In the morning I take my coffee and doughnuts and sit out on the grassy lawn of the Jimpukaku. James is with me again. I remember that he had told me that he used to eat his Sunday breakfasts there, having the whole place to himself and therefore contriving himself one of the genteel. I pass a happy morning here with my book and the sunshine.
Later, I take advantage of the good weather and take a bus out to Uradome seashore, recently dubbed a 'Geo-Park.' The bus ride ushers in the return of the ghost of that old affair again, in the form of a row of love hotels. We stayed in one of these on the night when her cat died. Hoping to create some eternal connection with her pet, she proposed we dissolve some of the recently cremated bones in Coca Cola and drink it. Which we then proceeded to do. (Ah, the lengths we go to win love.) And today I smile when I see that the hotel bears the name, Santa Fe.
Just off the bus, I find the Chugoku Shizen Hodō, which leads me up a steep trail toward a small shrine up top. Below it is a grassy patch of grass just big enough for a tent. A path leads in one direction toward the eateries of this sleepy town, and in the other direction is a set of stairs heading down toward a small cove. I sit in this future campsite, looking out at the sun glisten off the waters. Ken is close again, watching with me this body of water that was once his summer playground. I'm starting that backward slide into darkness again, but the beauty of the scenery helps me recover, and I soon make my way up the trail.
It is a glorious day and I'm happy. The trail runs over a series of small hills, each offering as a reward a gorgeous swimming spot with perfectly clear water. This is truly one of the most beautiful places in an archipelago filled with beautiful places. After a while I eventually arrive at a small fishing port, then round a bend to a long stretch of beach. I realize at once that I've been here before, and am joined immediately by the ghost of another lost love. My son's mother and I came here once, and climbed on these rocks above the sea, back in the early days, completely unaware then of what lay before us, of a marriage eventually made, then later still, lost due to the inability to survive the density of grief. I remember taking pictures here, photos that have a faded 1960's quality in my mind. Above the rocks there's a shrine that I don't remember, and I climb the steps in order to pray. There's a middle-aged women there in prayer, her hair long and unkept, her clothes disheveled. She is long in prayer, her lips moving to syllables that only she can make out. I wander around the back of the shrine waiting for her to finish, but when I return a few minutes later, she is still at it. I don't want to intrude, and head back down. I take off my shoes and walk out onto the cool sand. I sit and look out at the water again. At some point the praying woman comes past, walking with steady purpose toward the water. She stands there at the edge, looking out for a very long time. And I too watch, watching her. She too seems haunted. I wonder who she has lost out there.
I turn my back to her and the sea. I think about hitching and make a half-hearted attempt. Along the way, I pass a Kumano Shrine and a small Shingon temple, reminders of the more recent past. These serve as confirmations that I would prefer to be alone and not in conversation with a stranger. So it goes that I walk a few kilometers to the train and settle in for the short ride back to town. After a few minutes an American walks up and asks me if I know the area. He sits down and begins to talk, a conversation that lasts until the trains pulls into the terminus. It's the typical lonely guy on the road thing, a role I recognize quickly because ofttimes, the role is mine. We keep up the conversation to the door of a pub where I had planned to have a quiet dinner. It would be impolite to break away with out any real excuse, so I invite him to join me. But I'd truly prefer to dine with my ghosts.
Another day and I'm walking the Sand Dunes. They are far more touristed than I remember. The Japanese have a word I love, aware, for which I personally define as a feeling similar to the loneliness of a beach town out of season. There is this same pathos here today, despite it being the week of the summer solstice. I've been to these dunes many times before, swimming with friends in the seas beneath them. Today I walk inland, in search of the location where they filmed "Woman in the Dunes" nearly fifty years ago. This will be a sequel of sorts to a trip I took 20 years ago to Nipomo Dunes in California, in the hopes of finding the film set of Cecil B. DeMille's "Ten Commandments."
So I wander the dunes, moving out toward whatever feature draws me at that particular moment. It is nice to hike barefoot, past the occasional detritus of previous times: old pop-top tabs, ancient pens. As one afraid of snakes, I have a tendency to look down as I hike, and soon I become mesmerized by the patterns of the wind in the sand. The sound carries out here, voices penetrating from far off. Closer in, I'm constantly accompanied by birdsong, but from where? It seems to be coming from up there, in that empty sky.
I fail to find any trace of the film set, but the scenery itself is cinematic. Sand blows across the face of the dunes. A couple walks along the tops of the dunes in a long take. A model airplane bobs and weaves. At the far end of the dunes, the sound of the wind in the pines is like the sound of waves. The sea itself is strangely silent. And as I walk back in the direction I came, my footprints disappear in the wind.
The bus is pointed toward Kyoto. We travel the new highway, which takes us below a fake castle that stands atop a low, steep hill. While in my lost years, I'd longed to burn it down, representing as it does the town whose negligence caused my son to lose his life. I'm glad I didn't. I found the trail on which he died in a hiking guide book, and I recently noticed that the current edition no longer has that trail in it. That negation is enough.
The darkness of a tunnel, then another, and then more, washes over me, and it is here that I leave Tottori behind. The depth of feeling I still carry for the place surprises me. But it shouldn't. After a certain period of time, a return somewhere causes you to dwell not on the history of the place itself as much as to dwell on your own history in that place, on your own relationship with it.
On the turntable: World Party, "Goodbye Jumbo"
On the nighttable: 前川うかさ、”大東京 ビンボー生活マニュアル"