Tokyo was socks-in-bed cold this morning. Only the thought of the sweet treats at the Kugayama breakfast bakery got me out of bed. After a brisk march along the Kanda river, I downed two coffees, a hash brown, a cheese and tomato slice and an iced currant bun – nothing beats traditional Japanese food.
I always plan to stay at the bakery for a while, at least an hour, so I take along a magazine. Today, I read a two page spread telling the story of a workaholic granddad called Takahashi in the tsunami-hit Tohoku region.
90-year-old Takahashi has been a slate roof tiler since leaving the army after WW2. He is one of the few full-time professionals left in Japan.
As a true professional, soon after the March earthquake, Takahashi began worrying about how his slates had coped with the ground-tearing tremor. In spite of treacherous road conditions, Takahashi made his way around to visit old customers.
The tsunami washed away many of his customers` homes; the buildings on higher ground just have earthquake damage to deal with. Since March, when necessary, Takahashi has been climbing up his ladder to nail in new navy blue slates – all without any safety equipment.
His work can be perilous. 4 years ago, at 86, Takahashi spent 6 months in hospital after falling off a ladder while fixing a temple roof. While his granddaughter worries about him, she respects his opinion.
“Many people helped me when I had troubles, so I have an obligation to help them now. As a slate roof tiler, I have pride, and I feel a responsibility. I`ll stick with the job until I die”, he told her.
I live in the same country as Takahashi, but my mind occupies a different world. If I somehow make it to 90, I doubt my worries will extend further than pondering how many biscuits are left in the barrel. Pathetic really, but old habits are hard to break.