At the edge of our yard, about twenty paces to the east, was a modest vegetable garden on a slope that rose toward the south. In the middle of this garden stood a single chestnut tree. This tree was more precious to me than life itself. In the proper season, I would slip out the back door after rising in the morning and go collect fallen chestnuts to eat during the school day. The west side of the garden was adjacent to a pawn shop called Yamashiroya, and the pawnbroker had a son named Kantarō, who was thirteen or fourteen. Kantarō was, of course, a coward. And being a coward, he would sneak over the fence to steal my chestnuts. One evening I finally caught him by hiding in the shadows of the gate. When I cut off his escape, he panicked and threw himself at me with full force. Kantarō was several years older than me, and though he was a coward, he was a strong one. As he pushed his big flat head against my chest with all his might, it slipped sideways and wound up lodged in the open sleeve of my kimono. I swung my arm wildly in an effort to work it free, but the only effect was to yank Kantarō's head back and forth inside my sleeve. When he finally couldn't take this anymore he bit my arm in desperation. His bite hurt tremendously, so I forced him backward against the fence, tripped him, and shoved him downward. There was about a six-foot terraced drop from that edge of the garden down to the Yamashiroya property. Kantarō fell head first, taking half of the fence with him, and landed with a thud in his own territory. As he fell, my sleeve detached and my arm at last was free. That evening, Mother went to Yamashiroya to apologize and was able to retrieve my lost sleeve.
There were numerous other acts of mischief. With Kanekō from the carpenter's house and Kaku from the fish merchant's house, I destroyed Mosaku's carrot patch. A layer of straw had been spread over the seed bed, and the three of us practiced sumo wrestling there for half the day, trampling the area good. I also got in big trouble for filling in the well on Furukawa's rice paddy. A thick span of Mōsō bamboo had been hollowed out and sunk deep into the earth. Water bubbled out from its center and flowed to the rice plants. At the time I had no idea how this worked or what it was for, so I proceeded to stuff the pipe with bits of stone and sticks until I was satisfied that the water had stopped bubbling. Later, when I was at home eating, Furukawa appeared with a beet-red face and chewed me out for what I'd done. I believe my parents resolved this one by paying compensation.