Chie Mochizuki


Spring 1991

Amongst the many family stories that are well remembered and frequently told in my family, there is one about my maternal grandmother which I liked very much. When my grandmother was a young maiden, she lived in Haneda, the southern tip of Tokyo. It was well before World War II, and Haneda was more like a village rather than a town. The community was small, so everybody knew everybody else. My great grandmother was a landowner. She was a strong and fierce person. On the contrary, my grandmother was a quiet and shy person; she was always passive. However, unlike my great grandmother, she was an exceptionally beautiful woman. In Japan, such a girls tends to be called, with affection, by a name with a suffix, "-komachi" which means "a local beauty."

Since her beauty was a rare find, all the young men in Haneda wanted to have her as their wife. However, for fear of the reaction from my great grandmother, none of them dared to ask for my grandmother's hand. They often guessed who would be the lucky one. Then, one day, a young man moved to Haneda from the far away country-side and married my grandmother. At the time a wedding was still a community event. A long procession was held. My grandmother, in a white kimono and a white cap on her head, marched solemnly beside my grandfather. It is said that all the villagers were disappointed and felt tricked, for their beauty was taken by a stranger. They also wondered what kind of a man my grandfather was. For a while, he was a local legend who swept the local beauty away from them.

The story always ends with jeers and a big laugh that my grandmother didn't leave any trace of her beauty in her daughters nor in her granddaughters. Whenever my mother tells this story, she looks like a young girl, smiling a little naughtily and feeling warmed by the episode. There is also a Japanese families saying that, when it suddenly starts to rain on a sunny day, foxes are having a wedding procession. Somehow, in my mind, the story of my grandmother's wedding is associated not only with my mother's voice and people's laughter but also with the image of a fox's wedding. In any case, this story is one way we remember my grandmother, who is now senile and has lost most of her memories, in a most vivid way.