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by P Akasaka

31 August 1923.

What the fuck! said Koume. Her name meant “little plum,” but sweet she was not. If an apprentice could wear a haori coat, what could we, the seamstresses, wear? There’d be nothing left, said Little Plum. Little Plum—more like a pickled plum, thought Shika. Sour, sharp. Self-appointed mistress’s chief in command.

Shika had to blink her tears back. There was a hint of autumn in the air and she had sewn the haori herself. Nothing fancy, just from some left-over fabric. Subdued colour as well, but deftly made. Secretly Shika had hoped that the mistress might notice the skill. But no. On that day of all days, she had left Little Plum in charge of the house. A peasant. Did Shika think she was still a Samurai daughter? Did she forget that her kind had lost their status decades ago? How could she forget, thought Shika. Little Plum would never let her, would she? The haori was taken away and put in Little Plum’s wardrobe. Shika knew that the woman’s eyes were on her now. From now on, she’d take away anything showing Shika’s skill before it got anywhere near the mistress’s eyes.

Shika could think of two ways out:

  1. Do her daily tasks well. She might be chosen by the mistress to do the job for the Imperial Palace. Dull those tasks might be, eventually she might get to wear a haori and walk into the house by the front door.
  2. A massive natural disaster could hit Tokyo crushing Little Plum into bits.

Imagining the catastrophe, Shika chuckled. How absurd! It was comforting to imagine everything crumbling down, soldiers in charge. She didn’t have anything to lose anyway. Having said that, Shika knew it would never happen. Better to apply herself. For a moment, though, she wished for the calamity with all her heart.


1 September 1923.

It was 10 am, Shika was sewing. Later that evening, she would stand on the spot where the front gate had been. Everything would be rubble and she would smell encroaching smoke. The earth would still be shaking. Little Plum’s left arm would be sticking out from under the half-smashed wardrobe. She’d see the first group of soldiers. But Shika did not know that yet. Neither had Little Plum known it, thought a puckered old woman, much later, after the politics, the bombs, the hunger, in a city now covered with high rise concrete and uncomfortable prosperity, in a city in which nobody wore a haori or understood what it might mean. The old woman’s fingers lingered on the haori and then pushed the drawer back in.




それでもシカは涙を抑えなくてはならない。風にどことなく秋の空気が漂い始めた頃、自分で羽織を仕立てたのだ。たいしたことのない羽織。余り物の布で、目立たない色で、だけれども、丁寧にきれいに仕立て上げられたもの。心のどこかでシカは思っていたのだ。女将さんの目にとまるかもしれない、と。だけど。よりによってこんな日に限って女将さんは留守で、代わりに小梅が家を仕切っているときた。水呑百姓の小梅。シカ、あんた、自分がまだお武家さんのお嬢さんだとでも思ってるのかい? 維新このかたアンタたちなんかただの人なんだよね。忘れたのかい?——忘れるわけなどなかった。小梅が折りにつけ持ち出してくるのだもの。



  1. つまらなくても自分に与えられた仕事を懸命にやること。いつか女将さんから御用達の仕事を任されるかもしれない。そうすれば羽織を着て表門から屋敷に入ることだってできる。
  2. 大きな天災が起きて、小梅をぐしゃぐしゃに潰してしまうこと。

大災害を思い浮かべてシカはクスッと笑った。ばかばかしい! でも何もかもが崩れ落ちるのを想像するとどこか気がせいせいした。兵隊たちが闊歩する街。だって、なくすものなんてシカには何一つなかった。だけどそんなことは起こりっこない。だから努力をするしかないのだ。ただ——ほんの一瞬、今の暮らしの全てをぐちゃぐちゃに破壊する大災害を望んだのは本当のことだったけれど。心の底から。




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P Akasaka is a Japanese writer living in Yorkshire, writing in English and Japanese.

She is currently exploring language acquisition, the life of languages, long distance running and Tarte Tatin. When she’s not writing, she is spending most of her time imagining worst case scenarios.

Twitter @akasakapatricia Instagram Patakasaka

Detail from photograph of a girl sewing by Kusakabe Kimbei (1841 – 1934), via Wikimedia Commons.