Originally from the photo book YMO Sealed, published by Shogakukan in 1984.
English translation by Stella Hsieh
Letter from the Future
It has been a long time since we have seen each other. How have you been?
I don’t know much about you there. I don’t know what kind of winds blow, what sunlight shines. Does it rain, or does it snow?
It is still the same here. The cold wind is freezing, and I, who could not gain weight no matter how long it had been, am breathing out white, walking hippity-hop with my back bent. But the seasons are changing, and I am sure it will get warmer soon.
It is awkward. I know that no matter what I write, I will never get a reply, but it is still awkward. Do you know who I am? I am now…no, no, this was a foolish question. I am sure that you know everything about the two of us. Otherwise, it would be trouble.
Yes, I am doing well. I haven’t changed at all. My body seems to have aged indeed, but I am still the same. Nothing has really changed since I was small. Now picking up the pen, I feel there is nothing to write about. I’ll talk about the old days again when I see you there…
Well then, SAYONARA.
Winter, 198x, from Yukihiro
Unfinished Manuscript from Future
Hi, how are you?
You may wonder who wrote to you, but I’m not a suspicious person. And even if I am, you can rest assured because I can’t harm you with my letter.
That said, you still don’t know who I am, so you might not be easily reassured- come on, you’ll figure it out!
I’m not in the habit of writing letters. There’re not many people with whom I’d like to communicate through letters. You’re the same, aren’t you? You’re the kind of person who procrastinates replying to ten New Year’s cards for a month, aren’t you? Same here. I didn’t even respond to them before. But now that I’m over 30 years old, I want to cherish the few friends I have- by “cherish,” I mean that I only write replies to New Year’s cards, that’s it. Don’t you think it strange that I bothered to write this letter to you?
Actually, I wanted to write a letter, but I didn’t have a partner to write to. So I thought it over for a few days. Of course, I listened to records and drank beer. And then I realized that the person I wanted to write to was you. You were all I had.
But you are not the only one. There exist an infinite number of you. That’s why it was so hard for me to choose you. Wouldn’t you like to hear how I chose you?
Well, listen to me. The problem is that there is an infinite number of you, right? If I have an infinite number of recipients, I have to write to an infinite number of people. Of course, neither you nor I have infinite time. I thought about it and decided that you’re the one. It’s you, the present me, my letter-writing partner.
Letter from the Future
(1) A letter is a means of communication that is usually addressed from one person to another.
It is rare for a letter to be addressed to oneself, although letters sometimes are addressed to a sheep. In the case of a letter from one person to another, it passes through a three-dimensional space. However, when writing to oneself, an illusion is added to the timeline. The letter reaches the future but never the past.
What is the message sent to the future self? It is perhaps “I am still alive,” as in On Kawara’s telegram. It will be necessary to write a letter every day. Then one day, there will be nothing left but letters.
(2) Now, what should I do to make sure that the letter will reach me in, say, three years?
Generally speaking, a letter was entrusted to a person to be delivered. It became a profession like Hikyaku, then became the postal system nowadays. Therefore, it is not necessary to put a letter in a mailbox. You can ask a friend to put the letter to your future self in the mailbox three years later. It will be delivered in at least three days. But if you don’t want to bother others, you can keep it yourself. A ritual is necessary in that case. Otherwise, the procedure of writing a letter loses its meaning. For example, you can build your own mailbox or post office. In this way, the stored letter will move slowly toward you in time.
(3) Three years have passed. I had actually completed this procedure. I wrote the letter on February 2, 1984. So it will arrive on February 2, 1987, which is today. I stayed up late last night and overslept, and now it’s already 9:00 in the morning. The letter has probably arrived.
The world has changed in those three years, and my life also has changed considerably. There are less population in Tokyo and people no longer go out at night. So nights came early, and everyone got up at 5:00 in the morning.
I washed my face, cleaned myself up, and took the letter out of the mailbox. Then, I open the envelope. And there it is, unbelievably…
(4) It has been a long time. Three years have passed, and I am sure that people there and you have changed as everything has moved on.
Since that day, I left my home in Tokyo and traveled to a faraway country called xxxx. I found a safe haven there, enjoying the language, the laws, the vehicles, etc., and seem to have forgotten about the other side of the world. The people here are peaceful and you would not believe it.
I will never visit your world again. That’s why I am writing this letter to you, because I cannot meet you. This letter is the only one I will ever send.
I recommend that you also write to yourself three years from now. Time is fixed the moment you write it down, and that person will live in it forever. I am living in that eternity. Then, I wish you good health and, farewell.
— This is what was written. I felt both envious and pitiful of myself who wrote this letter. The person I am now is different from the person I was then. I can always go to a peaceful country. My alter ego from three years ago has already gone there. It seems like a world enclosed in glass. Even though I feel disgusted, I will not abandon this world. So I will not write to my future self anymore. O my past self, may you rest in peace!