In the summer when I was nine years old, my aunt organized a large family gathering in a well-known hot spring resort. Since my father couldn’t join us due to his work, my mother and I travelled there by trains. By the time we got to the nearest train station, we were in a very rural area. There were very few people to be seen, and my mother and I walked along a small river to the hotel address my aunt had given us earlier.
There were several hotels in the hot spring resort, but all looked somewhat rundown. Apparently, this once famous hot spring resort had been severely affected by the country’s economic recession in the early 90’s and never fully recovered. When we got to our hotel, it was very dark, the rooms were small, and even the bath was far less beautiful than the one shown in my aunt’s travel pamphlet.
“I’m so sorry about the hotel!” My aunt exclaimed to us as soon as we arrived. “I swear it was so much more beautiful and luxurious in the pamphlet! Oh, I can’t tell you how deeply disappointed I am!”
“Don’t be sad, Aunty,” I tried to console her. “At least, I’m here. We will have a great time.”
“You are right, honey,” sighed my aunt. Then her face lit up as if remembering something important. “By the way, I brought some sparklers for us. You and I can have fun with them tonight!”
In Japan, during the summer, sparklers are on sale at stores, and my aunt had brought a few packages on the trip. I jumped with excitement.
“Sparklers, sparklers, I can’t wait for the evening!”
When the night finally arrived, I followed my aunt outside where we both squatted on a tiny bridge over the river. I could hear the water running fast beneath us.
“Okay, here we go!” said my aunt and lit the first two sparklers. We each held one and enjoyed the sparkling lights until they finally finished emitting the light and dissolved into darkness. As soon as the light was gone, I looked for a water bucket to keep the finished sparkler. But I couldn’t find one.
“Aunty, where is the water bucket?”
“Oh, I forgot to bring one,” said my aunt. “So, tonight, just throw it in the river.”
“But Aunty -” I couldn’t hide my surprise. “Are we allowed to throw it in the river?”
Among all the people on earth, I couldn’t believe that it was my aunt who was suggesting me to dispose a sparkler in the river. She wasn’t somebody who would easily break the society’s rules. But my aunt kept a cool face and said to me,
“Don’t worry, don’t worry! Just throw it!”
So, I followed her words and threw my finished sparkler in the running water beneath us. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything. But I felt a surge of excitement within me.
“So, we’re breaking the rule tonight. Right, Aunty?”
“Sister, you’re showing a bad example here, you know that?” said my mother laughing next to us.
Thus, my aunt and I spent the next several minutes having a lot of fun observing the lights of sparklers and then throwing the finished sticks in the water. In the forgotten corner of this rundown hot spring resort, such a fun once took place between a little girl and her aunt.