Aoirei Chapter 2 – Chikyumisaki
Most of the action in my novel, Aoirei, takes places in India, Japan and Tochuu, the village that exists outside of time. I’ve been to almost all of the places I wrote about, including Tochuu, which is loosely inspired by the real life village of Shirakawa-go. One of my favourite locations (and also one of my favourite chapters) in the book though, is the lighthouse in Muroran, Hokkaido, situated at Chukyumisaki.
If you’ve been to Hokkaido before, you’ll probably agree that the northernmost island of japan is full of hidden gems. One of those gems is the lighthouse at Cape Chikyu (Chikyumisaki). It’s definitely not that popular with tourists (at least it wasn’t in 2017) but it’s such a magical place that it inspired me to write an entire chapter about it! How I ended up in this really obscure part of Hokkaido and why I was there, I will leave as a mystery. But suffice to say that there was a lot going through my mind, and my heart, as I walked through heavy snow to get there. I just hope I did justice to Muroran and to Chikyumisaki in my book.
The following is the entirety of Chapter 2 of Aoirei and it’s called Chikyumisaki.
Jin had never been to Muroran before. It was rare for his parents to take him anywhere besides his grandmother’s home in Otaru. He had spent all the seven years of his life shuttling between his grandmother’s home and his real home in Sapporo. He didn’t mind the travelling. In fact, he enjoyed it! It was a welcome break from the tense and often loud conversations between his mother and father at the dinner table. They didn’t fight when they travelled, especially not with people around them. We should always show our best side to the world. Crying and screaming is something you should never do. Even when you feel like crying, you must hold it in. That’s the sign of a true man. And Jin wanted to be a true man just like his father.
He had worked hard the whole year to get good grades in his class. They were higher than everyone else. His mother and father were so proud of him. He had done it for them. They had promised to take him somewhere special if he did well in his tests. They had promised to take him to see a beautiful lighthouse in Muroran. It was on a cape called Chikyumisaki—Cape Earth. Jin had never seen a lighthouse before. It sounded magical in the dictionary—
A tower with a powerful light that is built on or near the shore to guide ships away from danger.
In his mind’s eye he saw a blue tower of light, reaching up to the heavens. The blue was cold and warm all at once. It was pure. Beyond the light was a vast ocean of darkness. The dark ocean and the dark sky became one and the line of horizon separating them had decided to go on a holiday.
Just like Jin and his parents were doing right now. He had no siblings so he had the back seat of the car all to himself. His father was driving while his mother sat next to his father in the passenger seat. They hadn’t fought the whole day. Muroran was a special place for both of them because that’s where they had first met, his father had said to him. They passed by farms covered in snow as they travelled south, from Sapporo to Muroran. Along the way they stopped at a couple of highway stops to eat soft serve ice cream and for his father to smoke. Jin loved melon flavoured soft-serve, as did his mother. They shared a single soft-serve at both the stops. He loved his mother very much. She was tall and beautiful and always smelled of roses. He brought his English textbook from tuition school along with him because his mother loved listening to poetry recited by him. She couldn’t speak much English herself, so it made the exchanges even more special because his mother would look at him with wide eyes and a beaming smile as he flawlessly recited poem after poem after poem. He had quite the flair for it too and would add flourishes to his voice to make her giggle.
Jin’s father on the other hand seemed to show no interest in his talent for English. Jin found it particularly stressful to recite passages to his father who would stare sternly and nod while he read them aloud. The apparent lack of enthusiasm on his father’s part always made Jin feel like he was being a burden to him. His father probably liked being left alone. Which is why he would always smoke alone on the balcony. Just like his mother, his father was a tall and thin man. He wore round glasses with black rims. Jin feared his father but he also deeply respected him. After all, he was showing him how to become a true man. Always show your best side to the world. Don’t cry even when you feel like it. And most importantly, don’t be a burden.
He had nothing to worry about today though because he was very far from sadness. The journey of three hours felt like it had lasted for an eternity. They were in Muroran now and driving up the steep, snow covered road that led to the lighthouse. He went from one side of the back seat to the other, absorbing all the sights to the left and the right of him. His father threw him a quick glance and Jin stopped darting about and sat down quietly behind his father’s seat. It wasn’t too late in the afternoon, but the skies were completely grey and covered in clouds. It was snowing lightly outside. They had arrived at Chikyumisaki.
Jin ran out of the car and climbed up the steps that led to a landing where the public toilet was. He gestured to his mother and father with his hands, urging them to climb up faster. They both chuckled, even his father.
“Wait for us here, Jin. Don’t go anywhere without us, ok?” his father instructed as he reached the landing and headed for the toilet. Jin nodded dutifully, barely able to contain his excitement. His mother waited outside with him.
“Are you excited, Jin-chan ?” his mother asked.
“Yes! I want to see the lighthouse!” replied an enthusiastic Jin.
“Do you want me to tell you a secret about the lighthouse?”
“Promise, you won’t tell your father I told you this?”
His mother paused and took a deep breath, inhaling the cold winter air.
“I used to live in Muroran. When I was in high school, every week I would come to the lighthouse to write haiku. I wanted to become a poet you see and the lighthouse is a peaceful place to be with your own thoughts and nature. One day, while I was writing, I saw a tall young man looking at me. It was your father. He still wears the same glasses that he wore that day. He came and sat by me and asked me about my poetry. He was very handsome, just like you, Jin-chan.”
Jin giggled at the comparison and then blushed.
“Looking at your father made my heart beat faster. I asked him why I had never seen him before and he replied that he was from Sapporo. He had come here on a graduation trip with his friends but had decided to be by himself on that day. We couldn’t stop talking and time just flew by. Later that evening I snuck into the lighthouse with him. That’s why this place is special to us, Jin-chan. This is where you were made. And had it not been for you, I would’ve never met your father for a second time. Do you understand?”
Jin didn’t understand, but nodded along anyway. He was the reason his parents were together and that thought filled him with warm satisfaction.
“Jin”, his father suddenly called out, “come and read this!”
Jin went inside the toilet. His father was pointing to a sign. “Read the English part, Jin”, his father instructed excitedly.
“Beware of lost items!” read out Jin.
His father chuckled and Jin chuckled along with him without knowing why. He had never seen his father this happy before. He didn’t even know that his father knew how to be happy. The thought made his chuckle turn into laughter. Both father and son laughed wildly. His mother entered the men’s toilet too to see what all the commotion was about. His father pointed to the sign and kept laughing. His mother didn’t understand what the sign said in English, but could read the Japanese words on top of it. She laughed too as she said to them that they were both lost and that she would leave them behind in the toilet. All three of them laughed out loud and had there been anyone else at Cape Chikyu on that day, they would’ve seen a family that had lost their minds, standing inside the men’s toilet, laughing to their heart’s content.
The snow had subsided outside. The family made its way, hand in hand, to the top of the observatory. Jin broke away and ran to the railings at the edge. Before him stretched out a calm azure sea and a cloudy, grey sky. He could see where the sky met the sea, but the line wasn’t straight. It was curved, like the surface of the earth. Columns of sunlight pierced through the clouds and lit up the sea in patches of golden light. The lights shimmered and glistened. Jin saw the shapes of birds and dinosaurs in this tapestry created on the surface of the sea. He looked to his left and saw the lighthouse on a piece of land jutting out from below the cape. It wasn’t a column of blue light, like he had imagined it to be, but a small white tower with large windows and a white dome on top of it. It stood pure and erect, glistening in another column of sunlight that had broken through the clouds. He looked at it, mesmerised.
His parents joined him and let out exaggerated exclamations as they pointed to the sea and the sky. They stood together for a while, his mother and father, holding each other’s hands behind him, not saying a single word and just letting themselves absorb the scenery and the memories that hide in special places like this.
“Did you bring the condoms?”
“Yes, they’re in my purse.”
“Want to go to the lighthouse?”
“Are you crazy? It’s covered in snow and the staircase leading down to it is locked. Besides, we can’t leave Jin-chan here by himself.”
“He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself.”
“I’m not going to the lighthouse, please.”
“Ok, how about the bathroom then? There’s no one here today.”
“And what about Jin-chan?”
“You’ll be fine here by yourself, won’t you, Jin?” Jin’s father asked him. It was more of a statement than a question.
Jin nodded, not quite following their conversation.
“It doesn’t feel right.”
“Think about why we came here. Think about our marriage.”
“Ok. But we must hurry. I don’t want to leave him out here alone for too long.”
“I doubt it will take long. It’s been a while, as you know.”
“Let’s not start that conversation again. Let’s go now before either of us says something that we’ll regret”, his mother said.
“Fine. Fine. Now you be a good boy and stay here, ok Jin? Don’t go anywhere”, his father told him.
“I won’t”, he promised.
His father gave him a stern look. Don’t be a burden, the look said.
His mother and father walked hurriedly down the stairs to the toilet. Jin fixed his gaze back at the curved horizon. He wondered what made it curved and not straight.
Jin turned to his right to see a crow that was looking at him inquisitively. Jin crowed back at the crow.
“Caw”, the crow said.
“Caw”, replied Jin.
The crow flapped its wings and flew over Jin’s head to land on the gate that led to the lighthouse.
Jin looked at the crow.
The crow looked back at Jin.
“I will eat you”, the crow said.
Jin frowned. Why would the crow say something like that? The crow flapped its wings again and jumped in its spot on the gate. Jin started walking towards the crow. The crow tilted its head and looked at him quizzically. It flapped its wings a few more times before launching into flight. It flew towards the lighthouse. Jin trudged through the snow and stopped at the gate; it had a rusty old lock on it. The snow was high enough for him to climb over easily and his body was light enough to not fall through the snow. With one foot over the gate, he looked back at the toilet his parents had gone into. He looked ahead at the golden, shimmering lighthouse. His other foot climbed over the gate and before he knew it, he was on the other side. It was a winding path down to the lighthouse and Jin was careful not to go too fast. His eyes were searching for the crow that wanted to eat him. He wanted to ask the crow why. He reached the lighthouse and walked all around its circumference.
He looked above him. His eyes met the crow’s who was looking down at him from atop the lighthouse.
“How do I get up there?” Jin asked the crow.
“Use the door”, the crow replied.
Jin circled back to the door of the lighthouse. Its handle was too high for him to reach.
“I can’t reach the handle.”
“Not that door”, the crow said.
Jin didn’t understand. There weren’t any other doors into the lighthouse. He looked around him and all he saw was snow and walls. He was too short to peer over them. Maybe there was a door below the lighthouse? He circled the lighthouse again looking for a staircase that led down but there was nothing. He noticed that some snow had piled up near one of the walls. He climbed up the snow to see if he could get a better view of the side of the lighthouse that was below him. He looked over the wall and saw the beautiful sea again, azure blue spotted with gold. He looked below and saw the sea crashing gently against the black rocks. No doors yet.
CAW, Jin heard just behind him, louder than before. As he turned around, the crow flew straight at his face, claws outstretched. Jin instinctively stepped back. But instead of solid ground, his foot found nothing but air. He tumbled into the light, trying to grab on to its golden rays. But all he grabbed was the wind. The last thing Jin saw before he plunged to his death, were large dark wings that blocked out the whole world.
Rain falls to be snow
Snow falls to become the rain
The wind keeps blowing
Hope you enjoyed the second chapter of Aoirei! The “Beware of Lost Items” sign is real, by the way.
Aoirei is available on Amazon as an ebook and paperback.
When Kiku visits Japan to escape his numb, drugged up life, he comes face to face with the blue spirits he has been avoiding since childhood – the Aoirei. Together, with a beautiful and mysterious spirit Guide, he journeys through Japan, India, a world of righteous serial killers and a village of souls that exists outside of time.
Aoirei is an unsettling but eerily familiar story of forgotten memories, trauma, spirits and the search for truth.
I usually end all my blog posts with a song, so I’ll leave you with the tune that I was humming to myself when I visited the lighthouse. The title of the song is Hoshi Meguri no Uta and it was sung in the ethereal Japanese movie, Anata e. The movie is about an old prison guard, whose wife passes away unexpectedly. In honour of her memory and to scatter her ashes in the sea of her hometown, he goes on the journey his wife and he had always planned to go on, but never did while she was alive. The song was, obviously, sung by his wife. Who started chopping onions all of a sudden?
星めぐりの歌 (Hoshi Meguri no Uta)
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