No Name


This must be something that anybody thinks of at least once…
‘I want to go back to those days…’
(This is also the name of a song, isn’t it?)
Maybe I’m in such a mood because I’m looking through the album with pictures from the time that I graduated from high school. As I turn the thick pages full of memories, the shape of my mouth loosens into a smile. 'From the outside, this guy looks dangerous…' for some reason I was looking at myself objectively like that, while various memories were brought to life one after another, and all of a sudden I couldn’t help myself breaking into laughter.
Of course, my memories were all about those guys.
‘We were so stupid back then…’ While I was talking to myself like that, I smiled faintly and sighed.
When I say “those guys” I mean the friends with whom I spent three years at the height of my youth. Ike, Kattsu, Ryō. I was in the same class with these three, we had different kinds of hobbies, but for some reason we got along well and right after entering high school we became companions.
Ike was the typical delinquent; at the same time he had this face that looked like a bird’s nest that you don’t get to see very often, and, honestly put, he had that looks that says ‘No way we’re walking together’… However, although you couldn’t say from his appearance, he used to skip classes, but when it came to tests or during the lessons, he used to show the “top of the class”, some kind of genius side of his.
‘You probably study really hard at home, don’t you?’ when he was teased like that, he’d say ‘Don’t be ridiculous’, then his face would turn all red and he’d really get angry.
‘Why are you getting mad after all? Then, it must be an accident?’ And so on, everybody would make fun of him.
Kattsu played basketball until middle school, he even got to be chosen as best player of our prefecture, but when entering high school, he suddenly quit.
‘Nah, things like sports are OK when you’re a small boy. And I hate sweating, so…’ Using such reasons that made no sense, he even refused older students who invited him to their team, but because he used to run after the ball dripping with sweat during physical education classes, probably everybody thought to themselves ‘Oh, man, he really sweats a lot…’
Ryō was, generally speaking, a great fan of fashionable things, a guy with no limits. He was so absorbed in reading fashion magazines that almost anybody would have thought ‘Wow, if he studied just as much…’
‘These clothes are now the coolest!’ He would boast like that showing us the items that he was the first to buy, but even when he was slurping rāmen in the “Sukiya” from underground the Daiei building, he used to ignore everybody.
To summarize, we were a bunch of idiots.
As for the extent of our foolishness, it was extreme. Anyhow, even if we were students, during the three years of high school we never bought textbooks.
Oh, was I the only one?... Well, much the same.
It’s not that our families were poor; we did receive money from our parents for textbooks and pocket money, but before you even knew it, it turned into money for fun stuff like ‘game centers’, ‘karaoke’, ‘bowling’ and so on.
However, we never got in trouble. Because, well, if we didn’t show up at all at classes, we wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the next grade, and, when it came to crucial moments, we would borrow the textbooks from the guys in the other classes.
When I think of it now, I can say only ‘How foolish we were…’ and it’s almost as if I would scold the young me, but… in those times we never thought about the future.
‘Because you won’t live the days of youth a second time, you should enjoy the present moment with all your might!’ With this motto we used to idle around at home, idle in the park, idle at school. In any case we were living a life of idleness.

Speaking of our gathering spot, it was the room of the light music club. It’s not that we could actually play guitar or drums or anything, but right after entering high school, our homeroom teacher said in a prolonged voice: ‘You’ll have to do at least one extracurricular activity. That’s the rule, you know…’ And somehow the four of us wrote our names on the registration for joining the music club. The reason was simple – the club room was “the farthest away from the staff room”. Because all we cared about was not to be found by the teachers, we thought this place was perfect. It was an easy-going idea but, as we had expected, there really wasn’t any place cozier than this. The four of us usually watched TV in that room or played games or smoked. When there were no musical instruments around there, it turned into some kind of “my room”.
One day we reached a great crisis when the life of idleness that we were living took a sudden turn. We were watching TV as usual in the room, when Sugishita, the head of the club, showed up and said:
‘What? You guys again? By the way, what song are you playing at the next school festival?’
‘What’s he talking about?’ I wondered and when I exchanged looks with other three, Ike and Kattsu blinked their eyes and had a reaction like ‘Huh? What’s that?’, while Ryō went on reading his fashion magazine.
‘The four of you are playing together? Right, Ryō?’ When Sugishita called his name, Ryō took notice of the commotion and answered: ‘Huh? Oh, that’s right.’
‘Well, whatever. There’s not much time left, so you should actually practice, you know.’
That’s all he said, then changed into his uniform, wiped his mouth with his hand and went out in a rush closing the door after him.
‘Hey, what did he mean by that?’ At Ike’s question, Ryō replied: ‘Well, I’ve had this girlfriend lately, right? That’s why…’
‘That’s why, what?’
‘That’s why…I thought it were cool to tell her that I’d play in a band at the school festival.’
‘Huh??? So?’
‘So… Let’s do it, the four of us!’
After one moment of silence:
‘Are you nuts??? It’s not that we CAN do this, is it? None of us can play any instruments, we don’t even have them! I’m not doing this, no way’ said Ike, then Kattsu gave the final blow: ‘That’s right. And how about going on the stage without playing any instruments? Are we supposed to do gospel? Because, well, you can’t do it alone, right? Hahaha.’
At this I said: ‘No way, no way. Nooo waaay. How about doing karaoke by yourself?’
Thereupon, Ryō replied: ‘Actually… I already wrote your names on the list of performers, see…’
Now, needless to say, the three of us ganged up on Ryō and beat him up.
That day after school, although unwillingly, still together in a band, we gathered again in the club room because we didn’t even know where to start and, for the time being, we had to decide upon the roles, so, after exchanging arguments that it should be like this or like that, for the reason that it didn’t cost anything if we used the drum set in the club room, Ike would play the drums. On the pretext that he didn’t want to stand out too much, Kattsu would take the bass. As for me, because I had this electric guitar that my father used to play once, I would play guitar. Ryō was the only one who went: ‘Yes. Yes. I’ll take the vocals, ok? After all, I really stand out. And I’m good enough at singing, too, you know.’ He was raising his hand, full of willingness to announce his candidacy.

After we had established the parts, we reached the point when we had to decide upon the song that we were going to perform, so we mentioned the names of several bands that we knew, but we had no idea which one was easy to do; that’s when Kattsu showed us a band score that had fallen in his hands and said: ‘These are good, don’t you think? It seems pretty easy, too.’ But the title was “Pop music to play on the piano” and we all thought ‘It’s not even a band…’, so we sighed deeply again and, in the end, we asked Sugishita for advice. ‘Well…something like Mr.Children would be fine, right? I mean, everybody knows them and they’re not very difficult, you know. And we definitely have their score in the club room. Anyway, there’s only one more month until the performance, so you should practice as much as possible. I’m off to the studio, so see ya.’ After saying this, just as if he were completely unconcerned (well, he actually was unconcerned after all…), he put the nylon case with his guitar on his shoulder and left in high spirits.
We turned the shelves in the room upside down, looking for Mr.Children’s band score, while whispering “Mr.Children, Mr.Children, Mr.Children” all the time just like a strange incantation.
‘Aa, found it!’ The thing that Ryō was holding in his hands was the worn-out band score of Mr.Children. We picked the songs that we knew and somehow, on the criterion of “the slowest tempo”, we decided to perform the song “Tomorrow never knows”.
First of all, each of us took a copy of the score and, after it was decided that for a week we should practice individually, we went to our homes slightly depressed (except for Ryō, who had a smiling face), but on that occasion, the anger toward Ryō, who was thoroughly half optimistic, half irresponsible, with his all-fallen-in-love face, welled up once again. ‘We should really hit him again…’ we all thought, regretting that we didn’t.
The following week the four of us tried for the first time to synchronize the sounds but it was too early for it to sound like music, it was more like something far beyond the most annoying sound on earth, and it so happened that the advisor teacher, who never stepped in that room, came to us yelling:
‘Do that somewhere else!!’
‘All present!’ we jumped but, to ourselves: ‘Huh? Isn’t this the purpose of this room?’ Words whose meaning we couldn’t grasp were pouring on us, a terrible end to our attempt, and shrugging our shoulders, we thought ‘We can’t do it this way…’ and because we had no choice, we proceeded to the studio that the older students were using in order to do our practicing. There: ‘You guys are messing up the rhythm.’
‘What?? You guys for sure can’t even play instruments!’
In every practice spot we went to, we were spoken ill of, to the point it developed into something like “the great rally of harsh words”, so in the end Ryō said something like: ‘I…should maybe do karaoke…’, burdened by everybody’s anger towards him.
‘Well, isn’t it mainly your fault that it’s come to this?’
‘That’s right…We’re doing it for your sake.’
‘You and your damn clothes!’
We were even making him reproaches that had the least to do with the band, that’s why Ryō was this time completely miserable and said almost crying:
‘Come on, it’s going to be OK, one way or another.’
‘That’s right. Let’s do our best!’
‘Your clothes are the coolest!’
We cheered up, though we still didn’t know what it would become of us. Then Ryō went again: ‘Lately…I’m not getting along so well with her, see.’ He was complaining about the state of affairs with his girlfriend. As a result, the studio where we were supposed to be practicing was turned really fast into “consultation room for love situations” for Ryō. (Yup! We were complete idiots!)
Nonetheless the day of the festival was getting closer moment by moment… We were really in trouble, so, abiding our shame, we clung to the older students and, three days before the festival, we did some progress in that our song was, well, in a state that could be listened to.

On the day of the festival it had been decided that we should perform first. It was Sugishita, the head of the club, who decided the order. ‘It’ll probably be easier for you if there aren’t many people in the audience’, he told us; in conclusion, it was obvious that the directions were nothing but his unspoken demand to “finish quickly and spare us from too much shame”.
We were all thinking ‘Damn it! We’re going to make fools of ourselves and we’re even going to show you!’, but at the same time we thought ‘Ah, thank you. We appreciate it’, because we really were pitiable.
The four of us gathered in the room in the morning and practiced for the last time. We were entering the stage soon, when Ike asked:
‘By the way, the name of our band isn’t decided yet, is it?’
This obvious matter had slipped everybody’s mind.
‘Ah, right. We never thought about it’ said Kattsu.
And then, feeling the signs of the usual foolish atmosphere around us streaming away, I said: ‘Ah, then, then, how’s this? There’s no band with such a name, so “No Name”.’
It was the first thing that crossed my mind, but surprisingly everybody said: ‘That’s pretty cool. No Name.’
‘Yeah, I think so too.’
‘Ok, then we’re “No Name”.’
So, without a hitch, the name of our band was decided. By the time we were roused like that, we heard the voice of our club leader: ‘You’re on, guys.’
The result was as follows: in the audience there were four people, our performance lasted almost five minutes (this included Ryō’s lousy MC) and, because of the nervousness, I put too much effort into it, so two strings of my guitar ended up broken. Because of the same nervousness, Kattsu dropped three picks. And when one of Ike’s sticks slipped because of the sweat, in the blink of an eye, this put an end to our terrible first live, together with the sparse round of applause. However, having tasted the excitement of going on the stage, the exhilaration and the feeling of achievement, our foolish band “No Name” took part in the next year’s festival, too, then also in the next, so, when I look back, we spent three years doing nothing but the band.
After the last performance of our high school life, the four of us thought: ‘Let’s mark something with the name of our band.’ We carved “No Name” on the trunk of the cherry tree that was right in front of the school’s main entrance, and then took pictures there.
Afterwards we took different paths in life; however, for better or for worse, it was undoubtedly true that we had spent “days of youth that we’ll never live again”, that’s why even now I love to recall occasionally the memories of that time which are printed in my heart.
It occurs to me only now but I think the name of our band – No Name – was a pretty accurate expression of the time of our youth. It’s hard to put in words or to find a name for what you feel when you are young. Immature and smelling of sweat, but somehow because of that, a time like a gust of wind doesn’t need such a thing as a name.
Right because of that, so that the heart should never forget, it comes unexpectedly to your mind.
Even now the time of our youth may still be engraved as “No Name” on that cherry tree as a memory for eternity. While thinking about these things, I reach out to the phone and dial the numbers that I miss so much.
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