Episode 2: Sweet determination
As Akira holds the hand of Kensuke on their way home from the nursery school, they encounter a girl and her parents walking hand in hand. Kensuke grows quiet and stares at them. Seeing him like this makes Akira recall his former self with his hand in his father’s. He was not terribly lonely but his right hand always felt cold. It was not to the extent that he wanted to cry but it was always a little cold.
In 1979, Akira is now 6 years old and attends playschool. Because Akira gets ready for school by himself, Yasu boasts to Hagimoto that his son is on a different level from his schoolmates and must not be lumped with them.
One day, when Taeko comes to get Akira after school, he feels self-conscious to see a mother pick up one of his schoolmates and gives a lonely look that Taeko notices. She brings him to Yunagi where she makes him eat dinner. Even though she asks if anything happened at school, Akira politely replies “nothing in particular”. Before she can say anything further, Yasu comes in to join Akira for dinner. Akira tries to tell his father something, but Yasu does not notice.
After dinner, the two of them head to the public bath. The nosy but well-meaning old lady at the reception takes one look at father and son and urges Yasu to go for matchmaking so that he can give Akira a mother. All he has to do is to attend a brief arranged meeting. She thrusts a photo of a prospective bride at him. However, Yasu rejects her flatly and tells her to ask other men. She has misgivings about his ability to bring up a child on his own even though he may be able to get by somehow right now. Turning to Akira, she says that he would want a mother. Akira blinks and looks back at her and his father.
In the bath, Akira tells his father that he wishes to borrow a photograph of his mother because he has to draw a family portrait at playschool. Yasu immediately grumbles that Akira’s teacher has no sensitivity. However, Akira clarifies that the teacher said they can draw any family member. “Even though I can’t see mom, I believe she’s always with us,” Akira says with a hand to his heart. On the way home, Akira sees a boy walking hand in hand with his parents in front of them. He stares at the sight and slowly stuffs his free hand into his jacket pocket.
The next morning, Yasu’s boss and co-workers get to know of the matchmaking when the old lady from the public bath drops off the photo that he refused to take from her the day before. His junior Kuzuhara Tetsuya disapproves of it. He feels that it is too early for Yasu to think of remarriage because it has only been two years since Misako’s untimely death. Yasu loudly protests that he is not getting married but no one seems to pay him any attention. “Won’t Akira be lonely?” Hagimoto weighs in with the advice that Yasu should not to leave it too late. When he was 17, his own father remarried and while his step-mother is a nice person, he has not been able to open up to her. Yasu thinks that Akira will come to terms with the situation in his own way.
On the other hand, Akira looks at a photograph of Misako as he draws the family portrait at playschool. A girl who sees the photograph, is so captivated by Misako’s beauty that she asks him to let her have a look. Akira readily agrees. All the children swarm around her and the photograph gets passed around from one child to another. Noticing this, an anxious Akira demands to have it back. When the boy holding the photograph refuses to because he has not seen it yet, Akira grabs one side of it and pulls. In the process, the photograph is torn in half. But the boy says that he can just paste it back since it is paper. This infuriates Akira. He pushes the boy and the two of them get into a fight. Although the teacher is able to stop the fight and calm the boys down enough to get them back to their tasks, a lonely and unsettled Akira throws a fit after seeing the boy’s mother come to pick him up. Reaching for the patched up photograph of his mother, he rips it into pieces. When the teacher tries to stop him, he bites her arm.
From that moment on, Akira keeps wetting his bed each night. Remembering Taeko’s advice, Yasu remains patient with the boy, but the consecutive nights of disrupted sleep gradually takes a toll on him. One day while driving, he nearly falls asleep at the wheel. Thankfully Kuzuhara is with him and shouts to get his attention. That night, Yasu glances around the house and wearily regards the stack of unwashed dishes in the sink as well as the items strewn on the floor. “Perhaps it’s impossible to do this alone,” he mutters to himself and decides to go for the matchmaking.
Accompanied by Akira, Yasu attends a meeting arranged by the old lady from the public bath. He is introduced to a lady whose husband passed away from cancer five years ago. Just as the two of them are starting to get acquainted with each other, Kuzuhara and Shoun saunter into the hotel lobby. They loudly spout negative comments about Yasu and envy how he still managed to marry a beauty like Misako. The lady laughs in response, not seeming to mind what is said of him. An embarrassed Yasu flees to the garden with the lady and Akira but encounters Bito, the president of a client company, who is in cahoots with Kuzuhara and Shoun. “I’m happiest when I’m with you. Misako!” he declares. Yasu takes off after him, leaving the amused lady behind with Akira. When he returns, he is moved to find her playing with Akira inside the hotel.
Sometime later, Yasu pesters the old lady from the public bath for the lady’s comments about him after the meeting. The old lady beams at Akira and tells him that he will have a mother. Akira does not understand what that means so Yasu cheerfully explains that the lady they met the last time will become Akira’s mother. He regards this as a good thing since Akira wants one. Akira does not reply.
That night, Yasu talks to a photograph of Misako as he fondly remembers how she would always respond enthusiastically to his silly ideas and find nice things to say. At that moment, Akira wakes up, having wet his bed again. In a resigned tone, Yasu tells Akira to express what he feels or he would not know what he wants. Pointing at Misako’s photo, Akira says that the mother he wants is her. “It’s a lie that she’s always with us. Mom doesn’t say anything to me. Even when I cry or have a fight, my mom doesn’t say anything to me. Why am I the only one with no mother?!” Yasu can only tell him that it cannot be helped. She met with an accident.
The next evening, Yasu and Akira are invited to have dinner with Shoun’s family. In the midst of the meal, Kaiun asks about Yasu’s arranged meeting. Sending a scowl in Shoun’s direction, Yasu responds that it was merely a meeting. When Akira says that he does not know if he wants a mother, Yasu adds that he is not thinking about it seriously. Then, Kaiun abruptly tells Akira to go to the seaside.
As the four of them stand at the seaside shivering in the cold, Kaiun instructs Akira to remove his jacket despite Yasu’s protests. Next, Kaiun tells Yasu to hold his son and asks Akira how he feels. Naturally, the boy’s answer is that he is cold. Kaiun’s solemn message to him is that his back will always be cold no matter how hard his father tries because he has no mother. Shouldering this coldness is proof that he is living. Kaiun gets Yasu and Shoun to put their hands on Akira’s back to warm him, and says that there is his wife, daughter-in-law and even Taeko if this is not enough. “We’ll always warm you up in this way when you cannot bear the cold. Don’t ever think that you’re pitiful. The word ‘cold’ is derived from the word ‘lonely’. You’re warm so you aren’t lonely. There are many people to keep your back warm on behalf of your mother. You’re not a lonely child!”
Later on when Yasu and Kaiun are left alone, Kaiun confesses that he had made up the bit about the words cold and lonely. Kaiun asks Yasu if he is really considering remarriage. Yasu’s response that he is thinking about Akira and remarriage is not about love, earns him a smack on the back of the head. Kaiun points out that such a marriage will inconvenience Akira. Yasu should not use Akira as an excuse to cover up his own loneliness. “The sadness of two persons will only steadily accumulate. So when Akira is sad, you cannot be sad. When he cries, you have to laugh. Laugh and swallow that sorrow.” Yasu’s composure gives way. Crouching down, he starts to cry uncontrollably for the first time since Misako’s death. Without saying a word, Kaiun bends down and comforts Yasu.
Some days later, Kaiun and his family, Taeko as well as some of Yasu’s co-workers attend Akira’s school graduation armed with a photo of Misako. Akira happily presents his drawing of the family portrait to Yasu who immediately calls his son a genius and embraces him tightly.
In the present, Akira remembers that he was the only one whose mother was not present and yet had the most number of adults come for his graduation. Smiling at this memory, Akira takes Kensuke’s right hand and races down the slope with him. At that moment in his office, Akira’s female colleague Sakamoto Yumi stands by his table and stares at the photographs of his parents, saying to herself, “He’s fond of children … …”
All text copyright © jdramas.wordpress.com.
*spoiler* the kid is not Akira’s son