May 4, 2002

Ten Years Too Early

Tomorrow, our ship will arrive at the Port of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and our 67 day cruise since embarkation at Tokyo on February 28 will be concluded. We'll spend some more time in Florida and Hawaii before arrival at Narita on May 12 to complete our 74 day around-the-world trip. I set out to this trip with a proclamation that this trip would be (1) for thanks to my wife, Sue, and (2) for self-contemplation what to do next. The first objective was very well accomplished. I had the second objective with an idea similar to coming into seclusion in a zen temple to carefully observe myself. However, this intention completely failed, because the cruise had too many interesting things to do and was far from a zen temple. But abstracted after all was a thought that a pleasure trip like this might have been ten years too early for us. There is no regret because the cruise itself was very enjoyable, but there is a kind of repentance for ignorance, "I didn't know that".

Let's start from the first objective. It seems a great treatment for a housewife to be relieved of houseworks for two months and a half. Sue joked that she had forgotten how to cook and looked even enjoying occasional laundry. Instead, social activities turned out to be the major tasks for her. The Minister of Diplomacy of our home showed a great talent in this respect and gained popularity, so to speak, among cruise passengers. It helped me very much in relationships with them. Sue seemed enjoying association with Americans and other people. Being a non-native English speaker, she had difficulty naturally in catching up with conversation among Americans too fast or inarticulate, or on US-unique topics, but she made up for it with Japanese topics and her fashion. So she made great efforts in her appearance and sometimes she seemed to feel it a heavy burden on her. But her effort was rewarded, for it was the society where effort for fashion was praised explicitly. She brought both Western and Japanese formal clothes, but Japanese attire was so popular that she was consistent in wearing one of four kimonos she brought almost in every evening of the formal attire, wearing the same kimonos more than once. She claimed that only an expert can wear by herself the most formal "tomesode" kimono with a double taiko obi knot. Only a few Japanese have that skill and can come on board an American cruise ship to associate with people in English. No wonder that she got attention. She was exceedingly pleased at appreciation of her effort. In addition, she could enjoy herslf in sightseeing in various uncommon places including eight UNESCO world heritages, and she got some jewels bought in producing locations. Although nothing can repay for 38 years in marriage, in which she chose to marry me, a poor engineer, and supported my whole company life, I think I could successfully express my deep thanks to her.

The second objective was not that simple. The days on board were so busy that I could do nothing on materials I amply brought on board for reading and writing, and I couldn't have enough time during the trip to carefully observe myself. But I found ourselves almost an alien existence among passengers on board. We were certainly younger than the average, and we were so younger and more vigorous even among people of the same age that our ages were sometimes doubted. From the other point of view, I suffered from a guilty conscience, "May we be indulging ourselves in the world cruise while we are in so good health ?" The average figure of the world cruise passengers was a retiree from a successful glorious career, having moved to a warm district like Florida or California about ten years ago, and experiencing already a dozen segments of cruise, but still trying to contribute to the society in some ways. An 88 year old man said he was so fond of doing business that he bought a company. A former engineering executive of Apple brushed up his baritone voice after retirement and formally studied singing, to play a volunteer singer in senior citizens' home and hospitals. Hearing that, I thought first, "It is a good idea indeed. Singing is one of my favorite things. How about my studying singing, too ?" I thought this way for a moment, but soon another thought overrode it, "Wait a minute. Probably you have areas where you can be more useful than in singing, haven't you ?" I feel I have not used up my talent, yet, though it may not be very big. The meaning of my saying in the beginning "I didn't know that" was that I dindn't know (1) the world cruise passengers were typically 10 years older than we, and (2) they still remained energetic, though they were old and might be even handicapped. I didn't know the world like that. A 92 year old lady, who told us her experience of the extraordinary inflation in Germany after the World War I, was still very fashionable and eager to purchase jewels. That made Sue to say a worrisome thing, "I'll not get heaven's punishment even if I still continue to buy jewels in my age." During the cruise, I saw firsthand the power of the old, and I noticed much energy of insufficient combustion still remaining in me.

I am physically and mentally too young for a retired life. I am dying to have the opportunity of sweating with young people again. I would like to look for it after returning from the trip.