“Honma’s therapist was a woman from Osaka, in her mid-thirties. Likable enough, he supposed, but no-nonsense. He’d work himself into a sweat and she’d just egg him on, telling him that Tokyo men have got no balls!

Even here in Tokyo, a city that neuters everything, Osaka people managed to keep their own coloring. They might modify their drawl to a ‘standard textbook’ Japanese, but their accent remained Osaka. It wasn’t without its appeal, he had to admit. Honma himself didn’t have a ‘hometown’ to give his speech any particular flavor.

His father was from Tohoku in the far north. The third son of a poor farmer, he’d made his way to Tokyo soon after the war, looking for work. And had wound up as a cop. He’d had his reasons, but ‘seeing justice done’ wasn’t one of them. Back then, the Japanese had not only been stripped of their honor, with no new cause to fight for, but their rice bowls were empty.

All three of them– his parents and his wife– were from the north. And all three of them now gone. His mother from his father’s village; Chizuko from Niigata, with its heavy snows. Whenever he and Chizuko visitied his folks, Honma had been the odd man out, as if he had no roots, nowwhere he could call ‘home’.

But you’re a Tokyo boy, [Chizuko] used to tease. Honma, however, had never considered himself a native son. There was an indefinable gap between being born in Tokyo and being a ‘Tokyoite.” They say that ‘three generations makes Tokyo home,’ but could a person ever feel a bloodline connection to the place? That was the real question. How could you really speak of ‘hometown Tokyo’ or being ‘Tokyo born and bred’? Today’s city was no place to put down roots. It was a barren field, soil that gave off no smell, unplowed and unwatered. Nothing grew in the big city. People there were tumbleweeds, living on the memory of roots put down somewhere else by their parents or their parents’ parents. And those roots dry up and wither.

That must be why, he thought. Why he always felt a bit sad whenever, in the course of his job, running around the city listening to all these people’s stories, he came across someone whose accent or phrasing identified them immeiatrely as having a ‘hometown.’ Like a child out playing at dusk. One friend, then another gets called in to supper, till finally he’s on his own.” – All She Was Worth, by Miyuki Miyabe