I have lived in this same bunkhouse for most of my career in San’ya, sharing a room with six others and separated from them by a single curtain. The manager who sat at the front desk when I moved in has already departed this world, having succumbed to liver cancer. I suppose I can number myself among the old-timers at this doya [ドヤ].
I can’t say that life here has been all that comfortable, but I’ve made an effort to develop something resembling affection for the destiny that has landed me in this place. This is how I look at it: What would have happened if by some mistake I’d remained stuck in a job with an ordinary firm? Unable to resist the all the static around me, I probably would have gotten married and had a family. Yet would such a life course really have been better than my life here in a doya? I think not. I doubt very much that I could have maintained my mental equilibrium had I been placed in those circumstances.
I am a vessel that was made to hold nothing more than my own body and soul. I have been quite incapable of shouldering any other burden than these. My psyche would have been crushed by any added weight. The consequence would have been not just my mental breakdown and a life of confinement but also the certain misfortune visited on family members as a result of my breakdown. At the very least, then, I’ve been able to prevent myself from becoming the source of other people’s unhappiness. Those who are made like me or who have turned out like me would surely have ended up leading the kind of life I’m leading in the sort of place I’m living in, regardless of the era. Yet might I not take secret pride in the fact that I have been able to limit the misfortune I’ve caused others to the bare minimum? (In the case of my parents it really can’t be helped.) This is how I sometimes view things. At other times, when I’m in a more positive mood, I fancy that I have happened upon a life here that quite agrees with me. There is nothing to add or detract, and I really have no cause for dissatisfaction.
I have always tried to steer my thoughts in this direction. I intend to stay the course. If possible, I’d like to remain lost in these thoughts and slide as if in a trance toward death. For someone like me, who is on the threshold of old age, such a wish is akin to a prayer of supplication.
No matter what the future holds, I am determined not to harbor any bitterness toward the fate that has led me to this place.
UPDATE: I had a heck of a time trying to track down the kanji for the word Japanese word doya, which I couldn’t find either in my dictionaries or on Google. I finally found it spelled in katakana in the Japanese Wikipedia entry for San’ya (山谷), an area of Tokyo that contains many doya.