Mr Kasahara Seiichi, managing director of a suburban trolley-car company; Takamura Tokijurô, an actor in period movies; Tsujii Morio, a young medical student at a certain private university; Mr Sakuma Benji, owner of a Cantonese restaurant; and one other person each received the same letter from Yumiko, a waitress at the Blue Heron coffee shop.
I am sending you the bones. They are God’s bones, you know. The baby lived a day and a half. It was unhealthy from the time it was born; I just looked on in a daze while the nurse held it upside down by the feet and shook it. With that it finally burst out crying. They said it yawned twice and died at noon yesterday. But then, the baby in the next bed was delivered after just seven months in the womb, and it did nothing more than come out, immediately release a stream of urine, and that was the end of it.
The baby didn’t resemble anybody. It didn’t even resemble me the least bit. It was exactly like a little doll—just imagine a baby with the most adorable face in the world. It didn’t have the least distinctive mark or defect, it had puffy cheeks, after it died it had a faint blotch of blood on its closed lips, and I can’t remember anything else about it. The nurses complimented it, saying it was so cute and fair-complexioned.
If it would have been a week-bodied child deprived of happiness, then I think it’s better instead that it died before it could drink milk or laugh, but I cried so pitifully over it being born into the world without resembling anybody. I wonder whether, in it’s child’s heart—no, in its fetus’s heart, the child might not have come into the world with a pathetic anxiety over not being allowed to resemble anybody? And whether it left this world thinking that it had to die before ever coming to resemble anybody?
You—no, it’s better to say all of you, don’t you think? All of you up to now have pretended to know nothing about it, accusing me of having had a hundred or a thousand men, as though they were as many as the wooden paving blocks in the street, yet still, when I became pregnant you all got, how shall I say, so excited. Every single one of you came bearing the man’s big microscope to peer into the woman’s secrets….
It’s a story of long ago, but don’t they say the old priest Hakuin took the baby of an unmarried girl in his arms and pretended, “It’s my child”? God helped my baby, too. God said to the fetus in my womb that worried so very sadly over whom it should resemble, “Beloved child, thou art to resemble Me and be born in the likeness of God. For thou art a child of man.”
That is why even considering the poor baby’s efforts I cannot say whom I would have liked it to resemble. And so I am dividing the baby’s bones among you all.
The managing director deftly hid the white-wrapped packet in his pocket and opened it furtively inside his automobile. Later at the office he summoned a beautiful typist and, when he decided to have a smoke and reached into his pocket, he pulled out the bones together with a box of Happy Hits. The restaurant owner sniffed the bones while opening his safe, and removed yesterday’s receipts to take them to the bank, replacing them with the white-wrapped packet. The medical student was riding on the Government Railway Line when the train lurched and the hard hip of a lilac-white coed smashed the baby’s bones in his pocket, inspiring him to the ripe thought that he would like to make the coed his wife. The movie actor concealed the bones in a secret pouch in which he kept fishskins and Spanish fly, and rushed off to a shooting session.
Then a month later Mr Kasahara Seiichi came to the Blue Heron and said to Yumiko, “You ought to bury those bones at a temple. Why do you keep them?”
“Who, me? I divided them all among you guys. Why should I keep any?”
Kami no hone
written by Kawabata Yasunari 1927
translated in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture by P. Metevelis 1983