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Jiminy Cricket the soprano and a semi: Shrines and bugs in Izumo, Japan

Cycling around Izumo on a pair of borrowed bikes (one classic granny bike, big cow-horn handlebars’n all – one totally broken mountain bike, wheels threatening to detach from the frame at any second) I noticed how great an idea it is to get yourself on two wheels in Japan. Bikers and walkers share the pavements, so there’s no traffic stresses at all, and the place is pretty flat so you h

ave to work hard to break into a sweat. Actually, that’s a lie, I was sweating like a sumo in a sauna, but that’s more the fact that it was around 30 degrees outside and a mere 48 hours earlier my body had been experiencing the onset of a scottish winter and acclimatising itself accordingly. So, leaving a trail of salty liquid in a trail-of-breadcrumbs stylee, we pedalled on to my first Japanese temple.

 

It was pretty amazing, pretty much how I’d always pictured them, but a bit more real! I wandered past a row of samurai graves, images of swords and sandals flashing through my mind, before stopping and gazing up at the roof of the shrine, almost instinctively reaching for my grappling hook, endless hours of Tenchu training on the PS coming to the fore. Feeling nothing on my ninja assassin belt, dissapointedly I walked on. The grounds had all the stereotypical Japanese icons, but still managed to be stunning despite the familiarity. Little bubbling waterfalls, tumbling over rounded rocks into carp filled ponds. Trees, shaped just like Bonsai surrounded raked sand paths which led to curve roofed signs covered in Kanji.

Most amazing was the noise, kind of like a cricket with a singing coach and a megaphone, and a few steps on I discovered the source. Lying on the ground was the biggest insect I’ve ever seen. It looked just like a huge fly in shape and body, but brown skinned and hairless, and measured probably around 5cm long, big veined wings probably another 5cm each. Richard called it a Cicada, although the Japanese name for them traslates as ‘Semi’. Trust me, there’s nothing semi about those beasties. Stepping around the monstrosity I resolved to at least attempt not to scream like a girl the first time one of those flying mice buzzed towards me. Walking on, I pondered how the hell I could get my hands on a tennis racket as soon as humanly possible.

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