Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni Extra: Night is Over

Published: 2018/11/14
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Extra: Night is Over

Countless stories are hidden in the interstices of the world.

Between eyes bluer than love and crimson silk, between the “a” and “i” when you pronounce “ai” (love), between cells when you take a deep breath, between a cropped photograph and noema, between a reckless nature and death, between kneecaps that don’t touch, between forelocks cut too short and eyebrows, between brothers lying in bed without saying a word, between the upper and lower lip of a mouth slightly ajar, between schizophrenia and paranoia, between polluted search predictions, between 24:00 and 0:00, between the stratosphere and the ozone layer, and between yourself, myself, and yourselves.

Note: The title is possibly a reference to the song 夜が終わる / NIGHT IS OVER by THEE MICHELLE GUN ELEPHANT. (not sure, but even if it’s not, the ambience is right)

Note: This essay was technically included with the book release of Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu, in the form of a printed manuscript in Soma’s own handwriting (exclusive to Kinokuniya)

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #16: A Bright Room

Published: 2018/10/31
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#16: A Bright Room

It’s a dim, dry morning.

On nights when I go to sleep early and days after drinking too much, I often see dreams. Sometimes I jot down the good ones and use them as material for lyrics or essays. In the past I had a lot of nightmares—for example, going to the bathroom in my parents’ house and seeing that the whole floor has become linoleum, and there’s a giant praying mantis in the middle that I have to fight by myself (tragically, my skin was ripped apart by its sickle claws). Or there’s a witch pretending to be part of my family, and now she’s chasing me because she realized that I figured out the truth, so I hide inside the blankets in the closet—but she finds me. I remember those horror sequences very well.

Lately, many of my dreams have been story-like, taking place between middle school and university. This morning was one of them. For some reason, I was participating in a university festival despite being 27. Each club had to put on a large-scale play with all of its members. The university was filled with that pre-festival restless feeling that something unusual is taking over, and it felt extremely nostalgic. As the story reached its climax, the dream began to fall apart, and the play transformed into a grand carnival. My role was a major supporting character that acted as a go-between for the main characters who couldn’t be honest with each other, and I think it probably went well. Everyone was smiling with tears in their eyes, and it felt like those festivities could only exist in that moment. As I watched them, I thought, even though I’m not a student anymore, I’ll surely experience these emotions again, so I won’t forget this feeling. Today’s dream was much more vivid than usual. It almost felt like I’d leapt through time.

…It was only a dream, of course. But what if possibilities from parallel universes manifested in the form of memories I haven’t experienced yet? I wondered absentmindedly, mind still half-asleep.

There are two books by Roland Barthes on the table. One of them has a Polaroid photo taken by Daniel Boudinet on the cover. The curtains, bed, and pillow are all bathed in a deep emerald green, and like the gentle gaze of the universe, it calls me from extraordinary sleep into ordinary life. Like I’ve seen it somewhere before. Like I knew about it before I encountered it.

Light streams through the curtains, brightening my field of view. The world will be waking up soon, and another new day will begin. I drink up the remnants of my dream with my coffee, open the door, and leave my room.

TL Note: The book that this essay references is La chambre claire (English title Camera Lucida) by Roland Barthes. The Japanese title is 明るい部屋 (A Bright Room) and the cover looks like this:

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #15: Milk Boy, Milk Girl

Published: 2018/8/10
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※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

When they’re distributing lunch at school and someone is absent, that’s when the war for the leftover milk begins.

Not to brag, but I was an extremely active young boy up until elementary school. I was the type of kid who would take the initiative to start a game of dodgeball during recess. I ate my school lunches heartily too, and I always participated in rock-paper-scissors battles for extra food.

My favourite part was the milk—I loved chugging down that cold, smooth, white substance, emptying the bottle in one go. I assume everyone in my class recognized me as “the hero who averages two bottles.”

Even at home, I often got scolded by my parents because I’d drink milk straight from the carton at every opportunity. On average, I probably drank over a litre of milk every day—casually. I liked flavoured milk too. Coffee milk, fruit milk, banana juice, melon milk; I’d gulp down anything that caught my eye.

So naturally, my fridge at home is always stocked with milk. However, recently—to be precise, in the past half year—something’s been very wrong. When I drink milk, there’s about a 100% chance that my bowels can’t handle it. I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’m writing about this in a public-facing essay, but this is a grave situation for a milk lover like me. I did hear before that Japanese people aren’t very good at digesting milk, and even in my own family, my father didn’t like milk for that reason. But still, what on earth happened to the young Saito who everyone acknowledged as a milk boy?

My research led me to a depressing reality. As I wrote earlier, it would appear that many Japanese people are poor at decomposing “lactose,” a component of milk. Additionally, the enzyme that does this, “lactase,” decreases as you grow up. The gist of it is that it’s secreted when you’re a baby so that you can absorb nutrients from your mother’s milk, but production is reduced when that’s no longer necessary. This is only one theory, of course, since studies are still ongoing. I can’t present definite proof here, but it certainly does feel like my milk tolerance has weakened compared to when I was a child.

When I was in third grade, I suddenly broke out into hives after eating my favourite food, karaage. “Ah, love is such a sorrowful thing,” I thought, and the sorrow I feel right now is by no means inferior.

That said, it’s not that I can’t drink it at all. As long as I can still drink it in small amounts, maintaining an appropriate distance, I should be able to continue my relationship with the milk girls.

As I wrote this, I arrived at my usual cafe. I often stop by here between jobs, and I order the same drink every time. I’ll be ordering that today too, of course.

“Excuse me, could I get cold milk?”

I can’t help that I like it.

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #14: Yet Unnamed

Published: 2018/6/20
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#14: Yet Unnamed

One of my hobbies is giving strange names to songs and stories. I’ve always been oddly obsessed with titles, and in high school, I wrote a story called 密花 (Hisoka; “Secret Flower”) that won a small prize. The judge announced it as “Next is… Mitsuka!” and I said, “Oh… um… it’s actually Hisoka…”, secretly embarrassed by my unusual kanji reading.

The three songs on my third single “Date” were all written and composed by me, so of course, I was the one who named them. “Date” came rather easily, but “Reminiscence” was originally called “Ame” (Rain) and it had a more “wet” feeling.

“C” went through the most complicated journey. Its temporary title was “crowling chaos” [sic]. This was lifted from the Cthulhu mythos (those familiar with Nyarlko-san may recognize it too), and since I didn’t have any English song titles before, I thought I’d go with something chuuni. Then it became “Cx” (as in C multiplied by x), at which point I realized that I could fit a lot into the letter C, so it became “C”.

“C” can mean anything you want; I don’t mind—but I suspect that people will have the most questions about what this song is about, so here are a few possible meanings for “C”:


The pronunciation and spelling is a bit different, but:

And then, placing your index finger to your lips and saying,
“Shiii” (Shh)

So there are actually quite a few meanings that can be retrofit—I mean, assigned to it.

By the way, one of the senpai I’m close friends with at my agency (who has unusually intense eyes and used to be a magician) had this to say about the song: “I see. I thought of eyesight tests first. You look at rotated C’s for that, right? When you do that, one of your eyes sees the world of light, while the other eye sees the world of darkness. I imagined good and evil blending together into chaos.”

To which I proclaimed loudly, “Oh, I’ll say I came up with that then! I’m stealing that idea!” Utter chaos. 14 highballs were consumed. Jesus.

While I’m at it, here are some of the strange titles I have:

Sunny Day Lost (In Heaven)
Atashi Zekkouchou (I’m in top form)
Lemming, Ai, Obelisk
Ninniku Vampire (Garlic Vampire)
Saritotemo Akirameru Atamanaku Mujou ni mo (Alas, I’m in no mind to give up)
Android Spacenoid
Mayonaka no Maple Leaf Rag to Mune ni Aita Kyomu no Ana ni Tsuite (About the Maple Leaf Rag at midnight and the empty hole in my chest)

Utter chaos. When Takasugi Shinsaku was 27, he said, “Live an exciting life in the not-exciting world.” Now that I’m the same age, I more-or-less agree. Even if I can’t become like Kurt Cobain or Janis Joplin, the world is still so exciting. Totally lit. Markedly marvelous. Insane.

All of those feelings are packed into my third single, “Date”—please give it a listen♡

  • Note: The senpai he mentions is Kamio Shinichiro

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #13: Cherishing Plants

Published: 2018/4/27
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※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#13: Cherishing Plants

I’m not good at growing plants. Or rather, I wasn’t.

Watering and fertilizing them at regular intervals, giving them sunlight… It sounds simple when I put it in words, but I just couldn’t do it. I realized this at a fairly early stage, so I generally never invited plants into my house. I didn’t think flowers were particularly beautiful either; I was more attracted to solid things like minerals and structures.

But lately, I’ve been cherishing them very much. I now share my home with Eucalyptus, Olive, Sansevieria, Pilea glauca, and Tillandsia tectorum, among others, all of which are growing quickly. No longer am I only capable of loving a Roomba.

If you asked me what caused this change, I wouldn’t be able to give a clear answer. I always liked the shapes of cacti (and succulents in general), but I had no interest whatsoever in things that required watering.

I have two sofas at home; one of them is a moss-green-coloured one from Karimoku. Next to it is an ironwood side table, which I decorate with dried eucalyptus leaves. It looks just like a scene I saw in Casa, which kind of makes me laugh too.

Naturally, plants each have their own characteristics and ways of compromising. In the past I thought there was no way I could do such a difficult thing as raising plants, but people do change over time.

By watering and fertilizing them, I feel like I’m energizing my own heart as well. However, they show me different faces depending on the day, and sometimes they wilt even if I’m watering them the same way as always. They seem a bit unhappy these days, probably because of the temperature. I can sense the state of their lives in how they don’t fully conform to logic. It’s said that it takes three years to master watering, but I think I still have a long way to go.

The book version of this essay has been revised from when it was originally published online. There are times when I think I’ve escaped from stagnation—only for my heart to be caught in a different haze. I imagine that these back-and-forths are an inevitable part of one’s daily life. Still, if I persist in my watering, things will sprout again. I think I’ll trust in that and persevere, keeping my enthusiasm in check.

In the future, I’d like to live in a house that resembles a museum. I’d want to relax there, surrounded by lots of books, plants, and things of an ancient flavour. That’s how my state of mind has been lately.

Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #12: Fishing Story

Published: 2018/4/1
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※This essay contains a bonus image that can be seen at the original URL above, past the paywall (KIKI-VOICE subscription required).

※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#12: Fishing Story

(Please read this while listening to my debut single, “Fish Story.”)

Trout fishing often comes up as a motif in Brautigan’s novels, and I’m quite fond of it.

Since fishing is fundamentally a task of waiting, what’s critical is how you choose to spend that vast amount of time. By nature, I’m extremely bad at doing nothing. Whenever there’s downtime, I feel compelled to do something. At first I brought books with me, but I quickly tired of them. I spent those days restlessly staring at the water’s surface, feeling the need to do something.

If you ask me whether I prefer sea fishing or river fishing, it’s definitely the latter. My favourite is the simple kind without using a reel. Driving out into the mountains, leisurely dangling the line in a ravine—and if there’s a catch, cooking and eating it on the spot. Not being able to drink alcohol is a shame, but the deliciousness of river fish eaten in the serenity of mountains cannot be described in words. The other day I caught a large char, and I instinctively shouted “Fiiish!” like Grander Musashi. I also want to try fly fishing and pond smelt fishing. The world of fishing is profound.

That said, lately there’s been a change in how I spend my time waiting. As I stare absentmindedly at the ripples around the float, my consciousness separates from my body and completely different ideas well up. My mind is freed from the bounds of three-dimensional logic and begins to make incoherent connections. It perhaps bears similarity to the state I’m in before falling asleep.

These days, the main purpose of my trips is the time spent letting my mind wander, not the fishing itself. You may be thinking, “Can’t you do that at home?”—and you’re right, but it’s not the same. What’s important is the setting; it has to happen in the remote mountains, surrounded by the trees’ whispers and the animals’ breathing.

I haven’t bought a new pole in quite a while, so I think I’ll visit a fishing store soon and procure some supplies. Oh, maybe I should get a new knife while I’m at it.

Well, I’ve never actually gone fishing before, though.

(The song ends)

TL note: A “fish story” is an extravagant, exaggerated story. In the case of Soma’s debut single, the lyrics are about a person who makes up fantastical stories to cheer up their hospitalized friend. (If this reminds you of Yumeno Gentaro’s “Scenario Liar,” yes, the resemblance is uncanny.)

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #11: Brunch

Published: 2018/3/13
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#11: Brunch

I used to always skip breakfast and lunch, but lately I’ve been having them often. I’ve become an adult—those boisterous days are more or less over, and now I get sleepy after three beers. That’s why I’ve completely switched over to highballs. I’m enjoying myself at night, but I still have to wake up in the morning. In the past, my physical condition was so poor that I never had an appetite for breakfast, but now when I go to bed, I eagerly fantasize about what I’m going to eat the next day. Very healthy.

I’m writing this essay after finishing all of my preparations and lying back down in bed. “What shall I eat today?” I write, but that question is a lie. I already know the answer.

It’s tempura.

I’ve loved tempura ever since I was a child—especially shrimp tempura. The tempura on our dinner table was always sweet potato and nothing else, so on occasions when we dined out, even if it was only a food court, I’d order tempura on rice and devour it to my heart’s content. Back then I was only interested in the shrimp and the dipping sauce—I didn’t give the other actors the time of day. But now I, too, am an adult. I’ve obtained a broader perspective and can now love all of the types of tempura placed atop the rice.

To be frank, the shrimp don’t matter. I mean, they’re delicious, of course, but giving them my undivided attention is far too narrow-minded. It means only tasting a small piece of what the world has to offer.

A stellar actor. It normally plays a supporting role, but it puts on an incredible performance—if you’re not careful, it’ll steal the show. It absorbs Edomae sesame oil, vegetable oil, and olive oil in a balanced way, performing with ease. An extremely trustworthy actor.

Sillago, or fish in general—
Well, they obviously have the ability to take the lead role if shrimp aren’t on the same team, so there’s nothing to point out in particular. Squid can be in this category too.

Green shiso leaf—
Is it even possible for a ten-year-old boy to understand its appeal? No. It’s safe to say that when a person understands the deliciousness of green shiso, they’ve become an adult in the true sense of the word. It also makes an excellent accompaniment to alcohol.

It took time to conquer this group. I originally didn’t like mushrooms, to the point where eating nameko miso soup and whatnot in cooking classes gave me an identity crisis and impeded my ability to clean up after school. But now, after overcoming much trial and tribulation, our diplomatic relationship has normalized. I can eat one piece of maitake tempura for every cup of sake, et cetera, et cetera…

After writing all of this, I must now get out of bed, put on my coat, and head out. I already know which restaurant I’m going to today: that famous tempura place in the business district that serves tempura chazuke even for lunch. My front teeth are itching to bite through that crunchy coating. It’s 10:33 a.m.—I don’t know if this qualifies as breakfast or lunch, but in the West, they call it brunch. All right, forget about dressing up. I’m starving. Food. Please excuse me.

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #10: Sake Cup

Published: 2018/2/28
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#10: Sake Cup

No matter what anyone says, the cup is an important aspect of drinking sake.

The author Fujieda Shizuo wrote a short story called Denshin Ugaku, which includes a scene where a sake cup speaks in human tongue. The readers probably have no idea what I’m talking about all of a sudden, but I’m simply saying what was written.

Anyway, that doesn’t actually matter. The point is that the shape of the sake cup can have a large effect on the sake’s taste. I like both dry sake and sweet sake, but the cup shape is the deciding factor. To be specific, I like it when the form is not too shallow but not too deep, with a thin rim. This is because when I place it to my lips and tilt the cup, the sake flows smoothly and easily into my mouth, and when I close my lips, the stream cuts off quickly. With a cup like this, I can fully enjoy the sake’s aroma and taste without drinking too much.

Now, having written this far, I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say in this essay in the first place. I’m not sure how many cups I’ve drank either. Where am I, anyway? I feel like I had company, but I don’t know anymore.

Hmm, well, I’ll take another sip and then think about it some more. Readers, I recommend turning off your phone when you’re drunk. You never know who you might end up calling.

Vessels are a profound thing. Even if the liquid poured inside is the same, changing the vessel makes it feel almost as if the contents themselves have changed. It’s often said that a healthy body fosters a healthy spirit. Similarly, a vessel and its contents cannot be separated.

All right, this is getting bad. I’ll get the bill and then resume drinking at home, with my favourite sake cup.

Hm? What am I going to drink, you ask?

Hepalyse, of course

*Hepalyse is a cure for hangovers

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #9: Mount Fuji

Published: 2018/1/5
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※This essay was also published in the book compilation of Saito Soma no Kenkou de Bunkateki na Saitei Gendo no Seikatsu.

#9: Mount Fuji

Editor N told me to go see it, but I shrugged and said, “That’s not possible.”

And yet here I am now, writing this manuscript in a cafe at Mount Fuji Station, drinking lemon juice and listening to ART-SCHOOL. You really never know what’ll happen in life.

The lemon juice is sour, but that’s good.

At the cafe in front of the station, the lovely laughs of the local madams and the smoke coming from the nearby men’s cigarettes are both pleasing to the senses. Those are good too.

I recently learned how to accept various aspects of life and myself, and living has become much easier. Ochiai Yoichi-san, Tomabechi Hideto-san, and the Buddha all say the same thing. In the wise words of Nakamura Tempu-san, “Life is what your heart interprets it as,” and for some reason or another, that concept has sunk in.

The driving force behind my actions is often enough “anger,” and one of my themes in life is to not let that emotion influence me too greatly. There isn’t any specific thing that started it, but time and time again, I’ve been saved by oracles. (For some reason, whenever I’m standing at the crossroads of life, I always receive a divine revelation from god. For more details, please see the issue of VOICE Newtype that I was on the cover for.) Well, I phrase it in a way that makes it sound like I took up some crazy religion, but that’s really just how it feels.

Today I’m going to be meeting my elementary school friends for the first time in ten years. Memories change over time thanks to rosy retrospection, but I’m sure it’ll be an enjoyable night nonetheless.

The ice in the lemon juice clinks against the glass. There’s still a bit of time left.

I didn’t see a dream on the first night of the new year, but I did see Mount Fuji. This will probably be a good year, and that’s enough for me.

I think I’ll relax and enjoy life, slowly and steadily. I pray that your lives will be blessed too. Happy New Year.

[Serialization] Saito Soma no Tsurezure naru mama ni #8: Andromeda

Published: 2017/12/27
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※This essay contains a bonus image that can be seen at the original URL above, past the paywall (KIKI-VOICE subscription required).

#8: Andromeda

Even if you’re standing at the crossing, I might not be able to spot you anymore.*

My serialization in VOICE Newtype began with a comprehensive checkup. Since it reached essay #10 the other day, I took the opportunity to have another physical examination done. I didn’t have any particular symptoms, but I made the appointment anyway, figuring it was for the sake of my future health.

Just to get this out of the way, there weren’t any issues save one thing. It was actually anticlimactic. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances there was no endoscopy or barium x-ray, so there wasn’t much to it.


My eyesight. It was halved.

I had mild astigmatism as a child, but it healed. Over the past 25 years, both of my eyes drifted from about 1.2 to 1.5. Glasses don’t look good on me and I absolutely refuse to wear contacts because they hurt, so I’ve had no choice but to go bare eyed.

But now, the two lights that I was so proud of have lost their brilliance.* I won’t say the exact number, but my vision deteriorated more than expected. I don’t need to wear glasses, but I was told to avoid looking at things from up close too much.

Thinking about it, it’s true that I haven’t been doing anything good for my eyes. At work I stare at scripts and monitors, when I get home I read books and watch movies, and when I go to bed, I look at my smartphone with my bangs over my eyes. If anything, I’m actively moving towards catastrophe. I ate SUKIYAKI for work the other day, but I haven’t been looking up as I walk for who knows how many years now.**

I realized there were signs that my vision was deteriorating. When I’m waiting for the train, I can’t tell the difference between 0, 3, 6, and 8 on the electric display board. Well, it’s more that I’ll think, “I guess that’s an 8?” Usually I’m right, but occasionally I’m not. That’s how it’s been.

Also, when I’m saying lines that go on and on, I quickly look down at my script and my eyes slip. I can recognize the words and, given a moment, understand what they mean, but it takes more than an instant for my eyes to adjust their focus. I haven’t really done anything about it, assuming I was just tired, but this is a serious problem.

However, I’m known for hating injections and not being able to handle pain. Obviously I hate eye drops too, and I’ve never used them voluntarily despite having pollen allergies. I’ve never once carried my prescribed eye drops on me. This is who I am, but I’ve finally, finally resolved to buy eye drops.

…After writing all of that at this local restaurant, I’ve discerned that the decisive time has come at last. There’s a drugstore on the same street as this restaurant, and it surely sells eye drops. I’m surely going to buy eye drops there—the mild type that’s gentle on the eyes.

But I cannot stand up yet. It’s troubling that I can’t see your brown hair swaying gently in the wind,* but I don’t want to take the first step just yet.

I order another beer and take a sip, trepidatiously waiting for a 32nd day of summer vacation that shouldn’t be possible.***

*Referencing the song “Andromeda” by aiko
**Referencing the song “Ue wo Muite Arukou” (aka “SUKIYAKI”) by Sakamoto Kyu
***Possibly a reference to the PSX game “Boku no Natsuyasumi” which had a famous bug where you could reach August 32nd