“When the April moon begins to grow,” Jitsuko’s grandfather told her, “watch for me on the road that leads from the west.”
“The road from Kyoto,” Jitsuko said, “and from the silk markets.”
“That’s right,” her grandfather replied, kissing the top of her head. “Now, be good for your mother and father, and take care of your grandmother for me.”
Jitsuko giggled. “You always say that, and I always do, Ojiisan.”
Ojiisan smiled. “When I return, I will bring with me a very special gift for you.”
Jitsuko’s eyes widened. Sometimes her grandfather, one of the greatest silk painters in Japan, did bring gifts for her when he returned from his journeys to sell his artwork in the markets of Kyoto—a set of lacquer ohashi, a pair of hand-painted geta, and yummy mochi. But he didn’t bring a gift every time, and never before had he promised in advance that he would.
“I’ll miss you Ojiisan, and I’ll count the days and watch the moon for you,” she said.
Forty-two days passed before the moon began to grow in the sky above Jitsuko’s village. Every day that week, Jitsuko walked to the edge of the village and stood in the middle of the road, watching and listening for her grandfather. Finally, on the 47th day, she heard the sound of dirt and pebbles grinding beneath the wheels of a cart. A cart appeared at the crest of the hill. It was pulled by a grey horse and was driven by a man with a peaked straw hat, just like her grandfather’s. The man was singing Sakura—the song of the cherry blossom—and she knew for certain that it was her ojiisan. Smiling and softly singing along, Jitsuko skipped down the road to meet him.