LIVES IN TOKYO AND THE REGIONS
[Amida Hall Newsletter]
Bungeishunjū (Bunshun Bunko), 2002. 240 pp. ¥505. ISBN 978-4-16-754507-9.
Also published in: n/a
The hero of this book, a novelist named Ueda, was brought up as the only child of a smallholder family in the fictitious village of Yanaka in Nagano Prefecture before finally abandoning his birthplace for life in the city. When his wife, a doctor, slides into depression after suffering the shock of a miscarriage during a hectic work schedule, they resolve to move back from Tokyo to Yanaka. By doing so, Ueda also hopes to overcome his creative block. On returning to the mountain village for the first time in years, Ueda starts to farm again, while his wife examines patients at the local clinic. Surrounded by the same natural beauty as in past days and pursuing a leisurely lifestyle, the two regain their physical and mental health.
Their worldview starts to change, particularly through encounters with O-ume, a woman who, at more than 90 years old, resides alone on the mountain as the custodian of the village’s “Amida hall,” dedicated to the spirits of the villagers’ ancestors. The elderly O-ume does not have a television, telephone, or even a flushing toilet, and leads a life severely lacking in modern conveniences. She does not complain, however, as she plows her own small field and lives in cheerful self-reliance with no fear of death or illness.
In his warm and highly empathetic portrayal of an elderly woman who transcends her era, the author interrogates the present day and shows readers the potential of a different way of living. (NK)
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