Habits of a lifetime

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.


Earthquake and tsunami damage in Tohoku, June 2011.

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.

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