Before we eat a meal in Japan, we always say “Itadakimasu” which means thank you for a meal and I am gratitude all food which were provided by someone and receiving life from food.
I’d like to share is a Japanese story that became the basis of the picture book written by Doctor MichikoUchida of the Uchida Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic called, “ReceivingLife.
I’d like to introduce this story to you, in hope that you will read this picture book aloud to your family especially to your own children.
Sakamoto-san works at a meat processing factory.
His work is to kill cows and to pack the meat. Sakamoto-san never liked his job. If no one killed cows, there will be no meat for people to eat. That is why he understood his job was important. But every time he looked into the eyes of the cows he had to kill, he disliked his job even more. “Someday I will quit. Someday I will quit..”That’s all he thought as he worked. Sakamoto-san’s child is in third grade.
His name is Shinobu-kun. One day, there was a notice from the boy’s Elementary school about Parents’ Day. Up until then, Shinobu-kun’s mother always attended the event, but this year, this year,
she was busy and could not go. Sakamoto-san decided to go in her place. The day for parents to visit their children’s classrooms arrived. “Will Shinobu be able to raise his hand and answer properly?”
Sakamoto-san entered the school gate with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. The class was learning about “DifferentProfessions” that day. The teacher asked each student in the class,
“Do you know your father’s -or your mother’s -profession? ”“What kind of work does that profession involve?”As Shinobu-kun’s turn approached, Sakamoto-san realized he had never explained his work in detail to his son. He worried about how his son would answer the question. Shinobu-kun replied in a small voice, “A meat shop. Just an ordinary meat shop.”Sakamoto-san whispered quietly to himself, “Oh.”When Shinobu-kun returned home from school that day, Sakamoto-san was reading the newspaper. “If you didn’t do what you do, Daddy,
there wouldn’t be any meat for people to eat, right?”Sakamoto-san wondered why his son was asking such a thing and just repeated the question.
Shinobu-kun explained that his teacher had called him aside at the end of class and asked him, “Sakamoto, why did you say your father ran an ordinary meat shop?”
“Because it’s embarrassing. I saw him once…all covered in blood. It’s embarrassing.” “Sakamoto,
if your father didn’t do what he does, nobody would be able to eat meat. Not me, not you, not the schoolmaster, and not the company CEO, no matter how big the company is. Your father has an admirable job.” Shinobu-kun explained all this rather quickly to his father and added, “Your job is admirable!”
When Sakamoto-san heard these words, he thought to himself that perhaps he should continue his job a little longer. One day, Sakamoto-san was taking a break in the factory office after a long day. A truck entered the gates of the factory. The truck carried cows that were going to be killed the next day. As Sakamoto-san gazed at the truck and thought of the cows dying tomorrow, a girl of about ten came out from the passenger seat.
She immediately ran back to the cows. “Isn’t that dangerous?” thought Sakamoto-san.
He kept on watching the truck but since the girl did not reappear, he became worried and walked out to the truck. That was when he heard the girl talking to a cow. “Mii-chan, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
Grandpa says the new year won’t come unless you become meat.
He says our family can’t live if we don’t sell you off.
I’m sorry, Mii-chan. I’m so sorry.”The girl gently rubbed the cow’s stomach as she explained this to the cow. Sakamoto-san thought to himself, “Oh dear, I didn’t want to see that.”
The girl’s grandfather climbed out from the driver’s seat and bowed to Sakamoto-san. “Sakamoto-san, Mii-chan, and this girl grew up together. That is why we wanted to keep Mii-chan.
But unless we sell Mii-chan, we can’t buy this girl her Christmas present, and we certainly cannot give her money for the new year.
So please, take care of Mii-chan tomorrow.”Sakamoto-san thought to himself, “I must quit this job.
I cannot do it any longer.”And he thought of taking the day off the next day.
Sakamoto-san returned home and told Shinobu-kun about Mii-chan and the little girl.
“I can’t kill Mii-chan, so I’m thinking of taking the day off tomorrow.”
Shinobu-kun acknowledged this with a “Hm.” and returned to watching TV.
That night, Sakamoto-san was taking a bath with Shinobu-kun as he always did.
As Shinobu-kun washed his father’s back, he said, “Dad, I think you should do it.
If somebody else – someone who didn’t care – killedMii-chan, the cow will suffer.
You should do it for Mii-chan.”Sakamoto-san listened intently, but his decision remained unchanged.
The next morning, Sakamoto-san waited for Shinobu-kun to go to school.
“I’m off!”Sakamoto-san heard his son’s cheerful voice and the sound of the door shutting.
Suddenly, the door opened again and Shinobu-kun shouted, “Dad, you have to go today. OK?”
Sakamoto-san replied with an OK
before he even had time to think about it. Having heard his father’s response,
Shinobu-kun ran off to school. “Uh-oh, you promised the boy. Now you have to go.” said his wife.
Sakamoto-san headed to work with a heavy heart. The heaviness did not go away even after he arrived at work. Since he was a bit early, he went to see Mii-chan. When he entered the cowshed, Mii-chan lowered her horns – as all cows do -as if to intimidateSakamoto-san.
For a moment, Sakamoto-san did know what to do, but he gently raised his hand and Mii-chan gradually began to sniff it. Sakamoto-san said, “Miichan, I’m sorry.
If you don’t become meat, there will be trouble for everyone. I’m sorry.”
Mii-chan let his head be grazed by Sakamoto-san’s hand. Sakamoto-san then rubbed the cow’s stomach, as he has seen the girl do, and explained, “Mii-chan, you’re going to have to be still.
If you move, I’ll miss the fatal spot and you’ll suffer longer than you have to.
So please, be still.”The time came to kill the cows and to pack the meat.
Sakamoto-san said once again, “Don’t move. Mii-chan, be still.”
Mii-chan remained still. That was when a tear ran down from Mii-chan’s large eye. It was the first time Sakamoto-san saw a cow cry. When Sakamoto-san placed a gun-like instrument to the cow’s head,
Mii-chan fell down and lay still. In most cases, the cows sense alarm and move their heads.
When the fatal spot is missed, they suffer awhile even after they fall. The next day, the grandfather of the girl came back to the meat processing factory. “Sakamoto-san, thank you very much.
Yesterday, we received some of the meat and ate it together. My grandchild refused to eat. I told her,
‘It is because of Mii-chan that we are all able to live on. Eat. Be grateful to Mii-chan and eat.
That is how we can honor Mii-chan.’The girlsaid, ‘Mii-chan, Itadakimasu. It’s good. It’s good.’Sakamoto-san, thank you so very much.” Sakamoto-san thought to himself that
he would continue this job a little longer.