Greetings from Hiroshima Part 4: Your intrepid wayfarer almost has an epiphany
by Ben Laycock
After bidding a fond farewell to the Hairy Ainu and their grumpy dancing bears, I leave The Frozen North and wend my weary way south once more. Alas, the money has all but run out, mainly due to the refusal by the DSS to redirect my dole check. (They even had the audacity to question the purpose of my trip.)
Due to their parsimonious attitude I am forced to lead a hand-to-mouth existence, relying on the largesse of the locals: bathing at the Onsen with the Yakuza and their exotic tattoos, sleeping under bridges and giant lotus leaves, eating shrine offerings. The locals have a quaint habit of leaving their favourite fruits for their favourite gods. Showing scant regard for any creed whatsoever, I feel no compunction in utilizing these delicious fruits for my own personal sustenance, and soon come to believe that I am in fact one of those very gods for whom the fruits are intended.
After a particularly sumptuous meal of guava, persimmon and suchlike, I come to realize these shrines are also meant to provide shelter for the weary sojourner on his quest. I lay my swag in a quiet corner and am asleep before my head hits the floor. But unbeknownst to me, some nosy neighbor has alerted the Authorities to my presence. As luck would have it, the Constabulary arrive at the very moment I have popped out for a slash. Due to the fact that I am stark naked I decide it is prudent to avoid an embarrassing encounter that would do little to improve the Japanese attitude to foreigners, and recede further into the shadows. It is at this point the episode begins to take a strange twist. It is a moonlit night; a warm zephyr is blowing from the south. Drawn by some unseen force, I find myself following a distinct but ill-used path deeper into the forest. The pines are dense but the moon is bright, the breeze a soft caress.
The path wends its way up to the top of a small hill, upon which is perched a little shrine, no larger than a Suzuki Hatchback. Opening the doors wide I am just able to squeeze inside, where I find to my surprise, an exact replica of the original shrine, no larger than a Sony Television set. Upon opening the doors of this little shrinelet I find yet another, yet smaller shrinelet, no larger than a Toshiba Radio. Upon opening the doors of this tiny shrinelet I find yet another, yet smaller shrinelet, no larger than a Noodle Box. Upon opening the wee little doors of this tiny shrinelet I am amazed to find the tiniest, weeniest little shrinelet, no larger than a Tamagochi. With my stubby fingers I can barely grasp the little knobs of the little doors of this smallest of shrines. By this stage, as you can well imagine, my curiosity is at fever pitch. I can feel an epiphany coming on. The hairs are standing up on the back my neck as I open the tiny-weeny-itsy-bitsy little doors to reveal … a mirror!