The Loving Mother: A Story from the Island of Hokkaido, Japan

The story The Loving Mother is about a mother’s love for her child. It talks about how a mother’s spirit is not in peace after leaving behind a small child. Even after death, the mother comes back to the child in order to look after her. Since it talks about spirit and ghost it is a supernatural story.

Shoji Sakota is a pharmacist in Sapporo, a city in the northern part of Japan. He lives alone in an apartment behind the drugstore. His wife has died earlier. The building being the same he sometimes works till late. One stormy night Shoji Sakota is busy preparing his annual business report. At about midnight there is a knock at the door. He ignores the knock and goes back to his work. When there is s knock for the second time he thinks it could be the wind. The knock is louder next time and he goes towards the door thinking that it could be an emergency. He turns on the light and is surprised to see a young woman standing there. Thinking that it might be a trick to rob him he doesn’t open the door. Rather, he says that the pharmacy will be opened at 8 o’clock the next morning.

But the woman pleads that her daughter needs something immediately. Thinking it to be an emergency he lets her in. A thin, young woman stands in front of Mr Sakota bending her head. Her dress is worn out and her hair is uncombed. But as she raises her head and looks at Mr Sakota, it seemed that her eyes are looking through him and not at him. She says that she needs ame for her baby. The doctor gives her name and she goes her way. For him, it was a strange request in the night. Not long after he is back at the desk, he decides to stop working for the night because he can’t remove the image of the strange visitor out of his mind.

The next two nights the same thing happens. It is strange why she comes at night and not during the day when the shop is open. When she comes for the fourth night the pharmacist’s photographer friend takes some photographs of the woman from a hiding place. When the film is developed, the things in the store are there but not the picture of that woman. When she comes the fifth night they decide to follow her so that they could find out who she was and what she was doing. The woman finds that she is being followed but it doesn’t matter to her. She acts as though she wants them to see where she is going.

A few blocks away, she enters an old apartment building and disappears through a door at the end of a dark narrow hallway. They go inside and find the switch despite the darkness. They see a baby, perhaps eight or nine months old, licking ame on a stick. The child looks happy and satisfied. Beside her a woman lies, appearing to be asleep. They think that it is the same woman and couldn’t be asleep so fast. They think she is perhaps acting. Mr Sakota goes near her and touches the shoulder. Finding her body cold and lifeless he says she is dead. He looks more closely and finds that she has been dead for a number of days.

Important Questions and Answers: 

Q.1. Summarize the story “The Loving Mother.” 
Ans: See the summary above for the complete answer.  

Q.2. Describe the women who visited Mr. Sakota’s pharmacy late at night. 
Ans: The women who visited Shoji Sakota’s pharmacy late at night, was abnormally pale. Her hair was untidy and she had mysterious eyes. She looked to be rather slim and thin. Her appearance was not usual.

Q.3. Why didn’t Mr. Sakota go to the door when he heard the knock the first time?
Ans: Mr. Sakota didn’t go to the door when he heard the knock the first time because he thought that who could that be surely whoever he can see the store is closed.

Q.4. Show the points of similarities and differences between the supernatural stories” A House Call” and “The Loving Mother” 
Ans: Both the stories ‘A House Call’ and ‘The Loving Mother’ are the supernatural stories. In the story ‘The House Call’ a small girl’s spirit comes and visits the doctor. Similarly in the story ‘The Loving Mother’ the spirit of death mother comes and visits the pharmacist.
In both stories, there is a description of love and affection between the mother and the child. Both stories show that even after someone’s death, their spirit visits their loving members of the family. The difference is that in the story of ‘The House Call’ small girl visit the doctor but in the second story, the mother visits the pharmacist. In the first story, the little girl requests the doctor to get to her house but in the second story, the mother asks for ame.  

Questions for Practice :

  1. Why did Mr. Sakota want the picture taken?
  2. Why did not Mr. Sakota go to the door at the first knocking?