Tuesday 17th July: Eri.

“…thou art pleasant, gamesome, passing courteous.”

I received the news from Gregg today, the bad news we have been expecting and yet hoping not to hear. Eri, the ebullient “Mahjong Queen” of the “Cock’s-eye” club departed this life in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Eri was one of the best students of English that I have taught in my time in Japan. She combined an intelligent grasp of the language with a love of using it in class and out. Private classes were never dull; it was simply a matter of relaxing in one’s chair and letting Eri go wherever she wished with her chatter and offering a few guidelines here and there as she flowed along. Whether we were engaged in general conversation or preparing for exams with chunks of complex text did not seem to matter; everything was heartfelt with Eri.

Her horizons were broad but darkened with great banks of clouds, yet her sun was never completely obscured, her sky never entirely overcast.

Her favourite foreign writer was Checkhov and the last time I saw her I gave her my copy of his short stories in English in the hope that she would be able to have her visitors read to her if she wished. I had brought the book back from England in January as Eri had requested that we discuss Checkhov in the private classes that she was hoping to renew. As it was, she managed to take just one class.

As it was, all the time she was able to receive visitors she entertained like a queen in her court; she was assailed by pain and fatigue but never complained (although she seemed to enjoy contradicting her mother in front of the nurse). She chatted brightly when she could, with a gamesome spirit and without any expression of self pity. She assessed her own fate with equanimity, both her past life, and the time that remained to her, and showed all her accustomed interest in the fortunes of her friends. The last time I saw her she said she hoped she would “last until the summer” but doubted that she would be able to make it to a summer beer garden party. I had not realized how close this wretched summer was.

The first time Eri was admitted to hospital she asked me to read something from the Book of Common Prayer when I visited. I happily agreed to that, neither seeking nor expecting in the least to effect a conversion. Eri, cosmopolitan in many ways, was emphatically and patriotically Japanese and therefore, as she would say, a Buddhist.

Her favourite Japanese writer was Dazai Osamu.

At the mahjong table Eri’s chatter would often be to the detriment of her game and her method of play was at times unconventional and not a few times did she have to be chivvied into discarding a tile, but above all her chief qualities in the mahjong parlour and elsewhere were that she was pleasant, gamesome and passing courteous.

David Hurley