Katsuren, the Okinawa novel: A Word from the Characters (3)
In this excerpt from my novel Katsuren, Yu Ganaha’s idol Kichiro appears. Kichiro is a charter boat captain from Yonaguni Island. He’s just taken Yu out on the boat to take a look at the submerged rock formation that Yonaguni is famous for.
“Kichiro,” I asked as we were wiping down the deck. “What’s your best guess? Are those walls from an ancient shrine or from a castle like the gusuku at Katsuren? Or are they just an accident of nature that happens to look man-made?”
“You’ll have to ask someone smarter than me. Maybe that Tomori fellow from the research outfit. He’s got ideas and the know-how to check them out.”
There was something about the way he said Tomori. Did Kichiro smell a rival there?
“I met him the other day. He showed me some photos he had. Pretty convincing, I thought.”
“A man’s only as good as his information.” Kichiro gave me a smug grin.
I wondered if I could goad him into saying any more.
“But if you had to guess…” I pressed, certain he was holding back some important piece of information, either about Tomori or about the site.
“I think,” said Kichiro, “that a thousand or so years ago, some guy just like me looked at what nature handed him and said to himself, ‘I can make it better’. I think he hacked out some steps to make it easier to get down to his boat. Probably sea level was different then. I think he hauled buckets of dirt from the wet side of the hills and packed it in the chuckholes so his wife could plant a tree to shade their front door and maybe a few tomatoes.”
Kichiro wasn’t done. “And I think he was smart enough to remember his roots as a creature who lives on the land but was born from the sea.”
I saw Kichiro reach behind him for the daypack with my camera safely stowed inside.
“Check it out. I think I got a good one of that ancient guy’s idol.” Kichiro handed the camera back to me.
“You mean the turtle statue that was on TV with you?” I asked while I clicked the digital display button.
“Yep. Plus one more.” Kichiro grinned like a cat with canary feathers in his teeth. “What’s a turtle without his mate?”
I whistled. I hadn’t heard even a whisper about a pair of statues down there. Seeing them recorded in my camera, I knew I was one up, even on the great Dr. Tomori. Next story I filed, I was going to call the site Kichiro’s Rock. A man is only as good as his information, and it seemed to me Kichiro was the heart and soul of the Yonaguni story. In my book, he’d earned naming rights.