I actually do not recall how old I am in this memory. Twelve or thirteen. One early summer, my family and relatives go on our annual overnight retreat at one of the hot spring resorts in the Kanto region of Japan.
The first day is always a blast. Starting with a long bath in the hot spring, followed by dinner and karaoke time, and for adults, it ends with a long talk about each other’s life story. Since I am the only child in the group, not all these stories are interesting to me. At some point, I drift off to sleep earlier than others.
In the morning, some of us go to take a bath again – especially the outdoor bath is very pleasant in the morning – before breakfast. Either in the bath or during breakfast, I hear that there is another bath that I have not yet tried.
“Which one?” I ask eagerly. “I want to try it, too.”
“It’s not very special,” the person replies. “Just an indoor bath made of Japanese cypress wood.”
What is of no special interest to adults can be of great interest to me. I immediately decide to try out this bath before our check-out time.
It is unusual for a person to take a bath twice in the morning even in Japan, but after breakfast, I happily leave for a bath again with a towel in my hand. My parents have promised me to carry my bag out and call me when it is time for everybody to leave the hotel.
This bath is much smaller than the one I have taken with others earlier. There is nobody else, and I occupy the small round wooden bath all by myself.
I put the towel on my head and dip deep in the warm water. It is very quiet here. Only the sound of water dripping from the edge of the bathtub.
I consider singing songs like I always do when I am on my own in a bath, but the silence is so peaceful that I decide not to. Instead, I look up at the ceiling and immerse myself in the delight of the warm water around my body.
I think about what is going to happen after I get out of the bath. In just half an hour, we will be leaving for some sightseeing in the nearby area. And then? In twelve hours, all of this fun time will be over. I will be back home, back to my mundane life.
But now, I am here, a voice echoes in my head, enjoying this bath.
There is a hole at the corner of the ceiling. As I stare at the hole, I take in how this quietness, the sound of water dripping from the bath, and the sensation of warm water on my skin is my entire world at the moment. It feels as if this moment would continue forever. Tonight, when I am back home, how will I look back on this moment? Will this moment feel like a dream then?
I hear my name being called outside. My mother has come over to tell me that it is time to get out and join everybody at the entrance. Just before I leave the bath, once again, I take in the whole scene in front of me.
It is probably because of all these questions I asked myself internally in the bath that the moment has been engraved in my mind forever. The reason why I can even recall the hole on the ceiling and the sound of the water dripping from the bath even to this day.