As long as I’ve known her, my paternal grandmother is a keen collector or free prizes. According to my father, she has had this love ever since he has known her. When there was an announcement of a free give away on the back of some product, she always took the time to fill out the detail on a postcard and sent it to the indicated address. It’s very rare to win the free prize on this kind of contests, but because she applied to so many of them, she won quite a few interesting things along the way.
The funny part was that my grandmother found joy in applying to these contests, but didn’t necessarily care about the content of the free prize. It sometimes happened that she received a prize that she couldn’t make use of herself. Once she won a big cute bag shaped of the character bird of a famous chocolate company in Japan. I was around eight at the time, and when I visited her in the summer, she gave it to me since I was a fan of that character bird. I was delighted to have the bag, and it felt all the more special to know that it was the free prize that my grandmother had won.
When I was in college, since I lived not too far away from her place, I sometimes visited my grandmother just by myself.
One early summer when I was in college, I visited my grandmother from my apartment in Tokyo. She showed me the recent free prize that she had got. It was a free ticket to an art exhibition in the department store nearby. The exhibition showcased the original illustrations of the famous children’s book series Gaspar and Lisa. My grandmother said that the end of the exhibition was fast approaching and since she was not planning to go, perhaps I could go instead. Being a great fan of children’s books, I delightfully accepted her kind offer.
The exhibition was hosted at the event space of the department store. I hadn’t known about the series Gaspar and Lisa before, but as I walked through the colourful paintings and read about each illustration, I soon became a fan of the two rabbit-like characters and the European couple who created them.
Though it was a small exhibition, I spent a long time there, and it was already getting dark when I came out of the exhibition. I purchased a matching pair of cute mugs for my parents at the gift shop and wrote a note to them about how inspired I was by the exhibition.
My grandmother’s free prizes have always felt like a magic to me. Nobody seemed to take them seriously, but the ones that I received, especially the ticket to the art exhibition certainly had a big impact on my life.