Sasaki Atsuko is 77 years old and has white hair. She has lived in an apartment building near Asakusa in northern Tokyo for 7 years. Every Monday to Friday, she has to walk for more than half an hour to pay homage to her husband in a temple, rain or shine. She said that the reason for avoiding crowded weekends is to chat with her husband across time and space.
Husband Zhuang Zedong has left this world for more than 8 years. Atsuko feels that he has never left. Since the two got married in Beijing on December 19, 1987, they have never left. “I think people really don’t know what to say, but the fate is there.”
Fate started in Nagoya in April 1971, exactly 50 years ago, where the 31st World Table Tennis Championships were being held. Atsuko, who grew up in Northwest China, had just returned to Japan from China at that time. She was not used to living in the remote Shimane prefecture and always wanted to return to China. After learning that the Chinese table tennis delegation was here, I felt like “My relatives are here, and I have to go and meet them.”
Atsuko dared not visit the Chinese table tennis players alone, so she made an appointment with a colleague, and the two took the night train to Nagoya. The organizing committee member said that there will be a competition the next day in China, so it is best not to disturb. It is recommended They will come again after the game. At the end of the game on April 7th, Atsuko and her colleagues took the night train to Nagoya again. I heard that there were two young Japanese women visiting. The Chinese team sent Zhuang Zedong to receive them. He is the most famous athlete of the Chinese team and won three consecutive times in the 1960s. Men’s singles champion of the World Table Tennis Championships. Atsuko remembered that he was wearing a red Chinese team uniform, and took out a delegation brooch to give her as a souvenir. She didn’t want it. What she wanted was the national emblem worn on his chest, but she was rejected: “This is not possible, we There is only one for each person, and you must wear it every time you play.”
The meeting was short, less than 15 minutes, but Atsuko was very impressed. “Very tall!” Atsuko recalled. “In fact, he is not tall, only about 1.70 meters, but I think it is very tall. Seeing him, I feel that I have seen the spirit of the Chinese nation.” I heard that the Chinese team will take a train via Osaka the next day. After returning home, Atsuko and her partner found a small hotel near the train station. She was so excited that she didn’t close her eyes all night. She wrote a three or four-page letter expressing that a Japanese who grew up in China had won the championship with the Chinese team. The excitement of seeing the champion. The next day, she squeezed into the “sea of people” in the station to see off, and finally saw the Chinese team members in the carriage again, and handed the letter to them in person.
At the time, Atsuko didn’t know what happened during the World Table Tennis Championships, or what the person she saw did outside the stadium, let alone the “ping pong diplomacy” that changed the world two days later. Of course she couldn’t think that she would have an intersection with this person named Zhuang Zedong in the future.
Later, in the 1980s, there were ups and downs in life and ups and downs in the years. In 1987, after all her hardships, she gave up her job in a Japanese company in China, changed her nationality, and married Zhuang Zedong, who was a coach at Beijing Children’s Palace.
“Actually, the president of a Japanese company talked to me. He said that if you want, you can still work in Beijing. But my mother said that you must marry Mr. Zhuang with all your heart.” So Atsuko sold the house in Tokyo. Beijing became a housewife.
After they got married, the two of them were almost inseparable. Atsuko said that the two only stayed together when they took a bath and went to the toilet, and they lived like this for 26 years. “He is outside, and I am inside. I used to say that Mr. Zhuang is the sun, I am the moon, and I borrow the light of the sun. Without the sun, the moon will not emit light.”
On February 10, 2013, Zhuang Zedong died of illness in Beijing. Atsuko lost his only relative in China. In Japan, she has 5 brothers and sisters. In order to take care of her, she has been living in Tokyo since 2014.
After the death of her husband, she divided the ashes into two parts, one was left in Beijing, and the other was taken back to Tokyo. The cemetery in Beijing is located in Changping, with the words “Beloved Wife Atsuko Sasaki” on the stone foundation at the bottom of the tombstone. On the back is engraved: “Here is the person who sleeps in the ball and pushes the earth”.