Big Issue Japan vendor Toshihiko Sakata to his 25-year-old self: “Your future is as deep, vast, and full of hidden potential as the Pacific Ocean”

INSP has been asking vendors from across the street paper network to write letters to their 25-year-old self to mark the end of INSP’s 25th anniversary year. In this fantastic final instalment of INSP’s #VendorLetters series, 77-year-old Toshihiko Sakata, a veteran vendor of The Big Issue Japan, who sells the magazine at Osaka’s Higo-bashi Station, writes lyrically about his life at 25-years-old, and the years since.

Toshihiko Sakata

I turned 25 in May 1967. In theory, I was in the prime of my life, but 52 years later I don’t remember a thing. I was just the cast-aside husk of a man in his so-called prime, mindlessly wandering in an endless fog without hopes or dreams.

By 1967, the 1960 protests over the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty were a thing of the past, and Japan was riding on the U.S.’s coattails for all it was worth. The country’s economic growth was just getting started. The 1964 Tokyo Olympics had been an incredible success, and Japan had somehow gotten through the post-Olympic recession too. Everyone was looking forward to the Expo ’70 world fair in Osaka.

The 25-year-old me wasn’t doing quite so well. Although I had played volleyball since the spring of my second year of university, the team structure changed from nine players to six, and I was told, “We don’t need pipsqueaks.” It was a horrible shock, and for a while I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything in my life. That’s not to say I was idle. I went through a number of employers and part-time jobs, and I was active in the music scene as I tried to find my way.

Big Issue Japan vendor Toshihiko Sakata

Around that time, I wrote a song called ‘The Harajuku of my Memories’, the first verse of which begins “Town of my youth, with echoes of my past,” and the second verse goes “Town of my lost spring, regret now marks my path.” I guess that’s how the 25-year-old me saw his own life.

Although my life since then has had further regrets, I have slowly realized that the 25-year-old me made it through a lot, in his own way. Post-war Japan rebuilt itself from scratch, so I really regret not seizing the chances that probably came my way.

I can’t redo the 77 wasted years of my life, and maybe I won’t be able to accomplish anything in the future either. But still, I have come to think that there’s a message I can pass on to the 25-year-olds of today. What that is exactly, I have no idea. For now, I’ll just offer the words of Dr William S. Clark that left a deep impression on me when I was young: “Boys, be ambitious!”

I would like to say: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t feel defeated when you do. Always stand up again and give it your all.

Your future is as deep, vast, and full of hidden potential as the Pacific Ocean that stretches east from Japan.

Remember to keep a fire in your chest and a smile in your heart.

Translated from Japanese by Annelise Giseburt.

Read all of INSP’s #VendorLetters.

INSP members can download the #VendorLetters feature on the INSP News Service.