Monday, July 11, 2005

Simian Wars in the Wakinosawa System

The Official Launch of Gaijin for Life’s Operation Bear Watch

Gaijin and Wife celebrated their two-week anniversary on Saturday by officially launching the Shimokita-wide Operation Bear Watch. The first day of the Find a Bear campaign was spent circumnavigating the entire western portion of the Shimokita peninsula beginning in Kazamaura, passing through Ohata, stopping long enough in Mutsu to buy a laundry rack and a composter, then continuing through Kawauchi, Wakinosawa, Sai, Oma, and back through Kazamaura. The search was primarily focused on the wild roads of Wakinosawa and Sai in what is possibly the remotest corner of the island of Honshu.

Let the reader know and understand that entering the village of Wakinosawa is something akin to waking up in the movie Congo. The village border is guarded by a lone monkey totem silently watching the worn out pavement of Route 338’s overgrown and underused western extreme.

Those who venture further into Wakinosawa are troubled at every turn by disturbing signs like this one.

Yuko and I decided not to pay ¥200 to see the monkeys in the Wakinosawa monkey prison. After all, our mission was to find a bear in the wild, not monkeys in a concentration camp. We drove on, but came to an abrupt halt a couple of hundred metres down the road.

It is Gaijin for Life policy never to pass by a photo opportunity of this nature. Were we still in Japan? Or did we accidentally apparate to Cambodia?

Gaijin and Wife quickly transmogrified into war correspondents to find out.

A casual glance revealed nothing amiss on the Wakinosawa frontier . . .

. . . but my Minolta DiMage X31’s (a.k.a. Bear Runner’s) keen lens soon picked up on some disturbing anomalies like this second gunman in the forest (Yuko says he had a knife) and these . . .

. . . butt-scratching monkeys.

We realized that we had inadvertently walked into a pitched battle between Wakinosawa’s human security forces and a tribe of monkeys trying to reach their brethren in the Wakinosawa monkey detention centre. The humans looked grim as they took their stand on the bridge, determined to prevent the monkeys from crossing the river. Every now and then they would shout “kora!!” and let off a “puff puff puff puff” of full automatic fire into the wooded hillside (did I mention that they were just armed with Air Soft guns?). Meanwhile, the monkeys casually scratched their butts or noisily jumped from tree to tree, mocking, waiting. Perhaps it is time for someone to write a letter to Prime Minister Koizumi and beg him to redirect some resources from his country’s less than stellar space program towards the simian wars in Shimokita. I would also recommend some revisions to Japan’s firearms laws, particularly as they relate to the right of villagers to arm themselves, or those monkeys are going to win. I hate to think of what would happen to my job if the Wakinosawa monkey detention centre is ever liberated and Shimokita returns to the rule of apes.

Eventually we left Wakinosawa’s human security forces to their fate and drove on to Sai. As we were rounding a particularly steep bend in the road a little fox jumped out of nowhere and motioned for me to stop the vehicle. Well, at least he jumped into the middle of the road and ran towards our car. Yuko and I scrambled to bring Bear Runner online only to discover the fox sitting patiently by the driver-side door. I was a little reluctant to open the window since I was sure the thing would jump in and do something supernatural to us, but for the sake of getting this shot I took that risk.

As we attempted to drive away we discovered just how anxious this particular fox was for human company or, more likely, human food. Judging from its puppy dog eyes, this little fellow had been permanently wimpified through human contact. As we sped up to forty Yuko sadly said “he’s using up all the energy he needs to live trying to catch us” and I have to admit that I felt a little sick to my stomach.

After an hour or so of winding through the mountains overlooking the opening to Mutsu Bay it was time for a pit stop at the toilet in the clouds. Yuko did a recce of the facilities before venturing in . . .

. . . but she was still ambushed by the toilet monster.