Let’s go to the museum / ‘Base’ from where author began many journeys

Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

A stuffed king salmon, top center, adorns a wall of the study where Takeshi Kaiko sipped vodka and other drinks while he wrote.

By Tadayoshi Sakaguchi / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterCHIGASAKI, Kanagawa — Novelist Takeshi Kaiko had a sharp wit. Excellent sake, he once said, “must be something like water at the end.” He once also joked that fish and chips in London “stayed hot forever when they were wrapped in a newspaper featuring erotic photos.”

Kaiko was a novelist, a documentary writer, a traveler and a keen fisherman. Kaiko lived in this house in Chigasaki for 15 years until he died in 1989 at age 58.

“A writer who doesn’t travel is just like a boxer who forgets how to skip rope,” Kaiko once remarked. This house was the departure point for many of his journeys to distant corners of the world, and where he returned to. It was his hideaway and also the “base” where this “author who took action” made preparations for his next trip.

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  • Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Kaiko wrote “17/200” on the helmet he wore while covering the Vietnam War. An attack by Viet Cong fighters reduced a battalion of 200 men to just 17.

  • Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A handwritten manuscript of Kaiko’s final work “Shugyoku”

  • Taku Yaginuma / Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

    A box containing Kaiko’s treasured fishing lures, bottom, and a fishing reel

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

After Kaiko died, his family donated this building and its land to the municipal government of Chigasaki, and the home was opened as a memorial museum in 2003. In what was once the living room, visitors can see a manuscript in Kaiko’s own handwriting, a pocket watch he received to mark winning the Akutagawa Prize, his prized fishing gear and even a helmet he was wearing when he came within a hairsbreadth of dying while covering the Vietnam War as a newspaper reporter. In Kaiko’s study, which remains as it was before his death, a stuffed king salmon he caught in Alaska is mounted on the wall.

The year before he died, Kaiko visited Scotland to go fishing. Near the end of his trip, he dropped into a pub and joined the local staff in spiritedly singing the folk song Auld Lang Syne. In Japan, this song is known as Hotaru no Hikari.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” A video of Kaiko singing the song appears to show a tear in his eye.

Two months before he died, Kaiko still had plans to travel. “When I get well again, I’ll go to Mongolia,” he said to Yoshitaka Nagayama, who had served as editor for Kaiko’s books. Nagayama, 79, is now the director of the Kaiko Takeshi Memorial Society, a public interest incorporated foundation that operates the museum.

After I left the museum, I took a walk on the nearby coast. It brought to mind a line from “Shugyoku” (The Jewel), Kaiko’s final work before he died. “Life goes around in cycles, never increasing or decreasing. The quality and volume are constant. It changes only in form.”

I have a feeling Kaiko’s journey is continuing somewhere.

■ Kaiko Takeshi Memorial Museum

From the South Exit of JR Chigasaki Station, catch the “community bus” or the Kanachu bus. The adjacent Chigasaki People’s Museum has held exhibits introducing local personalities including author Saburo Shiroyama.

Address: 6-6-64, Higashikaiganminami, Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture

Open: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November to March.

Admission: ¥200 (A ticket also offering admission to the Chigasaki People’s Museum is ¥300.)

Information: (0467) 87-0567Speech

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