In the Eyes of Others: Sokuseki (3)
Fukuyama Masaharu ~Sokuseki~ [1969-2003] (足跡, Footprints)
Book published by the Fukuyama Masaharu Cheering House (福山雅治応援団)
(3) Of Softball, Boycotts, Bottles and Genes
When Masha was in his 4th year in Elementary School, he joined the local softball team “Glory”.
His coach at that time: “At the beginning, I placed him as an infielder, but I was amazed when I saw his strong throws, he had an extraordinary power in his wrists and arms. When I asked him about it, he told me that he had never lost in arm wrestling, so I let him compete against the others. He was really strong and he also knew how to use his strength. I felt he would make a good pitcher, so I moved him onto the pitcher’s mound. I was right. His fastballs were very good.”
From ‘King’ of the neighbourhood children to Ace Pitcher of the local softball team. In the next year, when he was in Grade 5, he became Team Captain and key player of the team. With Masha, ‘Glory’ went on to win many games in the NishiNihon News Cup(西日本新聞杯, West Japan News Cup), although they lost out in the end. They were 1 of the 80 teams of elementary school children from Nagasaki alone.
The coach: “I remember it started to rain in the middle of the game. Our team had won every game in the championship until then, but as it rained, the ball got very slippery and it became very hard for Fukuyama to control it. He kept pitching out-of-bounds….we lost in the end.”
Masha in a magazine interview: “I was very keen on softball in elementary school. I was practicing all the time! You know the song called “Nagasaki is raining again today” (長崎は今日も雨だった, Nagasaki ha Kyou mo Amedatsu ta). Well, it does rain a lot in Nagasaki. In the middle of a game, it would suddenly pour! Once we had really heavy rain (in a competition). We would have won from points if we were able to keep our game in that set. So all I wanted to do was to strike out the next batter and end the game. But my fastballs kept going out of control and out of bounds. The more anxious I got, the worse it became. I ended up loading the bases with base-on-balls, and allowing the opposition to catch up. In the end, when they stopped the game early because of the rain, we were already overtaken on points and so we lost.”
An elementary school classmate: “The thing I remember most about Masha was how he got slapped by his mother in front of everybody at school. The teacher’s platform in our classrooms was very wide. A few children could go under it without any problem. Once Masha and another classmate hid under the platform to skip class. In high schools or universities, it might have been common for students not to turn up in class, but not for elementary schools. It was natural that they would cause a big commotion.
‘Two of our children are missing, what are we going to do?’ The teachers were so worried that they called the police. The school also informed Masha’s mother, who rushed over of course. ‘Where could he be?’ When things were about to get out of control, they came out from under the platform. The moment Masha’s mother saw him, she rushed over ‘Have you no shame? Skipping class like that! Don’t you know how much trouble you’ve caused everyone?!’ and with that, she started hitting him in front of everybody. Our classmistress went over and also began to slap him.
I remember Masha got nosebleeds very easily. And there he stood, with blood dripping down, but his mother and the teacher just told him to ‘clean it up afterwards’. If it happened in schools nowadays, you’d probably get a big uproar about physical punishment. But nobody gave second thoughts about those things when we were in elementary school. Even though he got whacked, he still had to apologize to everyone ‘Sorry, it’s all my fault’. He understood the reason why he was punished. I think he believed that a real man should be able to reflect on his mistakes and take his punishment gracefully.”
Thereafter, Masha had told his classmates: “It’s all because my father told me about the Moscow Olympic boycott. Japan is taking part in it too. He asked me, ‘Hey, you know what the word boycott means?’ and he told me about it as he was drinking his booze. I can’t believe it’s turned out this way, even the police came. I was only doing it for fun….and when things went so far, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to climb out at all …..”
A partner (in crime) from the mischievous days in Elementary School: “Masha might get mad at me for talking about this, but we were really quite an unruly lot. We started drinking in Grade 6 and would often get so drunk, we’d sleep it out in his home. Masha frequently invited us back to his house after school to drink up. Because he was always seeing his father on a beer or sake or so, he thought it must have tasted great. So at the beginning, we were just curious, thinking ‘I wonder what it tastes like?’
I remember the first time I drank alcohol in his house, we had whisky. He’d taken out a bottle of whisky and, saying, ‘It’ll burn our throats if we just drink it plain, but add in milk and it’ll taste great!’ he started mixing the whisky with milk right in front of our eyes. Then he turned to us, ‘Oh~~this is really good, here drink it!’ That was the first time I saw someone mixing milk and whisky together, I was a bit shocked. But Masha said, ‘This tastes fantastic! My tummy feels nice and warm now, and I want to go to sleep, awesome!’
It was summer. We’d felt really warm after our milk whiskies and because we sweat a lot, there were many times when we’d just take off our clothes and sprawl out on his corridor to sleep.”
Another friend: “When they came to my house, we’d often be drinking too. Masha once said, ‘The reason why I like to drink so much, is because I have my father’s genes!’ Whether it was whisky or sake, he could down any type of alcohol. Having said that, we were just elementary school kids, so even he could only take 1 or 2 glasses at most. And because he looked so cute, even when we were found out, the teacher would only reprimand him with a few slaps on the face. Those were the days, I can’t imagine what would happen now!”
Fukuyama family neighbours: “That father was an expert in Mahjong! The normal person usually slows down and loses the game when they’re tired or drunk, but not him! He’s the type whose mind gets sharper with the amount he drinks. I rarely see him lose in a gamble. Fukuyama-san (the senior) had said, ‘I will give the money I earn (from mahjong) every month to the mother of my kids…’ That’s not an easy way to earn money, from mahjong. In spite of this, we didn’t need to worry about his 2 boys. They’re good boys and that’s probably because of their mother. My guess is she had to look out for her husband, while bringing up the kids herself.
Masha was a very lovable child. When you talk to him, he’s always smiling, a happy child. Although he could be a bit naughty and undisciplined at times, I’ve never seen him skip school. When I asked him, ‘Masha, have you been paying attention to your schoolwork?’ He would say, ‘No problem! I’m sure to get promoted to the next year! Teacher has only ever been mad at me for fighting, never about my studies.’ That child sure knows where he stands. He’s very enthusiastic in the things he wants to do, a very sensible child.”
Masha: “In our family, we have a very unrestrained father and a very respectable elder brother. It is because of the 2 of them, that I was able to keep my head all along.”
To be continued.