Michiko Sawamura
the big mama from "Sawamura Marine Store"


The store remains bygone days of Tomo

A Picture – which time has stopped-
A Story of Michiko Sawamura; Sawamura Marine Store

When I was wondering through a center of Tomo, I saw an old trader's house which opens Japanese unique shutters widely.
Accidentally, I took a deep breath of admiration.
The store surrounded by Bengala (Dutch in red paint) painted windows and Bristles with clay tile roofing, and the space inside of its throw-opened-shutters is like a painting in a frame.
The painting of good-old-days ship chandlery, it is bijou.
And I felt like time had stopped.
Suddenly, I saw a smile from the still-life painting.
That was Sawamura's big mama.

My favorite?
I think this is my favorite one.

Various adorable ship chandlery

Sawamura's big mama was welcoming me into her store with a smile.
Inside of "the still-life painting", there was crowded by tourists.
This widely-opened-shutters store and her amiable character attract people.
The store established during Genroku period (1688 – 1704), more than 300 years history.
Various kinds of gifts such as anchor-shaped key chains, ship-printed hand towels or Hikifuda (flyers in Edo period) are sold at the store.
All of them are adorable and find myself picking-up.
Among them, what I attracted were various kinds of "ship chandlery".
Such as glass made buoy, wooden wheel (helm) and paints. I've asked Sawamura's big mama, "Do you have any favorites?"
She paused for a while. Of course, she has a lot of her favorites, such as admirable ridge beams, Sea horse mark sign or a time bell.
And suddenly she picked one and said, "I guess this is the one!"
It was a big wooden pulley. The pulley and its rope have a very beautiful brown color.
"This is her favorite! I see."

"I'm wishing people who visit here feel what Tomonoura is like"

Scenery of the store what our ancestors have left behind.

I once see inside of the store.
Sea horse mark sign or copper paint, though all of them were the first time I saw, but feels long-forgotten treasures.
"Because we are able to see well inside of the store from outside, it's tempting to looked in", I said.
"This one calls ‘Bucho'" she taught me and she continued, "Pull up the shutters and hold on to throw open. But hard thing is ‘pull up'. Wish the shutter size is half of it. However, this shutter is historically important to Tomo, and I have told not allowed to do, so I gave up.", and she smiled.
And while she tracing the shutter's wood grain, and continued in peace.
"Every day in the morning and in the evening, I have to open and close this shutter. This is tough for me, but I wish people walk by in front of our store feel ‘What Tomo looks like" from this".
Everything is for Tomo.
What I attracted by was might be Sawamura big mama's those feelings.

Little twin Ohinasama dolls
And its story.

"My mom was so great."

The entrance of Sawamura marine store has a glass show case, and two pairs of Ohinasama dolls are shown. Two little pairs of Ohinasama dolls; the emperor and the empress dolls, and five court musicians were placed at two tiered display stand. Other furnishing goods are also small and so cute.

When I visited Tomonoura in the end of March, Tomonoura had just over "Tomo Hina Festival" and all hina dolls were gradually disappearing.
A word "Little" or "small" is the perfect for those hina dolls. It was shown at the showcase gracefully. It was not gorgeous but has grace and dignity.
A right above the hina dolls, there were two babies in a black-and-white picture.
"One of the babies was me" she told.
"I was twin sisters, and when I was moving back from Korea, my mother's milk was shorten for us, so she (nanny) fed us too.", and she pointed out a woman who was standing a next to the twins in the picture.
"She was a Korean. I remember about her clearly because I was a little older than this picture."
"Korea", I said. "Were you in Korea", I asked.
"I was in Gwangju".
"You mean "Gwangju Democratization Movement, Gwangju??"
"Yes, I was born there."
A war began in December, 1941, when Sawamura big mama was only 6 years old. She has learned about the start of the war when she was in Korea, and when the war was over, she turned on ten.
"We came back here, because we lost the war. We left everything but my parents brought back hina dolls with us. And some pictures for their four daughters. My mom was so great woman." "We are able to write a book about my mother", she added. I once look at hina dolls, this hina dolls are different from a gorgeous tiered display hina dolls, but felt something "good". It has grace and dignity.
"When I wanted to say "Thank you" to my parents, they are not here…", she said.

This is my work place

The marine store office was filling with rare staffs.

Sawamura big mama led me down to the office.
"Please, have a seat. We don' drink Coffee, so only Genmai Tea available" and she smiled.
I sat on the sofa, and I took a look-around while drinking her tea.
There were a lot of rare staffs.
There were various colors; red, yellow and green; of glasses shape like lantern marine goods, which I do not know what it calls, and a vintage list that marked Mitsui O.S.K, Lines, Ltd. (Current Mitsui Steamship Co.,) name. And I see PC on a business desk.
"This is my office", she said with mischief.
"Do you work with PC?" I asked.
"I do not use computer, I only fuss around", she said.
And she held a mouse in an awkward manner, and double clicks.
"Sawamura Marine store HP shown.
"We do such things too!"
There was LIVE camera imagery of Tomonoura. I see Tomo Port, Bentenjima Island and All-night light from the imagery.
"This is a view from Iouji Temple" she said.

Big Mama's Antique Clock

We hold its house and our history near and dear.

And then, she stands up from an office chair, and said "And", went into the raised room. I did take off my shoes and go into the room.
"This clock has been here since 1881". I look at the wall clock carefully. It is old, very old.
"We have been fixed up. See, those are the fixed dates." She pointed those dates on the clock.
I helped her and when I touched the clock, I felt "times" from the clock.
"Here," she said, and shown the dates that is placed on the back of the clock to me.
"I do like to write repair records such like when and why."
She cares about her house and history.
Then we went back to Sofa's room.
"Here we go".
She gave me snacks.
"Please have it. I did have my lunch at 3 o'clock. I easily forget to eat lunch because I'm too much enjoying working though I do have many things to do" and she laughed.

I have much luck with relationships.
I'm really so.

This is Tomo's hometown

I look over the office once more, and I asked her.
"So, you are managing this house."
"Yes, because my husband past away." She answered. "It was about 5 years and 2 months ago."
"You marry into this family right?"
"Yes, I am. It was more than fifty years ago. I came from Okayama in 1958.
"Did you feel lonely??", she shook her head and she replied, "I know that you feel so, because I'm unrelated person, but people who were live in Tomonoura welcoming me."
And "When I came here, grandfather-in-law and father-in-law were very nice to me. They were handsome guys too. And they cared about me a lot. If I did embroidery or knitting, they came to me," she continued.
"And they were hesitated to say, ‘Because we are tradesmen, we supposed not to doing such things during business hours', after that I was try not to do such things".
"How about your mother-in-law?", when I asked her this question, she brought me one picture.
"This is mother-in-law!" she showed it to me.
There was a cute grandmother in the picture.
"She is so tough! The person next to her was her home doctor. Now, she is not able to stand up by herself, so she is in a care home. This picture was taken when her home doctor visited her care home. And he brought it to me and said ‘I visited her yesterday'. He is so kind. It's a blessing", she said.
I asked her how old her mother-in-law is.
She answered, "She is one hundred two and half years old." And she continued, "When I visit her, she said ‘Why did you come here looking like this?' when she said that she did not mean needling remark, she said it because she care about me."
And she continued after a moment, "I have much luck with relationships. I'm really so."

So I believe I'm the most luxurious person in Tomo"

Gentle knot between "Tomo" and "Travellers"

"My husband was suddenly passing, but I will not cry anymore. Because I do not have time to cry", she said slowly. I asked her, "Because you have to preserve your family tradition?"
"Yes, but I'd love to do. This is what I was given", she said and big mama smiled nicely.
"Even though I do this business by myself, I'm helped by our ancestors or makers. Makers have been business with us sane as before."
I'm wondering what it's like if I have to take charge of the traditions.
However, I do not see any heroism of a "do-or-die" nature from Sawamura's big mama but a sense of responsibility.
She continued, "My oldest daughter is married and she lives in Okayama due to her husband's work. And her husband is very nice person. You know what he said to me? He said, ‘Mama, please be patient for a little bit more. When I retired, we will come back here and help your business.'"
"How nice", I said.
"They come and visit me every Obon and new years timing, when they come back here, they said ‘I'm home!' not only my eldest daughter but everyone includes my grandchildren. It's a blessing."
- Blessing.-
How beautiful the word is.
"And," she continued.
"I do have visitors like you. I really appreciated for that too. Because I'm lonely, I wanted to take care of someone else. If visitors need help, I will ask them if they need help or not. And they became happy."
"Yes, everyone who walks in Tomo will pass this street. And if you talk to them, every traveler feels happy", I said.
"Well, I'm so happy that they responded to me. It is a blessing. I really feel I'm luxurious person because I have opportunities to talk with travelers."
Then she proudly said with a bashful smile.
"So, I believe I'm the most luxurious person in Tomo"
"Because you open up to others, big mama", I said in my heart.
I am happy to talk with you and meet with you, big mama. Because of you, I had became a good friend with Tomo.
"I want to see you at the store in fifty years."
"Another fifty years? What do you think my age will become. I will become one hundred something. But now, what I have to do is I stay healthy every day of my life"
We laughed together.

It was time to leave to Tokyo.
"Well, I have to go," I said and stand up from the sofa.
Then she went to her desk to pick- up my name card and wrote today's date down at back of it if it were her valuable thing.
-March 26, 2012.
I am too, big mama. I really enjoyed the meeting.
Thank you. I will be back.