace my lips as I recall all of Mother's unrelenting efforts to secure Midori as my wife. She was almost as stubborn as Mother, but luckily, my mother always did yield to my father's wishes. He was such an intimidating guy, except in his last few years when his failing heath robbed him of much of his strength, but thankfully, never his dignity. There aren't too many men, who can stoically remain in seiza until their life force leaves them, especially when their body is wracked by intense pain.
Father was the only one to whom Mother would yield, and often, it took just a look from him to bring her around to his way of thinking. I'm sure he knew that I just happened to be behind the shoji that day the two of them had a little chat about her matchmaking tactics. He told her to lay-off and let nature take its course between Midori and I. Mother wasn't too happy, but she did listen to him. Most likely because she knew, deep down, that he was right, as he always seemed to be. Of course, the rest is history. Mother ceased her relentless badgering of Midori, and without the pushing, Midori came to value me on her own.
Moving aside some splintered wood, I continue my search. Father's swords were the first things I looked for when I began this task. I could hardly believe that they were unharmed, considering where I found them. It's almost as if someone were watching over them, protecting them. Somehow, I'm sure that he was. Knowing him, he would never accept them being lost to us forever. They were such an important part of him. Even in his later years when he no longer used them for their intended purpose, he still tended them, making sure they were clean and sharp. It isn't surprising that he used them to practice his kata for as long as he had the strength to wield them. I think to him they symbolized the swift and sure justice of a time gone by. Although the method of carrying out justice has changed over the years, his views of what constituted justice never did.
Straightening up, I reach around to rub a sore spot in my back. I think it's time to take a break. Some of this wreckage isn't stable, and I'll need help taking it down. It would probably take quite a while to find any workmen for hire to give me a hand. With all the destruction around us I have a feeling that they will be in short supply. I'll just have to wait for a few of my friends to come help me dismantle the parts of this mess that will need replacing. Fortunately, many of our friends were among the survivors, and we'll help each other with the heavier tasks that need to be done to put things right again.
This old home holds far too many memories for us to let it go. This is where my parents settled when they first married. This is where my brothers and I were born. This is where my own children were born. This is where one of them, along with both my parents, died. Perhaps this house will even see the birth of some of my grandchildren. I hope so. Midori and I will see it rebuilt. It is part of my family's past and both of us want it to be part of our family's future.
After what happened in northern Japan in March 2011 I couldn't help but think of the Fujita family and the trauma that they must have suffered as a result of the Great Kanto Earthquake on September 1, 1923. Both Goro and Tokio had died by then, but Tsutomu and his family were living in Tokyo. Tokyo was devastated by that quake and the resulting fires. Between 100,000 to 140, 000 people lost their lives. Each year on September 1st there are emergency preparedness drills nationwide to commemorate that day. Best wishes to the people of Japan, as they rebuild from this most recent three pronged tragedy.
According to on-line sources either the Fujita family home or a home that Tsutomu was in the process of building was ruined by the Kanto quake. Tsutomu rebuilt it. It is said that afterwards he always kept a stock of extra supplies for future emergencies. His house was again destroyed during WWII, but he didn't rebuild.
The story about Goro hiding and testing his boys with a shinai was related by Tsutomu.
Tsutomu served on the Mikawa in 1917; his father died in 1915. Tokio lived for around six years after Goro died.
Some of the background information for this fic came from the Saito Hajime page of the Shinsengumi-no-Makoto website. It is an interesting read.