From Hiroshima, I decided to make a day trip to Onomichi. I was expecting a seaside, teeming with gift shops and restaurants for tourists, nice big green Japanese mountain banks, and lots and lots of stray cats.
Unfortunately, I picked a dreary, grey day lashing with rain, right in between two days of gorgeous sunshine. Go figure.
When I arrived, the seafront seemed less like a cheery blue holiday and more a dreary, Lovecraftian fishing village. I wrapped my jacket tight, pressed play on some podcasts and started walking straight forwards, just looking for somewhere with a nice hot coffee and lunch.
I went past an arcade, a Mos Burger, some seafront chips or ramen spots, hoping forward momentum and constant movement would keep me warm. Before I knew it, I was rising up a lonely road and leaving the city behind and below me.
No longer was I surrounded by tall buildings and ports, instead rice paddies and vegetable patches and scarcely any buildings. The odd rickety house was dotted here and there, hodgepodges of additions added over the years.
I kept walking. The rain had stopped, and the quiet countryside was calming. Looking up at the mountaintops, it was impossible to know where the mists ended and the rainclouds begun.
I didn’t see many people. One, maybe two cars and trucks went past. I saw the odd elderly chap fixing something in front of his house, or farmer in a field. They looked at me briefly, but paid me no heed.
I climbed above any of the houses and came to a lonely, winding road. A sign pointed me to the mountain peak, and I thought it would be worth exploring. I’d come this far, after all.
Before I knew it, I was off the main road and walking a grassy track. It opened up into a gorgeous little lake before me, a trickle of water falling down the layered banks. It was picturesque, quintessential Japanese countryside, even in the drizzle.
I kept walking, noticing some rusty old piece of heavy farming equipment tied up tight under some tarp. I ignored it and kept going.
I could hear crows calling, a ubiquitous sound in Japan. Initially I’d found the constant sound of murders of crows a little unsettling, but by this point I thought no more of it than I did the irritating squawk of seagulls back in the UK.
I approached a little white pick-up truck, only noticing how old and decrepit it was when I got really close. Where once were wheels were now just empty sockets. It was the withered corpse of a once-proud vehicle.
Keeping going, I spotted a bucket on the floor filled with oranges. It seemed inexplicable until I looked ahead and saw a large cage, filled with crows who continued to make their typical cacophony of noise.
I walked around the cage, up the path towards the woods. As I did so, the crows made the most terrifying noise of all: they fell completely silent.
I observed the cage more closely, saw the menagerie of black birds who watched me back. I could see the peels of oranges littered on the floor. As my eyes scanned the grassy base, picking out the fruits, I noticed something else they’d been fed.
A carcass, red raw and picked to the bones. I couldn’t make out what sort of poor creature had been thrown to these eerily still birds. I told myself it was something sold at a normal butchers, and slowly began to creep down the mountain.
In the end, I had a delicious burger from Mos, and went no further up that mountain.
All I could think about were the regular messages from my friend Holly, a horror movie fanatic, asking if I’d seen anything like The Grudge or The Ring yet. I think it was now safe to say I had . . .