The Story of a Comet Hunter's Life
My 50 years with Comets
Part 2: An encounter at the haunted house
The administration office of Geisei Observatory is housed
in Kochibunkyo (Cultural and Education Association of Kochi Prefecture)
office. It is where OAA Kochi Branch was located 47 years ago. The following
story may be just a coincidence but I also feel that it was predetermined
by fate. While visiting this office regarding the operation of the observatory,
I was dumbfounded by finding Yukiko Aoki's name on the list of the former
teachers college graduates. As soon as I got home, I dialed her home number.
The voice I was expecting to hear was that of the woman,
who was my first grade teacher at Daishi (Fourth) Primary School 60 years
ago. The phone kept ringing but nobody answered. Two days later I tried
again but with the same result. The phone kept ringing hopelessly as if
trying to search the time 60 years back. While I was firmly holding the
phone waiting for an answer, a lot of memories of the distant past returned
to my mind.
I was in extremely poor health during my childhood and experienced
every imaginable serious disease, teetering on the border of life and death
several times. My older brother died due to illness when he was five years
old. All these made my parents extremely nervous when bringing me up. As
a result, I was pampered and spoiled in every aspect of my life ending
up being selfish and weakly. At school I would rarely listen to the teachers,
being often absent, and loathed school work, all because of my chronic
illness. In class I was labeled "an inferior pupil." Miss Aoki
was my homeroom teacher in those days. She was 20 years old and had been
long suffering tuberculosis, we were told. She was skinny, wicked and scary.
I was scolded harshly for not behaving myself in class, not having done
my homework, or something like that. My mother, who untimely happened to
come to pick me up after school, was reprimanded with me in the darkening
classroom. Soon after, I had a new teacher in the second grade. Miss Aoki
had worsening conditions of her illness and had been hospitalized for many
years. As people were talking about her illness pessimistically, I just
couldn't believe that I found her well after 60 years had passed.
When I was a second grader, I had an elderly woman teacher
called Miss Kubo. She often told us stories of Tosa (the old Kochi). I
still remember some of the stories. Later in my third year I had Mr. Kei
Okamoto. Without meeting him, I would have been a dropout living a truly
trivial life. Needless to say, I would not have had a chance to study astronomy
without him. Whom one meets in one's younger days is determined only by
fate. I will tell you a miraculous story about him later.
I went to Yanagihara Kindergarten in Kochi City before entering
primary school. I was often absent because of my serious illness. Miss
Kimiko Nagano at the kindergarten was a very thoughtful and compassionate
person. She took good care of a weakling like me. She sang us a lot of
songs and told us fairy tales in class. My mother was always waiting for
me at the gate. When I looked back, Miss Nagano was waving her hand to
us. One day, 60 years later, Miss Nagano turned up at my place and called
me "Seki-kun (Mr. Seki)", exactly the same way as she used to
at the kindergarten. We rejoiced in each other's well-being with tears
in our eyes.
In those days Yanagihara Kindergarten was standing on the
top of the hill overlooking Kagamigawa River. Around 1937, when I was attending
the kindergarten, the first Nangoku Expo was held in Yanagihara, not far
from the kindergarten. It was also called " the exposition to celebrate
the completion of Dosan Railroad Line" and I believe the expo was
held on an unprecedented scale at that time. It was celebrated very enthusiastically,
as this line passed through very rugged, difficult mountain ranges with
103 tunnels along the line. There were numerous shows and exhibits at the
Expo site: various life-size models of railroad-related objects and the
airplanes flown by the Wright brothers and Frank Champion (In those days
airplanes were rare in Kochi Prefecture), displays related to the Ainu
people's culture, a daredevil American riding a motorcycle inside a huge
barrel, and of course a circus essential to any amusement park, and a haunted
house. After I visited most of them, I coaxed my father to allow me in
the haunted house out of my curiosity about scary things. How could I foresee
what awaited me in this haunted house that decided my course of life!
What you encounter in any haunted house is quite predictable.
First of all, the doors leading to Kannon Goddess of Mercy spring open
and a ghost hung in the air thrusts forward. As soon as you cross a railroad
crossing, you will find a bloody human head lying around. These things
do not scare me. Walking along a narrow pathway through a bamboo forest,
you will come across an old well. Okiku, the ghost of a maid murdered by
her master in a famous ghost story, silently rises out of the well. I heard
loud scared screams around me. I started feeling a little uneasy and hurried
through a maze among the bamboos. Suddenly, I came out to an opening and
found a strange-looking building blocking my way.
Is this the end of this haunted house? I walked up to the building a little
scared of what might springs out. This very building concealed the real
truth about the "ghost" which appeared at the observatory in
Geisei Village 50 years later.
(to be continued to Part 3)
Copyright (C) 2005 Tsutomu Seki.