Worlds Apart

Kai Uchihara
Shiraho Middle School

My mother comes from Tokyo. My father is from Shiraho. They met in Tokyo, and fell in love. They got married in Ishigaki island. My mother has lived in Shiraho ever since then. I am the third child. I have two older sisters and two younger brothers. My grandparents live in Tokyo and look forward to meeting us. So every year, we used to visit them during the summer or winter vacations. Now, we are junior high school students and we have a lot of things to do. We are too busy to visit them frequently.

When I first visited Tokyo, I was so overwhelmed. The scenery is totally different from Ishigaki. There are hundreds of tall buildings. The expressways are always congested. I rode a train for the first time. All of this was new to me. It was a moving experience. Above all, the population was enormous. I was surprised at the amount of people.

My village Shiraho, in Ishigaki, is very quiet and peaceful. There are no, or few, people waiting for a traffic light to turn green. Compared with the big city Tokyo, there are people everywhere you look. So many people! In Tokyo, I can go everywhere quickly and conveniently because of highly-developed transport system. I felt that days passed in a flash. Tokyo is very exciting and charming place and I could be there happily.

Why did my mother move from such a happy, convenient, comfortable life in Tokyo to a small remote island like Ishigaki? I really wondered.

By the way, my family business is farming. We grow a lot of sugar cane and rice. During the month of June, we become busy preparing for the ikkimai; the first rice crop. And in August, it is the sugar cane season. My brothers and I go to the fields to help our family. We peel the skin of the sugar cane. Under the hot summer sun, farming is very hard work. My whole family work together sweating, talking to each other and eating rice balls for lunch. I feel refreshed. Our bodies are exhausted, but we still smile happily. I think it is wonderful to work together with my family.

Suddenly, I realized! Maybe my mother sought this kind of thing. For me, it is normal to help my family and support each other. However, this is a new experience for my mother.

In my life, there is a real connection with people. In a big city, this connection is not so strong. In my small village, Shiraho, we greet each other casually, whether we know each other well or not. It doesn't matter. Children grow up not only in their own family but also in the village community. Shiraho is surrounded by beautiful ocean and beautiful mountains. We are embraced by wonderful nature. The air is really fresh. And moreover, Shiraho is famous for traditional entertainment. Many people dance and play the sanshin. Shiraho has many strong points.

If someone asked me, "Which place is better, Tokyo or Shiraho?" I would be perplexed. Both places have good points. Each place has given me a different experience and has made me more knowledgable. In the future, after I graduate from high school, I will leave Ishigaki island. Wherever I go, I will thank the great environment that I have grown up in, I will keep my pride and always cherish my beautiful island.

(2-16 Speech in 58th Contest, 2006)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

All of the speeches are copyrighted material of JNSA FUND and The Yomiuri Shimbun, and are protected by the Japanese copyright law.

JNSA FUND. All Rights Reserved.