#73 – KAIMON-DAKE
The cigarette paper thin veneer of calm so carefully cultivated since my capitulation below Kasa-ga-take finally cracked, crumbled, turned to dust at my feet and blew away in a strengthening gale whipping in off the Pacific.
Who had I been fooling? I was miserable. Kaimon-dake, a perfect volcanic cone, a beachside, bonsai Fuji-san, topping out at a mere 924 metres should have been my…my…my what? My moment, my thing, the thing just before you finish something big… My moment of triumph before my moment of triumph. There. How about that? It was the time I was supposed to be looking back over all the trials and tribulations that had gone before. Mountain 73 should have been Mountain 99. A simple day trip out of my new home away from home, Kagoshima City. An outing to the southern tip of Kyushu where I could bask in imminent glory and maybe even some hot, black beach sand as well. Instead, yet again, I was basting in misery and self loathing, and this time, just for some variety, whilst ogling a pack of fat arsed goats standing on rocks, my train ride back to Kagoshima rattling away from me, into the distance, at a tauntingly, leisurely pace, having trundled over the level crossing just down the road from the goat pen.
It should have meant nothing. Another train would be along eventually. But I knew eventually out there in the boonies was quite different to an eventually in more civilised parts. It was that little bit of fate doling out one last ‘Fuck you,’ before I returned to Osaka and life off the road and well, I guess, it proved to be one jab too many. A ‘Fuck you’ that smacked of just not good enough, just not organised enough, just not committed enough to get things done. And maybe, I concluded, I just fucking wasn’t.
“Bastards!” I hollered at the fading clackety-clack of the train, or the Gods, or the trees, or the goats as I stared down the empty strip of road running from the forested base of Kaimon, across the level crossing and out into the patchwork of fields spreading northward away from the mountain. The goats politely held their sniggers. The wind tousled the tree tops. There in the shadow of Kaimon-dake, Fukada’s symbol of hope and joy, frustration and despondency reigned.
So much for the fine little climb up Kaimon; a somewhat rocky endeavour that wrapped itself around the mountain’s flanks before popping out at the top. From the trail, through the trees, veneer, at that point, still holding up well, I watched the sea turn gold as the rising sun burst through an early morning cloud bank. Higher up the views widened as the vegetation clinging to the mountain’s narrowing turret became scrubby waist high shrubbery. Amongst the tangles of branches on the summit, a shrine nestled, nearly swallowed by the scrub. I snuggled down in an open area in the rocks just beyond it and watched fluffy white clouds float across the face of the sun and gazed out over hazy farmland and seaside vistas.
From mountain high I descended into my morale mangled low. Cursing the goats farewell for no reason in particular and dawdled back to the station. I sat there seething, beneath a tin roof on sticks. Teeth gnashing. The train schedule I should have checked before commencing my climb informed me I had a good three hours to cuss away if I cared to do so. I sat grimly on the hard seat, hollow, lost. The pluck and daring of the Hundred Mountain Man, all but banished to the winds.
Three bloody hours. In no mood to hitch a ride, I walked back through town in search of a cafe to serve me some shit arsed coffee, squeezed from yesterday’s dish rags into a tea cup, in which I could add the customary thick white paint that was customarily passed off as long life milk, then without fail, as said brew would undoubtedly possess the peculiar amalgamation of industrial waste like characteristics to remain stubbornly unsweetenable, I would empty into it all the available sachets of pure white sugar I could lay my hands on before tentatively sipping it down and hankering for my own gloriously concocted instant brew…
Failing at finding a cafe even, I poked my head inside a beauty salon door and asked directions. The beehive headed, makeup plastered proprietor issued a rapid fire response which I took it to be something along the lines of: “Fat chance of finding something like that around here, mate,” so I wandered on without success. Barely a vehicle passed by on the street. Not another shop was open as far as I could tell. The coin laundry was, but it was automatic, so it didn’t really count. I stared at a cartoon bee sticker on the window, typical cutesy Japanese kitsch. I passed doors boarded up for good. Shuttered shutters. Weed filled cracks. Wind battered awnings.
“Good God,” I thought, “If Japan grew tumbleweeds, they’d tumble through Kaimon town. I saw not a soul in the streets. Eventually I came across the local shrine and thought a look around its hallowed ground might kill some time, only to find what I supposed was the majority of the town’s residents there, involved in some kind of festivities. It seemed the old gal at the beauty salon drew the short straw and was left to look after the town.
“Finally I find somewhere to poke my nose around and it’s jam packed to the rafters with people!” In my mood people, multitudes of them at least, were the last thing I wanted to deal with. Further up the road, I found a shady tree in a vacant lot littered with roof tiles and empty coffee cans. It was out of the wind, so I sat down in the dry grass and munched on the last of my trail snacks until the time finally arrived to venture back to the station and catch my ride back to Kagoshima.
Two days later, in better spirits, I departed Kagoshima Port by hydrofoil. I was bound for the island of Yakushima and the southernmost of the Hyakumeizan. As we whipped over the waters and out of the long Kagoshima Bay, I spied Kaimon, out the starboard window, there to see me on my way as she proudly stood sentinel at the tip of the Satsuma Peninsula.