Episode 1: Painful. Marriage is the most painful illness of one’s own making … Marriage is torture
Hamasaki Mitsuo is a salesman who works at a company that installs automatic vending machines. A person with a sensitive nature, he finds work, socialising with people and even drinking sessions trying. In fact, he is in bad shape all over. But it is actually his wife Yuka’s existence that is most trying to him and makes him want to live alone in a forest with their two cats. Mitsuo and Yuka married less than two years ago but they have never gotten along well. It is a marriage he calls “a long, long torture” and “a farce”.
Lately, Mitsuo has taken to complaining mercilessly about Yuka during each visit to the dentist. When he wants to drink red wine, she would open the white wine. If he prefers to eat anything but the pork cutlet he had at lunch, she would say that she wants to eat pork cutlet for dinner. Yuka calls herself the big-hearted type. However, Mitsuo only sees her as unrefined. After Yuka washes her face at the washbasin, she leaves it waterlogged. On seeing it, Mitsuo would meticulously wipe every corner. When they arrange to meet for a movie, Yuka would generally be late. Naturally the movie would have started, but while it would irk him to miss 10 minutes of the show, she would say that only 10 minutes have gone by. Just the mere act of recounting this incident to his sympathetic oral hygienist gets Mitsuo worked up.
However, Mitsuo’s grandmother Aiko is delighted to have a good and likeable grand daughter-in-law that she can watch pro wrestling with since Mitsuo snubs pro wrestling in favour of horse racing. In fact, she openly declares in Mitsuo’s hearing that Yuka is the first good thing to have happened to her since she divorced her useless husband and toiled to establish and grow the laundry business to what it is today. Aiko even goes so far as to give Yuka a talisman from the famous Suitengu shrine to bless her with children and tell her that she would have no regrets in life if she can see her great-grandchild. Mitsuo can only watch on in silence.
One day, Mitsuo returns home as Yuka’s friends consume the famous Miyagi confectionery he has been looking forward to eating. The smile plastered on his face immediately crumbles, replaced by a look of horror. Yuka, who is stuffing her face with a piece of the confectionery, catches sight of his expression. She later presses him to find out if he is angry about not eating it, but this triggers the usual argument between them. He told her to turn off the heater for the bath. She says if he noticed it, he should have turned it off. She told him about the gathering with her friends a week ago. He says he didn’t hear it. In annoyance, she points out that he never listens. They proceed to dredge up old issues. She gripes that when his father wanted to close the laundry business before he went to live in the countryside, he said he wanted to keep the shop. He informs her its because she told him that she wanted to work. She admits knowing that he is not good with children and yet she wishes to have kids someday. He carelessly blurts “Then you chose the wrong partner from the start.” “Are you saying that our marriage was a mistake?” Yuka asks in anger.
Yuka flops onto the sofa opposite where he is seated, whips out one last piece of the confectionery from the pocket of her hood jumper and bites into it as if to taunt him. Mitsuo impulsively downloads the official divorce registration form from the internet, prints it out and fills up the relevant fields. But to his exasperation, Yuka keeps messing up hers. On their third attempt at printing the form, the paper gets jammed in the printer. Even if he gets it out, they have no more printer paper and Yuka refuses to go out into the cold to buy some. She tells him to wake her up when he is done. And so, his attempt at divorce ends like this. At that moment, Yuka has neither the intention nor the readiness to break up with him … …
One weekend, Mitsuo is roped in for baseball by a client. On his way home after the game, he attempts to pick up a baseball that rolled out of his paper bag when he tripped and fell. However, he ends up straining his lower back and is unable to stand upright or move. In his desperation, Mitsuo arrives at an aromatherapy massage shop after some struggle. It is exclusively for women, but the shop staff cannot bear to see his condition and invites him in for a back massage. The staff introduces herself as Konno Akari. Mitsuo and Akari used to date during his university days and have not met in 10 years. Akari says she recently moved into Mitsuo’s neighbourhood and opened this aromatherapy massage business in her home. Mitsuo is rather thrilled by this chance reunion. When he gets home, he looks through a folder of old photos that he has kept in his computer of himself and Akari as a couple.
In the midst of this, Yuka returns and immediately disappears into the bathroom. Emerging after putting on makeup, she sidles up to Mitsuo while he prepares dinner and waits for him to notice her appearance. Although he glances briefly in her direction, he fails to take notice. To Yuka’s frustration, he continues to remain oblivious even as they sit opposite each other at the dinner table for their meal.
The next day, Akari and Mitsuo go for dinner together after a visit to a chiropractor because he claims that he and his wife have their meals separately. At the restaurant, Mitsuo stares at the red sofa Akari is sitting in although he does not remark about it when Akari asks. He appears happy and animated in her presence unlike his usual demeanour with Yuka. After determining that Akari has a boyfriend, Mitsuo clumsily asks her about his occupation, age … … and even looks. Akari is amused and wonders what is with Mitsuo. He covers it up by saying that he envies how blissful she is and that he wanted to get these questions out of the way. Then unable to hold it in any longer, Mitsuo bursts out with the observation that the sofa Akari is sitting on, is similar to the one they had when they lived together and ventures to find out what happened to it.
On the other hand, Yuka, who has received a box of vegetables from her mother, brings some over to share with Aiko. Learning that her grandson has a dinner date with an old friend, Aiko asks if Yuka is not concerned whether the friend is male or female. Yuka does not know if she should, since it would mean that she cannot dine with male friends. After all, Mitsuo will not lie to her. Though it maybe strange, she has come to love how he only smiles at animals, she confides. Aiko advises Yuka that when a female likes a male, they will forgive everything even if there are plenty of things that make them angry. But it is different for a male. When a male likes a female, he will begin to look for her flaws.
Yuka heads home to practice cooking a meal. She makes Japanese curry but realises with dismay that she forgot about the rice when she opens the rice cooker and peers at the empty pot. While she dishes curry from the pot, the apartment is rocked by violent earthquake tremors that send her scurrying under the dining table in fear. Then the shaking dies down and she starts to go back to the kitchen but is stopped by pain in her foot. A bright round patch of red has stained her socks.
At that same moment, a frightened Akari cowers against Mitsuo’s chest as he puts his arms around her protectively. They awkwardly pull apart when the tremors stops. Both of them are reminded of the Great East Japan Earthquake that happened close to two years ago. Akari prods Mitsuo to go back but he is reluctant to and it is telling in his reply to her. “I don’t feel in that mood now.” He suddenly blurts out to her that his relationship with his wife started with the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Mitsuo recalls that he was working at the Jinbocho sales office at that time. That day, the trains and everything else had stopped and he had difficulty going home because he lived about 30 km away. He had no choice but to walk back along streets overflowing with people. At the Koshu Highway, Mitsuo saw a familiar face in front of him. It was the receptionist at a client company. He only recognised her face but did not know her name. Under normal circumstances, he would not have called out to her. But seeing her made him feel at ease and they chatted the whole time as he walked her home. He was happy despite the circumstances. In fact, he wanted to be with her for a while longer even though they had reached her house. And so, he went up to her room. They gradually ran out of things to say and ended up holding hands. By that time, it was morning. That was how they came to live with each other.
“We would have just been strangers if such a thing hadn’t happened that day.
I don’t know if there was this feeling called love.
Because I didn’t know what to call it,
and didn’t know what to say when I tapped her on the shoulder.
So I held her hand.
That’s how we got married.
There’s no love or good memories.
I wonder if there’s a different path.
A different path with a different person … …”
By the time Mitsuo makes his way home after seeing to a complaint about some vending machines, it is day break. The television and lights are still on in the house. Realising that Yuka is still awake in bed, he recites how she did not bring in the laundry or switch off the lights and television. Yuka apologises for each of her “transgressions”. Mitsuo flares up and tells her to pay attention but when this is met with a muted response from her, he looks at her with a disconcerted expression. There is nothing he can do but leave the room and let her sleep.
The next morning, Mitsuo sits alone by the balcony and moans disconsolately that nothing good is happening. Yuka, who seems to have overheard him, mysteriously says from her usual perch on the sofa that she feels like something good is going to happen although she does not know.
“Honestly, it’s not that I don’t want to get a divorce.
But if I cast my wife off, won’t she be pitiful?
This is taking responsibility for marriage or self-sacrifice.
It’s very painful.
Marriage is about calculation, compromise and habit.”
On his way home after yet another visit to the dentist, Mitsuo spots Akari walking along the other side of the river. He excitedly breaks into a run. However, just as Mitsuo rounds the corner, he hears a man call out Akari’s name in a familiar manner and watches as a scarf is wrapped around her neck. This is the same man he had seen on two occasions. Once when he dropped off a lipstick stained shirt at the laundry shop and another when he was flirting with a young girl who seemed to be his girlfriend. Noticing Mitsuo, Akari introduces him to her husband, Uehara Ryo. Mitsuo can only stutter inanely about the weather before abruptly turning around and walking off.
Back at home, Mitsuo goes through his daily ritual of keeping Yuka’s pair of shoes inside the shoe closet. However, he notices that the first two rows where her shoes usually are, are empty and stops short. Looking around, he sees boxes in the hallway … … and in their room. As a sinking feeling grows inside of him, Yuka returns home. He asks if this is her new method of tidying up and she responds that she went to the ward office to submit the divorce papers that they had filled up previously. Mitsuo does not understand why this is happening. Yuka calmly says he never will. She no longer needs him and she feels better now. At a loss for words, Mitsuo stares at her.
Yuka vents her feeliings to the owner of the udon shop later that day. Her grouse is that Mitsuo is incapable of showing consideration for others. She relates the time she went to buy Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment to read because she had heard that it was Mitsuo’s graduation thesis and she wanted to understand him. It was a challenge for her to get through the thick book with difficult words but she persevered. When she finished it, she went to tell Mitsuo that she was very touched by the story and could share his feelings. But his response was that she had missed out the second of the three volumes. In any case, the last straw for Yuka was the text message she received from him after the tremors the other day. All it said was, “Is my bonsai all right?”
Reblogged this on the night owl.