…Or at least that’s what I was thinking when several young men gathered and started doing gymnastic exercises.
Kei-san noticed them at roughly the same time and called out to them.
As we parted with them and went our way, I asked Kei-san what those gymnastic exercises were for, and apparently, they were exercises that the people here did before going out to fish.
“For a long time now, the fishermen have been waking up and doing these exercises. It’s dangerous for fisherman if they’re unable to move well while riding a boat. This is true not just for the person himself but also for the other fishermen with him. That’s why the fishermen have to check on their body’s condition before going fishing. Or at least that’s what I’ve been taught anyway.” [Kei]
“I see.” [Ryouma]
“Although to be honest, even without the exercise movements, it’s obvious when someone is feeling unwell, so there are a lot of people who just do it because it’s tradition. But if you tell that to my dad or the strict elders, you’ll get yelled at.” [Kei]
Kei-san said while laughing like a mischievous child.
Suddenly, someone called out toward us from a distance.
“Ah, good afternoon!” [Kei]
Apparently, an acquaintance of Kei-san had appeared. He greeted him and parted ways, but just when I was thinking that was the end of it, ten seconds later, another voice called out, and then again a few seconds later. Every time we passed by a person, they would call out to us.
“Everyone knows each other, huh.” [Ryouma]
“Well, it is a small village. It’s only natural. Most of the men are fishermen, so people are bound to know who’s whose wife and what number which son is.
Because of that people from outside the village stick out like a sore thumb and become the talk of the town, making it really easy for people to remember them. I think they’ll remember you very quickly, Ryouma-kun.” [Kei]
This is the countryside, alright. I have to be careful not to leave a bad impression on them.
“How many people live in this village?” [Ryouma]
“Not even 500. Although the number would be higher if you include the people who leave town to find work or make money from other villages. Oh, look. You can see it now.” [Kei]
I followed the direction he pointed at, and there I saw a light that was irregularly reflected. I immediately recognized the lake before me as the same one when I first got here. We continued along our way and passed by the side of the last building.
When all the structures obstructing the view were gone, the unfolding scenery was so beautiful I found myself at a loss.
Winds gave rise to waves upon the vast lake, causing the reflection of light to waver.
The water is really clear. I wonder if it’s not very deep.
Even from a distance, I could clearly see the fresh aquatic plants beneath the lake.
The blowing winds are cold, but for some reason, I feel warm when I see this view in front of me.
In front of the lake is a beautiful white beach, on which small boats and tools of some sort could be seen orderly arranged.
Finally, there’s something to this place that makes it look like a fishing village.
“Don’t you think it’s beautiful? This view.” [Kei]
I thought this place looked like Okinawa when I first saw the forest on the way to the village, but…
“Yes. It’s really beautiful. It’s almost as if the nature here has been left untouched, and yet at the same time, it’s so beautiful it would be enough to attract tourists.” [Ryouma]
“I’m glad you like it so much.” [Kei]
To Kei-san and the villagers of the fishing villages in this region, Ratoin Lake is an important place that keeps them fed. Because of that it is both their duty and pride to protect it. Only by doing so are they worthy of receiving its blessings.
“If that’s the case, then there must a lot of rules here.” [Ryouma]
“You’re not a fisherman, so there’s not that many. There are still some that you have to pay attention to, though. For example, anyone can catch a blessing from the lake, but if you’re not a fisherman, your options are limited to either diving or fishing with a rod. You can’t fish using nets or baskets. Also, can you see that island over the lake?” [Kei]
“Erm… Are you talking about that raft-like thing made up of branches? There seems to be something on top of it.” [Ryouma]
It’s far and there’s also the reflection of the light, so it’s hard to see, but I can at least tell that there is a hairy creature on top of it. Something like a sea otter or a beaver.
“That island is a nest created by a monster we call ‘Yadonezumi’ to pass the winter. When Spring comes, the small fishes use it as a hiding place, while the fishermen use it as a landmark to find the fishing grounds. Because of that another rule you need to keep in mind is to never hurt that Yadonezumi or its nest.
If you see it at the beach or in the village, please be careful not to drive it away. It may be a monster beast, but it’s no threat.” [Kei]
“I understand. I’ll be careful.” [Ryouma]