Oddly enough, Easter always makes me think of Japan.
The first time I visited Japan, I stayed with an American couple, Marty and Paul, whom I had met in Sydney where Marty and I worked in the same office. When they returned to Japan to teach English at the Komatsu factory in Ishikawa-ken, Marty invited me to come and visit them; and in 1976, as part of a much longer journey to Paris, I did just that.
As it happened, Easter fell during the month I spent in Komatsu and Marty had the idea of taking the opportunity to share some of her American customs with their neighbours. So the two of us went to the local supermarket and bought 60 eggs, some boxes of children’s paints and a bunch of brushes. The check-out girl looked somewhat bemused as she rang up this strange assortment of purchases; but was far too polite to ask. Marty, on the other hand, was so excited about the prospect of having the Easter party that she couldn’t resist telling her anyway. I swear that you could see the words “Hen-na Gaijin” flit across the girl’s face as she punched the key to total the sale; but of course, she was far too polite to utter them.
That night, we boiled the 60 eggs until they were hard and the next day, the neighbours came around with their children. At first, they were a little hesitant, unsure about what they were expected to do and even more uncertain about why; but once they had overcome their shyness, they took to the task with zen-like concentration, painting ever-more beautiful designs on the pristine eggs. As I write this, I’ve just remembered that eggs were always white in those days. Now, where I live at least, they always seem to be brown.
The couple of photographs I took at the party are not particularly impressive; simple documents of what occurred, practically meaningless to anyone who wasn’t there; but when I look at them, they trigger memories of one of the happiest days of my life; and for that reason, I will never tire of them.
I’ve often wondered since if Easter egg painting persisted in Komatsu; or if it died out once Marty and Paul had left to return to the States. But to be honest, I think it better that I don’t know.