Keigo Zato – The Little Boy Who Searches For His Father At Wat Tha Luang
Poor boy. His is a Jap/Thai mix. His Thai mother passed away in April, while his father Katzumi Zato left them few years back. Since then, he lives with his aunty. Everyday, he went to a temple in Bangkok, Wat Tha Luang, showing the Japanese tourists there photo of his father, asking them if they know Katzumi. He did that because Wat Tha Luang is where his parents first met each other.
Although a faded photograph is the only evidence nine-year-old Keigo Zato has of his Japanese father’s existence, the little boy never gives up hope in the search for his lost dad.
Each time a coach packed with tourists stops at Wat Tha Luang in Muang district of Phichit, Keigo shows his picture and bombards visitors with questions about his father.
If a visitor looks Japanese, the boy can hardly wait to ask politely, “Do you know my father?”, and then shows the photo. When the answer is no, his face clouds over.
Born of mixed Thai and Japanese parentage, Keigo, who likes to be called by his first name, said he stays with his aunt Pattama Jatupit, 35, and paralysed grandfather Preecha Janpratum, 60, after his mother Thipmontha Zato, 33, died of a sexually transmitted disease on April 3.
Working at a night entertainment venue in Bangkok gave her sister exposure to health risks, Ms Pattama said.
She said her sister ran away from home as a teenager seeking her fortune in Bangkok.
Nine years ago, Thipmontha returned home with her Japanese husband Katzumi Zato and broke the news about her pregnancy before disappearing for a few months.
She then returned with her baby son and left him in the care of her family. She said she would return to Bangkok to work at a night entertainment venue. Ms Pattama said her sister sometimes sent money to support her child, then the family lost touch with her. Three years later, Thipmontha and Mr Zato visited their son for the last time.
For Keigo, life as a nikkeijin, a term referred to people of Japanese descent, is not easy.
Raised in humble surroundings, selling fish feed at Wat Tha Luang’s pier provides his family’s income.
Each day, Wat Tha Luang monks give him and the family offerings donated by merit makers, from instant noodles to salted duck eggs.
During the Songkran holidays last year, Thipmontha unexpectedly returned home in poor health after being infected with a disease. Ms Pattama said her ailing sister kept telling her son that his father would be back some day and would meet her at Wat Tha Luang where they had married.
But Thipmontha’s dying wish was never fulfilled; she died without her husband at her bedside. Keigo cared for his mother until her dying breath.
Before her death, her last message to her son was: “Wait for your father at Wat Tha Luang’s ordination hall and then you’ll see him.”Since then, hardly a day goes by without Keigo waiting for his father with a photo at the ordination hall and praying to the deities to grant him the wish of seeing his father some day.