This translation is my tribute to an Imaike legend. Cheers, Endy. —Henkka
Or as they called him: “Endy”
“Beginning August 14,
this bar is going into a reeeally long obon vacation.
Thank you for all these years.”
This memorial drinking gathering was decided upon by the friends and family who witnessed Endo’s remains at the hospital. It was proposed by Hiroshi, Endo’s younger brother, that we hold this event where people could drink what is left in the bar and take with them whatever mementos they like.
Coming to terms with the passing of someone who was close to you is often possible only upon witnessing their remains, but with this being the season of obon, as well as due to other reasons, we could not organize a funeral and give others that opportunity. Thus, we feel that there may be people reading this who are having a hard time accepting the reality of the situation. This is why those of us who did see his remains decided to create this booklet to share our thoughts.
It is our hope that this memorial booklet will be of even a small help to anyone who may be thinking about Endo.
“Endy Memorial Drinking Gathering” Organizing Committee
Endo Hiroshi (younger brother)
Ito Akiko (girlfriend)
Nishikawa puyo (Nanya)
Nishikawa G-ko (Nanya)
Suzuki Miyuko (Hiyoshitei)
Morita Yutaka (TOKUZO)
My sincere thank you for the love you’ve given to my older brother’s bar, Endy, for all these years. While I do not know what he was thinking about when he departed this life, I do believe he was completely satisfied. That’s what I thought to myself upon seeing the final expression on my older brother’s face — a pure, genuine smile.
From the younger brother of “Endy”
As if guided by Endo himself, I had the opportunity of personally witnessing his remains. His expression was peaceful. He had a hint of a smile on his face, looking just like his usual self — like he might burst out laughing any second. But his legs… his legs were in an unimaginably terrible condition. I’d heard that the injuries he’d sustained falling on his bicycle hadn’t healed. I’d heard it was bad — but I couldn’t have guessed it was this bad. Both legs were affected, not just his left one. It would be difficult to describe in words the condition they were in. Speaking with the police officers later, the doctor had told them he didn’t think it could be possible for one to be able to walk with that level of injuries.
Here’s what I felt when I saw him. For whatever reason, I happened to look at his legs first. It shocked me to see them. I found myself staring for a long time. But after a while, I looked up at Endo’s face. And when I did, I felt relief. I would’ve wanted each of you to see his face as it was then — I think if you had, you would all feel differently about his death.
I feel extreme regret and frustration about what has happened. But as for me, I can now accept Endo’s decision. To him, it must have felt he was doing the right thing. He must have felt that, in doing what he did, he would inconvenience the least amount of people possible. That must have been the single most important thing to him. I believe that, to him, it might have felt he wasn’t ending his life for his own sake — he was doing so for the sake of everyone else. Remember: this was a man who had an utmost sense of self-reliance and self-respect.
In the end, the biggest reason must have been his legs. He must have been in constant, unending pain, and it was only going to get worse. Looking back, I believe he may have been thinking about it for over a year prior. I don’t think he made the decision before careful prior consideration.
~Me and Endo~
When I first started working at Nanya 30 years ago, its previous owner, Machiko, was telling me about all the regulars. He told me a story about Endo. One night, Endo and his friend had come in for drinks. When they got home, Endo’s friend revealed to him that he had taken a bottle with him from the shop. Back then, Nanya had brand-new bottles scattered all over the place — it must have been no problem for him to simply grab one without anyone noticing. But Endo scolded his friend. “Don’t do that again. Not ever. Not at that shop.” The next day, he came back to return the bottle. Machiko commended him for having done so and treated him to a beer. Ever since hearing that story, me and him had been close friends. He would come into the shop pretty much every day, and especially for the five or so years he lived in the second floor of Nanya, he would come for drinks every single day, without fail. Every day we’d talk about pointless stuff. We’d play baseball together. We’d go and reserve each other seats at baseball games. We mourned the death of Garcia together.
People were always drawn to Enchan… and that smile of his.
Nishikawa “puyo” Aki (Nanya)
On the morning of August 14, I learned that Endy had been taken to Nagoya City University Hospital where he had been pronounced dead after hanging himself. I didn’t understand what was going on, so I simply rushed to the hospital without thinking. We had to wait several hours because of the police investigation into his death and related matters. Past noon, we were finally able to meet with Endy’s mother and younger brother and see his remains.
I went in to see him with the assumption that he must have suffered at the time of his death. But when I actually saw him, the expression on Endy’s face made it seem like he was completely at peace. It was unbelievable. The smile on his face made it look like he was in the midst of a pleasant daydream.
I’d heard that Endy’s legs were in “bad shape.” When we arrived, however, even the police asked us if we knew anything about them — that’s how bad they were. We had them show them to us. When they did, I almost wanted to cover my eyes. Both legs from below the knees were past the color of purple — they were pitch black. The skin had peeled off. There were holes in his flesh. Pus was flowing from several spots. His legs were rotting.
I can’t believe he had managed to still smile at people while walking on those legs. The pain must have been unimaginable — and he could tell no one.
I had known Endy for around 30 years. As you all know, he was the definition of “happy.” Sometimes he would live out of his car; other times freeloading at people’s homes. He never, ever took advantage of things like social security — he wanted to take full responsibility of living his own life. He would never complain about his personal circumstances; never blame anything on other people or bad luck. He used to say that what you are is simply the consequence of how you’ve lived your days leading up to the present moment.
It’s because he was that sort of person that he must have realized he could soon no longer be able to avoid inconveniencing someone by having them take a look at his legs. He also faced eviction from the deteriorated building that housed him and his bar. But above all else, he must have been in despair due to the excruciating pain.
I believe he must have made up his mind a long time ago. “Only I get to close the curtain on my life.” That was always Endy’s mindset, and he stuck with it until the very end. In his final moments, I think he must have felt relief being freed from all that weight; knowing it was all going to end. I think that explains the expression on his face. The more I think about, the more I realize it was a very Endy-like thing to do. And when I understand those emotions, I feel like I can be at peace with his passing.
Everything I’ve said here is purely my conjecture. But upon seeing those legs of his, I feel absolutely certain of it.
Endy, good work up until now. Good night. And finally: thank you.
I was woken up by a phone call just past 11 o’clock on August 14, informing me of Endo’s passing. I noticed I had a number of missed calls already. When I called back, I learned they were doing an autopsy on him at the Nagoya City University Hospital. It was me, Endo’s girlfriend Akko-chan, Hiyoshitei’s Miyu-chan, the Nanya couple, and — rushing to the hospital — Endo’s younger brother Hiroshi as well as his mother. We went in to witness his remains together.
I’m sure the one thing on everyone’s minds must be: “but he’s not the type of person to kill himself.” To that, I have to say: after seeing the condition of his legs for myself, it felt like all my doubts in regards to that simply faded away. Both his legs had become rotten down to the tips of his toes. If it was me, I’m pretty sure it would be utterly impossible to even wear shoes in that condition. And yet, each day he would walk on those legs to the nearby supermarket, boil some eggs, have a drink at one of the nearby bars, and spend the rest of the evening making drinks for people himself — all smiles. I can still hardly believe it.
On his face, however, you could see a sense of calm and relief. “Alright. Okay already. Good job making it this far.” I think everyone in the room was thinking the same thoughts when we saw his expression.
How many years earlier had it been when he had injured himself on his bicycle? Even as his wounds festered and got worse and worse, he stubbornly refused to go to the hospital. I do not think the reason for that was a lack of money or insurance.
It was in the early 70’s when Endo quit his job at the city hall and dropped out of society, swearing to himself to live as a hippie, in a constant state of psychological freedom. I think this was a period of time when there was still that certain scent lingering in the air — everyone thought a new kind of society was about to be born. In any case, I believe Endo fulfilled his promise of staying committed to that drop-out lifestyle until the very end. I can’t see how it could be possible for anyone to live their life without relying on society to some extent, but I believe he looked at it from various angles and decided that was how he wanted to live his. That must be one of the reasons he did not go to the hospital.
The necrosis of his legs was so unusual, I can’t think of it as having been a complication of his diabetes either — while the doctor who performed his autopsy didn’t examine it to that extent, they apparently said the same thing. Endo simply accepted that his body was dying. When me and his younger brother went to see the bar after his passing, we found aspirin pills on the counter. He must have been suppressing the pain with aspirin and alcohol so he could keep smiling and drinking until the very end of his life. It’s unthinkable. Right before his death, he sent emails to people saying he “couldn’t do it anymore.” You could sense from his words that he had reached the limit. Suicide is not shameful, nor is it cowardice. Every human has the right to die. I truly believe that.
I think it was about a year earlier when Endo started visiting many of the bars in the area. He would go to concerts; see baseball games. He became more active despite his legs. Looking back, he must have been preparing for the eventual decay of his body as well as his suicide.
I was talking to a friend the same age as Endo. He compared it to the story about elephants retreating to the graveyard when they realize they’re approaching death. “Humans don’t have a place like that,” he said. While I don’t know whether something like a graveyard for elephants exists, I now wish to accept Endo’s suicide, as if I was seeing off an elephant heading to the graveyard. That is how I feel.
Morita Yutaka (OPEN HOUSE/New Imaike/TOKUZO)
Waving at Endy as he’d pass by my place on his way to go shopping was my daily routine. He almost never failed to notice me and wave back — but on the days he did, I always felt a pang of disappointment.
These past few months, I could sense that he was in increasingly more pain. But when I actually saw his legs, I couldn’t believe they’d gotten that bad. I couldn’t believe he’d been able to stand up until now, let alone walk. But having been freed from that pain, Endo really had a great smile on his face — to the point that I’d have a hard time believing anyone could be able to have as tranquil of a smile on their face in their final moments.
If only I could inherit even the smallest fragment of that Endy smile…
Suzuki Miyuko (Hiyoshitei)
I first walked into Imaike Endy in November 2013. It was recommended to me by the owner of a jazz bar and the manager of an Asian noodle shop. I stepped into the bar, my heart beating fast. When I did, I quickly found that Endy was a person far more kind and lovely than I could’ve imagined. “A person like this actually exists,” I thought to myself. He had immediately charmed me. I was not alone: I soon learned about his ardent female fans — the “Endy Gals” — both the first and second generations. Kajiwara used to call Endy the “fairy of Imaike.” I could understand the nickname: everyone who was around Endy was drawn to the freedom with which he lived his life.
He first showed me his legs after they’d already gotten bad. He had them wrapped in socks, bandages and plasters. I told him we had to get him to the hospital right away. “My mom would be so worried if she knew, she’d go crazy. She’d die.” I thought about contacting his family or the police and have him hospitalized by force. But then Endy said to me: “I just know it. There’s nothing they can do about my legs anymore. If I go to the doctor’s, they’re just going to cut them off and then I won’t be able to run the bar.” So I had to think about whether I had it in me to go against Endy’s wishes and force him to have to close his bar… and I found that I did not. I think he was in pain especially during the summers more than the winters. He had trouble sleeping when the pain was too much. Right around August last year, I once again implored him to go to the hospital. Endy simply said: “thank you.” Not once did he entertain the idea of actually going.
The past few months, he was going less and less to the nearby Matsuya to have their morning set, instead just having some ramen or rice soup in his bar before bed. Spring was beginning to turn into early summer and he had a persistent cold that wasn’t going away. He wasn’t well. I think he no longer had the strength to walk to Matsuya. He had been in more pain as of late and he wasn’t able to sleep at night (day?), so he would sometimes be nodding off while working.
On the night of the 14th, I felt he might’ve had a little bit too much to drink. I think it was around 2 or 3 o’clock at night when Endy suddenly shouted, “I’m quitting the bar. You people run it.” The patrons were all flabbergasted… To me, it felt like Endy had gotten angry completely unexpectedly, out-of-the-blue. Yes, he would sometimes get angry at people who didn’t pay their checks, or people who were a nuisance, or people who were thoughtless towards others. But no matter how much alcohol he had in him, he had never said he was “quitting the bar.” The other customers all left, and just as I was about to go, he once again said: “I’m quitting the bar.” I said goodbye to Endy, thinking he would just sleep it off at the bar like always. I returned home and went to sleep. But at some point during the night, I happened to open my eyes and I checked my cell phone. In it was a message from Endy.
“Akko-chan, I’m so sorry. I can’t do it anymore. I’m going to die now.”
On the last Sunday of July, I was waiting for Endy as I’d done every night for the past year or so at a nearby shop (where we’d have dinner before heading to work), but he wasn’t showing up. So I sent him a message, asking him where he was. He replied: “I’m in heaven. ♪” I think by this point he was already thinking about it.
August is also the month when Endy’s beloved Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead passed away. Having finally been set free from physical pain, Endy must now be hugging Garcia somewhere as they drink and laugh together… That’s how I think to myself as I try to bury the hole that has been left in my heart.