Somewhere. Anywhere. Potentially nowhere.
I took a local train I’d never heard of and rode it until I felt like getting off. From there I boarded short tram headed for nowhere and rode it until it reached an unmanned station in the foothills of some alpine village. I walked until I found a bus stop with a single student waiting. When the bus came I boarded. As the number of passengers dwindled and dusk fell I asked an older couple sitting near me if they knew of a place I could stay the night. They pointed me in the direction of an inn.
I arrived at a minshuku – a private home willing to take in a stranger for a small fee. There I bathed in a wooden tub and received a portion of the family dinner on a tray. In a dank, unheated room without a lock, I shivered all night . . .worried the apparently unmarried son of the farmhouse would slip in.
Having slept or not I wasn’t sure, but when the garden cock crowed I paid the equivalent of $70 and headed out. Shouldering my backpack I continued on toward higher elevations. As I trudged uphill it appeared that I had stayed in the last village on earth. The only vehicles that passed were little flat-nosed farm trucks. The road had narrowed to one lane. Nearing the top of the small mountain it began to snow. I opened and closed my hands continuously to keep my fingers from going numb.
Memories of my days on Sado flashed before me. I went through extremes. Alone without my babies in the middle of God-only-knows-where-Japan I was in a highly agitated state; crying and calling out to imaginary heros in the ever-thinning air. Then as if a single dancing snowflake or a ray of light beaming down in close proximity were a sign of hope. . .for an instant I’d smile through my tears thinking I just might be in a globe.
Eventually I passed an abandoned house. The windows were broken and papers doors tattered. It was like viewing a smaller version of the Jinzo House, my home on Sado Island, twenty or so years into the future– a time when potentially no one would be around to care for the estate. My guess was that an elderly person without relatives had passed away and that the house was left to rot. I wanted to see inside.
Entering the run down shack I was surprised to find it still contained a number of personal effects. From the kitchen I peeked into the main room where the floor had rotted in several places. In the corner of the room was a display case with several wooden kokeshi dolls and other souvenirs. I wanted to cross the broken tatami and take something small, but as soon as I stepped into the room the floor creaked and I became spooked. I retreated and took only a small teacup from the kitchen because, I reasoned, I needed it. My hands were entirely too cold to scoop water from the mountain streams for sustenance and I’d long passed the last street corner vending machine.
The road leveled out for a brief stretch and then it crested. From there I began a gradual decent. Eventually I came upon a hot springs bathhouse where I paid 500 yen to warm up. After another forty five-minute walk I entered a village and caught a train north. This ride took me to Nagano city where I stayed the night in a business hotel. On the third or fourth day (time had truly warped) I dragged my carcass back to Tokyo where I shut myself in a room and wrote poetry– Japanese free verse for a spell. On the other side of the paper doors my sister Yuki was plotting to confront me about my sanity.
I can’t even tell you today where it was I went except that I returned.