Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Local sights for local people

The month-long rainy season finally seems to be coming to an end, making way for day after day of humid, hazy 30 degree plus summer days. Thank God for air conditioning. Still, it would be a shame to spend the long days of summer trapped inside next to the A/C, so last Friday I took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring around my beloved adopted home town of Asahi, along with my partner in crime, the lovely Felicity.

Despite having lived in Asahi for nearly a year now there's still places I've yet to visit, one of which is a spooky little shrine barely ten minutes walk from my house, which goes by the name of Yasaka-jinja. I've cycled past it on many occasions, but for some reason I've never quite had the time to poke my head through the "torii" and have a look around. It's funny - I've been to the snow festival in Hokkaido and sunbathed on the beaches of Okinawa, and yet I still haven't properly looked round my own town...

I suppose part of the reason for that is the aforementioned stifling humidity and relentless heat - walking even the shortest distance in the Fukui summer means becoming unpleasantly drenched in your own sweat. The shrine may only be ten minutes walk away, but it's a long, soggy, shirt-wringing ten minutes of non-stop excretion. And I haven't even mentioned the fighter-squadrons of kamikaze mosquitoes.

The scenery more than makes up for the bodily unpleasantness though - the rice fields have just reached their most vibrant green, and the giant bird-sized dragonflies are busy whizzing around the roadside, intent on finding other bird-sized dragonflies in order to... well, make more bird-sized dragonflies. Which makes for a hell of a fly-by.

The shrine certainly wasn't disappointing either. I've written about how easy it is to develop shrine/temple fatigue in Japan - there's just so many of the damn things - but this one definitely had atmosphere on its side. Despite the fact that there were several people milling around dismantling the paper lanterns from the festival two days earlier, the shrine retained an eerie atmosphere of desertedness. The setting is no doubt a big part of this, since the sheer trunks of the surrounding cedar trees gave the whole place the look of a huge, naturally-created prison. Even in the middle of the day, it was quite easy to imagine untold eyes watching your every movement from behind the bars of tree trunks. The decaying walls of the shrine compiled the spooky feeling even further - if you've ever played a Biohazard game then you know these are exactly the kind of buildings that zombies just love to lurk in. In my mind I could just see the scenario... You walk up to the front door of the shrine. The bell rope is swaying slightly in the wind. You go forward to investigate and you're given a stark choice.

Pull the bell rope?

Yes No

Obviously you choose "yes" (does anyone actually ever choose "no" in those games?). Suddenly the temple door bursts open and five drooling zombies burst out.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Equip shotgun!!! Equip shotgun!!!! Eat that!! Ha!!!! Aaaah! No ammo!! Get away from me!!! KNIFE! KNIFE! KNIFE! Die you mofo!! Ooops! No don't do that!! No! No! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!"

YOU ARE DEAD.

"Curses."

Hmmm. You know maybe I should stop playing so many computer games and get out a bit more...

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