Nggrhh, my morning sun can’t possibly be this bright. I roll over expecting to pull the doona tighter, but it’s not there. On further examination, this isn’t the morning sun either – I’m sure I turned the lights off before going to bed.
“Rise and shine, motherfucker～!”
That gave me pause. I re-closed my eyes and took a slow breath before contemplating things further.
Not only is this turn of events somewhat unlikely, it’s a female voice. A little husky but not without a playful lyrical quality, not immediately threatening. A quick mental scan, this matches none of my travelling companions.
The voice is right behind me, next to the bar-fridge and table, and close. Elevated and close = she’s standing, probably about an arms-length away. Bright and confident, her accent is surprisingly light. Unmistakably a native Japanese speaker, but not the bastardised pronunciation of English that they teach in schools here. Then again, it’s the kinda line you might get out of an American action movie, perhaps she’s a fan.
Or, I continue, maybe she’s spent time overseas on an exchange program or something, that would expla–
I’m interrupted by a firm jab in the back, something cold. My eyes snap open. Right, yes. There’s a girl in my room. I don’t know who she is. She’s not aggressive right now, but I’m detecting a non-zero threat level here. Mmm… I think I can talk my way out this.
I roll over to face her, only to find my movement checked by a black stockinged foot planted squarely on my cheek. In a moment I assess the situation.
She’s not old, maybe 20 or so. Too tall to still be in school, though her attire is suggestive of a uniform. The miniskirt is a charcoal-grey with a fine pattern that I can’t quite make out, and she’s wearing a black jacket or blazer of some sort, with a yellow neckscarf – very sharp. It’s a good look, though too flamboyant to be a uniform or office attire.
「Oi. Just how long are you gonna keep me waiting? Move!」
Ah, she’s speaking Japanese now. I grit my teeth and wince as she grinds the ball of her foot into my cheekbone – looking back at her skirt, well, maybe this isn’t so bad. Out the corner of my still-open eye, her impatient fingers are rapping a mean looking baton. I’m paralysed in my attempt to formulate some sort of answer, managing only an incoherent stammer of syllables.
「We’re going to Hinamizawa, you’ve got five minutes. Put some clothes on, your bag is already packed.」
So she says, putting her foot down and throwing my backpack to an unseen pair of hands before retreating to the hallway. A short distance away, I can hear the flintwheel of a cigarette lighter being flicked a few times as someone lights up.
Caption: 4300yen for a return ticket, Takayama to Hinamizawa
Caption: Lines were drawn and the situation quickly snowballed into… snowballs.
Caption: Rika-chama and Satoko’s house. In reality, it looks like it’s a storage shed, but the ladder is there.
Caption: Hinamizawa, from the lookout over the town.
Caption: The shrine featured in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
Caption: Man down, I’ve been shot! I say again, man down!
Caption: As expected, Rika-chama is a popular theme for all the ema. にぱ～☆
Caption: Shimizu, the ryokan that was our home for the night.
Caption: This guy was happy to take it easy and lie in the snow, watching us pass by.
Caption: Ayu (in snow)
Caption: The restaurant at the lookout over the town had this, I guess just collecting 5yen coins. Super auspicious!
Caption: As a traditional dwelling, Shimizu retains the central hearth in the floor for cooking meals.
That evening the five of us went to visit the onsen attached to one of the larger hotels in the town, at the suggestion of the innkeepers. We generally know how this works, but I think it was the first time any of us had visited an onsen “properly” in normal social circumstances. Visiting baths while it’s snowing outside is a uniquely awesome experience, I think everyone had a good time.
The baths closed at 22:00, meaning we eventually had to make the walk back to our respective inns in the sub-zero conditions. To make this more tolerable we engaged in a dubious “vending machine crawl” (if you will), finding delicious beverages with which to warm the body and soul.
Even in a small historical village in the middle of nowhere, for a walk that would take five minutes under normal conditions, we encountered no less than half a dozen vending machines. My personal recommendation is DyDo’s hotcake drink. Forget PepsiCo, Japan got there first and drinkified that snack like there was no tomorrow.
Japan is a funny place indeed, but you know you’re in civilisation when you can see vending machines.