When we left the theatre, the sky was dark. There was a group of people wearing strange costumes outside. They were dancing and singing as a few floats carrying drums moved behind them. Some burly and shirtless men were hitting the drums. Another float had a woman wearing a red costume with fox ears and a big tail. She was shaking her appealing body and dancing like a water snake.
All of the people on the street were stirred up. They cheered and roared as they surrounded the floats.
I guessed it was a festival. Since we had to wait for Li Mazi’s group, Chuyi and I went to buy oden from a food stall. We ate and watched the street performance.
The chef of the food stall talked to us. I told him I didn’t speak Japanese. He realized it and took out a piece of paper. He wrote something then gave me the note.
Although it was in Japanese, there were a few traditional Chinese characters. I could somewhat understand. He said that this was the annual Inari Okami Festival, also known as the God of Rice Festival. We were lucky that we came here in this period.
I wrote a line that asked, “Is it for the sake of having a good harvest?”
The chef didn’t understand. Chuyi took the pen and re-wrote it with traditional Chinese letters. The chef nodded and wrote, “Right, do Chinese people worship Inari Okami too?”
I also used traditional Chinese characters to answer him. I often read the old books my grandpa had left me. That was why I knew traditional Chinese characters. I told him that fox immortals were famous in China and that we used to worship many statues. However, after the Reform, people stopped believing in this stuff, except for the villages in the Northeast. At the same time, I showed my interest and respect for Japanese traditional culture.
The chef said, “Arigato!” Then he wrote, “I really like Chinese cuisine. There are so many techniques and different dishes. It’s different from the simple techniques we have in Japan.”
He even expressed his fondness for Chinese soap operas like “My Fair Princess” and “Nirvana in Fire.” These were popular dramas in Japan for a while. He thought that the scenes in Chinese dramas were all spectacularly filmed, unlike their national dramas.
Then, he replayed a scene from “My Fair Princess”. He raised his hand and used his stiff Chinese to say, “Ziwei, don’t go!” We burst out laughing and thought that this chef was really interesting.
I wrote on the paper that I loved reading manga and watching anime. Naruto and Cooking Master Boy were my favorites. They were good memories from my childhood. I also wrote that the gaming industry in Japan was superb. When I was young, I often played Super Mario, Contra, King of Fighters, and more. Of course, I didn’t tell him about the many JAV movies on my computer...
We were chatting to our hearts’ contents and exchanged our interests in each other’s culture even though there was a language barrier. Later on, Xiao Gao told me that Japanese people used both Kanji and their own Katakana. Chinese people could read Kanji, so there would be no hindrance to reading. For example, Dr. Sun Yat-sen used to communicate with Japanese fishermen by writing as we had just done with the Japanese chef. Even Liang Qichao, who translated many Japanese books, didn’t learn or know Japanese.
The chef gifted us two bottles of wine. I didn’t bring anything to repay this favor, and it wasn’t appropriate to give him money. As such, I gave him a Ksitigarbha Talisman and wrote him a note: This is a spirit talisman that can protect you from incidents and ghosts.
The chef held the talisman in his hands as if it was a little treasure. He carefully adhered it to his food cart.
“Heh, this chef is nice,” I told Chuyi.
“Yeah.” He nodded.
We drank wine and ate oden. Then, we continued to watch the festival as it had come to a great part. Many Japanese people were dressed like ancient deities, shuttling through the crowd. I saw Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun and Universe, as well as Princess Kaguya and Susanoo. I didn’t know the rest. On a black float, an actor and actress fought as Abe no Seimei and Tamamo no Mae. Their moves were really beautiful and impressive.
Chuyi suddenly pointed in a direction and asked me to look. I saw a float slowly moving toward us. A white fox was lying on a lotus pod on that float. A few witches were dancing gently around that fox with their magical instruments. That white fox looked the same as the fox spirit we had encountered in Osaka!
When he saw us, he squinted as if he was giving us a mocking smile. I quickly turned and asked the chef, “What’s that fox’s origin?”
The chef answered that the fox was from a shrine that was very famous here. He said that many people came to worship it.
“Has this fox ever left Kyoto?”
The chef was bewildered for a while. He laughed, pointed at the float, and asked me to look carefully. I then recognized it was just an exquisitely made ceramic fox.
The chef quickly wrote on the paper. “It’s not a real fox. It’s made of ceramic. They found that fox in the ruins of a palace. They brought it into a shrine and started to worship it. It has become the spiritual mascot of Kyoto since then. We can see it outside the shrine only once a year, and that day happens to be today!”
“It’s an otherworldly item. Moreover, it’s really powerful,” said Chuyi. “It’s possible the white fox spirit we met yesterday came from here…”
I nodded and couldn’t believe that we were lucky enough to see an otherworldly item in Japan. An expert’s knowledge determines what he sees. It’s like how a geologist will notice the soil and how a botanist will pay attention to the plants wherever they go.
With such a concept, after two years in this business, I could be considered a qualified otherworldly merchant.
After the parade passed us, I felt a little reluctant. After a while, Li Mazi’s group returned. They had shopped around and came back with bags of all sizes. They looked as though they had a good time.
I told them about the awesome event they missed. Ru Xue wasn’t convinced. “What good is there about floats? I’ve seen them on TV many times!”
“Oh yeah? We’re going to eat seafood tonight. You can just watch us eat. It’s the same, right?” I shrugged.
Ru Xue fumed and glared at me. She asked Li Mazi for help. Li Mazi was reluctant. “Little Brother Zhang, could you please go along with my wife so that she will feel better? You know how narrow-minded she is.”
“Who’s narrow-minded?!” Ru Xue took out a wooden hammer and started to chase and hit Li Mazi. Li Mazi ran and screamed for mercy. They ran like that for a while.
I sighed. Sometimes, I wonder if they’re lovers and foes.
We said goodbye to the chef then went to supper. After that, we returned to the hotel to rest.
Everybody was excited, so we didn’t want to go to bed right away. We decided to visit the hotel’s bar for a few drinks.
Li Mazi stared at the beautiful women walking around. Ru Xue pulled his ear and gave him a lesson. Japanese women wore special makeup which made them look really good. It was no wonder that Japanese makeup techniques were popular in China.
I asked Yin Xinyue for permission. “Boss, can I watch?”
“You can!” Yin Xinyue generously waved her hand. “I also think that they look pretty with makeup. I want to learn from them.”
After a while, Ru Xue said that she was tired and asked Li Mazi to head back to their room to rest. The married couple wanted to spend time by themselves, so we didn't stop them. I ordered another round of cocktails and a glass of orange juice.
I had just taken a sip when my phone rang. It was Li Mazi’s call. I thought that the man was crazy. We were staying in the same hotel, and he still made a phone call to me. He must have thought international calls were cheap or something.
Since the phone kept ringing, I had to accept the call. “What’s wrong, man?”
“Little Brother Zhang, this is bad. We’re trapped!” Li Mazi sounded anxious.
“You are stuck in the elevator? Don’t worry. I'll ask the hotel staff to help you right now!” I was also startled.
“No, no. The stairs, we are trapped at the stairs!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter