I swear to god I’m gonna die, for about three seconds, every morning I walk to school. There is this one dude’s house that I walk by, and he must have some kinda goddamned dog-repelling device or something. This high-pitched noise just wrecks me whenever I walk by, then when I leave it’s gone. Maybe it is an American-repellant as well? It would not surprise me to discover that there is some sort of ￥90,000 device that you can buy that emits unpleasantly high frequencies to prevent animals from hanging around your place, and it would surprise me even less to discover this man has purchased and uses one to protect his lawn (it is the most meticulously groomed I have personally seen in this country, and I catch him sometimes outside bent over primming and trimming his masterwork). To assume such things is of course to ignore the plain fact that he has erected a fence of brick and steel around the entire perimeter of the plot, with a wrought-iron sliding gate in front. Maybe the high frequencies are just to discourage little doggy or neko-chan: you hear this shit? If you can get in, you are not getting out (I am not afraid of eating you as a component of my traditional breakfast).
Last Friday, somewhere around a thousand stairs into the side of Kompira-san, a massive staircase up the side of a mountain, lined with vendors that taper off as they give way to a liberal assortment of shrines and temples–and the nearly-sole attraction of the tiny town of Kotohira (aside from the train stations in and out)–we spot a stone statue of a turtle. He’s got a few 1-yen coins on him, and I can’t tell if he’d appreciate or deride those who place such worthless trinkets on him. It is a monetary gift, at least, to the turtle, and who could fault the by-and-by wallet-weary trekkers? By now, even the most stingy among them has reached in for coinage a dozen times, every shrine inviting currency, to be justly delivered with a hollow wooden-box thud and, if one is hardy, a hand-clap and bow.
She reaches out to him and I wonder if he’ll pop his head out and snap. I consider what horrible misfortunes might befall me if I were to take one of the useless coins.
The view at the top of the mountain, after another three-hundred some odd steps, is stupid, which I mean in reference to dumbfoundment: no man should be allowed to look upon anything from this high, lest he begin to ponder his tiny existence. Precisely, I assume that is the allure: check out how worthless you are, now drop that coin, while you’re at it care for a charm of protection only five-hundred yen?
To say it was an experience would be about exactly right–more meaningful having quested there by our own means on foot with thin hollow bamboo walking sticks lent from a feisty elderly woodworker near the bottom of the mountain, where the vendors still number in the high dozens and the prices of cold drinks are expectedly proportional to the altitude. I was neither dumbstruck nor underwhelmed: so this is what it’s like up here, is it? Now time to get back.
The turtle silently mocks me on my trip down the mountain. He has the right idea: get up here once, stick around, and enjoy life as people place money on you and fear taking it lest they be cursed.