This column ran a couple weeks ago, but I actually forgot to post it. It’s not very timely now, and Kotaku already translated/relayed the more important pieces, but seeing as this is a full translation of the column, I figured it’s better to post it than not.
An Eternal Farewell
Think About the Video Games, vol. 484
July 16th and 17th, 2015. I went to Mr. Iwata’s wake and funeral. The location was the Okazaki branch temple. It was during the Yoiyama of the Gion Matsuri, and heavy traffic was expected. Before the death was publicly announced, I quickly reserved a hotel.
At funerals, you refuse all kouden.1 I personally felt rather unsettled, but in Kansai not bringing any kouden is apparently typical. It may depend on the situation, but at this kind of gathering, even checking in may take too much time.
For some reason, the mourning clothing2 I’d bought previously was far too big on me, and my body shape and come to resemble the late Mr. Iwata’s. I’d never gained that much weight, though…I hurriedly bought clothes for the funeral, and was off to a busy start.
Because of the typhoon, the wake took place in heavy, slanting sheets of rain. During the funeral service, it was raining so hard it was as if buckets of water were being poured on us. Many people got their mourning clothes soaked. When it rains at scenes like this, you hear sayings that liken the rain to tears, but it’s not that contrived. If these are tears, then not just your eyes, but your entire body would dry up.
For the wake, I was placed into the first waiting line, so I moved very quickly. At the funeral, I was added to the visitor seats to the left of the altar. To my right were family, and the visitor seats were extremely limited, only for very important friends. That being said, there weren’t many game developers. The only ones I could recognize were Mr. Shigesato Itoi, Mr. Tsunekazu Ishijara, and Yuji Horii.
Usually in these situations, your eyes are drawn to the photograph of the deceased. Surrounded by flowers, Mr. Iwata was smiling in his portrait and it was a great photograph.
However, I kept my eyes on the casket. Inside there was a Mr. Iwata’s body, never to move again. He was probably dressed in white clothing, his glasses removed, his nose filled with padding. And today, even that body will be burned and disappear. Mr. Iwata will cease to exist in this world.
It looked like it was okay to leave after burning your incense, so the open spots at the visitor seats began to stand out. However, I wanted to stay as long as possible, so I did so. When I thought that this would be the last time I could be with Mr. Iwata, I wanted to stay there, even if it was just a little bit longer.
An extremely large number of people came to burn incense and offer their prayers. I couldn’t see outside, but there was most likely a long line of people within this massive downpour. I saw some familiar faces that I hadn’t seen in 10 or more years. Of course we had chances to talk, and we should have had happy things to talk about, but here, I didn’t know what kind of face to make.
Many people, specifically those close to Mr. Iwata, talked about how they didn’t really feel as if they understood the reality that they’d never be able to meet Mr. Iwata again. I feel the same.
In a previous column (vol. 372), I wrote about my point of view, that when a person dies, that’s simply a single character disappearing, but to that person, their entire world disappears. However, even for others, Mr. Iwata had a presence that was too great to simply call him a character in their story, I think.
While leaving behind a large presence to those around him, Mr. Iwata’s world has gone. But even so, our world continues on.
I won’t mourn, or become depressed. I will work at my current job, fully and completely. Finishing what I have now is all I can offer.3
1. Kouden is a Japanese tradition of bringing money to the deceased family.
2. Mourning dress has a specific word in Japanese, called mofuku. It is the same dress as in the West, basically black formal attire.
3. In the original Japanese, the word “手向け,” “tamuke,” is used, which is explicitly used to mean “offering to someone’s spirit, someone who has passed away, or to a deity.” I just couldn’t think of a way to translate this sentence without explicitly saying something like “all I can offer to you,” because he doesn’t really directly list a subject. Of course, he is talking about Iwata, but I decided to go with I have here. But in case you have any doubts, he is talking to or about Iwata.