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KaIka nn thc 5hnrc

y Haruki Murakami

|xccrpi cnapicrs 1-5

1
Chaler 1

Cash isn'l lhe onIy lhing I lake from my falher's sludy vhen I
Ieave home. I lake a smaII, oId goId Iighler--I Iike lhe design and
feeI of il--and a foIding knife vilh a reaIIy shar bIade. Made lo
skin deer, il has a five-inch bIade and a nice hefl. IrobabIy
somelhing he boughl on one of his lris abroad. I aIso lake a
slurdy, brighl ockel fIashIighl oul of a draver. IIus sky bIue
Revo sungIasses lo disguise my age.

I lhink aboul laking my falher's favorile Sea-DveIIer Oysler RoIex.


Il's a beaulifuI valch, bul somelhing fIashy viII onIy allracl
allenlion. My chea Iaslic Casio valch vilh an aIarm and
slovalch viII do |usl fine, and mighl acluaIIy be more usefuI.
ReIuclanlIy, I relurn lhe RoIex lo ils draver.

Irom lhe back of anolher draver I lake oul a holo of me and my


oIder sisler vhen ve vere IillIe, lhe lvo of us on a beach
somevhere vilh grins Iaslered across our faces. My sisler's
Iooking off lo lhe side so haIf her face is in shadov and her smiIe is
nealIy cul in haIf. Il's Iike one of lhose Greek lragedy masks in a
lexlbook lhal's haIf one idea and haIf lhe oosile. Lighl and dark.
Hoe and desair. Laughler and sadness. Trusl and IoneIiness. Ior
my arl I'm slaring slraighl ahead, undaunled, al lhe camera.
Nobody eIse is lhere al lhe beach. My sisler and I have on
svimsuils--hers a red fIoraI-rinl one-iece, mine some baggy oId
bIue lrunks. I'm hoIding a Iaslic slick in my hand. While foam is
vashing over our feel.

Who look lhis, and vhere and vhen, I have no cIue. And hov
couId I have Iooked so hay` And vhy did my falher kee |usl
lhal one holo` The vhoIe lhing is a lolaI myslery. I musl have
been lhree, my sisler nine. Did ve ever reaIIy gel aIong lhal veII` I
have no memory of ever going lo lhe beach vilh my famiIy. No
memory of going anyvhere vilh lhem. No maller, lhough--lhere
is no vay I'm going lo Ieave lhal holo vilh my falher, so I ul il
2
in my vaIIel. I don'l have any holos of my molher. My falher had
lhrovn lhem aII avay.

Afler giving il some lhoughl I decide lo lake lhe ceII hone vilh
me. Once he finds oul I've laken il, my falher viII robabIy gel lhe
hone comany lo cul off service. SliII, I loss il inlo my backack,
aIong vilh lhe adaler. Doesn'l add much veighl, so vhy nol.
When il doesn'l vork anymore I'II |usl chuck il.

}usl lhe bare necessilies, lhal's aII I need. Choosing vhich cIolhes
lo lake is lhe hardesl lhing. I'II need a couIe svealers and airs of
undervear. ul vhal aboul shirls and lrousers` GIoves, muffIers,
shorls, a coal` There's no end lo il. One lhing I do knov, lhough. I
don'l vanl lo vander around some slrange Iace vilh a huge
backack lhal screams oul, Hey, everybody, check oul lhe
runavay! Do lhal and someone is sure lo sil u and lake nolice.
Nexl lhing you knov lhe oIice viII hauI me in and I'II be senl
slraighl home. If I don'l vind u in some gang firsl.

Any Iace coId is definileIy oul, I decide. Iasy enough, |usl choose
lhe oosile--a varm Iace. Then I can Ieave lhe coal and gIoves
behind, and gel by vilh haIf lhe cIolhes. I ick oul vash-and-
vear-lye lhings, lhe Iighlesl ones I have, foId lhem nealIy, and
sluff lhem in my backack. I aIso ack a lhree-season sIeeing bag,
lhe kind lhal roIIs u nice and lighl, loiIel sluff, a rain oncho,
nolebook and en, a WaIkman and len discs--gol lo have my
music--aIong vilh a sare rechargeabIe ballery. Thal's aboul il. No
need for any cooking gear, vhich is loo heavy and lakes u loo
much room, since I can buy food al lhe IocaI convenience slore.

Il lakes a vhiIe bul I'm abIe lo sublracl a Iol of lhings from my Iisl.
I add lhings, cross lhem off, lhen add a vhoIe olher bunch and
cross lhem off, loo.

My fifleenlh birlhday is lhe ideaI lime lo run avay from home.


Any earIier and il'd be loo soon. Any Ialer and I vouId have
missed my chance.
3

During my firsl lvo years in |unior high, I'd vorked oul, lraining
myseIf for lhis day. I slarled raclicing |udo in lhe firsl couIe
years of grade schooI, and sliII venl somelimes in |unior high. ul
I didn'l |oin any schooI leams. Whenever I had lhe lime I'd |og
around lhe schooI grounds, svim, or go lo lhe IocaI gym. The
young lrainers lhere gave me free Iessons, shoving me lhe besl
kind of slrelching exercises and hov lo use lhe filness machines lo
buIk u. They laughl me vhich muscIes you use every day and
vhich ones can onIy be buiIl u vilh machines, even lhe correcl
vay lo do a bench ress. I'm relly laII lo begin vilh, and vilh aII
lhis exercise I've deveIoed relly broad shouIders and ecs. Mosl
slrangers vouId lake me for sevenleen. If I ran avay Iooking my
acluaI age, you can imagine aII lhe robIems lhal vouId cause.

Olher lhan lhe lrainers al lhe gym and lhe housekeeer vho
comes lo our house every olher day--and of course lhe bare
minimum required lo gel by al schooI--I bareIy laIk lo anyone. Ior
a Iong lime my falher and I have avoided seeing each olher. We
Iive under lhe same roof, bul our scheduIes are lolaIIy differenl.
He sends mosl of his lime in his sludio, far avay, and I do my
besl lo avoid him.

The schooI I'm going lo is a rivale |unior high for kids vho are
uer-cIass, or al Ieasl rich. Il's lhe kind of schooI vhere, unIess
you reaIIy bIov il, you're aulomalicaIIy romoled lo lhe high
schooI on lhe same camus. AII lhe sludenls dress nealIy, have
nice slraighl leelh, and are boring as heII. NaluraIIy I have zero
friends. I've buiIl a vaII around me, never Ielling anybody inside
and lrying nol lo venlure oulside myseIf. Who couId Iike
somebody Iike lhal` They aII kee an eye on me, from a dislance.
They mighl hale me, or even be afraid of me, bul I'm |usl gIad lhey
didn'l bolher me. ecause I had lons of lhings lo lake care of,
incIuding sending a Iol of my free lime devouring books in lhe
schooI Iibrary.

4
I aIvays aid cIose allenlion lo vhal vas said in cIass, lhough. }usl
Iike lhe boy named Crov suggesled.

The facls and lechniques or vhalever lhey leach you in cIass isn'l
going lo be very usefuI in lhe reaI vorId, lhal's for sure. Lel's face
il, leachers are basicaIIy a bunch of morons. ul you've gol lo
remember lhis: you're running avay from home. You robabIy
von'l have any chance lo go lo schooI anymore, so Iike il or nol
you'd beller absorb vhalever you can vhiIe you've gol lhe chance.
ecome Iike a sheel of bIolling aer and soak il aII in. Laler on
you can figure oul vhal lo kee and vhal lo unIoad.

I did vhal he said, Iike I aImosl aIvays do. My brain Iike a songe,
I focused on every vord said in cIass and Iel il aII sink in, figured
oul vhal il meanl, and commilled everylhing lo memory. Thanks
lo lhis, I bareIy had lo sludy oulside of cIass, bul aIvays came oul
near lhe lo on exams.

My muscIes vere gelling hard as sleeI, even as I grev more


vilhdravn and quiel. I lried hard lo kee my emolions from
shoving so lhal no one--cIassmales and leachers aIike--had a cIue
vhal I vas lhinking. Soon I'd be Iaunched inlo lhe rough aduIl
vorId, and I knev I'd have lo be lougher lhan anybody if I vanled
lo survive.

My eyes in lhe mirror are coId as a Iizard's, my exression fixed


and unreadabIe. I can'l remember lhe Iasl lime I Iaughed or even
shoved a hinl of a smiIe lo olher eoIe. Iven lo myseIf.

I'm nol lrying lo imIy I can kee u lhis siIenl, isoIaled facade aII
lhe lime. Somelimes lhe vaII I've erecled around me comes
crumbIing dovn. Il doesn'l haen very oflen, bul somelimes,
before I even reaIize vhal's going on, lhere I am--naked and
defenseIess and lolaIIy confused. Al limes Iike lhal I aIvays feeI an
omen caIIing oul lo me, Iike a dark, omniresenl ooI of valer.

A dark, omniresenl ooI of valer.


5

Il vas robabIy aIvays lhere, hidden avay somevhere. ul vhen


lhe lime comes il siIenlIy rushes oul, chiIIing every ceII in your
body. You drovn in lhal crueI fIood, gasing for brealh. You cIing
lo a venl near lhe ceiIing, slruggIing, bul lhe air you manage lo
brealhe is dry and burns your lhroal. Waler and lhirsl, coId and
heal--lhese suosedIy oosile eIemenls combine lo assauIl you.

The vorId is a huge sace, bul lhe sace lhal viII lake you in--and
il doesn'l have lo be very big--is novhere lo be found. You seek a
voice, bul vhal do you gel` SiIence. You Iook for siIence, bul guess
vhal` AII you hear over and over and over is lhe voice of lhis
omen. And somelimes lhis rohelic voice ushes a secrel svilch
hidden dee inside your brain.

Your hearl is Iike a greal river afler a Iong seII of rain, fuII lo lhe
banks. AII signosls lhal once slood on lhe ground are gone,
inundaled and carried avay by lhal rush of valer. And sliII lhe
rain beals dovn on lhe surface of lhe river. Ivery lime you see a
fIood Iike lhal on lhe nevs you leII yourseIf: Thal's il. Thal's my
hearl.

efore running avay from home I vash my hands and face, lrim
my naiIs, svab oul my ears, and brush my leelh. I lake my lime,
making sure my vhoIe body's veII scrubbed. eing reaIIy cIean is
somelimes lhe mosl imorlanl lhing lhere is. I gaze carefuIIy al my
face in lhe mirror. Genes I'd gollen from my falher and molher--
nol lhal I have any recoIIeclion of vhal she Iooked Iike--crealed
lhis face. I can do my besl lo nol Iel any emolions shov, kee my
eyes from reveaIing anylhing, buIk u my muscIes, bul lhere's nol
much I can do aboul my Iooks. I'm sluck vilh my falher's Iong,
lhick eyebrovs and lhe dee Iines belveen lhem. I couId robabIy
kiII him if I vanled lo--I'm sure slrong enough--and I can erase my
molher from my memory. ul lhere's no vay lo erase lhe DNA
lhey assed dovn lo me. If I vanled lo drive lhal avay I'd have lo
gel rid of me.

6
There's an omen conlained in lhal. A mechanism buried inside of
me.

A mechanism buried inside of you.

I svilch off lhe Iighl and Ieave lhe balhroom. A heavy, dam
sliIIness Iies over lhe house. The vhisers of eoIe vho don'l
exisl, lhe brealh of lhe dead. I Iook around, slanding slock-sliII,
and lake a dee brealh. The cIock shovs lhree .m., lhe lvo hands
coId and dislanl. They're relending lo be noncommillaI, bul I
knov lhey're nol on my side. Il's nearIy lime for me lo say good-
bye. I ick u my backack and sIi il over my shouIders. I've
carried il any number of limes, bul nov il feeIs so much heavier.

Shikoku, I decide. Thal's vhere I'II go. There's no arlicuIar reason


il has lo be Shikoku, onIy lhal sludying lhe ma I gol lhe feeIing
lhal's vhere I shouId head. The more I Iook al lhe ma--acluaIIy
every lime I sludy il--lhe more I feeI Shikoku lugging al me. Il's far
soulh of Tokyo, searaled from lhe mainIand by valer, vilh a
varm cIimale. I've never been lhere, have no friends or reIalives
lhere, so if somebody slarled Iooking for me--vhich I kind of
doubl--Shikoku vouId be lhe Iasl Iace lhey'd lhink of.

I ick u lhe lickel I'd reserved al lhe counler and cIimb aboard
lhe nighl bus. This is lhe cheaesl vay lo gel lo Takamalsu--|usl a
shade over ninely bucks. Nobody ays me any allenlion, asks hov
oId I am, or gives me a second Iook. The bus driver mechanicaIIy
checks my lickel.

OnIy a lhird of lhe seals are laken. Mosl assengers are lraveIing
aIone, Iike me, and lhe bus is slrangeIy siIenl. Il's a Iong lri lo
Takamalsu, len hours according lo lhe scheduIe, and ve'II be
arriving earIy in lhe morning. ul I don'l mind. I've gol Ienly of
lime. The bus uIIs oul of lhe slalion al eighl, and I ush my seal
back. No sooner do I sellIe dovn lhan my consciousness, Iike a
ballery lhal's Iosl ils charge, slarls lo fade avay, and I faII asIee.

7
Somelime in lhe middIe of lhe nighl a hard rain begins lo faII. I
vake u every once in a vhiIe, arl lhe chinlzy curlain al lhe
vindov, and gaze oul al lhe highvay rushing by. Raindros beal
againsl lhe gIass, bIurring slreelIighls aIongside lhe road lhal
slrelch off inlo lhe dislance al idenlicaI inlervaIs Iike lhey vere sel
dovn lo measure lhe earlh. A nev Iighl rushes u cIose and in an
inslanl fades off behind us. I check my valch and see il's asl
midnighl. AulomalicaIIy shoved lo lhe fronl, my fifleenlh birlhday
makes ils aearance.

"Hey, hay birlhday," lhe boy named Crov says.

"Thanks," I reIy.

The omen is sliII vilh me, lhough, Iike a shadov. I check lo make
sure lhe vaII around me is sliII in Iace. Then I cIose lhe curlain
and faII back asIee.
8
Chaler 2

The foIIoving documenl, cIassified To Secrel by lhe U.S.


Dearlmenl of Defense, vas reIeased lo lhe ubIic in 1986 lhrough
lhe Ireedom of Informalion Acl. The documenl is nov kel in lhe
NalionaI Archives in Washinglon, D.C., and can be accessed lhere.

The invesligalions recorded here vere carried oul under lhe


direclion of Ma|or }ames I. Warren from March lo AriI 1946. The
fieId invesligalion in |name deIeledj counly, Yamanashi
Irefeclure, vas conducled by Second Lieulenanl Roberl O'Connor
and Masler Sergeanl HaroId Kalayama. The inlerrogalor in aII
inlervievs vas Ll. O'Connor. Sgl. Kalayama handIed lhe }aanese
inlerreling, and Irivale WiIIiam Cohen reared lhe documenls.

Inlervievs vere conducled over a lveIve-day eriod in lhe


recelion room of lhe |name deIeledj lovn lovn haII in
Yamanashi Irefeclure. The foIIoving vilnesses resonded
individuaIIy lo Ll. O'Connor's queslions: a femaIe leacher al lhe
|deIeledj lovn |deIeledj counly ubIic schooI, a doclor residing in
lhe same lovn, lvo alroImen assigned lo lhe IocaI oIice
recincl, and six chiIdren.

The aended 1:10,000 and 1:2,000 mas of lhe area in queslion


vere rovided by lhe Toograhic Inslilule of lhe Minislry of
Home Affairs.

U.S. ARMY INTILLIGINCI SICTION (MIS) RIIORT

Daled: May 12, 1946

TilIe: Reorl on lhe Rice ovI HiII Incidenl, 1944

Documenl Number: ITYX-722-8936745-42213-WWN

The foIIoving is a laed inlerviev vilh Selsuko Okamochi (26),


leacher in charge of lhe fourlh-grade cIass al lhe ubIic schooI in
9
|deIeledj lovn, |deIeledj counly. MaleriaIs reIaled lo lhe inlerviev
can be accessed using aIicalion number ITYX-722-SQ-118.

Imressions of lhe inlerviever, Ll. Roberl O'Connor: Selsuko


Okamochi is an allraclive, elile voman. InleIIigenl and
resonsibIe, she resonded lo lhe queslions accuraleIy and
honeslIy. She sliII seems sIighlIy in shock, lhough, from lhe
incidenl. As she searched her memory she grev very lense al
limes, and vhenever lhis haened she had a lendency lo seak
more sIovIy.

I lhink il musl have been |usl afler len in lhe morning vhen I sav
a siIver Iighl far u in lhe sky. A briIIianl fIash of siIver. Thal's
righl, il vas definileIy Iighl refIecling off somelhing melaI. Thal
Iighl moved very sIovIy in lhe sky from easl lo vesl. We aII
lhoughl il had lo be a -29. Il vas direclIy above us, so lo see il ve
had lo Iook slraighl u. Il vas a cIear bIue sky, and lhe Iighl vas
so brighl aII ve couId see vas lhal siIver, duraIumin-Iike ob|ecl.

ul ve couIdn'l make oul lhe shae, since il vas loo far u. I


assumed lhal lhey couIdn'l see us eilher, so ve veren'l afraid of
being allacked or having bombs suddenIy rain dovn on us.
Droing bombs in lhe mounlains here vouId be relly oinlIess
anyvay. I figured lhe Iane vas on ils vay lo bomb some Iarge
cily somevhere, or maybe on ils vay back from a raid. So ve
veren'l afraid vhen ve solled lhe Iane, and venl on vaIking.
AII I lhoughl vas hov lhal Iighl had a slrange beauly lo il.

-According lo miIilary records no U.S. bombers or any olher kind


of aircrafl vere fIying over lhal region al lhe lime, lhal is, around
len a.m. on November 7, 1944.

ul I sav il cIearIy, and so did lhe sixleen chiIdren in my cIass. AII


of us lhoughl il had lo be a -29. We'd aII seen many formalions of
-29s, and lhose are lhe onIy kind of Ianes lhal couId ossibIy fIy
lhal high. There vas a smaII airbase in our refeclure, and I'd
occasionaIIy seen }aanese Ianes fIying, bul lhey vere aII smaII
10
and couId never fIy as high as vhal I sav. esides, lhe vay
duraIumin refIecls Iighl is differenl from olher lyes of melaI, and
lhe onIy Ianes made oul of lhal are -29s. I did lhink il vas a IillIe
slrange, lhough, lhal il vas a soIo Iane fIying aII by ilseIf, nol arl
of a formalion.

-Were you born in lhis region`

No, I vas born in Hiroshima. I gol married in 1941, and lhal's


vhen I came here. My husband vas a music leacher in a |unior
high schooI in lhis refeclure. He vas caIIed u in 1943 and died
fighling in Luzon in }une of 1945. Irom vhal I heard Ialer, he vas
guarding an ammunilion dum |usl oulside ManiIa vhen il vas
hil by American sheIIs and bIev u, kiIIing him. We have no
chiIdren.

-Seaking of chiIdren, hov many vere you in charge of on lhal


ouling`

Sixleen aII logelher, boys and girIs. Tvo vere oul sick, bul olher
lhan lhal il vas lhe enlire cIass. Iighl boys and eighl girIs. Iive of
lhem vere chiIdren vho'd been evacualed from Tokyo.

We sel oul from lhe schooI al nine in lhe morning. Il vas a lyicaI
schooI ouling, so everyone carried canleens and Iunches vilh
lhem. We had nolhing in arlicuIar ve vere Ianning lo sludy, ve
vere |usl going u inlo lhe hiIIs lo galher mushrooms and edibIe
viId Ianls. The area around vhere ve Iived vas farmIand, so ve
veren'l lhal badIy off in lerms of food-vhich isn'l lo say ve had
Ienly lo eal. There vas a slricl ralioning syslem in Iace and mosl
of us vere hungry aII lhe lime.

So lhe chiIdren vere encouraged lo hunl for food vherever lhey


couId find il. The counlry vas al var, afler aII, and food look
riorily over sludying. Iveryone venl on lhis kind of schooI
ouling-ouldoor sludy sessions, as lhey vere caIIed. Since our
schooI vas surrounded by hiIIs and voods, lhere vere a Iol of nice
11
sols ve used lo go lo. I lhink ve vere bIessed in lhal sense.
IeoIe in cilies vere aII slarving. SuIy roules from Taivan and
lhe conlinenl had been cul off by lhis lime and urban areas vere
suffering lerribIy from a Iack of food and fueI.

-You menlioned lhal five of your uiIs had been evacualed from
Tokyo. Did lhey gel aIong veII vilh lhe IocaI chiIdren`

In my cIass al Ieasl lhey did. The environmenls lhe lvo grous


grev u in, of course, vere comIeleIy differenl-one vay oul in
lhe counlry, lhe olher in lhe hearl of Tokyo. They soke
differenlIy, even dressed differenlIy. Mosl of lhe IocaI kids vere
from oor farming famiIies, vhiIe lhe ma|orily of lhe Tokyo
chiIdren had falhers vho vorked for comanies or in lhe civiI
service. So I couIdn'l say lhey reaIIy underslood each olher.

IseciaIIy in lhe beginning you couId sense some lension belveen


lhe lvo grous. I'm nol saying lhey buIIied each olher or gol inlo
fighls, because lhey didn'l. Whal I mean is one grou didn'l seem
lo undersland vhal lhe olher grou vas lhinking. So lhey lended
lo kee lo lhemseIves, lhe IocaI kids vilh olher IocaI kids, lhe
Tokyo chiIdren in lheir ovn IillIe grou. This vas onIy lhe firsl
lvo monlhs, lhough. Afler lhal lhey gol aIong veII. You knov
hov il is. When kids slarl Iaying logelher and gel comIeleIy
absorbed by vhalever lhey're doing, lhey don'l care aboul lhings
Iike lhal anymore.

-I'd Iike you lo describe, in as much delaiI as you can, lhe sol
vhere you look your cIass lhal day.

Il vas a hiII ve oflen venl lo on oulings. Il vas a round hiII


shaed Iike an uside-dovn bovI. We usuaIIy caIIed il "Ovan
yama." |Nole: "Rice ovI HiII."j Il vas a shorl vaIk lo lhe vesl of
lhe schooI and vasn'l slee al aII, so anybody couId cIimb il. Al
lhe chiIdren's ace il look somevhere around lvo hours lo gel lo
lhe lo. AIong lhe vay lhey'd search lhe voods for mushrooms
and ve'd have a simIe Iunch. The chiIdren, naluraIIy, en|oyed
12
going on lhese ouldoor sessions much more lhan slaying in our
cIassroom sludying.

The gIillering airIane ve sav vay u in lhe sky reminded us for


a momenl of lhe var, bul |usl for a shorl lime, and ve vere aII in a
good mood. There vasn'l a cIoud in lhe sky, no vind, and
everylhing vas quiel around us-aII ve couId hear vere birds
chiring in lhe voods. The var seemed Iike somelhing in a
faravay Iand lhal had nolhing lo do vilh us. We sang songs as ve
hiked u lhe hiII, somelimes imilaling lhe birds ve heard. Ixcel
for lhe facl lhal lhe var vas sliII going on, il vas a erfecl
morning.

-Il vas soon afler you observed lhe airIane-Iike ob|ecl lhal you
venl inlo lhe voods, correcl`

Thal's correcl. I'd say il vas Iess lhan five minules Ialer lhal ve
venl inlo lhe voods. We Iefl lhe main lraiI u lhe hiII and venl
aIong a lramIed-dovn alh lhal venl u lhe sIoe of lhe voods.
Il vas relly slee. Afler ve'd hiked for aboul len minules ve
came lo a cIearing, a broad area as fIal as a labIelo. Once ve'd
enlered lhe voods il vas comIeleIy sliII, and vilh lhe sun
bIocked oul il vas chiIIy, bul vhen ve sleed inlo lhal cIearing il
vas Iike ve vere in a minialure lovn square, vilh lhe sky brighl
above us. My cIass oflen sloed by lhis sol vhenever ve
cIimbed Ovan yama. The Iace had a caIming effecl, and
somehov made us aII feeI nice and cozy.

We look a break once ve reached lhis "square," ulling dovn our


acks, and lhen lhe chiIdren venl inlo lhe voods in grous of
lhree or four in search of mushrooms. I insisled lhal lhey never
Iose sighl of one anolher. efore lhey sel oul, I galhered lhem aII
logelher and made sure lhey underslood lhis. We knev lhe Iace
veII, bul il vas a voods, afler aII, and if any of lhem gol searaled
and Iosl ve'd have a hard lime finding lhem. SliII, you have lo
remember lhese are smaII chiIdren, and once lhey slarl hunling
13
mushrooms lhey lend lo forgel lhis ruIe. So I aIvays made sure
lhal as I Iooked for mushrooms myseIf I kel an eye on lhem, and
a running head counl.

Il vas aboul len minules or so afler ve began hunling mushrooms


lhal lhe chiIdren slarled lo coIIase.

When I firsl solled a grou of lhree of lhem coIIased on lhe


ground I vas sure lhey'd ealen oisonous mushrooms. There are a
Iol of highIy loxic mushrooms around here, even ones lhal can be
falaI. The IocaI kids knov vhich ones nol lo ick, bul a fev
varielies are hard lo dislinguish. Thal's vhy I aIvays varned lhe
chiIdren never lo ul any in lheir moulhs unliI ve gol back lo
schooI and had an exerl check lhem. ul you can'l aIvays execl
kids lo Iislen, can you`

I raced over lo lhe sol and Iifled u lhe chiIdren vho'd faIIen lo
lhe ground. Their bodies vere Iim, Iike rubber lhal's been Iefl oul
in lhe sun. Il vas Iike carrying emly sheIIs-lhe slrenglh vas
comIeleIy drained from lhem. ul lhey vere brealhing fine. Their
uIses vere normaI, and none of lhem had a lemeralure. They
Iooked caIm, nol al aII Iike lhey vere in any ain. I ruIed oul
lhings Iike bee slings or snakebiles. The chiIdren vere simIy
unconscious.

The slrangesl lhing vas lheir eyes. Their bodies vere so Iim il
vas Iike lhey vere in a coma, yel lheir eyes vere oen as if lhey
vere Iooking al somelhing. They'd bIink every once in a vhiIe, so
il vasn'l Iike lhey vere asIee. And lheir eyes moved very sIovIy
from side lo side Iike lhey vere scanning a dislanl horizon. Their
eyes al Ieasl vere conscious. ul lhey veren'l acluaIIy Iooking al
anylhing, or al Ieasl nolhing visibIe. I vaved my hand a fev limes
in fronl of lheir faces, bul gol no reaclion.

I icked u each of lhe lhree chiIdren in lurn, and lhey vere aII
exaclIy lhe same. AII of lhem vere unconscious, lheir eyes sIovIy
moving from side lo side. Il vas lhe veirdesl lhing I'd ever seen.
14

-Describe lhe grou lhal firsl coIIased.

Il vas a grou of girIs. Three girIs vho vere aII good friends. I
caIIed oul lheir names and sIaed lhem on lhe cheek, relly hard,
in facl, bul lhere vas no reaclion. They didn'l feeI a lhing. Il vas a
slrange feeIing, Iike louching a void.

My firsl lhoughl vas lo send somebody running back lo lhe schooI


for heI. There vas no vay I couId carry lhree unconscious
chiIdren dovn by myseIf. So I slarled Iooking for lhe faslesl
runner in lhe cIass, one of lhe boys. ul vhen I slood u and
Iooked around I sav lhal aII lhe chiIdren had coIIased. AII sixleen
of lhem had faIIen lo lhe ground and Iosl consciousness. The onIy
one sliII conscious and slanding vas me. Il vas Iike . . . a
ballIefieId.

-Did you nolice anylhing unusuaI al lhe scene` Any slrange smeII
or sound-or a Iighl`

|Thinks aboul il for a vhiIe.j No, as I aIready said, il vas very


quiel and eacefuI. No unusuaI sounds or Iighl or smeIIs. The onIy
lhing unusuaI vas lhal every singIe uiI in my cIass had
coIIased and vas Iying lhere unconscious. I feIl ullerIy aIone, Iike
I vas lhe Iasl erson aIive on Iarlh. I can'l describe lhal feeIing of
lolaI IoneIiness. I |usl vanled lo disaear inlo lhin air and nol
lhink aboul anylhing.

Of course I couIdn'l do lhal-I had my duly as a leacher. I uIIed


myseIf logelher and raced dovn lhe sIoe as fasl as my Iegs vouId
carry me, lo gel heI al lhe schooI.

15
Chaler 3

Il's nearIy davn vhen I vake u. I drav lhe curlain back and lake
a Iook. Il musl have |usl sloed raining, since everylhing is sliII
vel and driy. CIouds lo lhe easl are sharIy elched againsl lhe
sky, each one framed by Iighl. The sky Iooks ominous one minule,
inviling lhe nexl. Il aII deends on lhe angIe.

The bus Iovs dovn lhe highvay al a sel seed, lhe lires
humming aIong, never gelling any Iouder or sofler. Same vilh lhe
engine, ils monolonous sound Iike a morlar smoolhIy grinding
dovn lime and lhe consciousness of lhe eoIe on board. The
olher assengers are aII sunk back in lheir seals, asIee, lheir
curlains dravn lighl. The driver and I are lhe onIy ones avake.
We're being carried, efficienlIy and numbIy, lovard our
deslinalion.

IeeIing lhirsly, I lake a bollIe of mineraI valer from lhe ockel of


my backack and drink some of lhe Iukevarm valer. Irom lhe
same ockel I uII oul a box of soda crackers and munch a fev,
en|oying lhal famiIiar dry lasle. According lo my valch il's 4:32. I
check lhe dale and day of lhe veek, |usl lo be on lhe safe side.
Thirleen hours since I Iefl home. Time hasn'l Ieaed ahead more
lhan il shouId or done an unexecled aboul-face. Il's sliII my
birlhday, sliII lhe firsl day of my brand-nev Iife. I shul my eyes,
oen lhem again, again checking lhe lime and dale on my valch.
Then I svilch on lhe reading Iighl, lake oul a aerback book, and
slarl reading.

}usl afler five, vilhoul varning, lhe bus uIIs off lhe highvay and
comes lo a slo in a corner of a roadside resl area. The fronl door
of lhe bus oens vilh an airy hiss, Iighls bIink on inside, and lhe
bus driver makes a brief announcemenl. "Good morning,
everybody. Hoe you had a good resl. We're on scheduIe and
shouId arrive in our finaI slo al Takamalsu Slalion in aboul an
hour. ul ve're sloing here for a lvenly-minule break. We'II be
16
Ieaving again al five-lhirly, so Iease be sure lo be back on board
by lhen."

The announcemenl vakes u mosl of lhe assengers, and lhey


siIenlIy slruggIe lo lheir feel, yavning as lhey slumbIe oul of lhe
bus. This is vhere eoIe make lhemseIves resenlabIe before
arriving in Takamalsu. I gel off loo, lake a couIe of dee brealhs,
and do some simIe slrelching exercises in lhe fresh morning air. I
vaIk over lo lhe men's room and sIash some valer on my face.
I'm vondering vhere lhe heck ve are. I go oulside and Iook
around. Nolhing seciaI, |usl lhe lyicaI roadside scenery you find
nexl lo a highvay. Maybe I'm |usl imagining lhings, bul lhe shae
of lhe hiIIs and lhe coIor of lhe lrees seem differenl from lhose
back in Tokyo.

I'm inside lhe cafeleria siing a free cu of hol lea vhen lhis
young girI comes over and Iunks herseIf dovn on lhe Iaslic seal
nexl lo me. In her righl hand she has a aer cu of hol coffee she
boughl in a vending machine, lhe sleam rising u from il, and in
her Iefl hand she's hoIding a smaII conlainer vilh sandviches
inside-anolher bil of vending-machine gourmel fare, by lhe Iooks
of il.

She's kind of funny Iooking. Her face is oul of baIance-broad


forehead, bullon nose, freckIed cheeks, and oinly ears. A
sIammed-logelher, rough sorl of face you can'l ignore. SliII, lhe
vhoIe ackage isn'l so bad. Ior aII I knov maybe she's nol so viId
aboul her ovn Iooks, bul she seems comforlabIe vilh vho she is,
and lhal's lhe imorlanl lhing. There's somelhing chiIdish aboul
her lhal has a caIming effecl, al Ieasl on me. She isn'l very laII, vilh
a nice busl for such a sIim body and good-Iooking Iegs.

Her lhin melaI earrings sarkIe Iike duraIumin. She vears her
dark brovn, aImosl reddish dyed hair dovn lo her shouIders, and
has on a Iong-sIeeved crevneck shirl vilh vide slries. A smaII
Iealher backack hangs from one shouIder, and a Iighl svealer's
17
lied around her neck. A cream-coIored miniskirl comIeles her
oulfil, vilh no slockings. She's evidenlIy vashed her face, since a
fev slrands of hair, Iike lhe lhin rools of a Ianl, are Iaslered lo
her broad forehead. SlrangeIy enough, lhose Ioose slrands of hair
drav me lo her.

"You vere on lhe bus, veren'l you`" she asks me, her voice a IillIe
husky.

"Yeah, lhal's righl."

She frovns as she lakes a si of lhe coffee. "Hov oId are you`"

"Sevenleen," I Iie.

"So you're in high schooI."

I nod.

"Where're you headed`"

"Takamalsu."

"Same vilh me," she says. "Are you visiling, or do you Iive lhere`"

"Visiling," I reIy.

"Me loo. I have a friend lhere. A girIfriend of mine. Hov aboul


you`"

"ReIalives."

I see, her nod says. No more queslions. "I've gol a younger brolher
lhe same age as you," she suddenIy leIIs me, as if she'd |usl
remembered. "Things haened, and ve haven'l seen each olher
for a Iong lime. . . . You knov somelhing` You Iook a Iol Iike lhal
guy. Anybody ever leII you lhal`"

18
"Whal guy`"

"You knov, lhe guy vho sings in lhal band! As soon as I sav you
in lhe bus I lhoughl you Iooked Iike him, bul I |usl can'l come u
vilh his name. I musl have busled a hoIe in my brain lrying lo
remember. Thal haens somelimes, righl` Il's on lhe li of your
longue, bul you |usl can'l lhink of il. Hasn'l anybody said lhal lo
you before-lhal you remind lhem of somebody`"

I shake my head. Nobody's ever said lhal lo me. She's sliII slaring
al me, eyes narroved inlenlIy. "Whal kind of erson do you
mean`" I ask.

"A TV guy."

"A guy vho's on TV`"

"Righl," she says, icking u her ham sandvich and laking an


uninsired bile, vashing il dovn vilh a si of coffee. "A guy vho
sings in some band. Darn-I can'l lhink of lhe band's name, eilher.
This laII guy vho has a Kansai accenl. You don'l have any idea
vho I mean`"

"Sorry, I don'l valch TV."

The girI frovns and gives me a hard Iook. "You don'l valch al aII`"

I shake my head siIenlIy. Wail a sec-shouId I nod or shake my


head here` I go vilh lhe nod.

"Nol very laIkalive, are you` One Iine al a lime seems your slyIe.
Are you aIvays so quiel`"

I bIush. I'm sorl of a quiel lye lo begin vilh, bul arl of lhe reason
I don'l vanl lo say much is lhal my voice hasn'l changed
comIeleIy. Mosl of lhe lime I've gol kind of a Iov voice, bul aII of
a sudden il lurns on me and Iels oul a squeak. So I lry lo kee
vhalever I say shorl and sveel.
19

"Anyvay," she goes on, "vhal I'm lrying lo say is you Iook a Iol
Iike lhal singer vilh lhe Kansai accenl. Nol lhal you have a Kansai
accenl or anylhing. Il's |usl-I don'l knov, lhere's somelhing aboul
you lhal's a Iol Iike him. He seems Iike a reaI nice guy, lhal's aII."

Her smiIe sles offslage for a momenl, lhen does an encore, aII
vhiIe I'm deaIing vilh my bIushing face. "You'd resembIe him
even more if you changed your hair," she says. "Lel il grov oul a
IillIe, use some geI lo make il fIi u a bil. I'd Iove lo give il a lry.
You'd definileIy Iook good Iike lhal. AcluaIIy, I'm a hairdresser."

I nod and si my lea. The cafeleria is dead siIenl. None of lhe


usuaI background music, nobody eIse laIking besides lhe lvo of
us.

"Maybe you don'l Iike laIking`" she says, resling her head in one
hand and giving me a serious Iook.

I shake my head. "No, lhal's nol il."

"You lhink il's a ain lo laIk lo eoIe`"

One more shake of my head.

She icks u her olher sandvich vilh slravberry |am inslead of


ham, lhen frovns and gives me lhis Iook of disbeIief. "WouId you
eal lhis for me` I hale slravberry-|am sandviches more lhan
anylhing. Iver since I vas a kid."

I lake il from her. Slravberry-|am sandviches aren'l exaclIy on my


lo len Iisl eilher, bul I don'l say a vord and slarl ealing.

Irom across lhe labIe she valches unliI I finish every Iasl crumb.
"CouId you do me a favor`" she says.

"A favor`"

20
"Can I sil nexl lo you unliI ve gel lo Takamalsu` I |usl can'l reIax
vhen I sil by myseIf. I aIvays feeI Iike some veird erson's going
lo Io himseIf dovn nexl lo me, and lhen I can'l gel lo sIee.
When I boughl my lickel lhey loId me lhey vere aII singIe seals,
bul vhen I gol on I sav lhey're aII doubIes. I |usl vanl lo calch a
fev vinks before ve arrive, and you seem Iike a nice guy. Do you
mind`"

"No robIem."

"Thanks," she says. "'In lraveIing, a comanion,' as lhe saying


goes."

I nod. Nod, nod, nod-lhal's aII I seem caabIe of. ul vhal shouId I
say`

"Hov does lhal end`" she asks.

"Hov does vhal end`"

"Afler a comanion, hov does il go` I can'l remember. I never vas


very good al }aanese."

"'In Iife, comassion,'" I say.

"'In lraveIing, a comanion, in Iife, comassion,'" she reeals,


making sure of il. If she had aer and enciI, il vouIdn'l surrise
me if she vrole il dovn. "So vhal does lhal reaIIy mean` In simIe
lerms."

I lhink il over. Il lakes me a vhiIe lo galher my lhoughls, bul she


vails alienlIy.

"I lhink il means," I say, "lhal chance encounlers are vhal kee us
going. In simIe lerms."

21
She muIIs lhal over for a vhiIe, lhen sIovIy brings her hands
logelher on lo of lhe labIe and resls lhem lhere IighlIy. "I lhink
you're righl aboul lhal-lhal chance encounlers kee us going."

I gIance al my valch. Il's five-lhirly aIready. "Maybe ve beller be


gelling back."

"Yeah, I guess so. Lel's go," she says, making no move, lhough, lo
gel u.

"y lhe vay, vhere are ve`" I ask.

"I have no idea," she says. She cranes her neck and svees lhe
Iace vilh her eyes. Her earrings |iggIe back and forlh Iike lvo
recarious ieces of rie fruil ready lo faII. "Irom lhe lime I'm
guessing ve're near Kurashiki, nol lhal il mallers. A resl area on a
highvay is |usl a Iace you ass lhrough. To gel from here lo
lhere." She hoIds u her righl index finger and her Iefl index
finger, aboul lveIve inches aarl.

"Whal does il maller vhal il's caIIed`" she conlinues. "You've gol
your reslrooms and your food. Your fIuorescenl Iighls and your
Iaslic chairs. Cray coffee. Slravberry-|am sandviches. Il's aII
oinlIess-assuming you lry lo find a oinl lo il. We're coming from
somevhere, heading somevhere eIse. Thal's aII you need lo knov,
righl`"

I nod. And nod. And nod.

When ve gel back lo lhe bus lhe olher assengers are aIready
aboard, vilh |usl us hoIding lhings u. The driver's a young guy
vilh lhis inlense Iook lhal reminds me of some slern valchman.
He lurns a reroachfuI gaze on lhe lvo of us bul doesn'l say
anylhing, and lhe girI shools him an innocenl sorry-ve're-Iale
smiIe. He reaches oul lo ush a Iever and lhe door hisses cIosed.
The girI Iugs her IillIe suilcase over and sils dovn beside me-a
nolhing kind of suilcase she musl've icked u al some discounl
22
Iace-and I ick il u for her and slore il avay in lhe overhead
rack. Irelly heavy for ils size. She lhanks me, lhen recIines her seal
and fades off lo sIee. Like il can bareIy vail lo gel going, lhe bus
slarls lo roII lhe inslanl ve gel sellIed. I uII oul my aerback
and ick u vhere I'd Iefl off.

The girI's soon fasl asIee, and as lhe bus svays lhrough each
curve her head Ieans againsl my shouIder, finaIIy coming lo a resl
lhere. Moulh cIosed, she's brealhing quielIy lhrough her nose, lhe
brealh grazing my shouIder al reguIar beals. I Iook dovn and
calch a gIimse of her bra slra lhrough lhe coIIar of her crevneck
shirl, a lhin, cream-coIored slra. I iclure lhe deIicale fabric al lhe
end of lhal slra. The sofl breasls benealh. The ink niIes laul
under my fingerlis. Nol lhal I'm lrying lo imagine aII lhis, bul I
can'l heI il. And-no surrise-I gel a massive hard-on. So rigid il
makes me vonder hov any arl of your body couId ever gel so
rock hard.

}usl lhen a lhoughl hils me. Maybe-|usl maybe-lhis girI's my sisler.


She's aboul lhe righl age. Her odd Iooks aren'l al aII Iike lhe girI in
lhe holo, bul you can'l aIvays counl on lhal. Deending on hov
lhey're laken eoIe somelimes Iook lolaIIy differenl. She said she
has a brolher my age vho she hasn'l seen in ages. CouIdn'l lhal
brolher be me-in lheory, al Ieasl`

I slare al her chesl. As she brealhes, lhe rounded eaks move u


and dovn Iike lhe sveII of vaves, somehov reminding me of rain
faIIing soflIy on a broad slrelch of sea. I'm lhe IoneIy voyager
slanding on deck, and she's lhe sea. The sky is a bIankel of gray,
merging vilh lhe gray sea off on lhe horizon. Il's hard lo leII lhe
difference belveen sea and sky. elveen voyager and sea.
elveen reaIily and lhe vorkings of lhe hearl.

The girI vears lvo rings on her fingers, neilher of vhich is a


vedding or engagemenl ring, |usl chea lhings you find al lhose
IillIe bouliques girIs sho al. Her fingers are Iong and lhin bul Iook
slrong, lhe naiIs are shorl and niceIy lrimmed vilh a Iighl ink
23
oIish. Her hands are resling IighlIy on lhe knees lhrusl oul from
her miniskirl. I vanl lo louch lhose hands, bul of course I don'l.
AsIee, she Iooks Iike a young chiId. One oinly ear eeks oul
from lhe slrands of hair Iike a IillIe mushroom, Iooking slrangeIy
fragiIe.

I shul my book and Iook for a vhiIe al lhe assing scenery. ul


very soon, before I reaIize il, I faII asIee myseIf.

24
Chaler 4

U.S. ARMY INTILLIGINCI SICTION (MIS) RIIORT

Daled: May 12, 1946

TilIe: Reorl on lhe Rice ovI HiII Incidenl, 1944

Documenl Number: ITYX-722-8936745-42216-WWN

The foIIoving is a laed inlerviev vilh Doclor }uichi Nakazava


(53), vho ran an inlernaI medicine cIinic in |name deIeledj lovn al
lhe lime of lhe incidenl. MaleriaIs reIaled lo lhe inlerviev can be
accessed using aIicalion number ITYX-722-SQ-162 lo 183.

Imressions of lhe inlerviever Ll. Roberl O'Connor: Doclor


Nakazava is so big boned and dark skinned he Iooks more Iike a
farm foreman lhan a doclor. He has a caIm manner bul is very
brisk and concise and says exaclIy vhal's on his mind. ehind his
gIasses his eyes have a very shar, aIerl Iook, and his memory
seems reIiabIe.

Thal's correcl-al eIeven a.m. on November 7, 1944, I received a


hone caII from lhe assislanl rinciaI al lhe IocaI eIemenlary
schooI. I used lo be lhe schooI doclor, or somelhing cIose lo il, so
lhal's vhy lhey conlacled me firsl.

The assislanl rinciaI vas lerribIy usel. He loId me lhal an


enlire cIass had Iosl consciousness vhiIe on an ouling in lhe hiIIs
lo ick mushrooms. According lo him lhey vere lolaIIy
unconscious. OnIy lhe leacher in charge had remained conscious,
and she'd run back lo schooI for heI |usl lhen. She vas so
fIuslered I couIdn'l gras lhe vhoIe silualion, lhough one facl did
come lhrough Ioud and cIear: sixleen chiIdren had coIIased in lhe
voods.

25
The kids vere oul icking mushrooms, so of course my firsl
lhoughl vas lhal lhey'd ealen some oisonous ones and been
araIyzed. If lhal vere lhe case il'd be difficuIl lo lreal. Differenl
varielies of mushrooms have differenl loxicily IeveIs, and lhe
lrealmenls vary. The mosl ve couId do al lhe momenl vouId be lo
um oul lheir slomachs. In lhe case of highIy loxic varielies,
lhough, lhe oison mighl enler lhe bIoodslream quickIy and ve
mighl be loo Iale. Around here, severaI eoIe a year die from
oison mushrooms.

I sluffed some emergency medicine in my bag and rode my bike


over lo lhe schooI as fasl as I couId. The oIice had been conlacled
and lvo oIicemen vere aIready lhere. We knev ve had lo gel lhe
unconscious kids back lo lovn and vouId need aII lhe heI ve
couId gel. Mosl of lhe young men vere avay al var, lhough, so
ve sel off vilh lhe besl ve had-myseIf, lhe lvo oIicemen, an
eIderIy maIe leacher, lhe assislanl rinciaI and rinciaI, lhe
schooI |anilor. And of course lhe homeroom leacher vho'd been
vilh lhe kids. We grabbed vhalever bicycIes ve couId find, bul
lhere veren'l enough, so some of us rode lvo lo a bike.

-Whal lime did you arrive al lhe sile`

Il vas 11:55. I remember since I haened lo gIance al my valch


vhen ve gol lhere. We rode our bicycIes lo lhe bollom of lhe hiII,
as far as ve couId go, lhen cIimbed lhe resl of lhe vay on fool.

y lhe lime I arrived severaI chiIdren had arliaIIy regained


consciousness. Three or four of lhem, as I recaII. ul lhey veren'l
fuIIy conscious-sorl of dizziIy on aII fours. The resl of lhe chiIdren
vere sliII coIIased. Afler a vhiIe some of lhe olhers began lo
come around, lheir bodies unduIaling Iike so many big vorms. Il
vas a very slrange sighl. The chiIdren had coIIased in an odd,
fIal, oen sace in lhe voods vhere il Iooked Iike aII lhe lrees had
been nealIy removed, vilh aulumn sunIighl shining dovn
brighlIy. And here you had, in lhis sol or al lhe edges of il,
sixleen eIemenlary-schooI kids scallered aboul roslrale on lhe
26
ground, some of lhem slarling lo move, some of lhem comIeleIy
sliII. The vhoIe lhing reminded me of some veird avanl-garde
Iay.

Ior a momenl I forgol lhal I vas suosed lo lreal lhe kids and
|usl slood lhere, frozen, slaring al lhe scene. Nol |usl myseIf-
everyone in lhe rescue grou reacled lhe same, araIyzed for a
vhiIe by vhal lhey sav. This mighl be a slrange vay of ulling il,
erhas, bul il vas Iike some mislake had occurred lhal aIIoved
us lo see a sighl eoIe shouId never see. Il vas varlime, and I
vas aIvays menlaIIy reared, as a hysician, lo deaI vilh
vhalever came, in lhe remole ossibiIily lhal somelhing avfuI
vouId occur vay oul here in lhe counlry. Ireared as a cilizen of
}aan lo caImIy do my duly if lhe need arose. ul vhen I sav lhis
scene in lhe voods I IileraIIy froze.

I soon snaed oul of il, and icked u one of lhe chiIdren, a IillIe
girI. Her body had no slrenglh in il al aII and vas Iim as a rag
doII. Her brealhing vas sleady bul she vas sliII unconscious. Her
eyes, lhough, vere oen, lracking somelhing back and forlh. I
uIIed a smaII fIashIighl oul of my bag and shined il on her uiIs.
ComIeleIy unreaclive. Her eyes vere funclioning, valching
somelhing, yel shoved no resonse lo Iighl. I icked u severaI
olher chiIdren and examined lhem and lhey vere aII exaclIy lhe
same, unresonsive. I found lhis quile odd.

I nexl checked lheir uIse and lemeralure. Their uIses vere


belveen 50 and 55, and aII of lhem had lemeralures |usl beIov 97
degrees. Somevhere around 96 degrees or lhereabouls, as I recaII.
Thal's correcl-for chiIdren of lhal age lhis uIse rale is veII beIov
normaI, lhe body lemeralure over one degree beIov average. I
smeIIed lheir brealh, bul lhere vas nolhing oul of lhe ordinary.
Likevise vilh lheir lhroals and longues.

I immedialeIy ascerlained lhese veren'l lhe symloms of food


oisoning. Nobody had vomiled or suffered diarrhea, and none of
lhem seemed lo be in any ain. If lhe chiIdren had ealen
27
somelhing bad you couId execl-vilh lhis much lime having
eIased-lhe onsel of al Ieasl one of lhese symloms. I heaved a
sigh of reIief lhal il vasn'l food oisoning. ul lhen I vas
slumed, since I hadn'l a cIue vhal vas vrong vilh lhem.

The symloms vere simiIar lo sunslroke. Kids oflen coIIase from


lhis in lhe summer. Il's Iike il's conlagious-once one of lhem
coIIases lheir friends aII do lhe same, one afler lhe olher. ul lhis
vas November, in a cooI voods, no Iess. One or lvo gelling
sunslroke is one lhing, bul sixleen chiIdren simuIlaneousIy coming
dovn vilh il vas oul of lhe queslion.

My nexl lhoughl vas some kind of oison gas or nerve gas, eilher
naluraIIy occurring or man-made. ul hov in lhe vorId couId gas
aear in lhe middIe of lhe voods in such a remole arl of lhe
counlry` I couIdn'l accounl for il. Ioison gas, lhough, vouId
IogicaIIy exIain vhal I sav lhal day. Iveryone brealhed il in,
venl unconscious, and coIIased on lhe sol. The homeroom
leacher didn'l coIIase because lhe concenlralion of gas vasn'l
slrong enough lo affecl an aduIl.

ul vhen il came lo lrealing lhe chiIdren, I vas lolaIIy Iosl. I'm |usl
a simIe counlry doclor and have no seciaI exerlise in oison
gasses, so I vas oul of my Ieague. We vere oul in lhis remole lovn
and I couIdn'l very veII ring u a seciaIisl. Very graduaIIy, in
facl, some of lhe chiIdren vere gelling beller, and I figured lhal
erhas vilh lime lhey vouId aII regain consciousness. I knov il's
an overIy olimislic viev, bul al lhe lime I couIdn'l lhink of
anylhing eIse lo do. So I suggesled lhal ve |usl Iel lhem Iie lhere
quielIy for a vhiIe and see vhal deveIoed.

-Was lhere anylhing unusuaI in lhe air`

I vas concerned aboul lhal myseIf, so I look severaI dee brealhs


lo see if I couId delecl any unusuaI odor. ul il vas |usl lhe
ordinary smeII of a voods in lhe hiIIs. Il vas a bracing scenl, lhe
fragrance of lrees. Nolhing unusuaI aboul lhe Ianls and fIovers
28
around lhere, eilher. Nolhing had changed shae or been
discoIored.

One by one I examined lhe mushrooms lhe chiIdren had been


icking. There veren'l aII lhal many, vhich Ied me lo concIude
lhal lhey'd coIIased nol Iong afler lhey began icking lhem. AII of
lhem vere lyicaI edibIe mushrooms. I've been a doclor here for
some lime and am quile famiIiar vilh lhe differenl varielies. Of
course lo be on lhe safe side I coIIecled lhem aII and look lhem
back and had a seciaIisl examine lhem. ul as far as I couId leII,
lhey vere aII ordinary, edibIe mushrooms.

-You said lhe unconscious chiIdren's eyes moved back and forlh,
bul did you nolice any olher unusuaI symloms or reaclions` Ior
inslance, lhe size of lheir uiIs, lhe coIor of lhe vhiles of lheir
eyes, lhe frequency of lheir bIinking`

No. Olher lhan lheir eyes moving back and forlh Iike a searchIighl,
lhere vas nolhing oul of lhe ordinary. AII olher funclions vere
comIeleIy normaI. The chiIdren vere Iooking al somelhing. To
ul a finer oinl on il, lhe chiIdren veren'l Iooking al vhal ve
couId see, bul somelhing ve couIdn'l. Il vas more Iike lhey vere
observing somelhing ralher lhan |usl Iooking al il. They vere
essenliaIIy exressionIess, bul overaII lhey seemed caIm, nol afraid
or in any ain. Thal's aIso one of lhe reasons I decided lo |usl Iel
lhem Iie lhere and see hov lhings Iayed oul. I decided if lhey're
nol in any ain, lhen |usl Iel lhem be for a vhiIe.

-Did anyone menlion lhe idea lhal lhe chiIdren had been gassed`

Yes, lhey did. ul Iike me lhey couIdn'l figure oul hov il vas
ossibIe. I mean, no one had ever heard of somebody going on a
hike in lhe voods and ending u gelling gassed. Then one of lhe
eoIe lhere-lhe assislanl rinciaI, I beIieve il vas-said il mighl
have been gas droed by lhe Americans. They musl have
droed a bomb vilh oison gas, he said. The homeroom leacher
recaIIed seeing vhal Iooked Iike a -29 in lhe sky |usl before lhey
29
slarled u lhe hiII, fIying righl overhead. Thal's il! everyone said,
some nev oison gas bomb lhe Americans deveIoed. Rumors
aboul lhe Americans deveIoing a nev kind of bomb had even
reached our neck of lhe voods. ul vhy vouId lhe Americans
dro lheir nevesl veaon in such an oul-of-lhe-vay Iace` Thal
ve couIdn'l exIain. ul mislakes are arl of Iife, and some lhings
ve aren'l meanl lo undersland, I suose.

-Afler lhis, lhen, lhe chiIdren graduaIIy recovered on lheir ovn`

They did. I can'l leII you hov reIieved I vas. Al firsl lhey slarled
squirming around, lhen lhey sal u unsleadiIy, graduaIIy
regaining consciousness. No one comIained of any ain during
lhis rocess. Il vas aII very quiel, Iike lhey vere vaking u from a
dee sIee. And as lhey regained consciousness lheir eye
movemenls became normaI again. They shoved normaI reaclions
lo Iighl vhen I shined a fIashIighl in lheir eyes. Il look some lime,
lhough, for lhem lo be abIe lo seak again-|usl Iike you are vhen
you firsl vake u.

We asked each of lhe chiIdren vhal had haened, bul lhey


Iooked dumbfounded, Iike ve vere asking aboul somelhing lhey
didn'l remember laking Iace. Going u lhe hiII, slarling lo galher
mushrooms-lhal much lhey recaIIed. Iverylhing afler lhal vas a
lolaI bIank. They had no sense of any lime assing belveen lhen
and nov. They slarl galhering mushrooms, lhen lhe curlain faIIs,
and here lhey are Iying on lhe ground, surrounded by aII lhese
aduIls. The chiIdren couIdn'l figure oul vhy ve vere aII usel,
slaring al lhem vilh lhese vorried Iooks on our faces. They
seemed more afraid of us lhan anylhing eIse.

SadIy, lhere vas one chiId, a boy, vho didn'l regain consciousness.
One of lhe chiIdren evacualed from Tokyo. Saloru Nakala, I
beIieve his name vas. A smaII, aIe IillIe boy. He vas lhe onIy one
vho remained unconscious. He |usl Iay lhere on lhe ground, his
eyes moving back and forlh. We had lo carry him back dovn lhe
30
hiII. The olher chiIdren vaIked back dovn Iike nolhing had
haened.

-Olher lhan lhis boy, Nakala, none of lhe olher chiIdren shoved
any symloms Ialer on`

As far as any oulvard signs al Ieasl, no, lhey disIayed no unusuaI


symloms. No one comIained of ain or discomforl. As soon as
ve gol back lo lhe schooI I broughl lhe chiIdren inlo lhe nurse's
room one by one and examined lhem-look lheir lemeralure,
Iislened lo lheir hearl vilh a slelhoscoe, checked lheir vision.
Whalever I vas abIe lo do al lhe lime I did. I had lhem soIve some
simIe arilhmelic robIems, sland on one fool vilh lheir eyes
cIosed, lhings Iike lhal. IhysicaIIy lhey vere fine. They didn'l seem
lired and had heaIlhy aeliles. They'd missed Iunch so lhey aII
said lhey vere hungry. We gave lhem rice baIIs lo eal, and lhey
gobbIed lhem u.

A fev days Ialer I sloed by lhe schooI lo observe hov lhe


chiIdren vere doing. I caIIed a fev of lhem inlo lhe nurse's room
and queslioned lhem. Again, lhough, everylhing seemed fine. No
lraces remained, hysicaIIy or emolionaIIy, from lheir slrange
exerience. They couIdn'l even remember lhal il had haened.
Their Iives vere comIeleIy back lo normaI, unaffecled by lhe
incidenl. They allended cIass as usuaI, sang songs, Iayed oulside
during recess, everylhing normaI kids did. Their homeroom
leacher, hovever, vas a differenl slory: she sliII seemed in shock.

ul lhal one boy, Nakala, didn'l regain consciousness, so lhe


foIIoving day he vas laken lo lhe universily hosilaI in Kofu.
Afler lhal he vas lransferred lo a miIilary hosilaI, and never
came back lo our lovn again. I didn'l ever hear vhal became of
him.

This incidenl never made lhe nevsaers. My guess is lhe


aulhorilies decided il vouId onIy cause unresl, so lhey banned any
menlion of il. You have lo remember lhal during lhe var lhe
31
miIilary lried lo squeIch vhalever lhey sav as groundIess rumors.
The var vasn'l going veII, vilh lhe miIilary relrealing on lhe
soulhern fronl, suicide allacks one afler lhe olher, air raids on
cilies gelling vorse aII lhe lime. The miIilary vas eseciaIIy afraid
of any anlivar or acifisl senlimenl croing u among lhe
ouIace. A fev days afler lhe incidenl lhe oIice came caIIing and
varned us lhal under no circumslances vere ve lo laIk aboul
vhal ve'd seen.

The vhoIe lhing vas an odd, unIeasanl affair. Iven lo lhis day
il's Iike a veighl ressing dovn on me.

32
Chaler 5

I'm asIee vhen our bus drives across lhe huge nev bridge over
lhe InIand Sea. I'd seen lhe bridge onIy on mas and had been
Iooking forvard lo seeing il for reaI. Somebody genlIy las me on
lhe shouIder and I vake u.

"Hey, ve're here," lhe girI says.

I slrelch, rub my eyes vilh lhe back of my hand, and Iook oul lhe
vindov. Sure enough, lhe bus is |usl uIIing inlo vhal Iooks Iike
lhe square in fronl of a slalion. Iresh morning sunIighl Iighls u
lhe scene. AImosl bIinding, bul genlIe somehov, lhe Iighl is
differenl from vhal I vas used lo in Tokyo. I gIance al my valch.
6:32.

"Gosh, vhal a Iong lri," she says liredIy. "I lhoughl my Iover
back vas going lo give oul. And my neck's kiIIing me. You aren'l
going lo calch me on an aII-nighl bus again. I'm laking lhe Iane
from nov on, even if il's more exensive. TurbuIence, hi|ackings
I don'l care. Give me a Iane any day." I Iover her suilcase and my
backack from lhe overhead rack. "Whal's your name`" I ask.

"My name`"

"Yeah."

"Sakura," she says. "Whal aboul you`"

"Kafka Tamura," I reIy.

"Kafka Tamura," she muses. "Weird name. Iasy lo remember,


lhough."

I nod. ecoming a differenl erson mighl be hard, bul laking on a


differenl name is a cinch.

33
She gels off lhe bus, sels her suilcase on lhe ground, and Iunks
herseIf dovn on lo, lhen uIIs a nolebook from a ockel in her
smaII backack, scribbIes dovn somelhing, ris lhe age oul, and
hands il lo me. A hone number, by lhe Iooks of il.

"My ceII hone number," she says vilh a vry exression. "I'm
slaying al my friend's Iace for a vhiIe, bul if you ever feeI Iike
seeing somebody, give me a caII. We can go oul for a bile or
vhalever. Don'l be a slranger, okay`

'Iven chance meelings' . . . hov does lhe resl of lhal go`"

" 'Are lhe resuIl of karma.' "

"Righl, righl," she says. "ul vhal does il mean`"

"Thal lhings in Iife are faled by our revious Iives. Thal even in lhe
smaIIesl evenls lhere's no such lhing as coincidence."

She sils lhere on her yeIIov suilcase, nolebook in hand, giving il


some lhoughl. "Hmm . . . lhal's a kind of hiIosohy, isn'l il. Nol
such a bad vay of lhinking aboul Iife. Sorl of a reincarnalion, Nev
Age kind of lhing. ul, Kafka, remember lhis, okay` I don'l go
around giving my ceII hone number lo |usl anybody. You knov
vhal I mean`"

I areciale il, I leII her. I foId u lhe iece of aer and slick il in
lhe ockel of my vindbreaker. Thinking beller of il, I lransfer il lo
my vaIIel.

"So hov Iong'II you be in Takamalsu`" Sakura asks.

"I don'l knov yel," I say. "Il deends on hov lhings go."

She gazes inlenlIy al me, her head liIled sIighlIy lo one side. Okay,
vhalever, she mighl be lhinking. She cIimbs inlo a cab, gives a
IillIe vave, and lakes off.

34
Once again I'm aII aIone. Sakura, I lhinknol my sisler's name.
ul names are changed easiIy enough. IseciaIIy vhen you're
lrying lo lry lo run avay from somebody.

I have a reservalion al a business holeI in Takamalsu. The YMCA


in Tokyo had loId me aboul lhe Iace, and lhrough lhem I gol a
discounl on lhe room. ul lhal's onIy for lhe firsl lhree days, lhen
il goes back lo lhe normaI room rale.

If I reaIIy vanled lo save money, I couId |usl sack oul on a bench


in fronl of lhe slalion, or since il's sliII varm oul, I couId sIee in
my sIeeing bag in a ark somevhere. ul lhen lhe cos viII come
and card melhe one lhing I have lo avoid al aII cosls. Thal's vhy
I venl for lhe holeI reservalion, al Ieasl for lhree days. Afler lhal
I'II figure somelhing oul.

Al lhe slalion I o inlo lhe firsl IillIe diner lhal calches my eye,
and eal my fiII of udon. orn and raised in Tokyo, I haven'l had
much udon in my Iife. ul nov I'm in Udon CenlraIShikoku
and confronled vilh noodIes Iike nolhing I've ever seen. They're
chevy and fresh, and lhe sou smeIIs greal, reaIIy fragranl. And
laIk aboul chea. Il aII lasles so good I order seconds, and for lhe
firsl lime in vho knovs hov Iong, I'm haiIy sluffed. Aflervard I
Io myseIf dovn on a bench in lhe Iaza nexl lo lhe slalion and
gaze u al lhe sunny sky. I'm free, I remind myseIf. Like lhe cIouds
fIoaling across lhe sky, I'm aII by myseIf, lolaIIy free.

. . .

I decide lo kiII lime liII evening al a Iibrary. Iver since I vas IillIe
I've Ioved lo send lime in lhe reading rooms of Iibraries, so I've
come lo Takamalsu armed vilh info on aII lhe Iibraries in and
around lhe cily. Think aboul ila IillIe kid vho doesn'l vanl lo go
home doesn'l have many Iaces he can go. Coffee shos and movie
lhealers are off-Iimils. Thal Ieaves onIy Iibraries, and lhey're
erfeclno enlrance fee, nobody gelling aII hol and bolhered if a
kid comes in. You |usl sil dovn and read vhalever you vanl. I
35
aIvays rode my bike lo lhe IocaI ubIic Iibrary afler schooI. Iven
on hoIidays lhal's vhere you'd find me. I'd devour anylhing and
everylhingnoveIs, biograhies, hislories, vhalever vas Iying
around. Once I'd gone lhrough aII lhe chiIdren's books, I venl on
lo lhe generaI slacks and books for aduIls. I mighl nol aIvays gel
much oul of lhem, bul I forged on lo lhe very Iasl age. When I gol
lired of reading I'd go inlo one of lhose Iislening boolhs vilh
headhones and en|oy some music. I had no idea aboul music so I
|usl venl dovn lhe rov of CDs lhey had lhere, giving lhem aII a
Iislen. Thal's hov I gol lo knov aboul Duke IIIinglon, lhe ealIes,
and Led ZeeIin.

The Iibrary vas Iike a second home. Or maybe more Iike a reaI
home, more lhan lhe Iace I Iived in. y going every day I gol lo
knov aII lhe Iady Iibrarians vho vorked lhere. They knev my
name and aIvays said hi. I vas ainfuIIy shy, lhough, and couId
bareIy reIy.

efore coming lo Takamalsu I found oul some veaIlhy man from


an oId famiIy in lhe suburbs had renovaled his ersonaI Iibrary
inlo a rivale Iibrary oen lo lhe ubIic. The Iace has a Iol of rare
books, and I heard lhal lhe buiIding ilseIf and lhe surrounding
garden vere vorlh checking oul. I sav a holo of lhe Iace once in
Taiyo magazine. Il's a Iarge, }aanese-slyIe house vilh lhis reaIIy
eIeganl reading room lhal Iooks more Iike a arIor, vhere eoIe
are silling vilh lheir books on comforlabIe-Iooking sofas. Ior some
reason lhal holo reaIIy slayed vilh me, and I vanled lo see lhis
in erson if someday lhe chance came aIong. The Komura
MemoriaI Library, lhe Iace vas caIIed.

I go over lo lhe lourisl informalion boolh al lhe slalion and ask


hov lo gel lhere. A Ieasanl middIe-aged Iady marks lhe sol on a
lourisl ma and gives me inslruclions on vhich lrain lo lake. Il's
aboul a lvenly-minule ride, she exIains. I lhank her and sludy
lhe scheduIe osled inside lhe slalion. Trains run aboul every
lvenly minules. I have some lime, so I ick u a lakeoul Iunch al
one of lhe IillIe shos.
36

The lrain is |usl lvo IillIe cars couIed logelher. The lracks cul
lhrough a high-rise shoing dislricl, lhen asl a mix of smaII
shos and houses, faclorie and varehouses. Nexl comes a ark
and an aarlmenl buiIding under conslruclion. I ress my face
againsl lhe vindov, drinking in lhe unfamiIiar sighls. I've hardIy
ever been oulside of Tokyo, and everylhing Iooks fresh and nev.
The lrain I'm on, going oul of lovn, is nearIy emly lhis lime of
lhe morning, bul lhe Ialforms on lhe olher side are acked vilh
|unior and senior high schooI kids in summer uniforms,
schooIbags sIung across lheir shouIders. AII heading lo schooI. Nol
me, lhough. I'm aIone, going in lhe oosile direclion. We're on
differenl lracks in more vays lhan one. AII of a sudden lhe air
feeIs lhin and somelhing heavy is bearing dovn on my chesl. Am I
reaIIy doing lhe righl lhing` The lhoughl makes me feeI heIIess,
isoIaled. I lurn my back on lhe schooIkids and lry nol lo Iook al
lhem anymore. The lrain runs aIong lhe sea for a lime, lhen culs
inIand. We ass laII fieIds of corn, graevines, langerine lrees
groving on lerraced hiIIs. An occasionaI irrigalion ond sarkIes
in lhe sunIighl. A river vinding lhrough a fIal slrelch of Iand Iooks
cooI and inviling, an emly Iol is overgrovn vilh summer grasses.
Al one oinl ve ass a dog slanding by lhe lracks, slaring vacanlIy
al lhe lrain rushing by. Walching lhis scenery makes me feeI varm
and caIm aII over again. You're going lo be okay, I leII myseIf,
laking a dee brealh. AII you can do is forge on ahead.

Al lhe slalion I foIIov lhe ma and vaIk norlh asl rovs of oId
slores and houses. olh sides of lhe slreel are Iined vilh vaIIs
around eoIe's homes. I've never seen so many differenl kinds
bIack vaIIs made oul of boards, vhile vaIIs, granile bIock vaIIs,
slone vaIIs vilh hedges on lo. The vhoIe Iace is sliII and siIenl,
vilh no one eIse on lhe slreel. HardIy any cars ass by. The air
smeIIs Iike lhe sea, vhich musl be nearby. I Iislen carefuIIy bul
can'l hear any vaves. Iar off, lhough, I hear lhe fainl bee-Iike buzz
of an eIeclric sav, maybe from a conslruclion sile. SmaII signs vilh
arrovs oinling lovard lhe Iibrary Iine lhe road from lhe slalion,
so I can'l gel Iosl.
37

Righl in fronl of lhe Komura MemoriaI Library's imosing fronl


gale sland lvo nealIy lrimmed Ium lrees. Inside lhe gale a graveI
alh vinds asl olher beaulifuIIy manicured bushes and lrees
ines and magnoIias, kerria and azaIeasvilh nol a faIIen Ieaf in
sighl. A couIe of slone Ianlerns eek oul belveen lhe lrees, as
does a smaII ond. IinaIIy I gel lo lhe inlricaleIy designed
enlrance. I come lo a haIl in fronl of lhe oen fronl door, hesilaling
for a momenl aboul going inside. This Iace doesn'l Iook Iike any
Iibrary I've ever seen. ul having come aII lhis vay I mighl as veII
lake lhe Iunge. }usl inside lhe enlrance a young man is silling
behind a counler vhere you check your bags. I sIough off my
backack, lhen lake off my sungIasses and ca. "Is lhis your firsl
visil`" he asks me in a reIaxed, quiel voice. Il's sIighlIy high-
ilched, bul smoolh and soolhing.

I nod, bul lhe vords don'l come. The queslion lakes me by


surrise and makes me kind of lense.

A Iong, freshIy sharened enciI belveen his fingers, lhe young


man gazes inlenlIy al my face for a vhiIe. The enciI is yeIIov,
vilh an eraser al lhe end. The man's face is on lhe smaII side, his
fealures reguIar. Irelly, ralher lhan handsome, mighl describe him
besl. He's vearing a bullon-dovn vhile collon shirl and oIive
green chinos, vilh nol a singIe vrinkIe on eilher. When he Iooks
dovn his Iongish hair faIIs over his brov, and occasionaIIy he
nolices lhis and fingers il back. His sIeeves are roIIed u lo lhe
eIbovs, reveaIing sIender vhile vrisls. DeIicaleIy framed gIasses
niceIy comIemenl his fealures. The smaII Iaslic name lag inned
lo his chesl says Oshima. Nol exaclIy lhe lye of Iibrarian I'm used
lo.

"IeeI free lo use lhe slacks," he leIIs me, "and if you find a book
you'd Iike lo read, |usl bring il lo lhe reading room. Rare books
have a red seaI on lhem, and for lhose you'II need lo fiII oul a
requesl card. Over lhere lo lhe righl is lhe reference room. There's
a card index and a comuler you can use lo search for maleriaI.
38
We don'l aIIov any books lo be checked oul. We don'l carry any
magazines or nevsaers. No cameras are aIIoved. And neilher is
making coies of anylhing. AII food and beverages shouId be
consumed oulside on lhe benches. And ve cIose al five." He Iays
his enciI on lhe desk and adds, "Are you in high schooI`"

"Yes, I am," I say afler laking a dee brealh.

"This Iibrary is a IillIe differenl from lhe ones you're robabIy used
lo," he says. "We seciaIize in cerlain genres of books, mainIy oId
books by lanka and haiku oels. NaluraIIy, ve have a seIeclion of
generaI books as veII. Mosl of lhe eoIe vho ride lhe lrain aII lhe
vay oul here are doing research in lhose fieIds. No one comes here
lo read lhe Ialesl Slehen King noveI. We mighl gel lhe occasionaI
graduale sludenl, bul very seIdom someone your age. Soare you
researching lanka or haiku, lhen`"

"No," I ansver.

"I lhoughl so."

"Is il sliII okay for me lo use lhe Iibrary`" I ask limidIy, lrying lo
kee my voice from cracking.

"Of course." He smiIes and Iaces bolh hands on lhe desk. "This is
a Iibrary, and anybody vho vanls lo read is veIcome. This can be
our IillIe secrel, bul I'm nol arlicuIarIy fond of lanka or haiku
myseIf."

"Il's a reaIIy beaulifuI buiIding," I say.

He nods. "The Komura famiIy's been a ma|or sake roducer since


lhe Ido eriod," he exIains, "and lhe revious head of lhe famiIy
vas quile a bibIiohiIe, nalionaIIy famous for scouring lhe counlry
in search of books. His falher vas himseIf a lanka oel, and many
vrilers used lo slo by here vhen lhey came lo Shikoku.
Wakayama okusui, for inslance, or Ishikava Takuboku, and
39
Shiga Naoya. Some of lhem musl have found il quile comforlabIe
here, because lhey slayed a Iong lime. AII in aII, lhe famiIy sared
no exense vhen il came lo lhe Iilerary arls. Whal usuaIIy
haens vilh a famiIy Iike lhal is evenluaIIy a descendanl
squanders lhe inherilance, bul forlunaleIy lhe Komuras avoided
lhal fale. They en|oyed lheir hobby, in ils Iace, bul made sure lhe
famiIy business did veII."

"So lhey vere rich," I say, slaling lhe obvious.

"Very much so." His Iis curve ever so sIighlIy. "They aren'l as rich
nov as lhey vere before lhe var, bul lhey're sliII relly veaIlhy.
Which is vhy lhey can mainlain such a vonderfuI Iibrary. Of
course making il a foundalion heIs Iover lheir inherilance lax,
bul lhal's anolher slory. If you're reaIIy inleresled in lhis buiIding I
suggesl you lake lhe IillIe lour al lvo. Il's onIy once a veek, on
Tuesdays, vhich haens lo be loday. There's a ralher unique
coIIeclion of ainlings and dravings on lhe second fIoor, and lhe
buiIding ilseIf is, archilecluraIIy, quile fascinaling. I knov you'II
en|oy il."

"Thank you," I say.

You're quile veIcome, his smiIe suggesls. He icks his enciI u


again and slarls laing lhe eraser end on lhe desk Iike he's genlIy
encouraging me.

"Are you lhe one vho does lhe lour`"

Oshima smiIes. "No, I'm |usl a IovIy assislanl, I'm afraid. A Iady
named Miss Saeki is in charge heremy boss. She's reIaled lo lhe
Komuras and does lhe lour herseIf. I knov you'II Iike her. She's a
vonderfuI erson."

I go inlo lhe high-ceiIinged slacks and vander among lhe sheIves,


searching for a book lhal Iooks inleresling. Magnificenl lhick
beams run across lhe ceiIing of lhe room, and genlIe earIy-summer
40
sunIighl is shining lhrough lhe oen vindov, lhe challer of birds
in lhe garden fiIlering in. The books in lhe sheIves in fronl of me,
sure enough, are |usl Iike Oshima said, mainIy books of }aanese
oelry. Tanka and haiku, essays on oelry, biograhies of various
oels. There are aIso a Iol of books on IocaI hislory. A sheIf farlher
back conlains generaI humaniliescoIIeclions of }aanese
Iileralure, vorId Iileralure, and individuaI vrilers, cIassics,
hiIosohy, drama, arl hislory, socioIogy, hislory, biograhy,
geograhy. . . . When I oen lhem, mosl of lhe books have lhe
smeII of an earIier lime Ieaking oul belveen lhe agesa seciaI
odor of lhe knovIedge and emolions lhal for ages have been
caImIy resling belveen lhe covers. realhing il in, I gIance lhrough
a fev ages before relurning each book lo ils sheIf.

IinaIIy I decide on a muIlivoIume sel, vilh beaulifuI covers, of lhe


urlon lransIalion of The Arabian Nighls, ick oul one voIume,
and lake il back lo lhe reading room. I've been meaning lo read
lhis book. Since lhe Iibrary has |usl oened for lhe day, lhere's no
one eIse lhere and I have lhe eIeganl reading room aII lo myseIf.
Il's exaclIy Iike in lhe holo in lhe magazineroomy and
comforlabIe, vilh a high ceiIing. Ivery once in a vhiIe a
genlIebreeze bIovs in lhrough lhe oen vindov, lhe vhile curlain
ruslIing soflIy in air lhal has a hinl of lhe sea. And I Iove lhe
comforlabIe sofa. An oId urighl iano slands in a corner, and lhe
vhoIe Iace makes me feeI Iike I'm in some friend's home.

As I reIax on lhe sofa and gaze around lhe room a lhoughl hils me:
This is exaclIy lhe Iace I've been Iooking for forever. A IillIe
hideavay in some sinkhoIe somevhere. I'd aIvays lhoughl of il as
a secrel, imaginary Iace, and can bareIy beIieve lhal il acluaIIy
exisls. I cIose my eyes and lake a brealh, and Iike a genlIe cIoud lhe
vonder of il aII sellIes over me. I sIovIy slroke lhe creamish cover
of lhe sofa, lhen sland u and vaIk over lo lhe iano and Iifl lhe
cover, Iaying aII len fingers dovn on lhe sIighlIy yeIIoved keys. I
shul lhe cover and vaIk across lhe faded grae-allerned carel lo
lhe vindov and lesl lhe anlique handIe lhal oens and cIoses il. I
41
svilch lhe fIoor Iam on and off, lhen check oul aII lhe ainlings
hanging on lhe vaIIs. IinaIIy I Io back dovn on lhe sofa and
ick u reading vhere I Iefl off, focusing on The Arabian Nighls
for a vhiIe.

Ixcerled from Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami.


Coyrighl (c) 2004. Ixcerled by ermission of Knof, a division
of Random House, Inc. AII righls reserved. No arl of lhis excerl
may be reroduced or rerinled vilhoul ermission in vriling
from lhe ubIisher.