When I was the age between four and five, my father made a business trip to Tokyo several times a year, and he would often bring back a small souvenir for me and my brother. The moment he reached home, he would come to find us in our tiny house with the sentence “I’ve got a souvenir for you!” The souvenir was usually a toy, and some of them I remember very distinctly.
Once, my father brought a package of blue marbles for us. I’d never seen marbles in my life before. When he took out a plastic hexagonal cylinder full of blue marbles, I exclaimed. They were so many, and shined in a beautiful blue colour under the yellow room light. I asked him to open the package so that I could touch them. I particularly liked the way they looked and the way they felt in my hands when I held them.
Another time, my father brought back home a tiny toy shortcake and a knife with a Minnie Mouse on it. That souvenir was specifically for me. The cake was tiny but made to look similar to a real shortcake. I didn’t have many toys like that at home. As I cut the tiny plastic cake with the pink Minnie Mouse knife, I wondered if these were the kind of toys people in Tokyo would play with. I was impressed.
Yet another time, my father brought back a yellow highlighter. Again, it was the first time I had heard of this term. In Japanese, a highlighter is called an illumining pen. As soon as I heard the name, I got excited. I had never seen a pen that shined in the dark.
“I want to see it shine, I want to see it shine!”
I said excitedly as my brother and I followed my father into the room with a yellow light. My father held the pen against the light and said “See? It’s shining!” But I wasn’t satisfied. I thought that because it was an illuminating pen, it should shine in the dark as well. So, I turned off the light and held the pen in the darkness. I couldn’t see anything.
“It doesn’t shine.”
I was disappointed. My father explained to me that a highlighter would shine only in the light. I wasn’t convinced, but I was nevertheless intrigued by this new object called a highlighter.
This is how I was introduced to the term “souvenir” in my life through my father’s small gifts from Tokyo. To this day, whenever I hear the word, I feel a sense of excitement and wonder for the unknown world where the souvenir has come from.