Thursday, August 7, 2014
1~ Found in Translation
Akune is far off the common track. The Shinkansen bullet train does not stop here. The old Orange Line, orange for rust, oxidation, pulls through. Pigeons and wattle carrying swallows own the nest pocked real estate of the walls and ceilings above the ticket window of the terminal. Crows, fishing boats, sea eagles. There are no gulls. I think the sea eagles must have eaten them eons ago during the Jomon Period. Beds of white salty potatoes grow in terraces perched on cliffs over the sea on up on Nagashima Island. The water is Mediterranean, rocky bottomed. Viridian green shallows blend to dark manganese blue depths. Small black octopi try to hide on Styrofoam trays under the canvas tented fish market stalls.
One could write all kinds of touristy road trip details designed to flatter this countryside. Any real portrait of this town would have to step over the stunning beauty of the East China Sea, the greenery of the stands of timber bamboo, and cut to Tachiko’s story; how did big bags of frozen of shrimp and gyoza constantly disappear from the freezer wedged between cardboard produce boxes and plastic work buckets that inhabit her carport?
Tachan, ‘chan’ the familiar endearing form of her full name Tachiko, lives across the street from me. It’s hardly a street, unless you’re from a really small village in Italy and the streets are narrow and strewn with pea gravel and allow only one tiny non American sized car at a time. Where I am from it would be called an alley, but I shy from judging this thoroughfare by naming it in a diminutive way. It’s a tough little street full of amorpropio, but like most side streets in countryside Japanese towns, it has no name. Taxi drivers would know my street if you were to engage him to deliver you by saying: “Fumotosan’s house” or “Tachikosan”. Off your taxi man would go to present you to the precise door of the person you requested, on a street with no name.
At the opposite end of Tachiko and I there is a large hospital and a building behind it which is the Akune City branch of NTT, Nippon Telephone and Telegraph. I have not seen any telegraph lines, yet, but it would not shock me to see a man in an upper story window tapping out Morse code. I’ve seen stranger things already. Fifty meters down our road a hospital sits on massive angular haunches like a white stucco boulder. I imagine it as a giant Japanese toy figure that transforms at night into an albino Godzilla. After dark he climbs on the NTT’s reception tower, a wide octagonal observation deck that is a grid work of steel mesh and circular radio dishes. He shimmies up the iron clipper ship mast and tears satellite discs from their mounts, flinging them into the sea and hills playing a game of monster Frisbee golf.
The rural funk, imaginary cult monster and metal sky clutter structure would loom depressingly over this little delicate street with no name, but it’s saved by a tree filled city park situated between us and Godzilla’s playground. In 1765 there was a fire in Akune which burned a great deal of the city. Part of the park is quite old, at least from the time of the fire.
The old section features a Shinto figure three high tall made of indigenous basalt rock, a fire protection deity. He is the usual demon, scary angry eyes, a flaming mantle, stony feet that could stomp furiously on the lotus shaped base. Not to represent the demonic in a Christian sense, but to frighten fires by commanding fire to “stay away or I will kick your bloody face in!” Not sure if fire has a face, but if it did this little rock bastard would break free of its stony moorings and pick a drunken bar fight that would rearrange Fires nose, mouth, lips and forehead. The protector deity Hinokamisama rules from a verdant grassy slope, near enough to our house to stave off any guitar incinerating conflagrations. The Japanese I must surmise, while active in stationing fire prevention deities, gave up centuries ago making anti-mosquito Shinto deities, for I have not seen a single one. The closest thing to a shrine are the stacks aerosol repellent cans in the drug store aisles. I can see the TV advert scene: Ancient Shinto shrine, can of bug repellent on the altar, priest devoutly hands a can to young acolyte, says: “Here is the secret of peace and harmony”……wait…..I could get a job in advertising here……
The mean street I live on has its feline denizens as well and my favorite is Tachiko’s tom cat. He is a swaggering punk rock tabby. His right foreleg is completely white; the outline of the white fur is a contour drawing that perfectly circumnavigates the tip of his pointy shoulder. From his chest to tail it looks like he is wearing a black tee shirt with one sleeve rolled up around his boxers arm. He reminds me of Joe Strummer from The Clash, so I call him Joe.