“Nanda Saka Konna Saka (Hill Like What, Hill Like This)” O-nishi
(”Nanda saka konna saka” is a play on words in Japanese to mimic the sound that a train makes as it is going up a hill.)
”Nanda sakka, konna sakka.”
Whenever I traveled to Hazama Station from Enai Station, Mom always sang like that and looked straight forward. The first seats on the right side of Kotoden’s first car were the “reserved” seats for me and my mom. Once a week, we would make the trip to and from a hospital in Takamatsu. In my very young body, there seemed to be some kind of aggressive kid, and my doctor had absolutely no solution strategy. They would take my blood sample, look at it, and then cock their heads in puzzlement every week. As a matter of fact, I, myself, never found any inconvenience to live, it seemed to me that it was only adults, including my mother, who were making difficult faces.
The train car shook everyone up and down, and the straps swayed happily together side by side. The wooden floors creaked, and electric fans turned by fits and starts. When our train approachedthe hill, its rhythmical “clickety-clack” grew stronger, and I joined in with my mom’s singing to the tune of “nanda saka konna saka.” When we passed Hazama Station, the train slowly descended. Traveling between fields, and passing alongside the highway, the accelerating train once again headed towards the mountains. Every now and then, the joints of the train cars cry aloud, and the people at the end of the car jump up. However, I’m sure that soon enough the car will be filled with passengers to the extent that you can no longer see that end. Unable to reach the floor below, or the electric fan above, I looked towards the expansive railroad and shrank back into my seat.When all the people standing in front became crammed together, I felt somewhat guilty for sitting down and leaned onto my mom.
From Kawaramachi Station, I walked towards the hospital. Examinations were always painful for me, but ever since the nurse praised me with “Atta girl!” I have been trying to keep a blank face. I even dared to fixate on the needle, drawing out the red from inside of my body. “I feel like eating okonomiyaki today. Is it okay if I order a baked rice cake? Or Okonomiyaki with chicken gizzard?” To be honest, I filled up my mind with such things in order to escape from trouble.
With the desired okonomiyaki in my stomach, I stuck out my bandaged arm with a train ticket, which was then notched with a little heavy clicking sound and returned to my hand. It somewhat resembles my arm. As it was clipped, it seemed somewhat painful. The afternoon train moving away from the city was different from ones in the morning, as it had a tranquil feeling. On the way back, we had our eyes on the first seats of the right hand side. However, they were seldom available. The wind came through the window by the seats towards the middle. Rays of sunlight came through the window, making my eyelids heavy. Up until the last stop, I had felt comfortable boarding the trains. That slope that we encountered made it so I couldn't think about the relieving times on the way home. It was the time of year where we watched the lanterns. My mother shook me awake, I slowly looked up to the fan.
Before long, our one-hour-one-way trips to the hospital reduced to once every six months and then once a year. In the end, I was living a life without seeing that hill at all. That aggressive kid appeared suddenly one day, then disappeared out of thin air on another.
Holding my card up, I boarded the train. Sitting opposite of my reserved seat was a blue, round-faced and charming child. Since when was the floor not made of wood?
”Nanda sakka, konna sakka”
Being of an age way too old to be singing inside a train, I suddenly wondered if that song that was cheering me on was actually my mother’s own encouragement.
When I looked up, as expected, the electric fan was turning by fits and starts, and the straps swaying happily together side by side. The hill stretched gently as always. I’ll have Kotoden shake me up and down, and take me to Kawaramachi.
The 3rd Nakazora Literary Award
"Kotoden Story Project"