Portrait of a traditional Japanese family (2)

11:15, November 14, 2009      

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WINDS OF CHANGE

After dinner, Makiko and Sachiko play a Pachinko game with the boys, while Ryo and Hidehiko move to have a quick smoke and a chat over a glass of shochu (a native Japanese alcoholic drink).

Their factory is only operating at about 65 percent of its capacity as the current economic conditions have cost the factory some major clients. They will have to lay off some of the employees, many of whom are personal friends hired by Ryo.

However, Ryo and Hidehiko remain steadfast in their decision to carry on the family business in the traditional way. "We're a traditional company and always have been," explains Ryo. "Many of our customers we've had for decades and business has always been about honesty and loyalty."

"I started this company as a means to provide for my family. Ryo agreed to continue the family business, but under the current economic climate and in our line of work it's extremely difficult and now Ryo will have to decide what's best for the family," Hidehiko said.

As it happens, the local government plans to extend a highway that runs through Fujioka City and the proposed highway would go directly through the Sekiguchi's factory.

The government has offered to pay a hefty sum of money for relocating the factory to a new plot of land, which the government also offered to grant them, a plot nearly twice as large as the one they currently own.

"I have to decide whether to relocate the factory and continue the family's business, or take the money from the government, scrap the business, sell the new plot or use the land and the money and start something new," Ryo said.

"Whatever I decide, it will be in the best interests of my family and hopefully something that Taichi and Keita can take on when they're older, though I won't force them. I plan to offer my sons the same freedom my dad offered me -- but of course I wish for them to continue whatever I'm involved in. I hope that by the time it's decision time for them, they too will put their family first," Ryo continued.

Later, Ryo returns to the factory as the machines run 24 hours a day, and Makiko takes the boys home for baths and to get them ready for school the next day before putting them to bed.

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM

The next evening, the family congregates around the grandparents' dinner table again, and this evening Ryo and Makiko finish work early.

Conversation quickly turns to school and everyone is keen to know how Taichi's day went.

"Maths was boring today because it was too easy," says Taichi matter-of-factly. "We played basketball during P.E. class which was fun and I scored three baskets, but my team lost. Ben-sensei (assistant English teacher from Canada) came today and taught us the word 'dream' in English and then we had to go around the class and say what our top-three dreams are for our future."

"My first wish was for my family to be healthy," he says. "Second, I want to travel around the world and go to university --I know that's two dreams but it was ok. And my last dream was either to become a Pachinko game designer, or to help my dad's business and when Ben-sensei made me choose, I chose helping dad as my third dream," says Taichi.

The table falls silent and everyone is visibly moved by Taichi's words, especially his father, Ryo, whose eyes are slightly misty.

Then Keita bounces a chopstick off his tray, and he giggles as his mother jumps to help him out. The patter continues and jokes and laughter are again in abundance.

As a family, the Sekiguchis encompass the quintessential values of a Japanese family, values that don't exist as some form of doctrine but embrace an atmosphere of togetherness, sharing, support, respect, pride, ritual and a shared sense of antecedence.

The Sekiguchis, to whom the family always comes first, have thrived and prospered emotionally, spiritually as well as financially. But today, with modernity making independence more valued than kinship and culture, families like theirs are becoming rarer in Japan, especially in big cities.


Source: Xinhua
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