At Kawaguchiko, Mt Fuji
In Spring of this year, when I went to the foot of Mt Fuji, I stayed in a hotel run by the keeper of a Shinto shrine. We had no real common language, and had to use Google Translate to help us communicate. While I was there the weather shifted back and forth between rain and snow, and the village was shrouded in fog with Mt Fuji looming in the distance. I had come all that way just to see the mountain, but it never fully revealed itself. I couldn’t help but express some of my disappointment.
At dawn on the day I’d planned to leave, the innkeepermade breakfast for me and said he’d like to take me to an ancient shrine. Before we entered, I saw a towering redwooden obelisk that read, “Protected Cultural Site”. The innkeeper taught me how to worship at the shrine, quelledthe mountain spirit with a dance, and then gave me a simple blessing. Then he led me up a hill, saying that if we were lucky, we might be able to see Mt Fuji.
The steps on the hill numbered in the hundreds. I am no weakling, but before long I was tired and out of breath. I told the innkeeper to go on ahead and wait for me at the top. When I finally made it to the top and looked out, all I saw was a vast expanse of brightness – the clouds still refused to reveal the form of the volcano. The innkeeper stood gazing out into the mist, smiling and saying nothing.
As he was driving me to the station, he slowly and carefully told me his story:
“For several generations my family has been here, keeping the shrine. When I was young, I went to Tokyo and started a company. Then I got the news that my father had died and my mother had fallen ill. I closed my company, moved back here, and became the shrine keeper. In this way, I have already passed eight short years.”
I remember just sitting and listening to his story, not giving much in the way of reply. Before I went into the station, the innkeeper took my hand and said, “Sayonara”before slowly moving off out of sight.
Even now, when I think of the day that he told me his story, I can still feel the indelible, indescribable feeling of that moment.
Tokyo, Minato, Roppongi.
They walked past me and on moved ahead, one before the other.
The woman was in her 20s, dressed head to toe in a “high street” fast fashion style, though her accessories clearly came from a much higher price bracket. Her hair was dyed light marron, her slim figure treading lightly after the middle-aged man in front of her. The man wore a dignified suit, carried a leather briefcase, and hung his head very low as he hurried along.
The street was almost empty, and I had an uneasy feeling. They stopped briefly in front of a hotel before the man cautiously stepped inside; the woman followed, calm and unhurried.
I walked on. Now that the road was completely empty, I felt much more at ease.