I’ll See You at the Temple

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I’ll See You at the Temple
Author: Yukiko Takada
Specifications: ISBN  978-4591151273
167 pages
15.3 x 20.5 cm / 6.0 x 8.2 in (WxH)
Category: Children & YA
Ages: 9+
Publisher: Poplar Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2017
www.poplar.co.jp
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

Even as Japan has become an increasingly secular society, 90 percent of funerals continue to be conducted as Buddhist ceremonies. In this story set at a Buddhist temple deep in the mountainous heart of Sado Island, a young boy who is expected to take over the sanctuary as successor to his father and grandfather comes to understand how important it is for the living to share memories of the dead.

Yūsuke, now in the fourth grade, was born as heir to the family that administers the small temple Manpuku-ji. His father (who also teaches middle school and is very strict with Yūsuke) and his grandfather (who dotes on Yūsuke and always takes his side) are both active as priests serving the local community. Not just his own family but all the other adults around assume Yūsuke will follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather before him. But Yūsuke’s own dream is to move to Tokyo and become a manga artist. When he’s asked to help in the temple’s cemetery—cleaning gravesites, removing wilted flowers, and the like—it’s only an onerous chore to him.

Then a girl named Miyuki is assigned to the desk next to his at school. She has almost completely stopped speaking since her father died in a traffic accident a year ago. First to capture Yūsuke’s attention are Miyuki’s talented drawings, but before long he decides that what he really wants to see is her smile. As time goes by he manages to learn that, with everyone tiptoeing around her out of concern for her feelings, she has never been able to talk about her memories of her father, and it has made her feel like she’s going to forget him; he also learns that her family has not been able to put up a marker for him. This makes Yūsuke reflect on the invaluable role of the temple as a place where all those with a connection to the deceased can gather to share memories and deepen their mutual ties. Having come to this new understanding, he decides that he, too, will join in the chanting of sutras at the first anniversary memorial service for Miyuki’s father. Also at Yūsuke’s suggestion, artworks painted by Miyuki’s father are put on display in the main hall for the ceremony. The paintings prompt many of the attendees to relate memories of her father to Miyuki. Although it will still take time for her to get over her sadness, her heart is replenished and she regains a positive outlook toward the future. It warms Yūsuke’s heart to see the change that has come over her.

Readers see Yūsuke taking important steps toward adulthood as he learns the power of empathy. Also of interest is the illuminating portrayal of everyday life at a Japanese Buddhist temple.