February In Ota. The cold north wind races down off of Akagi Mountain, and rattles the windows as it roars around the old farm house. The winter wheat isn’t up to your ankles yet, and rice planting is still months away, so there is not a whole lot to do around the farm this time of year. It’s Sunday afternoon and my son’s kids are glued to the TV. “In the old days,” I tell the grand kids, “we didn’t have television.” I know that they have hard time with that idea. “So what did you do on days like this?” they ask. “It must have been pretty boring.” “No, I was never bored. I used to listen to my grandpa and grandma tell stories.” I stop to take a sip of tea.
“What kind of stories?” they want to know.
“Well, stories about people and animals, heroes and ghosts. Sad stories, scary stories and funny stories. Stories about the way things used to be around here, about the old days. You see, folks have been living around here for long time. They’ve been being born, living, working, having kids, laughing, loving, fighting, growing old and dying around for a long, long time. The people may come and go, but the stories live forever. Or at least as long as there is someone to tell the stories. And someone to listen.
“Can you tell us a story, Grandpa? About the old days?”
“Sure! I’d be happy to. Just sit down in the kotatsu here, grab yourself a mikan or some osenbei. Are you nice and comfy?”
“So you want to hear a story, eh! Well, let me see….”