Short letters can say a lot in just a few words
2009/2/3In 1993, the town of Maruoka (presently the city of Sakai) in Fukui Prefecture created Ippitsu Keijo Sho (literally, drop-a-line award) as an ongoing campaign asking the public to send in Japan's shortest letter. The letter's subject and addressee varied from year to year, and the number of letters sent in over the years recently topped 1 million. I reread some of them.
Those addressed to family members bring tears as well as laughter. In the initial year, all letters were to be addressed to one's mother. Among the entries was this one by a 32-year-old man: "When I was young, I told you to die. I now wish I could have killed myself that day."
In 1996, a 5-year-old boy wrote this gem: "Even when I'm a grownup, I'll always play with you, Dad."
Love was the subject in 1995, and many of the entries were from survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of that year. For instance: "The earthquake was probably God's sieve. It sifted all my ambitions and desires, and now I have only you with me." The sender's intense gratitude for just being alive makes me think of all the victims who weren't so lucky, and gives me the courage to keep going.
In 1998, the subject was one's hometown. I was particularly moved by this one: "I love the smell of truck exhausts. They remind me of ferries to my island." And here's a heart-warmer: "Mother, that newspaper you wrapped your vegetables in when you sent them to me, I'm smoothing out the paper's wrinkles and reading local news stories."
People were asked to write letters to themselves in 2000. This writer was resolved to keep cherishing herself: "The first thing I do every morning is to look in the mirror and say to myself, 'I'm happy to meet you again today.'" The following year, the subject was life, and a healthy respect for one's life was evident in this letter: "I'd like to die. But this won't be allowed by the past and future me."
A woman in her 50s wrote: "Give me three days at the end of my life. One for setting up Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival) dolls with my mother. One for riding a Ferris wheel with you, my dear husband. And one for making chawanmushi steamed egg custard cups for the children." Perhaps those were the three highlights of this woman's peaceful life as a daughter, wife and mother.
And an 8-year-old boy wrote: "When I laugh, life smiles. It makes me and my life feel great." The words in the letters are deep because of their simplicity.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 2(IHT/Asahi: February 3,2009)