The last subject of the day was a music class. Mr. Okamoto
was sitting at the piano in the corner of the singing room, which was dimly
lit even during the daytime. At the end of playing the music in the textbook,
with his eye glasses glinting white, said Mr. Okamoto: gI will teach you
the song today I love most. I always sing this song, when I am alone and
feel lonesome.h Then, he began playing the piano and sang:
Umi wa araumi, Muko wa Sado yo
(The seas are rough, Sado island lies beyond)
Suzume nake nake, mo hi ga kureta
(Sparrows, chirp as hard as you can, as it is getting dark)
Minna yobe yobe, ohoshisama deta zo
(Bring everybody out, as the stars are appearing)
He sang it for us beautifully.
This famous lyrics was written by Kitahara Hakushu and composed
by Yamada Kosaku. I was immensely moved by the lyrics and melancholic tune
when I heard this song for the very first time. Although there is a duple-time
version of this music composed by Nakayama Shinpei, which is more like
a childrenfs song, I prefer the serene and poetic quadruple-time version
of this music.
When Hakushu visited a teachers college in Niigata prefecture
to give a talk, he was impressed at the sights of the beaches lined by
sand dunes and promised he would write a poem about it. Several years later,
he published this famous lyrics gSunayamah (sand dunes). A memorial was
erected there to commemorate the occasion.
I forget completely what kind of of music was included in
the grade four elementary music textbook. However, this song gSunayamah
sung by Mr. Okamoto with full of emotion has strangely stayed in my mind
I have many pleasant memories of the Fourth Elementary School.
The most memorable one is the school trips to the seaside and mountains
led by Mr. Okamoto. On the schoolfs day trips and overnight excursions,
the teachers would take the utmost care to ensure the studentsf safety
during trips and their returning home without incidents. Whether they are
day trips within the home prefecture or longer trips beyond it, they are
very important opportunities for students to learn about the real world.
Their first experiences would never been forgotten for the rest of their
lives. For the teachers accompanying the students, too, these will provide
important educational opportunities.
Looking back at those days, I believe Mr. Okamoto had superb
character most suited to teach elementary school. Persons who become teachers
owing to their excellent academic records are not necessarily the most
suitable to teach children. I was very fortunate to have Mr. Okamoto as
a teacher throughout my 3rd and 4th years at the school.
One day we climbed Konomori mountain situated at the northern
edge of Kochi city. On our way up, the steep incline of the three-hundred-meter-tall
mountain was not easy for us children, but Mr. Okamoto showed us many insects
he found in the mountain and carefully explained them.
One autumn day, we cruised the Uratowan Bay on a small cruise
ship and visited a famous Katsurahama beach. It was a fun-filled trip making
us feel as if we were visiting a fairyland. A strange sight of giant jellyfish
bobbing on the clear water of Uratowan, a large flock of crows swarming
Suyama, and a little island in the middle of the bay. The ship arrived
at Mimase and we walked a short distance over a sand dune. Immediately,
we came upon a magnificent view of a huge expanse of the ocean unfolding
right before our eyes. It was stunningly beautiful with the colors of the
water changing from blue to deep blue as a distance increased, looking
like many layers of fabrics laid one over another. It was the seascape
I had never seen before in my life and the incredible scene of vigorous
motions of waves over the beach.
And, on top of all these, what Mr. Okamoto told us, a teacher
who was quite knowledgeable on science, added to the fond memories. When
I look back, the most enjoyable and exciting time was the days at elementary
school. In his science classes we would always go over the things we learned
outdoors. Mr. Okamoto told us stories about his adventurous treks deep
into the Shikoku mountains to make new discoveries of insects and plants.
These stories were well beyond just being enjoyable and simply amazing.
My experiences with him made me like Mr. Okamoto more and the school study
I had so much trouble with became more and more interesting. This gave
me a lot more confidence in myself. gYou have changed a lot recently, havenft
youh, said he. His smiling face with the gentle and kind eyes behind the
spectacles, like those of an elephant, comes and goes in my mind even now.
Life is full of sadness and misfortunes. Our elementary school
days were always in the shadow of war. The fateful day fell upon us during
the third term of my fourth year at school. Mr. Okamoto, looking unusually
serious, addressed us and suddenly made his farewell: gJapan is fighting
at present. I will be sent to China. My duty is not to fight, but to teach
Japanese children at Shanghai under Japanfs occupation. I am determined
to provide excellent education for the sake of our country. I believe that
someday the time will come when you become friends with Chinese children.
Please keep studying hard until I return safely.h
It was a fine day in the early spring. Seen off by many children
and their parents, Mr. Okamoto walked on alone across the school yard and
left. Can we see him again? Apprehension crossed my mind and I felt my
little heart filled with sadness. Thus, at my fourth year at school, I
had experienced the sorrow of parting with a person for the first time
in my life. Everybody was so sad; some were sobbing with the faces on their
desks and some ran after him barefoot. When Mr. Okamoto disappeared from
the school gate, they kneeled down on the ground and wailed.
Mr. Okamoto, missed so much by so many people, went to the
Chinese continent under the raging war and has never appeared before us