(Title – 碧いうさぎ – Aoi Usagi – Blue Rabbit)
Ōhara, Kyōto, year 2006
After graduating from senior high, Kichirō decided to stop for a year and just laze around. His mother, Fumiko, was completely against this. Knowing that her son was going through a difficult time, she helplessly allowed him to take time off from schooling. Of course, there was something that Kichirō offered her to get his mother’s blessing — he had to become a nurse. So, by the next school year, he had to take nursing classes in college. Akihiko, his father, was just silent on this. He was the type to keep silent, especially when it comes to Fumiko’s decisions.
During the time that Kichirō was enjoying his long vacation, he went to various temples and historical places across Kyōto. He was eager to learn more about the ancient capital of Japan, most especially, to mingle with the spirits of the long-gone. Since he was a child, he was very keen of developing his skill to see and communicate with yōkai. He was not afraid. He didn’t mind it at all. There were some that aimed to scare him; yet, there are some who only wanted to ask help from him. These were the type that he wanted to avoid at all cost because he didn’t want to be obligated to help the departed regarding their unfulfilled tasks in this mortal world. There were some who were curious to talk with him, some who just wanted to observe him, and some who loves playing with him. These were the type of yōkai that he wanted to meet.
(「妖怪/ようかい」 “mystic apparition” or “mysterious calamity” – is a term used to refer to Japanese folk creatures and ghosts, or to supernatural beings in general. Because there are thousands of stories of magical beings around the world, the different types of youkai are endless.)
Many people find this ability as something hard to believe. It was ominous and many believe it’s bad luck to even associate themselves with him; yet, some believe and admire him for his ‘ability’ since he had proven himself even as a child. The first one to take note of and prove this was his father, Akihiko. Kichirō’s paternal grandfather, Takeru, has been dead for more than 10 years before Kichirō was born. He never even had the opportunity to see his grandfather, even through photos. Their ancestral house in Ōhara that contained much of their ancestral belongings was damaged severely because of fire, several years ago. To one’s surprise, Kichirō, at the age of 5, was able to describe in detail what his grandfather looked like and even uttered details about him that Akihiko never mentioned to his son. Kichirō, at that age, was interacting with his dead grandfather!
Fumiko refused to believe this, but she knew in her heart that her son had this special ‘gift.’ She had no better option but to accept this fact, even if she didn’t speak of it.
One day, when Kichirō was visiting the Sanzen-in Temple, he found himself loitering around the Shuheki-en Garden. It was summer time, just about after his graduation. He enjoyed viewing the verdant trees and the plants around him, not to mention the small pond that lied down amongst these evergreen blessings of the heavens. The breeze was warm and the king of the day, the sun, was at it’s peak boasting its radiant crown to whomever it laid its eyes on.
(「三千院」is a Tendai school monzenki temple in Ōhara, Kyoto, Japan. The Heian period triad of Amida Nyorai flanked by attendants is a National Treasure.)
(「聚碧園」is a traditional Japanese garden in Sanzen-in Temple that has a small pond and hill.)
Kichirō sat on the wooden floor and took a stick to poke the lotus plants on the pond. He was really fond of lotuses even when he was younger; hence, he was nicknamed “Ren” by his friends.
(「蓮」lotus plant or flower.)
“I’m so bored, ugh… Why is this place filled with spirits of old geezers? I want to find something cool. At least, let me meet a kappa or an oni!” He muttered to himself.
( A kappa [河童, lit. river child], also known as kawatarō [川太郎], komahiki [駒引, lit. horse puller], or kawatora [川虎, lit. river tiger] is a yōkaidemon or imp found in traditional Japanese folklore.)
( Oni [鬼] are a kind of yōkai from Japanese folklore, variously translated as demons, devils, ogres, or trolls. They are popular characters in Japanese art, literature, and theatre.)
All of a sudden, a group of loud and noisy tourists started approaching his safe and sound haven. Because of these disturbances, he had to go find a different place to visit.
While he was along his way to the temple grounds, he heard something rustling. Being the curious type, Kichirō looked around to find where it was coming from. He looked from left to right and behind to foward, in effort to locate where this peculiar rustling sound was coming from. He took a few steps forward until he reached a path filled with bushes. Suddenly, the rustling sound stopped.
“What could that be?” He said.
While he was checking the bushes, he noticed another bush to his left that was moving. His heart skipped a beat because of this sudden, unexpected occurrence.
“Dammit, Kichirō, it’s just a bush. You have the nerve to look for yōkai yet you’re afraid of a rustling bush?” He snorted.
He turned to his left and paced slowly toward the rustling bush. He stuck his face close to the bush and used his hands to search through the bushes for what was causing this peculiar noise. The rustling stopped again. “Ehh?!?”
Out of nowhere, something round jumped onto his face. Because he was not able to see clearly what this figure was, he panicked and started screaming: “Waaaaaah….!!!”
“Take that, you!” The little round creature shouted.
Kichirō ran around while the little creature attacked his face. After a few seconds of running and screaming, he finally sobered and started realizing something — hey, how come I can’t feel anything when it attacks me?
The small, bouncy ‘thing’ was kicking and pawing Kichirō’s face. At the same time, it was screaming too, as if its life was on the line.
“Hey, stop it,” Kichirō calmly said. The small creature didn’t stop and continued to ‘attack’ his face. Kichirō crossed his arms and squinted his eyes. He was obviously unaffected by the creature’s attacks!
After some time, the creature appeared to slow down and looked as if it was already tired, to the point that it was even panting. “Gasp… mind your own business… huff…”
“Stop it. Haven’t you realized that your attacks don’t affect me?” Kichirō calmly said.
The small creature jumped away from him and started saying: “Oh, he he.”
Kichirō sized up this creature. It appears to be a rabbit — a round and fluffy blue rabbit! Is there a breed with that color? He wondered.
“Yeah, yeah… I know what you’re thinking. I’m blue! I don’t know why I’m blue. I just woke up under that bush and when I looked at my body, I was shocked to see that my fur was blue!” the rabbit exclaimed.
“Are you a… rabbit?” Kichirō hesitatingly asked.
The creature touched its muzzle with its small paw, as if it was thinking. “I don’t actually know. Hey, what am I? Who am I? Why can’t I touch you?”
“I don’t know. I asked you first,” Kichirō sarcastically replied and narrowed his eyes.
“Since you found me, you have to take responsibility until I figure out who I am,” the ‘rabbit’ imposed.
“Ano… I don’t recall there is such a rule or law like that…” Kichirō fidgeted.
“Ne ne… I didn’t say there is such. I’m just at a loss. I don’t know who or what I am. Could you be a kind citizen to help this little lump of fuzziness?” The creature looked earnestly at Kichirō and flashed its glimmering puppy eyes.
“Ugh… what else can I do? Okay you can come home with me for now,” Kichirō was helpless.
“Banzai!” the creature rejoiced.
(「万歳/ばんざい」a celebratory cheer.)
“Okay that’s enough. I’ll call you Mizudori for now. Is that okay?” Kichirō asked.
“It’s no big deal. As long as I have a name. That will do for now. What are you called?” Mizudori asked.
“I’m called Kichirō. You can call me Ren or Kichi,” Kichirō responded.
“Ooh~~ I’ll call you Ren! He he…”
That day marked the beginning of Kichirō’s and Mizudori’s mystical adventures…