Mr T is a bit tired of life in the blue-sheet shacks. He and two mates have been here for three years. Reckon I’ll give it a few more, he says. I didn’t ask where he would go.
He comes from Tohoku. He says, To tell the truth, I don’t know what I’m doing from one day to the next. Drags on his cigarette. You too?! Laughs. Blown by the wind. Sweeps his hand forward. Just vraaa, keep going.
He doesn’t understand the fuss about the traditional calendar and the shift from Heisei to Reiwa. He says, One thing it’s good for is to help ward off dementia. You know, having to calculate all those years. By the way, I’m 80 next year, by the old calendar.
He works in construction. Only light jobs. Clearing up, putting stuff away. Doesn’t take welfare, though some kind of official comes to check on them. To see if we’re alive.
This is not bad scenery, right? But they want to make a park here. Best season is from around June through October. You wouldn’t be here in winter.
A path leads to their homes through juicy thick spears of a rampant plant he says is itadori. Sometimes when you pass it is like a forest. In Tohoku they call it sukanpo, he says. And in Akita it’s called hiroko. A professor was talking about it on the radio. You can eat it, he says, but it’ll give you a stomach-ache.
They used to grow vegetables but it’s a bit hard on the knees. He says, That tree in the middle is a mulberry. Gets insects. In the back is a willow and a raspberry.
It’s almost a life off-the-grid. Sometimes they get visitors. A young man who wants to help turned up and is supposed to come again, but Mr T isn’t sure what the man wants to do.
His mobile phone rings and he excuses himself, turns away. After hanging up he says, Actually, I don’t need to see him. And he’s a bit loose with time, said he would be here 50 minutes ago. And I just saw him yesterday. I don’t understand young people. I mean, I totally don’t understand them.
Drop by if you’re passing again. Come and say “Harou”! He uses the English and laughs.