When I was a child, every May, my aunt and her husband used to organize a large family gathering for a long weekend. We would make an overnight trip to a traditional Japanese-style hotel in a famous hot spring spot between Kanto and Tohoku regions. We would enjoy a long bath in the hot spring, a long family dinner in a reserved party room, and in the women’s sleeping room, the night was completed by a long conversation about life, which I used to listen to as I lay down on my futon and played with my toys.
This kind of traditional Japanese-style hotel usually has a gift shop near the entrance. At the hotel where we stayed at when I was seven, the gift shop was located on the way between our room and the hot spring, and I passed by it many times during the day. Curious to see what they had, a few times I went inside the shop by myself, and found a selection of toys at my eye level.
One of the toys immediately caught my eyes. It was a small soft doll of Doraemon, the anime character that I had been crazy about. I touched it, cuddled it, and looked at it intently each time I made a visit to the shop. Of course, I wanted the doll, but I knew my mother would not buy it for me since her policy was that a new purchase of toys were allowed only on special occasions, that is, for my birthday and Christmas. So, I didn’t even ask her.
However, my aunt once found me cuddling the little Doraemon in my hands, and she asked me,
“Do you want it, sweetheart?”
I quickly put it down on the shelf. “No, Aunty, I was just looking!”
But my aunt wasn’t fooled. She knew how much I was fond of Doraemon.
“I’ll buy it for you, sweetheart!”
I looked around carefully, and said to my aunt in a low voice.
“If you buy me this, Mommy won’t be happy. I’m sure she’ll scold me.”
My aunt laughed and said,
“Let me buy it for you! Tell your mother I bought it as a gift to celebrate the beginning of your very first school year! She can’t scold you for that!”
“But Aunty, my school started last month. Doesn’t it sound a little too late?”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry!”
Then without waiting for my answer, my aunt picked up one of the dolls and went to the cashier. A few seconds later, she came back and put the cute Doraemon on my palm.
“There! It’s just a small gift from me!”
My face lit up with delight. Though I felt a little uneasy about receiving a gift outside of my regular schedule, I couldn’t hide my joy upon feeling the cute Doraemon in my hands. For the rest of the trip, I was so happy to have that doll with me that it never left my side.