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ABOUTSlogan (“Tomorrow” by Nankichi Niimi)

About the Slogan

Tomorrow’s awaiting every one of us.
Like a fountain it keeps springing.
Like a lamp it keeps glowing.

The words are by Nankichi Niimi, a writer of children’s stories who was born in Handa-shi, Aichi Prefecture, that are included in his poem “Tomorrow,” published in 1932 when he was 19. Throughout his brief life that lasted for only 29 years, Nankichi produced works, including Gon, the Little Fox, that captured the universality of love and beauty found in human sorrow. Among his works, the poem, in particular, is filled with hopes for “creation.” We, at AICHI⇆ONLINE, hold the stanza as our determination=slogan to proceed toward tomorrow.

TomorrowNankichi Niimi

Awaiting like a flower garden.
Awaiting like a festival.
Tomorrow’s awaiting every one of us.

Grass sprouts,
Amber rainy bulls, ladybugs in the sun.
Tomorrow’s awaiting every one of us.

Tomorrow sees chrysalises become butterflies.
Tomorrow sees buds become flowers.
Tomorrow sees eggs become baby birds.

Tomorrow’s awaiting every one of us.
Like a fountain it keeps springing.
Like a lamp it keeps glowing.

Akai Tori, Akai Tori-Sha, October 1932

Poems With Hopes for Tomorrow

Koji ToyamaDirector of the Niimi Nankichi Memorial Museum

Humanity has fought against numerous infections throughout history. From around when Nankichi Niimi was five to seven years old, the Spanish flu was rampant all around the world and tuberculosis, until the specific cure became widely used after the war, had been always the largest cause of death in Japan.

Nankichi himself also suffered from tuberculosis from his very early years, until passing away at 29 years and 7 months old. His birth mother had died when he was four, and it is said that the cause of her death was tuberculosis as well.

At that time, once infected with tuberculosis, you had no other way than being aware of death approaching, as there was no effective treatment developed yet. Nankichi coughed up blood for the first time at age 20. On the day when a sign of the subsequent hemoptysis was indicated, he expressed his fear in his diary, writing, “I don’t want to die. I want to live. To read books. To keep creating” (dated December 6, 1933).

Tuberculosis is tough not just because it brings fear of death; it is tremendously severe in that you feel worried if you will infect others, scared to be forced out of your work, and lonely as people avoid coming close to you.

Indeed, according to some of the elderly people living in Yanabe, Handa-shi, Nankichi’s hometown, they held their breath when walking past “the tatami mat shop,” which was the house where Nankichi and his family lived. Shortly before his death, in a letter addressed to a fellow teacher at Anjo Girls High School, Nankichi conveyed his gratitude by saying that while everyone had kept away from him because of the disease, this colleague was the only one who treated him equally, with no prejudice.

Since the novel coronavirus began to spread widely, I have seen news reports on how families with infected patients have come under public scrutiny and children of medical workers dedicated to saving the lives of the infected have been subject to discrimination.

As a human, everyone bears weakness of mind, believing one’s own life and family’s deserve utmost priority above anyone else. But allowing this egoism to drive you and accusing others for it will divide society severely. With his work, Nankichi depicted such human weakness, analogizing it as “infinite darkness” (“Hotaru No Rantān” [Lanterns of Fireflies], 1935). At the same time, however, he often wrote about lamps and fireflies as well. That is because he put his hopes in their tiny lights to have our life, our “long night in nescience,” in Buddhist terms, in which we are harassed by our own earthly desires, brightened.

Such “tiny lights” come into being, Nankichi suggested, when each of us confronts the abyss of our own ego as well as realizes that any living being holds preciousness and beauty equally. He must have thought that it was the only path that could lead us to believe in a brighter future, a world full of respect between each other.

That is Nankichi’s optimism and it is represented in a number of works. The most hopeful among them is “Ashita” [Tomorrow], from which the slogan of the current project has been taken. It is the poem selected at age 19 for the October 1932 issue of the children magazine Akai Tori [Red Bird]. It consists of four parts and the project’s slogan, which is incorporated in its logo, is the last one.

The poem features another little light through which Nankichi passes down his hope, in the form of a “lamp,” along with a “fountain” that symbolizes his attitude toward creation: he wished to consistently express pure and beautiful things despite how dirty the earthly world itself is.

Even though things are hard in reality, the future will surely be beautiful and hopeful. Nankichi tells us that such a future, namely “tomorrow,” is awaiting every one of us. Thus we should not just come to a stand and wait for tomorrow to come. It is important for us to keep walking toward the future while living in the present moment fully.