Chapter 1:

The Settling Sun.

The Settling Sun

Brian, an American visiting Japan, strolls through the residential streets of Nagoya pulling a large suitcase behind. When he reaches a home with the nameplate reading Tanaka, he stops to stretch, then admires the sight of the house.

"Honey, we’ve made it,” he speaks to his luggage. “This is your home. Was it just like this when you were a kid? I love the traditional and modern blend of style.”

He presses the front gate’s buzzer and waits for a response. Before long, the front door is unlocked and opened, revealing a short lady of middle age squinting at him. 

Brian bows his head, then speaks nervously in Japanese. “Hello! I am Brian. Nice to meet you.”

The lady gasps, then quickly comes to the gate to unlock it and let him in.

Once inside, Brian slips off his shoes and carefully places them down before following the older lady into the living room. Inside, an older man sits on a couch, engrossed in the television. A closed butsudan in the far corner catches his eye.

The older man turns to Brian. “Ah, you've arrived. Thank goodness.”

Brian bows. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Tanaka. I'm quite honored.”

“Ah-ha, you're a good man, Brian, and your Japanese is impressive.”

“Thank you, Mr. Tanaka.”

“Please, call me Father. Feel free to explore the house. Mother will guide you.”

Mother, the older lady, gestures for Brian to follow, and they ascend a stairwell. Adorning the walls are numerous family portraits, most featuring unfamiliar faces. However, one photo in particular captures Brian's attention. He pauses, studying it closely. It's a picture of the family from years ago, depicting Mother and Father in their youth, with two daughters between them—the older one holding an infant in her arms.

At the top of the stairs, Mother notices Brian admiring the photo, so she gestures towards another frame. "Come further up."

He ascends the stairs to where she pointed, and as he catches sight of the next photo, he instinctively covers his mouth. In the photo, a bride and groom, dressed in wedding attire, stand before a decimated cake. The bride is laughing hysterically at the groom, whose face and hands are covered in white frosting. With his finger, Brian tenderly traces the border of the picture, and his eyes water.

Mother offers a comforting pat on his shoulder. "You both look perfect."

He rubs his eyes with the back of his hand. "Thank you."

With Mother leading the way, they move on from the top of the stairs to a door at the far corner of the hallway. She steps aside to let him pass, and he enters. Inside, he finds a meticulously organized bedroom, with shelves and a desk topped with study materials. The decor is elegantly simple.

“Not what I’d expect of a girl's room. Especially not yours. No paintings or plush toys,” Brian comments to himself in English, prompting Mother to tilt her head inquisitively.

“Oh! Um…” He extends his arms to address the room. “The room doesn’t seem very girly.”

She chuckles and walks over to the desk, picking up a notebook. “She only cared about these things back then. Studying. She was a different girl, always so serious.”

Handing him the notebook, he receives it with awe, feeling the texture of the cover and reading the label: ‘Tanaka Fumi, English.’

Mother sees how impressed he is with the notebook, and goes to a shelf of books to feel their spines. “After she got her first smartphone, English became her favorite subject. Father hated how attached she was to that phone, but he never dared to take it away. She became a much livelier girl.”

“No wonder she was so good. Sometimes I worried she would lose her accent,” he remarks, a smirk playing on his lips.

"You should settle in for your stay. Take a bath, and be ready for the picnic. We'll go when Hisa is home and prepared."

She leaves the room, and he closes the notebook, placing it neatly back on the desk before glancing at the others. Then, he moved on to his luggage. Kneeling down, he gently places it on the floor, unzipping and flipping the cover to reveal its contents.

"Sorry for the bumpy ride. I hope you'll forgive me," he said, reaching inside to lift an object.


Brian emerges from the bathroom, dressed in a stylish, yet casual attire that includes a watch and necklace. 

He takes a refreshed breath and checks his watch. "Just in time."

Leisurely he heads downstairs to the kitchen, finding Mother wrapping up a large stack of bento boxes

She looks back at him with a smile. "I had to buy out the store in preparation for your arrival, American Boy."

"You think that's enough?"

They share a laugh as the front door opens.

"Ah, she's here."

"I'm home!" Hisa announces as she takes off her shoes and walks towards the kitchen, but stops short upon seeing Brian.

"Welcome back," Mother greets her.

"Good afternoon," Brian nods. "How was school?"

Hisa's expression turns sour, and she steps back to the hallway from the kitchen.

"I'll go get ready," she says before swiftly retreating upstairs.

With a mild grimace, Brian itches the back of his ear and looks to Mother for help. "Did I do something wrong?"

"She's taking it harder than anyone else," Mother shakes her head and finishes wrapping the bentos with a knot. "She'll open up eventually."

He nods and leans on the counter while itching his chin in contemplation. From the kitchen he can see the living room where Mother left to join Father at the Butsudan in prayer. Seeing how they become at ease in silence makes him also briefly close his eyes and take a deeper breath of the incense.

Reopening them to the sight of Mother's bento wrapping, he admires the delicate handwork and comes to a conclusion with the slight raise of his head.

He leaves the kitchen to go back upstairs. At the top he meets Hisa on her way to the bathroom, a change of clothes in hand. They make eye contact, but she quickly ignores him to enter the bathroom, shutting the door with a loud bang. 

He stays still to look at the bathroom door, and with one hand on the other at his stomach, he bows slowly. "Sorry."

On the other side of the bathroom door, Hisa is pressing her back against its wood, hugging the change of clothes while her head stoops.

Brian sees how she blocks the light through the bottom crack of the door and smiles knowing that his message reached her.

he passes by quietly to get to the room Mother showed him, and inside he stands at the desk, on top of which is a object wrapped in pink cloth. Pulling out the chair, he takes a seat to face the object closer, keeping his hands at the base of it.

"Your sister is here, so we'll be leaving to have a picnic once she finishes her bath. As for first impressions, she's a bit difficult to approach. I hope you can help me."


Hisa's lengthy bath begins to eat away at their time, causing Mother to call out to her from downstairs. "Hisa, it's time to leave now, or we'll be late."

Inside the bathroom, Hisa hurriedly prepares, while Brian is in the hallway waiting. In his arms he clutches the object wrapped in pink cloth to his chest, his gaze fixed on it with care.

“I’m coming!” Hisa bursts out of the bathroom, catching sight of Brian.

Avoiding his gaze, she motions towards the stairs, but Brian blocks her path and she scowls at him.

“Hisa. I wish. I wish for you to listen to me,” he pieces his words together brazenly.

“For what?” She clenches her teeth, her body trembling. “Who even are you?”

Brian looks down at the object in his arms and, with a gentle hand, unwraps the cloth from the top. It's an artisanal urn, intricately decorated in silver floral patterns.

The revelation brings out a tear and short breath from Hisa.

He holds it out to her. “I want you to hold her. Hold her and walk. Only if you want to.”

She places her hand on the urn, feeling its texture, before grasping the base and lifting it. With  a firm hold, she embraces it, trying to maintain composure.

Brian takes a shaky breath. “Fumi always said, when she came back to Japan, she wanted to do everything with her sister.”

His words shatter her, and she collapses into sobs, clutching the urn tighter to her chest and leaning into Brian for support. He places one hand on her back and the other on her head, offering comfort as her cries are muffled by his chest.

“Let’s go see the cherry blossoms. Together. With Fumi,” Brian says gently.


The Tanaka family sets out from home for a trip to Meijo Park, and upon arrival, the sakura trees leave them all stunned by their beauty. Brian carries the food, Father —tea and folded blanket, and Hisa —the wrapped urn. They find a spot to settle down and prepare for lunch. Mother lays out an array of bentos, each containing neatly packed and delicious items. While some dishes are unfamiliar to Brian, their colorful and appetizing appearance makes him eager to dig in.

All eyes turn to Hisa, who is still standing with the urn, lost in the view of the sky through the sakura branches. She then kneels down to place the urn between herself and Brian, unwrapping the pink cloth to reveal its shining silver. Everyone admires it, and in silence, they close their eyes to pray before giving thanks for the food.

As they feast on the food and drink, they share stories of Fumi. The parents reminisce about her childhood in Japan, while Brian shares tales of her married life in America. One particular story from Brian recalls Fumi's first time drinking alcohol. In response, Father reaches behind himself to surprise them with a bottle of sake and a set of cups.

"When you and Fumi first got married, I awaited the day we could drink together," He says, placing a cup in front of himself, Brian, and the urn. "You don't have to drink it."

Brian raises his cup. "I gladly accept."

Father pours sake for Brian, Fumi, and then himself. Together, they down their cups in one go, letting out deep breaths.

"Ah, Fumi. You're just like your mother. Can't handle alcohol," Father points to the full cup. "Don't worry. Father will take care of that for you."

Father takes the cup and raises it slowly to his lips, a tear escaping him as he finishes it slowly. Once he placed it down, Brian, with a polite nudge of his cup, requests another pour. Father smiles, pouring more sake, and they share a few more together while enjoying their meal.

"Mother, the food is delicious," Brian says between mouthfuls.

"Slow down, and thank you. They're some of Fumi's favorites. I'm glad you like them too."

"It's impossible not to. Fumi was very fortunate," Brian remarks, glancing over at Hisa, who is enthusiastically devouring her food. "As is Hisa."

"Hm!" Hisa jolts, covering her mouth and bulging red cheeks.

Mother chuckles. "They used to steal food from each other."

"I did not!"

"I can see it," Brian says, raising his chopsticks.

"Excuse me?"

Mother and Father share a laugh and intertwine their hands, then she rests her head on his shoulder to watch Hisa and Brian playfully bicker. The sun gradually descends, casting dappled shadows through the sakura trees over their picnic.

Brian lies down beside the urn, soaking in the scenery, inhaling the healing aroma of spring, and exhaling the pain of loss.

"Love you, Fumi."

The Settling Sun