by Marina Hoshi Whyte
My father always worked late. When I was young, I never saw him write. I used to think that writing was a profession that didn't require a lot of work. Every day, my father would wake around noon. Then he'd lay on the couch for a while, groggy, unclear. When I'd try to talk with him, he'd manage only a mumble: "Um..." or "Mu..."
It wasn't until I was in high school that I finally witnessed him writing. On nights before an exam, for example, if I had a question, I'd walk into his study and find him sitting at his desk, extremely focused. I'd ask him my question, and he'd open the encyclopedia for me. "I don't have time to read all this now!" I'd protest. Then he'd quickly run his eyes over the pages, point his finger at an important section, and say, "See. It's right here." I believed his brain was sharpest during those late-night hours.
To my surprise, no matter what time of night I entered his study, no matter what the subject was, he never sent me away saying "I'm too busy now" or "You should've started earlier." When I think back on it, Dad was like a human search engine, available at all hours of the night.
Once I'd gotten my question answered, I'd close the door of his study, walk back to my room, and wonder, "What do other kids do when they have questions in the middle of the night?"
At dawn, to calm his heated brain, my father took sleeping pills and drank himself to sleep. Just as he did, Mom would wake up to make our breakfast and school lunch. Soon after, my sister and I began our day.
This is the story of the house that never slept, in the city of Tokyo, back in the Showa era.