Searching for shelter

The sky was grey and the rain torrential.  In the small coastal town of Oga, the station kiosk was closed for lunch.  I was stuck until a shy man at the tourist information lent me his brand new umbrella.  

Clutching it grimly, I climbed the hill to the temple.  Halfway up the stone steps I passed a sign:  “You are 27 metres above sea level.  In the event of a large earthquake, evacuate to high ground.”  

The temple was quiet.  A monk gave me sweets, pamphlets and let me ring the temple bell.  Over a cup of green tea, he told me the history of the building.  I tried to be interested. 

He smiled a lot.  The constant grinning seemed a habit, a habit needing regular refuelling judging by the whiffs of nihonshu from his breath.

I wanted Buddhist wisdom, surely his forte.  Instead he gave me more pamphlets, and a local legend. 

“We do not have tsunamis here in Oga.”

“Really?  What never?” 

“Well. there was one 30 odd years ago that killed a few kids and a Swiss tourist.  But that was rare.  In the event of a large earthquake, go to the sea.  It is safer.  That is a local iitsutae (saying).” 

The sea is safer?  What kind of hills do they have around here? 

Perhaps the monk had told me a koan, something to meditate on and help me on the way to enlightenment.  I did not have time to dwell on it though.  I had a train to catch and a shy man was waiting for his umbrella back. 





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