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Sunday, Feb. 20, 2005

WEEK 3

Picture this domestic drama

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News photo
Upstairs, Mum desperately rifles for small stashes of cash; downstairs, debtor Dad takes his ease.
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News photo
No buyer, but the family starts packing to move. It's a trying tiring time, and it's sometimes just better to sleep.
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News photo
In the clearout, Mum finds her primary school graduation certificate: while Snoopy helps out the younger daughter.
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News photo
With the family nameplate removed from the house, Mum symbolically takes off her wedding ring.
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News photo
A buyer has paid a deposit for the old house, and in their new apartment the family joins together to thank their ancestors.
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News photo
Relief is in the air, and the younger daughter does karaoke, while Mum finds papers showing an old ulcer op was really for cancer.
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News photo
Dad (surprise, surprise) takes his ease in front of the television, but Mum decides to put her wedding ring back on anyhow.
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News photo
Mum, younger daughter and Snoopy take it easy, after Mum counted more of their housebuyer's cash.
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News photo
With their debt crisis resolved, the world seems a sunnier place as life gets back to normal and Mum heads to the shops.

One fine day in the middle of the night, the head of the Tonomura household in Kobe informed his wife and two grown-up daughters that he was in debt to the tune of more than 10 million yen.

Shock! Horror!

There was nothing in their coffers even remotely approaching that amount.

And to compound the crisis, pater familias absolutely refused to explain why.

No choice.

First, scrabble around for all those notes carefully conserved here and there in drawers and high in cupboards.

Then bite the bullet and realize that the only way out is to sell the family home and go rental. It was nothing short of a family jishin -- but it was an earthquake that elder daughter and photographer (and Japan Times reader) Hideka was on hand to document with her camera.

The result is a vivid insight into the kind of human drama being played out day-in, day-out, all around . . . but for the most part unrecorded.



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