A long-buried memory recently resurfaced during our Japanese-language reporter’s annual memorial trip–and he still doesn’t know how to feel about it.

While our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun enjoys getting up to all kinds of hijinks in the SoraNews24 office, he’s also known his share of tragedy–namely, the fact that his best friend passed nine years ago.

Since then, P.K. visits his friend’s grave in Hiroshima every year during his birthday month of November. Over the years, P.K.’s gone through a range of emotions during this time. He also estimates that his life is now 5 percent more boring due to his friend’s absence…jerk.

During these trips, he always visits a handful of friends in Hiroshima, as well as grabs a meal with his friend’s mother and two younger sisters. They all have minimal contact throughout the year otherwise, but it’s now a tradition that he looks forward to every year. He just went for his annual trip a few days ago, and while dining with his friend’s family, he suddenly remembered something that happened only a few months after his friend had passed.

P.K. remembers that it was the day before a large memorial dinner gathering was scheduled to take place. Everyone was very much still in a mourning phase at that point. At the dinner would be his friend’s three family members, plus ten close friends including P.K., who had somehow ended up in an organizer role for the event. Because of that, P.K., along with two other friends who were involved in the planning, thought they he should go and visit the mother to pay their respects ahead of time.

Their designated meeting place was an utagoekissa, which is a kind of sing-along cafe space, which the mother managed for work. P.K. went with about three other friends. Now, bear in the mind that he hadn’t attended his friend’s funeral because he thought that it was too “final”–if he did, he would be acknowledging the truth that his friend was gone. Therefore, this visit would be the very first time that he was meeting his friend’s mother.

Upon meeting each other, the mother thanked P.K. for coming all the way to Hiroshima. She also apologized for the noisiness of the room–but thankfully, the business was booming, and at least ten customers were there. It was also P.K.’s first time visiting an utagoekissa. He says to think of it like one giant karaoke room with a small stage from which customers can perform songs. The rest of the customers are seated at small tables throughout the room where they relax and enjoy tea or alcohol while waiting for their turn to sing in front of everyone (this is in contrast to Japan’s karaoke parlors, where customers have a private room for just them and their friends to sing in).

What P.K. remembers most clearly is that everyone he heard perform was pretty darn good. They were all probably 60 years of age or older and singing with vibrato. The whole scene was in stark contrast, however, to the emotions of the mother, P.K., and his friends who were all in mourning.

Between the various performances, the group talked about the friend in piecemeal over some beers. P.K. also remembers the mother commenting that she’d heard his name from a lot of people. Despite the alcohol, everyone was fairly glum, and the conversation kept trailing off. It was during one of these moments when the mother, who was probably trying to fill the gap, turned to P.K. and casually asked,

“P.K., how about you have a turn at singing?”

▼ An image of P.K. singing at karaoke with gusto on any other occasion

“Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.” was all that could echo in P.K.’s mind, and he quickly responded with a “No, thanks.”

Now, if he were in a better frame of mind, he could’ve replied with something along the lines of, “Ah, well, in that case, allow me to sing your son’s favorite song, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,'” but his heart simply wasn’t in it at the time. He wanted to be able to do anything for his best friend’s mom, but this request was just a little beyond what he was capable of at the time. Thinking about it now, on the one hand, his chest feels tight to have been so unaccommodating–but then he rationalizes everything and feels that the request would always have been futile.

Ultimately, the following day’s dinner gathering turned out to be the first time that P.K. was able to cry after his friend’s passing. In fact, he was bawling to the point that the others started to worry about him. It was then that he promised the mother that he’d return for a visit every year. As the tenth anniversary visit is coming up next year, he’s not sure what kinds of emotions to expect from himself. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll be ready to sing some Beatles in his friend’s honor this time around.

All images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]