25 Kisakata: In the uyamuya

MORNING:  Joined a man on the pavement watching his new house being built a mere 10 metres away from his old house.  The local government wants to widen the road and demolish his old house. 

Workmen in baggy trousers were running along the Akita sugi (cryptomeria) beams on the roof without safety harnesses; they were rushing to get the building ready for the muneageshiki, (the house framing completion ceremony) on Sunday – one of 3 ceremonies held during the construction.

“Doesn`t really matter if the workmen cannot finish in time.  Mount Chokai is due to erupt anytime. Then it won`t make any difference where I am living!” he said with a big chuckle.  

AFTERNOON:  Borrowed a black, rusty, Bridgestone mamachari from Kisakata station to cycle along the coast.  Along the foothills of Mount Chokai, passed through rice fields in sleepy seaside villages to reach the old Uyamuya border post, now just a small trail through a black pine forest. 

Uyamuya used to be a treacherous border crossing along the coast.  The Uyamuya road which ploughed through the volcanic spillage from Mount Chokkai was the only road available between the old countries of Honjo and Shonai. A narrow path along the cliff edge through steep, thickly-forested slopes with such heart-warming names as Hell Hill and The Hill of Horses` Tears. 

The path was notorious for a long-armed and long-legged ogre who caught and killed passing travellers.  Travellers hopes rested on a 3 legged crow who used to appear at the Uyamuya gate.  The crow either cawed: “Uya,” if the ogre was around, or “Muya,” if the ogre was away.

When my rusty bike finally made up to the old trail, a murder of crows had gathered to greet me: “Uyamuya!!  Uyamuya!!,” they cawed in unison.  

The warm, rich air along the rock-strewn trail smelled like Christmas pudding.  The swarms of horseflies loved it.  The deserted trail included a set of steps down the steep cliff edge.  Seeing the waves crashing into the rocks below reminded me of Beer cliffs back in Devon.  Except for the humidity, black pines and noisy cicadas.  And the nearby volcano and bears. And the ogre.  If it is about.

I did not linger long in the woods alone

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