Eyewitness: Masato, age 7, Elementary school student
I go to Gramma's when school lets out. I can't go home, least not right
away. My Momma's still at work then and she doesn't want me all alone at
home. She says maybe in a couple of years when I'm in fourth grade I can
go home all by myself. But for right now I have to go to Gramma's.
That's okay, though. I know Momma has to work hard now that Poppa's
gone to Heaven and she can't be at home when I get there like she wants
to. So I don't mind going to Gramma's. It's closer to school than home
so I don't got to walk too long to get there.
But that's not the only reason. See, Gramma lets me watch my favorite
TV show before I got to do my homework. Momma won't let me do anything
until it's all done. Gramma says it's a secret. But I know what she means.
I wouldn't tell Momma.
My favorite TV show is called Ursa Man. It's totally cool, the best
show I ever seen. It's about this guy, Commander Akira Urashima. He's the
leader of the Global Armored Science Patrol. They protect the Earth against
this evil alien from the Dark Nebula named Drakkma.
Drakkma wants to rule the Earth, so he uses his magic powers to make
giant monsters out of stuff like refrigerators and rice cookers. The Global
Armored Science Patrol always tries to fight them off, but the monsters
always win. They're all too big and strong.
But Commander Akira has a neat secret. See, he can use the Star Polarizer,
which he found in a crash-landed alien spaceship, to become a giant monster
fighter, Ursa Man. Ursa Man is really cool looking. He has a brown and
black battle suit and his helmet looks like a bear with glowing eyes.
I been watching Ursa Man ever since it came on TV back when I was in
first grade. But nobody at my school likes Ursa Man like me. Momma bought
me the Star Polarizer toy for my birthday and I took it to school in my
book bag. I wanted to show it to all my friends. This one boy saw it and
he said Ursa Man is for babies.
That was Satoshi. He's in my grade even though he's a year older and
he gets in trouble at school with the teachers a lot because he's a big
bully. He picks on the kids smaller than him. He picked on me, too, since
I'm smaller than just about anybody. I used to walk to school down this
one street because it was faster. But then one day I saw Satoshi going
that way, too. Now I go the long way.
When Satoshi saw my Star Polarizer, he said to give it to him, he wanted
a closer look at it. But I didn't trust him. I seen him do keep-away with
others kids and this one time on the playground he broke a toy a girl'd
brought for show and tell. When a teacher came over to see why she was
all crying, he got in a lot of trouble. Satoshi kept saying he didn't mean
to but the teacher took him to the principal's office anyway. I think he
was lying, too. I seen him smile when he went away.
So when he asked me, I put my Star Polarizer in my book bag and wouldn't
let him see it and then when he got mad I ran away. I never took it to
school again, but Satoshi always made fun of me anyway. He called me Ursa
Baby real loud so others could hear and his friends always laughed.
I told my Gramma about it and she said I should just never mind him.
I tried but it didn't work. Whenever he called my name, I pretend like
I didn't hear. But instead of him not bothering me, Satoshi got louder.
It would have been easier if he knew the rules. I think it's too bad you
can't get in trouble for that. People ignored should stay ignored, neh?
I was at Gramma's watching Ursa Man when the news came on about Godzilla.
I knew he'd been spotted somewhere because there was a little yellow circle
in the corner of the TV across from where it said the station number. There's
four colors. I know them by heart because Momma and Gramma said I should.
There's green, blue, yellow, and red colors. They all mean stuff, but I
only knew that red was really, really bad.
It was getting to the good part in the show. Drakkma had made a giant
monster out of a soda pop machine and it was messing up the city. The GASP
Team tried to stop it but the monster was too strong for them like always.
So Commander Akira was going to turn into Ursa Man.
Whenever he changed, he always said, "Unleash the Beast! Transform...
Ursa Man!" I liked saying it with him, so I got up and held out my Star
Polarizer. But then just as he started to say it, all of a sudden the TV
picture changed and I was standing there by myself.
There was a bunch of words on the screen that I couldn't read. The yellow
circle in the corner had gone red. That was scary. I'd never seen it go
red for real before. Then a voice said, "We interrupt this regularly scheduled
broadcast for an emergency message." I guessed maybe that's what all the
I called Gramma in the kitchen. She asked me what was wrong, and I said
back she should come look at the TV, there was something on. She came in
and knelt down beside me and we watched together.
Two news people were sitting behind a desk, talking. I asked Gramma
what was going on but she told me to shush up, so I did. Then a picture
of Godzilla came up and I really felt scared. Because it isn't like the
monsters on Ursa Man. I know what's real and make believe. Godzilla's real.
In a little bit, Gramma said to get my coat on. She said we had to go
to the shelter where she was supposed to go when stuff like this happened.
Everybody has their own place. Me and Momma have ours and Gramma has hers.
Gramma said she'd call Momma and tell her what we were going to do.
She went back into the kitchen while I put on my coat and got all my homework
in my book bag. I remembered I'd left the Star Polarizer by the TV and
I went to get it.
The picture of Godzilla was still on the screen. He didn't look cool
like the monsters on Ursa Man. They were really colorful and they had cool
claw hands and horns on their heads and stuff. Some times they jumped around
and said silly things. Godzilla didn't look silly. He looked kind of ugly.
He was black, with charcoal gray down the middle and a row of white spikes
on his back and dirty yellow colored horns on his head. On Ursa Man, all
the giant monster had glowing eyes. Godzilla's eyes were dark and mean,
sort of how Satoshi's eyes get when he doesn't like someone.
I held up the Star Polarizer the way Akira does when he transforms into
Ursa Man, and then I said, real soft, so Gramma couldn't hear, "Unleash
the Beast... transform... Ursa Man..."
But saying it didn't sound cool right then. And when I pressed the trigger
on the bottom, the Star Polarizer didn't light up the way it did on the
show and it didn't make the same noise. Even with new batteries, it never
did like on TV. It wasn't real. It was just a toy.
Gramma called me from the kitchen. Momma was on the phone. Momma said
I should be a good boy and do what Gramma says. I asked her if she was
going to our shelter, but she said no. She was still at work and people
in her building had their own place to go to in the basement. She said
she'd be all right and would see me soon when it was all over.
I handed the phone back to Gramma. She talked for a little more and
said goodbye. Gramma checked around the apartment for lights and gas and
stuff and then got her coat and bag and we left.
We weren't the only ones going to the shelters. There were a lot of
other people going, too. The streets were full of cars. Some people were
honking horns and yelling but mostly nobody said a lot. We walked past
a koban. There were some people there and the policeman was trying to answer
all the questions they were asking.
Usually when something bad happens like an earthquake or a typhoon,
there are places you're supposed to go to, like a middle school or high
school where you can get information about shelters and supplies or when
you're hurt or looking for somebody. Momma and Gramma and I had an emergency
plan to go to a nearby middle school if I was ever alone when a bad thing
happened. That was so they knew where to look for me and they made sure
that I knew it by heart just like the warning colors on TV.
But this time, Gramma and I didn't go there. She knew which shelter
to go to and it wasn't much farther away. It was in the basement of a department
store building. Outside, a man with a yellow hat and vest was in the doorway.
He was waving a red light stick like people directing traffic around a
car accident, except he was making people go into the building. In the
store, there were even more people with light sticks showing the way to
The stairs were really steep and cracked some, so Gramma and me had
to hold the rail. In the basement were some big doors. They were wide open
so people could get in easy. A man and woman with yellow hats and light
sticks stood along the sides.
When Gramma and me went past them, I heard the woman say, "199...200..."
Then the man said, "50 more, only 50 more..."
The woman said, "Hai! 202...203...204..."
I always go with Momma to our shelter. I been to Gramma's one time before
and I didn't like it. Momma's shelter was real nice inside. There were
chairs to sit on and in the corner was a place where the kids could go
if the Shelter Monitor said it was okay. You could even bring a game and
play if you were quiet and didn't bother anybody.
Gramma's shelter wasn't so nice. It was dark and smelled like the closet
where Gramma had all her old clothes she don't wear no more. It was big
inside but not so much when lots of people were in there and you were always
bumping into others and apologizing. When it got all full inside, you could
even tell who had taken a bath and who hadn't. Yucky.
Gramma said she didn't mind. She said that she went to a shelter just
like that when she was younger even than me. I guessed that's why Gramma
didn't mind if it smelled or not. I was glad Gramma liked it but I still
liked Momma's shelter better.
There weren't any chairs in Gramma's shelter. You could only sit on
the floor. There were some cots all along one wall, but they were for old
people and sick people to lay down on. The floor was okay for a little
while. It wasn't dirty really, but when I touched it I felt I still should
wash my hands. It was hard too, so when you sat on it for a long time,
you hurt your butt.
The Shelter Monitors at Gramma's place didn't like it when anybody moved
around. You had to sit down in rows and stay there. They didn't even like
when you talked too much. Some people took their pets to Momma's shelter
but Gramma's was for people only.
One of the Monitors told Gramma to go over by the wall, so we went there.
There was a small place between two families and that's where we sat down.
After a while I heard someone at the door say real loud, "Capacity!" Then
the doors closed shut.
The lady Monitor from the door went to stand in the front of the room.
She told everyone to be quiet and then she told us all the rules for the
shelter. Everyone had to listen to her. I asked Gramma what would happen
if you didn't obey all the rules because no one ever told me. She said
they would write down your name and you would get in trouble with the police
if you didn't.
When the lady Monitor was done with the rules, she talked with the other
Monitors. In a little while, one of the men went over to the cots to check
on the old people. The other Monitors went down the rows, answering questions
I looked around to see if there were any other kids there. I saw some
but nobody I knew and they weren't doing much of anything. Most were sleeping
with their Momma's or Daddy's.
You couldn't play games at Gramma's shelter like at Momma's. I saw some
kids brought toy cars and army men and stuff, but in secret. I took a Ursa
Man figure the one time before I was there. You had to watch out because
if the Monitors saw they might take your toys away. I only had the Star
Polarizer this time so I wasn't going to show it around. I heard sometimes
if they take your toys they forget and don't give them back.
I wasn't too sleepy right then so I asked Gramma if it was okay to do
homework. She said to go ahead. So I got out my math book and did that.
I like most of the things we do in school but I'm not so good at math,
so I try extra hard to get good grades at it. Momma says my getting good
grades in school help her out most of all, more than my doing chores even.
So I really try my hardest at things I'm not so good at.
I worked on my homework for a long time. Gramma helped a little, but
mostly she leaned back against the wall with her eyes closed. Gramma got
tired a lot. Sometimes when I wanted her to see something cool on Ursa
Man, I'd look back on the couch and she'd gone to sleep and missed it.
When I finished my math, I had to go to the bathroom. I got Gramma awake
and told her.
In Momma's shelter there was like a stoplight on the wall, except it
was turned sideways. When the green light was on, it was okay to talk and
go to the bathrooms without asking first. When it was yellow, you were
supposed to ask if you had to go. But on red, you couldn't go, even if
you had to real bad. When it was red, all the kids had to be quiet or the
monitors would tell to your parents.
At Gramma's shelter, you had to raise your hand first to do anything.
If it was to go to the bathroom, you had to make sure the Monitors saw
because sometimes they didn't until it was almost too late and you couldn't
run at all, even to the bathroom.
I raised my hand and in a little bit one of the Monitors saw me. He
walked down the rows to get over to where we were. They never cut through,
but always went the long way around to where you were. That was another
rule in Gramma's shelter. You couldn't cut through the rows.
The Monitor looked at Gramma and said, "What's the matter?"
Gramma said, "He has to go to the restroom."
"Do you know the way?" the man said to me.
"Okay," said the man. "You can go."
The bathroom doors were at the front. There was one both for boys and
girls. But sometimes you still had to stand in line outside when lots of
people had to all go at the same time. Good for me, there was no line now,
I walked down the row to get there just like you're supposed to. Some
people looked up at me as I went by and some didn't. I tried not to look
back, but the ones that I did see looked tired like Gramma. Some kids and
babies were crying a little. That didn't bother me much, though, because
some were always crying, and they had Mommies and Daddies and older brothers
and sisters to make them feel okay. But what I didn't like was that some
of the grown-ups were crying too, kind of in a quiet way, and I felt bad
for them most of all. I wished I could make them not so scared, only I
didn't know how to.
When I got close to the bathroom door, I saw a boy sitting in the corner.
I thought maybe I knowed him from somewhere but his head was up on his
legs so I couldn't see his face, just a messy haircut, like he hadn't combed
in a long time. His pants had a big tear in the knee and there was an ugly
scab on his elbow. A man and a woman were sitting near to him, like they
were his family. Only I wasn't so sure they were because they weren't talking
or looking at him at all.
The boy looked up before I went into the bathroom and I saw his face.
It was Satoshi, the bully from school who always called me Ursa Baby and
made fun of me. I didn't think I'd ever see him at Gramma's shelter. Satoshi
saw me looking over and waved a little at me. I didn't know what to do,
so I waved a little back.
When I went inside the boy's bathroom, I saw Satoshi do a quick look
around and then get up. I thought maybe he was coming in too, even though
he didn't ask first. So when the door closed, I ran for a stall even though
I only had to go pee.
I was right. Satoshi came in right after me. I saw him just as I closed
shut the stall door. Then I heard him taking a pee. I didn't feel I had
to go so bad after I saw him so I sat on the toilet and didn't say anything.
When he was done, he flushed, and then he scared me by knocking on the
stall I was in.
He said, "You come here, too, huh?"
I said, "Yeah."
"You here with your parents?"
"My Momma works late. She went to another shelter at work."
"Huh. So... you here by yourself?"
"Uh uh. My Gramma. I came here with my Gramma. This is her shelter."
"Oh. I thought... maybe you were here by yourself... or something."
"Uh uh. My Gramma."
I didn't say anything.
Then he said, "Well, see ya around, huh?"
"Yeah. See ya."
I heard the bathroom door open and close. Then I went pee and washed
my hands and left.
The door to the bathroom was right by the table where the Monitors sat
when they weren't walking around the shelter. The man and woman from the
door were standing there. They were whispering to each other when I came
out. They didn't see me. I didn't mean to hear, but I did.
"What's the word?" said the man.
"It's in Shibuya," said the woman.
"Don't know. Communications are getting spotty."
"Let's hope it doesn't come this way."
"Yeah. Hope so."
Then they saw a couple of people raise their hands and they went to
see what they wanted. I looked over at the corner and I saw Satoshi looking
over at me. He'd heard them talking too, but he didn't say anything to
me. He just put his head on his knees again and made like he was sleeping
I went back to sit with Gramma. I didn't say anything to her about what
I'd heard. But I sort of knew what they were saying. Gramma and I went
to Shibuya one time. We took a train because it was so far away. Where
Momma worked was far away from Shibuya too, but she was closer than us.
We live in Nerima ward. That's a far ways away from where Godzilla usually
goes. Gramma said one time it's the safest place in all Tokyo since it
never goes there. When I asked why, she said it's because the yakitori
is too spicy and it upsets his tummy, just like me. But I knew she was
just making fun.
I don't know why Godzilla doesn't come there, but I'm glad anyway. In
first grade, we had a new student who came from a place where it did go
almost all the time he showed up. One day, he told us about it on the playground.
It was scary when he said it and I had bad dreams for nearly a whole week.
One of my friends in school said if you closed your eyes and if you
held your breath and if you listened hard, sometimes you could hear the
monster even from real far away. One time in Momma's shelter I tried it,
just like he said to. It was hard to hear anything with all the people
talking all around. But then in a while, I did.
Like counting to the thunder after lightning? Except it was all thunder?
Sorta like that a little. But I wasn't so sure if what I heard was real,
or if maybe it was me thinking it was real. It might have been my heart,
because I was scared when I did it, real scared. And I never did it again.
In a while, Gramma asked if I was hungry. I always have dinner at Gramma's
but we had to come to the shelter so we didn't have it this time. I told
her I was, a little. She pulled out a box from her big bag. She said she
had made it for my lunch the next day, but it was all right to eat it now.
She'd just make another when we got back to her place.
Gramma's bento is the best ever in the world. I still like Momma's bento
too, but she's real busy with work. Sometimes her bento don't look good
like Gramma's does. Momma's bento still taste good though, and I always
eat them all up. It's just, there's sometimes when they don't look so good.
I lifted off the metal lid and took a deep smell and my mouth got all
watery. That's my favorite part of eating bento, when you first open it
and all the trapped smells come out all at once. I think that's as good
as watching Ursa Man, except in a different way.
In Gramma's bento, everything was neat and had it's own place. In one
part was fried egg and cut-up shrimp that was so sweet, it was better than
any candy. There were fava beans and lots of my most favorite veggies wrapped
in slices of eel with thick tare sauce. Another part had chicken teriyaki
and fried bean curd filled with veggies or potato or pumpkin. And there
were mushrooms and soft octopus balls and rice and so much other stuff.
Gramma made it all look so good, you almost didn't want to eat it, but
just stare at it, like staring would fill up your stomach. And I did like
always, but looking at the bento didn't make me feel good this time. It
made me feel bad.
Gramma saw me and said, "What's the matter? Aren't you hungry?"
I shook my head. "No, that's not it."
"Then what is it?"
If I turned a little this way and that way, I could sometimes see Satoshi
through all the people in the way. He was still over on the other side.
The more I looked, the more I didn't think the man and the woman sitting
next to him were his Momma and Daddy. More I felt he was there all alone.
Whenever Godzilla came, people got scared. Even in shelters, even in
places where it doesn't go all the time, people still got scared. I got
scared too, but not so much when Gramma was with me. Even when I was at
Momma's shelter, it wasn't so scary then either, because Momma was there
too. But then I thought, what if they weren't? What if I was all alone?
Would it be scarier then with no one else around?
I said, "Gramma? When I went to the bathroom before, I saw someone from
school. I think he's here all by himself. Would it be all right if I asked
him over so he could have some of your bento too?"
Gramma smiled and patted me on the head. She said, "You are such a good
boy." I liked when Gramma said stuff like that. It made me feel all bright
and warm inside. She nodded and said, "Go ahead."
I held up my hand until a Monitor saw and came over. "Can I go talk
to a friend of mine? He's way over in the corner."
The lady made a face and I thought sure she was going to say no. But
Gramma said, "Please? It's a classmate of his. He came alone. We'd like
to invite him to sit with us and have something to eat."
The lady looked at Gramma and me and then the bento. I held it up so
she could see it better and she looked like she got all watery in the mouth,
"Well," she said, "I guess it's okay. As long as he's alone."
"Thank you." I got up.
"Masato-chan?" Gramma said. She reached in her bag and pulled out another
box just like the first one. "I made two bento. Your friend can have the
I smiled. I loved my Gramma so much. "Okay! I'll tell him!"
I went over to the corner where Satoshi was. He still looked like he
was asleep, but I could see his fingers and feet moving a little so I knew
he really wasn't. I sat down next to him and he looked up.
He said, "You? What do you want?"
I didn't want to say I knew he was alone. I thought he might get angry
or something and not come over with me.
"My Gramma made two bento before we came here. We can't eat it all,
so I wanted to know if you maybe wanted to come over and have some with
"Really?" he said.
"Well, sure, I guess. If you can't eat it all. I am kind of hungry."
I smiled. "You can stay with us too, if you want."
Satoshi grinned. "Okay. I will."
We got up to go and then Satoshi said, "Wait a sec, I forgot sumpthin'."
He went back and picked up a book bag.
"What's that?" I asked.
He showed me. "Buncha comics I brought to read. And my GameGuy."
"You have a GameGuy?"
Satoshi smiled. "Yeah. Wanna see?"
He handed it over to me. There's four colors of GameGuys, red, blue,
black, and see-thru so you can see inside it. Satoshi had the see-thru
kind. It was neat to see how it all was put together. I turned it over
to see what he was playing and saw it was the Ursa Man fighting game!
I looked at him. "You got this, too?"
"Yeah. Got it a couple a days ago. It's pretty cool. You like Ursa Man,
right? You ever play it?"
I shook my head. I didn't have a GameGuy yet. I always wanted one but
especially when the Ursa Man game came out for it. Momma said she'd get
me one for my next birthday if my grades were good. But she said that last
year and my grades were good then too and I still didn't get one.
"I'll show you how to play it," said Satoshi.
I smiled. "Okay. I read that there's a way to play as Drakkma?"
Satoshi nodded. "There's a secret code. But I know that, too."
We went back to the other side of the shelter. Gramma was watching when
we got there.
I said, "Gramma? This is Satoshi. Satoshi, this is my Gramma."
Satoshi made a bow. "Pleased to meet you."
Gramma smiled. "Pleased to meet you, Satoshi. Would you like some bento?"
Satoshi looked at me and then at her. "Yes, please."
So we sat down and we ate Gramma's bento and later on Satoshi showed
me his comics and how to play the Ursa Man game. Satoshi was better than
me, but he showed me the special moves and the tricks and I even got to
put in my name when I got a high score.
I never asked him if he was scared sitting all alone over in the corner.
But I know he wasn't when he was sitting with me and Gramma. I felt good
One time, I saw Gramma looking at me while we played. She smiled and
I smiled back. Nobody felt scared when they were with my Gramma, because
she's the best ever in the world, just like her bento is too.