Sarcastic Sasazuka

I entered the Sasazuka Elise contest just to put my point out there. Given how sarcastic (and poorly drawn) it is I have no hopes of winning, but if nothing else, I’m amused. I think this is the funniest use of the blur tool I’ve ever thought up. I hope they don’t disqualify it off the bat since YouTube displays it initially as being 31 seconds long, but it’s only 30. Transcription and translations below. The part in brackets is the text I wrote in the video but didn’t speak.


I’m Elise Sasazuka, GACKT’s childhood friend. But, I’m hiding a terrible secret. It’s my fault GACKT’s parents died. I spoke to them, and their heads exploded. At that time, GACKT was a normal, cheerful boy. But when he came upon that bloody scene, he plunged into a world of darkness. [By the way, it’s also my fault that Saya’s in a wheelchair now. I used chopsticks in front of her, and the shock was so great, her legs broke.] I’ll study Japanese more so that this tragedy may never again be repeated!

Yo soy Elise Sasazuka, amiga de GACKT desde nuestra niñes. Pero tengo un secreto terrible. Es mi culpa que murieron los padres de GACKT. Sus cabezas explotaron cuando yo les hable. En esos tiempos, GACKT era un muchacho normal y alegre. Pero cuando el llegó y se dio cuenta de lo que habia pasado, el cayó en un mundo muy, muy oscuro. [Por sierto, tambien es mi culpa que Saya quedo en silla de ruedas. Comí con palillos enfrente de ella, y se le quebraron las piernas del susto.] Voy a echarle ganas a mis estudios de japones para que esta tragedia no se repita!

Since I was limited to 30 seconds and I didn’t want to have too much text saying one thing while I spoke another, I left out that TAKUMI developed thyroid problems from the shock of seeing Elise either go into a Japanese home and take her shoes off without being told, eat and enjoy natto, or offer him a snack in really respectful language (like「巧様、お気に召すかどうか知りませんが、差し入れでございます」or something—you can really blow some minds if you use お気に召す instead of つまらないものですが, BTW) I hadn’t decided which “foreigners don’t ___” thing to play with.


Why I Can’t Laugh At Sasazuka Elise

Apparently I’m in the super minority when it comes to GACKT’s character “Sasazuka Elise,” but I’m going to write this anyway.

The first time I saw the video where he starts doing the accent, I got so angry I paused playback before I even realized what I was doing. “What just happened? Did GACKT really just do that?” It was physically painful to listen to.

It was pretty disheartening for me to read the comments on YouTube and see comment after comment in Japanese saying that the character’s accent was hilarious, original, fun, etc. There was one comment in Japanese from user All Manga’s Fault which playfully said “Please don’t make fun of foreigners’ speech, we don’t all speak with English accents LOL”. I agreed (under my YT handle LightningOrchard) and further commented the reasons why I was shocked GACKT had done that. Somewhat to my surprise the person responded that there was no need to take it so seriously. But to me, there is, because within the greater scope of Japanese pop culture and life in Japan, this is not an isolated incident, and that’s why I can’t laugh at Sasazuka Elise.

Here’s the thing: as I said, it’s not just GACKT. I’m sure that if I had never lived in Japan, I would’ve laughed at best and scratched my head in confusion at worst. But it’s one more instance of harmful, pervasive stereotypes which Japan is, for the most part, allowed to get away with.

The other thing is that this was GACKT: someone who has collaborated with at least two Japanese-speaking foreign vocalists that I can think of (Jon Underdown and YOHIO); someone who has traveled the world; someone whose clever YFC “press conference” relied on the viewer being bilingual to find half of it funny; and someone who isn’t necessarily hesitant to call out things in Japan that he himself doesn’t like about the country. So why did such a person play into that old stereotype that foreigners can’t speak Japanese? Even worse, why play into the stereotype that people who are half-Japanese can’t speak the language? Of course there are foreigners and half-Japanese who can’t, or who speak with heavy accents. But my problem with it is that since those who can speak the language are hardly ever portrayed, doing this only played to stereotypes. What’s wrong with that is that these stereotypes in entertainment can harm real-life foreigners and half-Japanese living in the country because it affects how people view and treat them.

Let me get into that as I review how GACKT’s portrayal of this character went.

At the end of the first “PS I LOVE U” video and going into the second, GACKT and the guys find out that within the story, the main character and GACKT are childhood friends. When he says「笹塚エリーゼは幼なじみ」, (“Sasazuka Elise is a childhood friend”), he and the guys laugh, like there’s just something inherently funny about having a half-Japanese person for a childhood friend. At this point, I wondered if maybe the name was some sort of joke or pun that I just didn’t get. Later I wondered if GACKT and crew actually know someone named that and it’s all a great in-joke.

"In that case, I should've picked a better name!"

“In that case, I should’ve picked a better name!”

When GACKT goes on to say that he would’ve chosen a “better” name for the character had he known they were supposed to be childhood friends, I started to get a bad feeling. So there is something wrong or funny about having a half-Japanese person for a childhood friend? Why?

Less than two minutes later, GACKT starts doing the accent. First he reads the line normally, then he says, “No, I think this line would actually sound like ‘honto sugoi ne[said with the exaggerated accent].” Possibly to his credit, TAKUMI does say “But she’s half-Japanese,” though since I can’t catch the rest of what he says, I’m not entirely sure he was questioning the accent per se. Then, GACKT pauses to introduce the “I am Saya” and “I am Sasazuka Elise” campaigns.

Not that GACKT himself wrote the caption, but notice how even in writing, Elise's speech is written in katakana. At least they left her name in kanji.

Not that GACKT himself wrote the caption, but notice how even in writing, Elise’s speech is written in katakana. At least they left her surname in kanji.

I once had a co-worker at one of the high schools I worked at show me a manga with foreign characters and say to me, “Look how they write what the foreigners say in katakana to show that they’re not speaking Japanese. Isn’t that great? Japanese are so creative!” In that particular manga, the characters were abroad, so it kind of made sense; it was a way of saying to readers, “The characters are actually speaking another language.” At the time, I thought that was the only usage for that, and thought it wasn’t good, but not a big deal either. But as I spent more time in Japan, I came to see that often foreigners on TV who were speaking in Japanese, and not necessarily with heavy accents, were captioned entirely in katakana. I don’t have screenshots of that, but Googling around I found this article about a McDonald’s Japan campaign where they had a character named Mr. James; everything he said was written in katakana.

But back to Elise…

Around the 4-minute mark of the second video, GACKT starts reading Elise’s spoken lines with the silly accent, while using a non-accented voice for the narration (「心の声」, the “inner voice”). I couldn’t help but think, “But she’s supposed to be half-Japanese and your childhood friend! So either she grew up in Japan and should be able to speak well, or GACKT grew up abroad too and should have an accent like Elise!” When he says 「お疲れさまでした」with the accent, I lost it and paused the video. (“Otsukaresama deshita” means something like “Thank you for your hard work” but can also be used as a substitute “hello” between co-workers starting from the afternoon/middle of the work period.)

The meme is Condescending Wonka. I found out about it when I lived in Japan and just knew I had to caption if with “Your Japanese is so good!”

A little personal story: when I was transferred to another school in Japan, there was one particular person who, despite being fairly kind and who, I’m sure, didn’t mean any harm, in two years never got over the fact that I spoke Japanese. One phrase in particular which always caught her attention was the above-mentioned otsukaresama deshita. When I’d say it, she’d be really surprised. She’d say things like “Wow! You can use that phrase so naturally!” I assumed she meant it as a compliment. At first I took it as such. But after two years in the same workplace, after we’d had several conversations entirely in Japanese, it became annoying. “Why is it so earth-shatteringly amazing that I can use a phrase which I hear at least 50 times a day, 5 days a week?”

Maybe it was just coincidence that it was around the “otsukaresama deshita” that I paused the PS I LOVE U video, or maybe I was subconsciously remembering all the times I’d blown someone’s mind by speaking the office equivalent of “hello.”

In any case, I try to keep an open mind in general. I’m always aware of the possibility that I’ve misunderstood something, overlooked something, or taken something more personally than it warrants (though I don’t think taking things personally is a bad thing in and of itself; more on that later). So I took a deep breath and restarted the video.

"Dream TAKUMI"

「夢の中のTAKUMI」, or “Dream TAKUMI.”

If I didn’t understand a word of Japanese, I may have laughed at GACKT’s voice for TAKUMI. But since I can understand it, I knew what GACKT said: “This picture is the dream TAKUMI. In real life, he’s actually super fat.” He holds his arm out around him to show just how big “HAGEMI” is (“Hage” = “bald,” often used as an insult.) I already wasn’t laughing. This didn’t help.

In the third video, even Elise’s inner voice takes on the exaggerated accent, as well as the “Fans.” Okay, the fans might be foreign. Honestly, if he hadn’t done that with Elise’s voice, and did it only with the fans and said they were foreigners, I wouldn’t have liked it, but I probably could’ve just eye-rolled and kept watching. Instead, I decided to stop watching the videos in this series.

But…I still had hope. So I eventually watched the fourth video. The inner voice goes back to normal, but the spoken lines seem even more exaggerated than before. Maybe that’s just my imagination.

And then, we come to this, the announcement of the contest to find Saya and Elise. If I have time I’d like to enter for Elise, though I figure I stand no chance of winning considering that my accent isn’t nearly as heavy as Elise’s and isn’t English based (my native language being Spanish, which has almost all the same sounds as Japanese); I weigh more than 50 kilos which automatically makes me a fat slob as far as Japan’s concerned; and I’m not willing to do the equivalent of playing Sambo for the amusement of anyone. I fear that there will be plenty of non-Japanese who don’t mind. If the winner of this contest ends up being a Japanese person wearing a gaijin-san costume I will seriously stop being a GACKT fan. The possibility of such an end to something that’s been a part of my life for the past 13 years is very saddening, but I know I wouldn’t be able to look at him the same way again if that happens. I’m crossing my fingers for Sasazuka Elise’s redemption.

As for taking things personally…is it really a bad thing? I think that when a lot of people take something personally, whatever it is that offended them deserves a second look. Of course, the thing is that there are so few foreigners in Japan that it usually doesn’t matter if Japanese companies stick big plastic noses and blond wigs on Japanese actors to “cosplay” white people, caption foreigners entirely in katakana, or act like half-Japanese people can’t speak Japanese. Meanwhile, in the States, the moment Katy Perry does nearly anything the offended group calls her out on it. Yeah, some people say “Don’t take it so seriously!” but the debate happens. I feel like the debate is often not allowed to happen when it comes to Japan, or it happens, and the conclusion is “If you don’t like it then leave.”

I’m going slightly on a tangent here, but I had this thought as I was working today. (I’m doing freelance translation for a certain mobile game company.) Along with the very first project I got from them, I received a file with translation warnings. Some of the warnings were about making sure to neutralize things that could be potentially offensive to Western audiences, such as referring to black characters as “dangerous looking” or lines which made fun of gay people. Today I came across a line that basically said “No one would love a fat woman.” (To paraphrase.) I mulled over the line for a bit. Initially I deleted it entirely and made a note of that in my translation notes. But then I started thinking… “Is this one of the reasons people can become blind Japanophiles? Because they consume translations which have been cleaned up for Western audiences, and if they don’t try to learn about Japan from anything other than pop culture, they remain completely ignorant of the issues Japan faces, both in relation to the rest of the world and itself?” Ultimately I have to abide by the company’s request that potentially offensive lines be changed, so while part of me wanted to translate the line faithfully, I spent some more time thinking about it and found a way to mention “big girls” without being as utterly dismissive of them as the original line had been.

Interestingly, this Sasazuka Elise thing happened right after I’d sent a former student (a GACKT fan, at that) something he’d requested: On the Front Lines, a collection of Disney’s World War II propaganda. I got a used copy and watched most of it before mailing it off to the school. I’m watching Donald Duck destroy the Imperial Japanese Navy, which consists of ships with buck teeth and glasses; imagining an incoming battleship equipped with a pagoda on the deck; and I’m starting to feel bad about sending this to a Japanese person despite the fact he’d requested it specifically because the anti-Axis stories are (apparently) not on any collection available in Japan, and despite the fact that I of course understand those cartoons were made during wartime. So I’m watching those PS I LOVE U videos and I’m like, “Why am I so worried about not offending others when others apparently don’t give a flying eff about offending me?”

I hate it when I start to sound like a Republican.

Oh well. I hope I don’t have anything to be angry about come March. (汗)

EDIT: Just now noticed this in the comments section of the McDonald’s article I linked to above, and I thought it’d be nice to add. A commenter, “Asian American,” comments that Asians aren’t portrayed well in Western media, and implies that it is therefore okay for Asian media to make fun of Westerners. In reply, Debito (I assume) writes: “So instead of fighting discrimination whenever it occurs, discrimination is justifiable when it serves your sense of revenge?”

I said that in my gaijin-san blog post I linked to as well. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and one fact does not cancel another fact just because it’s a fact too.

I got an idea for the contest after writing this blog post, and while it is very sarcastic so I know it won’t win, I hope I can achieve the careful balance of getting my point across (“That accent thing was really stereotypical”) without being so heavy-handed everyone dismisses me as some butt-hurt gaijin.

Episode 5: P.S. I LOVE U

Episode 5 consists of the lyrics to “P.S. I LOVE U” proper.

I hesitated to do this one, because I’d been using these episodes as time trial assignments. On the one hand, a song is not something I want to rush through, and I only rarely do song translations, which are much harder. On the other hand, I noticed in the course of translating these episodes that adding the race element made me reach for the most natural-sounding English first. This is something I’ve been struggling to regain after being surrounded by translation-ese for 4 years.

So I decided to do it, only that after the time trial portion I spent a bit of time translating the translation. I’ve made it read like a letter rather than song lyrics. Perhaps it’s a fairly liberal interpretation. So I say to anyone reading this, especially if you don’t speak Japanese at all, look at several translations/interpretations, and make of them all what you will. Thanks for stopping by this little corner of the internet. ^o^/

GACKT’s Intro

From me, to my beloved LOVERS…

I wrote out my pure feelings in this love letter. Please accept it.


Dear _______,
When you find this letter, if there’s someone next to you watching with a worried look on their face, please don’t read it then.

Dear _______,
As you greet each new day, are you still suffering over me? You’re not stuck, are you? You were never good at lying, but your kind attempts always offered me support. I wanted to be with you longer.

Even if you’re so sad that you can’t face the day, please don’t look back. You’re very dear to me, so won’t you smile for me? Please?

This love is forever.

Dear _______,
Your life is in the present.
Meeting you meant everything to me. It was just…too happy….
But I’m nothing more than a chip off the life you’re carving out for yourself.
So even if you’re so sad that you can’t face the day, please don’t look back. You’re very dear to me, so for my sake, don’t be afraid to love again. Okay?

This love is forever.

Even if I turn to dust, and get carried off into the sky by the bitter winter wind, I’ll never ever forget your smile, nor your endless kindness.

When I’m reborn again, and we cross paths, I hope there will be a wonderful person smiling at your beloved side; I pray there will be a wonderful person at your side.


P.S.: I love you.

GACKT’s Outro

Split into 4 parts, I’ve shared with you the episodes I came across on the journey of making “P.S. I LOVE U,” and received many people’s reactions to these stories. I’m reading them all now, little by little. There’s going to be an event on the 11th, so I’ll share some of these reactions then. I’ll let you know the details of the event later.

Episode 4: Please Don’t Forget Me ~The Letter from 5 Years Ago~

(Translation of どうか私のことを忘れないで〜五年後に届いた手紙〜)

Just realized these stories were also being posted to GACKT’s public Facebook, not just the LOVERS mail magazine. For the sake of completeness I’ve included all he said this time. That said I still included it within my time trial limit because otherwise I’d fret over it forever. ^o^;

I rather liked this one. Probably because that’s the kind of letter I’d write. Full of jokes.

GACKT’s Introduction:

This is late because I spent so much time thinking of how best to convey this to you. Sorry.

Today’s episode is “The Letter from 5 Years Ago.” While I was watching this, I thought about the futures of the people I love. [Ed. note: I’m taking this to mean all the people he holds dear, rather than a single particular lover. …no pun intended.]

Would I want them to forget me as they walk their future path? Or would I want them to keep me in their hearts, always feeling my presence walking beside them? This is the issue that I fretted about the most with this song. I asked my staff for their opinions, but that just added to the confusion.

If I say what I really feel, I’ll say that I don’t want to be forgotten. I want the people I love to always feel me at their side.

But, when I’m gone, rather than grieving over losing me, I want them to look ahead, moving forward with a smile. Or better yet, if I could take with me all the memories made with the people I love, to ease their suffering even just a little bit…well, that’s the train of thought I had.

In any case, I want the people I love to be happy for all eternity. I wish from the bottom of my heart, that when their time comes, they’ll be able to feel that they were happier than anybody else. [Ed. note: I’m not 100% sure I understood this one correctly.]

So, while thinking about all these sorts of things, somehow I finished making this new song. While I’d really like to reveal to you the whole story at this very moment, let’s leave some fun for tomorrow.

We’ll meet again then.

Episode 4: Please Don’t Forget Me ~The Letter from 5 Years Ago~

This letter arrived five years after my wife’s intense battle with disease ended in her painful death. It seems she wrote it for a future me when she felt the end was drawing near. Below is the entire letter.

Dear Future ◯◯,

How are you? Is that job you love so much going well? It’s you we’re talking about, so I’m sure you’ve been incredibly successful. I’m happy, yo!

Well, getting straight to the point…it seems I won’t live much longer. In my line of work you somehow get to really understand your own body. And the medicine I get now is completely different too. So, I figured I should write you one last letter.

By this time, you must have a new, cute wife, huh? Ahaha! Well that’s great! You find happiness, don’t worry about me. You have the gift of making people happy. You can’t forsake your responsibility of using that gift. I’m watching over you to make sure your life is filled with joy.

I’m completely fine. I’m here in the Afterlife drooling over hot guys, after all! LOL

And you, you’re gonna have many children, and make a wonderful family. I bet your children are gonna be soooo cute! Maybe I’ll be reborn as one of them! If you have to wait in line to be reborn, I’m taking cuts!

That’s the sort of thing a grandmother would think up, huh. [Ed. note: I’m not sure about this line, since おばさん means ‘aunt’ or ‘middle-aged woman,’ but I should think a grandmother would be more likely to want to be reborn as her grandchild.]

But anyway…I’ve got just one request.

Please don’t forget me. No matter how happy you become, just a few times a year, please think of me. I’ve already lost my father and mother, so if you forget me, I’ll disappear from the world completely. That’s the only thing I’m scared of.

Now, when I say “a few times

The day we started going out. The restaurant by the sea in Makuhari.

The summer we went to Hokkaido. I’ve always worn the necklace you gave me then. I’m still wearing it now. Don’t put it in the coffin with me! You keep it, okay?

The day of your first match as a regular player was also the first day I made your lunch. Not that I’m saying the two things are related! The fried egg was too spicy. Sorry ’bout that.

You got hammered on our anniversary! But that’s fine! LOL

Lastly, the anniversary of my death. I think I’ll be able to sleep happily while thinking about you.

These are my Top 4 Memories! So think of me just four times a year, okay? That’s all I ask. Alright? The instant you think of me, I’ll be able to come back to this world. I’m selfish till the end, eh? Ahaha…. Sorry.

Hmm, I meant to write to the future you, but I’m a bit confused now. Well, your future is shining so bright it’s blinding, I can’t see at all!

Oh, I’m being called for an x-ray, so I’ll sign off here. If I really sat myself down to write, this letter would probably get reeeally long. So I just wrote what came to me, and this’ll have to be it.

◯◯, thanks for everything up till now. I’m sorry if this letter made you sad.

My life that I spent with you, that I made with you, was so happy that my belly’s full!

There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore.

I’ll watch over you, and protect your happiness, forever and always.

From △△, who is imagining your future smile.

P.S.: Hey, you better eat right!

Oh come on! Bossing me around till the end!

For your information, I’m still single. But I’m happy. I realized it once more reading your letter. I’m gonna do my best, so you just keep watching, got it?


Episode 3: The Present (Translation of プレゼント)

Hahaha, this was one of the sites I came across when I Googled 泣ける話 to try to figure out if this was a genre of internet writing (and therefore not true stories). Still don’t know.

GACKT’s question before the story: “You’ve probably experienced this too, right? Going all out for the one you love.”

~The Present~

Yesterday I got a letter from a fourth grade elementary school child asking for advice. The letter said:

I want my mother to feel better, so I want to buy her a present. But I only have 329 yen from my allowance. What can I get with that much that a girl would like?

This boy’s mother has cancer and won’t live much longer. But he doesn’t know that.

Today I took the boy to a department store.

“I wonder if Mom’s on a diet? She doesn’t eat at all, she just laughs and goes hungry. Maybe I can buy diet snacks.”

“Can I buy shoes? I wanna go to an aquarium with Mom!”

“A letter? That’s embarrassing! Mmm…but I’ll try to write her one. I’ll write it in an origami crane!”

“I wonder if I can buy flowers? But it’s sad when they dry up. So maybe I should make it a cactus?”

“Mom’s hands were cold. Can I buy gloves? But she could only use them in the winter, huh?”

“Mom said she wanted to eat caviar! I wonder if I can buy that?”

Tears welled up in my eyes each time the boy spoke about his mother.

“I got it! I’m getting her shoes! I wanna go to a bunch of places with Mom!”

There’s no way you can buy shoes with 300 yen!

While the boy went to the restroom, I went over to the shoe department and explained the situation to the clerk. I asked if it were possible to sell shoes to the boy for 300 yen. Of course, I planned on paying the rest later. The clerk kindly agreed.

When I took the boy to the shoe department, there was a paper sign that said everything was 300 yen. It was crude, like it was made in a hurry, but it moved me deeply.

“I’m getting these!”

He’d chosen a pair of white heels. When I tried to pay the difference later, the clerk said to me, smiling, “They’re 300 yen, so they were paid in full.” My heart was overflowing with gratitude.

The boy said to me, “I can’t wait to see my mother’s face when she sees these!” So we headed to the hospital.

“Mom, present for you!” he said loudly, opening the hospital room door with a smile. Surprised, the mother opened the gift. When she saw what was inside, she started crying.

“Oh, thank you. But…I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ll be able to put on shoes and go out anymore. I might die.”

The boy looked surprised, and said with downcast eyes,

“People who lived with all their heart and soul become stars! And stars that shine with all their might are reborn as people! When I look up at the stars, I’ll see you, so I won’t be lonely! But you have to try hard to live. So don’t give up, do your very best!

I wanna go to the aquarium with you! And I bought big shoes, so you won’t outgrow them, ever!”

The mother wiped her tears, and gave her son a big hug, smiling.

If any of you out there are on the verge of giving up due to an illness or some other tough situation, please remember the boy’s words. Even this little immature child says that it’s important not to give up, to do the best you can.

Don’t throw in the towel. Fight on!






Episode 2: For You (Translation of あなたへ)

I wonder if all of these are gonna be 「泣ける話」(“moving stories,” or stories to make you cry).

あなたへ is the second story GACKT shared in the run-up to “PS I LOVE U”‘s release. Before sharing the video, GACKT leaves us with the question, “When it’s your time to go, what will you use your last words for?”

There seem to be tons of these 泣ける話 on the web, and they don’t say whether these are actual letters that people left behind, or things someone made up. I translated this as a time trial again, but then spent a few minutes tweaking it, going on the assumption that the person wrote it to be read after his/her death.

~For You~

You’re such a kind person that even if I tell you to forget me, you won’t do it, will you? No, instead those words would only hurt you.

We talked about it when I was alive, remember? I said, “When I die, forget everything and find happiness with someone else.” You looked so angry and sad then.

So I won’t say, “Forget me.” But…I do ask that you bury me in the very depths your heart, so that I don’t become a huge burden on it. And hold dear the new people you meet. Please find happiness with the person you’ll meet next. Treat them well, and be happy.

I was truly happy because I got to have you in my life.

Everyone carries in their heart lots of happy moments; joy as well as sorrow.

I’ll never forget you. Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart.

Lastly, allow me one more selfish request.

In truth, I wanted more time with you. So if it’s not too much trouble, every once in 10 years (that’s plenty enough), please think about me.

Thank you.

Out of everything I experienced in life, the time I got to spend with you was the best.

The Thoughts Entrusted In A Letter (Translation of 手紙に託された想い)

GACKT shared this video as part of a series explaining some of the feelings he wanted to express in “PS I LOVE U.” I translated it as a time-attack thing, and since I did it, might as well share.

The uploader, Haato no Kakera, has since made an easier to read version…which includes the text in the description. Wish I’d noticed it sooner. I wouldn’t have failed my own time trial if I hadn’t spent 10 minutes squinting to figure out what 諫 was. ^o^; The remake video is here.

~The Thoughts Entrusted In A Letter~

It’s only been about a year since then…when my girlfriend passed away. She died from a disease.

We met about 7 years ago. At the time she was a freshman in college and had a chronic disease.

“I don’t know if I’ll live another 5 years…” she would say, laughing lonesomely.

We started going out, aware of that fact. Things were fine at first, but because of circumstances related to my work it ended up being a long-distance relationship (between the Kansai and Tohoku regions). Even so, she’d just laugh, saying she would get to travel on top of seeing me. She’d come see me at least once a month. She was living with her family, I was a poor salary man. So because of that, she would come to me. That’s how it was for the first 3 years. Most of the time it was lonely, but we were also able to spend time happily with each other.

Then she graduated. However, in this time when it’s so hard to get a job, it would’ve been impossible for her to get a job in the Kansai region, coming from Tohoku. So she got a job in her home region, saying she’d save up then come to Kansai. I started desperately saving up too, to be able to welcome her here.

About a year passed since she started working. Up till then, she had been coming to visit every month, but gradually the space between visits started stretching out to 2 months, 3 months…

We would speak on the phone every night, but from about a year and a half ago, sometimes she wouldn’t come to the phone. Since that time, I got a sudden bad feeling.

I don’t have any parents. My father left us when I was little, and my mother died from a sickness when I was in high school. That’s why my girlfriend’s parents disliked me. She was the daughter of a relatively well-off family. From the start they didn’t want a nobody like me going out with their daughter. So one day, her father called me.

“My daughter’s condition has become grave. She’ll be in hospital from next week. So don’t call here anymore. Please leave her alone.”

He just said that, then hung up on me.

I thought, this is it, the time has come. For a while I worried about what to do, but then I dared to try to negotiate with my boss.

“Please, let me transfer to an office in Tohoku…” I said. But the answer was “NO.” For a while longer I tried to talk things out with the company, but ultimately I quit and went back to my hometown.

I sold everything I could, to carry as few things as possible. I rented a small room close to the hospital my girlfriend was at. Thankfully I’d applied for the room before the notice of my unemployment was issued, so I was able to get it.

Then, I went to see her. She was very surprised, and earnestly apologized, saying “I’m sorry.”

All I told her was “I got laid off from my job and went back to my hometown. But my new workplace is near here, so I’ll come see you when work’s done.”

During the day her mother would be visiting and wouldn’t let me in the room. On the weekends her father would be there too, and I wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near my girlfriend’s room. So I worked part time at a convenience store during the day and on weekends, and went to see my girlfriend in what precious little time remained of visiting hours after her parents had left in the evening. This was how I spent my days.

In that time my girlfriend’s condition deteriorated visibly. Her once-soft hands became bony, her cheeks hollow, her legs wasted away completely, so much so that it became difficult for her to get up out of bed.

She often cried when I went to visit:
“I’m sorry for being sick.”
“Sorry my parents won’t accept you.”

I wasn’t worried about those things at all.

She barely had any appetite, and was receiving nutrients exclusively through an IV. But sometimes I’d take apples, her favorites, and let her have a taste of freshly made apple juice. Seeing her smile then was enough for me. That’s all I could do for her. Cheer her up a bit.

Since I could visit her only for such short periods, we didn’t talk much. About all I could do was hold her hand, and give her a kiss before leaving. But that was enough to make me happy.

I think it was around the end of March of last year. I went to see her as always, but she was asleep. The sound of the regular beeps echoing in the room made me sleepy, and I ended up falling asleep for about an hour. By the time I woke up visiting hours had already ended, and I rushed out of the room in a panic. On the way out I noticed someone sitting on the bench near the elevator. Without paying them any attention I tried to push the call button, but suddenly the person spoke to me.

“I need to talk to you.” It was my girlfriend’s father.

“Yes, what is it?”

“What’re you doing here?”

“I’m visiting your daughter.”

“That’s not what I’m asking.”


“Why did you quit your company job, and come back here to be a freeter?”

“So you knew?”

“How can you go so far, to do all that?”

“Why? Do people need a reason to be at their loved one’s side?”


“I won’t ask for your acceptance. I won’t cause you any trouble, so please, at least let me…”

“I see. From now on, please come see her without worrying about us.”


I’m pretty sure that’s the conversation we had.

After that I was able to meet my girlfriend every day. Her mother would leave the hospital one hour before visiting hours were over, giving up her seat at her daughter’s side for me. My girlfriend informed me that her father had told her mother to do that. She also told me that her father said she was free to see me as she pleased.

But about one week later, I was asleep at home when her father called me. In a low, steady, clear voice, he said “Please come to see her now. Come prepared.”

I went to her room in a big hurry. She was there, looking out with vacant eyes while nurses and doctors surrounded her bed. The medicine had made all her hair fall out. Her cheeks were hollow. A doctor grasped her pallid hand, apparently taking her pulse. When I’d gone to see her that evening, she had certainly become much weaker, but she’d still had the strength to talk. Seeing her changed beyond recognition, I was frozen in place.

A step back from them stood her parents, eyes swollen and red. Her father saw me, and silently prompted her mother. She led me by the hand, placing it around her daughter’s thinned hand while saying, “Please hold her hand.” The instant I did so, I thought I saw my girlfriend’s blank eyes come alive with a gleam of light. Then, she slowly moved her lips. It was a very slight movement, but it was certainly there. I quickly put my ear to her lips.

It was very faint, but she was saying “sorry,” over and over again.

I couldn’t stop crying, nor could I say anything. I just held her hand, and desperately kept my ear to her lips to not miss a single one of her words. Anyway I had blanked out, not knowing what to say, so I could do nothing but squeeze her hand back. I came to my self when someone tapped my shoulder. When I turned around I saw that it was her father. Grasping my shoulder, he was staring at his daughter with bloodshot eyes. I tried to take his hand and put it around hers, but he shook his head sideways.

“Please, you hold her hand. I’m fine right here,” he said.

I don’t know how much time passed with us like that. My girlfriend had been whispering “sorry” over and over, but then she whispered something else.

“◯◯-chan (my name), thank you. I was really happy.”

That’s certainly what I heard.

Those were her last words.

In a rush I had her parents take her hands. They had kept it together till then, but when they took her hand the tears spilled out.

Then suddenly, the irregular beeping turned into a continuous sound. A doctor shone a flashlight in her eyes, and slowly pronounced her dead.

When she heard that, my girlfriend’s mother cried out. Then I realized that her father and I were also crying loudly. I felt her hand turn cold in my grasp…

The following day, her father handed me mourning clothes and two letters.

“Please be by her side tonight too,” he said. I returned to my room for the time being.

Once I got to my room all my strength failed me. I just sat there. Suddenly I remembered the letters I was holding and looked at them.

One was from her father. I looked inside and saw, on a single sheet of writing paper, the firmly-written words, “I’m sorry. Thank you.” Those two things were all that was written there.

The second letter was addressed to me, from my girlfriend. Inside, the pages were densely filled with recollections from the time she’d met me up to her hospitalization. For each thing she wrote, she explained how happy she’d been, and how much she felt she had been saved. I cried loudly while reading her letter.

At the end, this is what she wrote.

“Even when I die, you be well, okay? You’re really, truly important to me, so please be happy. You better get a new girlfriend! ◯◯-chan, if you like me, you absolutely must seek happiness.”

I took a shower, all the while crying out. I could’ve stayed in there crying forever.

When I got out of the shower, I put on the mourning clothes her father had given me. For some reason they fit me perfectly. My tears were still wet on my face, but once I’d changed, I went to her house.

Little by little, relatives and acquaintances started gathering at my girlfriend’s house. Her parents took me to the room where she was lying in state, and gave me the privilege of sitting right next to her. They introduced me to their relatives as the young man who had been going out with their daughter.

I was allowed to attend both the all-night wake and the funeral. And I was always given the seat closest to my girlfriend. Since I would’ve ended up sitting closer to her than even her parents, I tried to decline, but her father protested, saying, “How could we have you not sit in that spot? If you’re worried about us then you’ll sit there, for us…”

Now, I’m working at a company her father introduced me to. At first I turned it down, but her father convinced me by telling me that he had no personal connection to the company, and that I could quit freely if I didn’t like the job. So I decided to accept his kindness.

Her memory remains vivid in my heart.