When I woke up in the morning, it had stopped snowing for the first time in several days and it was a clear day with the blue sky. I decided to go to a city a little far from the town.
But it had started snowing heavily again by the time I left. I scurried to the station in the snow and heard the delay of the train announced there. That meant I would miss my connection of the train to the city. Because only a few trains run in this line, having another connection is hard. I gave up going there and had lunch at a local restaurant.
This town is situated in the mountains and the weather is treacherous with sudden changes. Once it snows, the train easily delays or stops, which makes it so difficult to plan ahead for going out, as the weather forecast almost always fails and I don’t have a car. Besides, we’ve had fewer fine days and more snowy days lately.
My apartment has been closed in snow gradually, becoming more and more like the hotel in ‘The Shining’. Am I going to go mad and begin beating my partner with a keyboard of my computer? Or, is it going to be my partner who pounces on me by raising a remote control over his head? I hope we go through the winter and have the spring thaw peacefully…
A black shape of a bear is drawn on a yellow background with big capital letters of ‘Beware of Bears!’. That is a poster I see everyday out of my apartment window lately. Not just one. It’s on the fence along a stream and at the little bridge over it so that I spot it everywhere sitting at my table. It has multiplied rapidly this year. On a bench at the nearby park, on the public bathroom wall in my neighborhood, at scattered vacant lots, the posters are rampant here and there that I’d never seen before in my town. Those are not just for warning. Those indicate the spots where bear’s foot prints were left or a bear was actually witnessed. From morning till night, patrol cars with loudspeakers drive around blaring out “Bears are spotted! Be careful when going out!” all day long. The car stops on the little bridge beneath my window and sets off firecrackers to scare off bears. Some members of the local hunting association fired blank shots there. It’s said that the reason why bears come down to a residential area from the mountains so often has to do with the climate change that causes a shortage of food for them.
About ten years have passed since I moved in this snowy town enclosed by the mountains. It’s been warmer and snowed less year after year compared to when I began to live here. That has helped make my winter days easier that I used to suffer from claustrophobia by the deep snow coverage.
Added to the climate change that affects my daily life, I also sense my own mind changes. I had feared if a monotonous country life rusted me away when I decided to move in here. It didn’t happen. Rather, the quiet life increased my concentration and contributed more productivity for my lifework than the time when I lived in the metropolitan area. I have a serener mindset than before and it gives me more understanding toward myself and the world I live in.
Recently, people have stayed home and worked remotely in Japan too. They have left big cities and moved to rural areas. More and more people from Tokyo have moved into my small town that I had expected nothing but to become desolate every year. There are many unfamiliar new residents in the apartment building where I live. The building used to look like a ghost house with dark windows, but it has almost no available room now. I had never imagined that would happen mere one year before. The unthinkable things occurred at the unthinkable speed. In this trend, we can’t tell what happens next. In three years, bears might be chasing after me. Not bears but people might start chasing people and killing each other. Or human race might extinct because of viruses. There might be days of a panic, or moments of danger for life. Even so, it could turn to be better. These unprecedented years have shown how much human imagination is limited. I myself have learned that a superficially dire thing can turn out to be a good thing in the end. Besides, I saw unthinkable things happen, so why not unthinkably good ones? I believe they could happen as well. They should.
The small town I newly moved in reminds me of the one where my relative’s house is located. They both are in the mountains, far from the city. Only, my relative’s is in the western part of Japan and mine is in the eastern part. I once visited there with my cousin’s family when I was little. At that time, my grandmother’s uncle lived there with his family. When I was playing with my cousin outside, an old man came up and told us to follow him. He said he would show us something wonderful. Since I didn’t see him inside the house, he was a total stranger to me. And judging from what he’d just said, he was quite plainly a kidnapper. Nevertheless, my older cousin easily accepted his offer and began to set off. I stopped her but she was sure it was all right and eager to go with me. I reluctantly followed the old man and my cousin. We got into the bushes that were spread out before the front yard of the house. The bushes became thicker as we walked on. While we were moving by pushing back big leaves, I had become certain I couldn’t come back alive. The bush had been too thick to find a way back. I deeply regretted that I had trusted my cousin. Then, out of nowhere, we reached open space and a beautiful river lay in front of my eyes. The sight was breathtaking even to a small child like me. But soon, the fear I was being kidnapped returned to me. I imagined my cousin and I would be killed here. When I was preparing for the worst, the man started to go back. We followed him and safely came back to the relative’s house. He was my grandmother’s uncle. If I had known earlier, I shouldn’t have been that scared and could have enjoyed the trip so much…
The apartment I currently live in is furnished, and the place I’m moving to isn’t. That means I need to get appliances. First, I bought a microwave oven. And now, I’ve been looking for a washer. To get a large appliance like it is quite tricky because it needs to be set up inside the room. Almost all retail stores have restrictions on delivery. They don’t deliver large appliances to isolated islands or mountainous regions in Japan, or if they do, they charge extra cost. My new place is located in the mountains and right among the restricted areas. There’s a way to shop at a local store to avoid those delivery restrictions, but the town I’m moving to is so small to have only one electrical appliance store. And since it’s not a chain store, I would pay the list price. I usually have a strict policy to get something, which is to get at the lowest price on the market. But I can’t apply my policy to getting large appliances this time. I have to give priority to a store that delivers to my place over a price. Combined with the extra charge, the price gets higher and higher. It’s not my style of shopping, but I have no choice. Following a bear’s attack, obstacles to live in the mountains have emerged one by one…
After I saw the outside of the buildings, I met a real estate agent who
showed me the available room in each apartment. For a room in the
apartment which was under refurbishment, she offered a 20 percent
discount because the carpet and the wallpaper in the room was damaged.
As the room had been my first choice anyway before I came here and I
have a weakness for a discount, my mind was almost set on that place.
The thing was, as I wrote here once, the available rooms of that
building were concentrated on the fourth floor in the east side and this
room was among them. Even after I saw the building and the room with my
own eyes, I couldn’t find out what was wrong with the fourth floor. I
checked in a hotel and went to have dinner at a restaurant in the hotel
as the stay included dinner. Since it was a budget travel package, I
didn’t expect the food at all. But the dinner was probably the most
gorgeous feast I had ever had. It included all-you-can-eat crabs,
tempura, steak and shrimps. Ironically, fatigue and tension for decision
making spoiled my appetite and I could eat only little. At night, I
couldn’t sleep either from a sense of claustrophobia because the
mountains and the woods closed down the area. I asked myself if I could
really move in this area, let alone on the enigmatic fourth floor…
Beside my new apartment is a mountain which sloping side has a fancy
Italian restaurant. Normally it’s beyond my price range but I had an
opportunity to eat there at 30% off. The website said it took 15 minutes
from the foot of the mountain and I started to walk up a steep slope.
At first I enjoyed a fine view of flowers on the roadside and the town
stretching below, but 20 minutes later, I was sweating all over without
any sign of the restaurant. The steep road quietly continued to twist
back and forth up the side of the mountain. When my feet became close to
the end of their strength and I sweated for three saunas, I finally
arrived at the restaurant. Sweat spoiled my dress, makeup and hairdo and
I entered the place looking like I had been caught in a downpour. The
restaurant was perfect with an exquisite atmosphere and delicious meals,
except for the whacking prices. By the time I came down the mountain
from there and reached my apartment, I was totally exhausted and even
began to have a headache. It was so strong that a painkiller couldn’t
ease. Since I moved in, I’ve been walking so much wherever I go, but I
feel I’ve weakened rather than strengthened. Because my walking
destinations are mostly restaurants, I haven’t thinned either…