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Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Masaru and Katsutoshi Arai


Masaru Arai, 58, and his son, Katsutoshi, 28, from Tokyo's Asakusa are carpenters from a long line of master craftsmen. Katsutoshi, who has three sisters, is the youngest child. The father and son love working together and always strive for perfection. Although their yearly income can fluctuate dramatically, their pocket money -- and their lifestyle -- changes very little.

Masaru Arai

Masaru: I am a typical blood type-B man: emotional and stubborn. I like men with the same qualities.Katsutoshi: We are the same; only our age is different. Oh, and I have more hair, that's all. We work together six days a week so we have developed the same personalities.

Masaru: I am so happy that my son is following in my footsteps. We have a 90-year-old client, who runs a bar that my father built, and when he heard that my son was also becoming a carpenter, he burst into tears.

Masaru: Japanese carpentry is world class and it takes lots of time and expertise to master it, maybe about 20 years to get the hang of it.

Masaru: I am a cry baby. If it takes courage to cry, then I am a brave man. Once I start, I can't stop. A few years back I had a brain hemorrhage and it was my first time in the hospital so I just lay on the stretcher and kept screaming like a baby. I didn't have any pain or fear; I just felt pathetic. My wife stayed calm and strong throughout.

Masaru: I know how to build a house, but it is my wife who keeps it all together. Our business, our family and our home all run smoothly because of her efforts. Coming home to an empty house must be so sad. My wife and I got married 35 years ago and I still want to see her face when I walk through the door.

Masaru: I have never asked my wife about our finances. I have no idea how much she spends or how much savings we have. She gives me about ,000 a month and the rest is hers. I spend it all on DVDs and computer gadgets.Masaru: I never drink alcohol because my father was an alcoholic. I even told him that I didn't want to be like him and he laughed and agreed that it was best not to pick up the same habit.

Katsutoshi: Our tools are our most prized possessions. I bought a set when I became a carpenter and will use them for the rest of my life.

Masaru: My tools are 40 years old and some are even older because they belonged to my father. Nobody is allowed to touch my tools. And if someone does, I can tell immediately. They feel different in my hands.

Katsutoshi: The best toy is the imagination. Our parents never bought us toys, so my three sisters and I just used pieces of wood and stuff from around the house and pretended they were different things.

Masaru: Quality takes time, superb materials and craftsmanship. I hope one day someone gives me a project that doesn't depend on a budget. I have yet to make my masterpiece.

Masaru: My generation is the one to blame for all that is wrong with Japan today. We are the so-called baby boomers and since our parents were too busy rebuilding the nation after the war, they didn't have time to educate us. So many people in my generation are spoiled. Naturally, as parents, these people raised even bigger monsters.

Katsutoshi: Akihabara must survive as an "electric town." Now it is turning into otaku town, but historically it was for guys like us, who went there for machine parts and other electrical stuff. I hope that the shops that cater to us don't disappear.

Masaru: Shitamachi (downtown) people are closer to the world standard than the uptight Yamanote (uptown) folks. We say what we think, very much like most people around the world. But Yamanote people are cold and pretentious. They only communicate superficially and, unfortunately, the image most foreigners have of Japanese people is based on them.

Masaru: Once kids graduate, they must support themselves. After they finished university, I didn't buy anything for my children. They are adults so they must support themselves completely. They paid for their wedding ceremonies from their own pockets.

Katsutoshi: I respect my father more than anyone in the world. Parents must be fair, and he is always that. And he is the greatest carpenter.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "Weekend Japanology" www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/japanology_e.html


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