When I was small, my family used to live in a tiny apartment in a very old, half dilapidated building. It was actually the oldest among the collection of similar old apartment buildings which constituted the community where we lived in.

This collection of apartment buildings were built shortly after the WW2, and its neighbourhood also carried an old atmosphere and close-knit sense of community, something that was becoming more and more rare to find in the modern Japanese society.

There was nothing fancy in our daily life. My house as well as my friends’ houses had the size of a typical bachelor’s apartment in North America, and our bathrooms were often shared with some insects despite our parents’ best cleaning effort. There were holes in many places of our house and cracks were very common on the walls. Certainly, these were far from a dream house of young aspiring families. But for us children, all of this was a perfect source of imagination and adventure.

Right at the entrance of my apartment building, there was a very old empty oil drum sitting by the wall. Nobody knew why it was there or since when. It was rusty to the extent that its colour was reddish brown.

One day, my friends and I were playing at the entrance of my apartment building, and out of curiosity, I went to the forgotten oil drum to take a closer look. There was a round hole on top. I pressed my eye to the hole to look inside.

Inside the oil drum was completely dark just like the night sky. Somehow, it fascinated me. As I continued to watch, I started to see something sparkling at the bottom. “I can see stars!” I cried. My two friends joined me, and they confirmed that they could also see the stars. “This oil drum is a planetarium!” Excited, we danced around the oil drum. “We have a planetarium!”

For the rest of the time I lived in the apartment, I was always proud of the fact that I had a planetarium just outside of my house.