Skip to content

Takarabe Toriko / 財部鳥子 – Ⅱ

Field Notes 



                             —At Bahu-tun, Jilin



During grammar school summer vacation father and I traveled together,

a distant past that barely exists,

to a small village called Kichirin-sho Hako-ton—

to a small village called Bahu-tun—

Father made mother crop my short hair

until a lonely boy with a crewcut was born.

And we went to that remote place

where marriages were still said to be traded

to gather ethnic information.

Two men traveling,

we creakily rowed a dugout

and crossed the Songhua Jiang.


It was a village with beautiful willows.

On the riverbank made of the water’s smell

a crowd of villagers watched a parent and child of a different race.

After many questions and answers

father wrote in his notebook something like this:

“We can say the dugout, which appears crude, is one

ethnic tool unique to the Manchurian tribe. At present

they make them out of elm; two mu-jiang, ‘wood craftsmen,’

require eight months to build one, dedicating themselves to it.

The cost is about ¥200 each. You can use it for about four years.

The daily income from one is about ¥30.”

Seeing me squat on the riverbank, my back turned, and urinate,

an ancient man of the village understood what I actually was and pleaded with father:

I sincerely hope to have this girl as my son’s bride.

Gold or silver, silk, donkey, you may ask for anything you want.

If the price is right, I’ll be happy to sell her, father said calmly.

He handed out cigarettes to the villagers and, with the ancient man,

walked down to the water’s edge where the sun glistened.

In accordance with tradition they started negotiating by counting narrow willow leaves.

“During the winter they use green peas and such. For negotiations they use things that can’t be divided.”

Father came back, alone, with willow leaves clinging to the tip of his shoulder and back.

He priced you at ¥1,000. Will you become a woman for ¥1,000?

What do you say? he said, laughing.

Was it also part of his effort to gather ethnic information? I can’t say.

It’s in a distant past that barely exists.

Lest villagers kidnap his daughter priced at ¥1,000,

father hurried her along. We had to hurry.

We walked and walked, turning back to look at the corner of a white, plastered roof.


A cool scent of blood drifted from father.

You’re a boy, father said to me.

You are a boy.

I lit the cigarette father held in his mouth.

On the riverbank gout was bobbing.

When I jumped into it with a boy’s deliberate cleverness,

the waves on the bank where evening shadows were encroaching

sneered . . . byon byon byon.