Inspired by this coming Friday’s Comparative Cinema post, this week is dedicated to all things Asian. If you’ve read some of the very early posts on this blog you’ll know that I’ve got a special place in my heart and imagination for Japan. I’d also love to visit China one day and have some adventures there.
For now though, let me tell you of the time I came face to face with the Old Gods of Shinto on a night-time adventure many moons ago… *cue the wavy-line memory effect, a-la Wayne’s World* Diddluh-doo, diddluh-doo, diddluh-doo!
After settling into my new apartment and getting into the groove of my teaching job I decided to start exploring my neighbourhood. I’d walk the streets of my suburb at every opportunity and on weekends I’d expand the boundaries of my realm of exploration. I had also started jogging in the evenings as the weather became warmer and as my fitness improved, the length of my run extended. I found a main road that became my course and before too long I was well into the swing of things. The road led to Iwasaki Castle and then snaked around a large hill to provide travellers passage to parts unknown (well, at least I had no idea where the road went).
One night I decided to follow the road after hearing that beyond the curve lay a hillside shrine that boasted an observation deck that provided an excellent view of the city. Spurred on by my curiosity I trekked around the base of the hill and soon located an entry road. Being
a foolhardy an adventurous young man I began heading up the hill, heedless of the fact that I’d never been there before and had no solid idea where I was actually heading. The summit of this high hill was my destination and all that led the way was the light of the half moon.
Boldly I pushed on, however my imagination began a game of its own. A breeze rustled the trees around me and the dim light of the night bounced heavily through the undergrowth. I imagined myself as Indiana Jones, making my way to a discovery of mythical proportions and at the same time, werewolves and other creatures of the night began to invade my fantasy. (A simple crazed lunatic in the forest isn’t enough for the likes of me, you see. No, my imagination has to get primeval on me whenever I want to scare myself silly!)
Before long I reflected on the fate of David Kessler, having strayed from the road myself upon finding a track through the forest. As I made my way through the trees, I began to notice that I was not alone in these unfamiliar woodlands. Around me I noticed shadows that stopped still when I turned my attention to them. They were human in form and were well aware of my presence. Difficult to make out in the darkness, but obvious in their existence. Fear gripped my heart as I continued to step forwards, maintaining a pace that I hoped would lead me to exposed lighting and maybe the company of other friendly faces.
I continued upwards, pursued by soundless watchers. I felt their gaze upon me as the wind howled through the foliage, seemingly shouting disdain and warning me to tread carefully lest I incur their wrath. My heart pounded in my ears as I battled for control of my pulse. Adrenaline began pumping through my veins as I struggled against the urge to run. I moved steadily onwards and upwards until finally, almost without warning, a bright flourescent light saved my life. It was joined by another, and another as the path became a paved road leading to my safety.
My stalkers vanished into the trees and I was free to look around the temple grounds, making my way to the observation deck and looking out over the lights of Nisshin. I returned again during the daylight hours and sought out those who gave me a night I’ll never forget. As it turned out, the Old Gods of Shinto are quite the jokers…
In the dark, he looks a lot more menacing...