Translated from the Japanese by Toshiya Karmei
The Nature Exploration Club
Ryuji had lived in Tokyo all his life. After shuffling between high
school and cram school, he got accepted into a well-known college in To-
kyo to study law and began spending his time in great leisure. His classes
didn't interest him as much as he had expected, and karaoke bars and video
arcades soon lost their luster for him. Then one day someone handed him
flyer inviting students to join the Nature Exploration Club. It read, "Large
cities are filled with shoddv, man-made stuff. Now is the time to rediscover
"What is nature?" he wondered to himself, tilting his head.
be mountain streams and jungles you see in movies and on TV? Or natural
disasters like typhoons and earthquakes? What do the club members think
of nature?" Out of curiosity, Ryuji visited the clubroom.
Once inside, he was greeted by Ota, the deputy director of the
club. "Hey, where are you from?" he asked in a friendly manner.
"I'm from Tokyo, born and bred."
"I see, that makes sense. That's why you're longing for nature.
You're very welcome to join us. Let me explain what we do." Ota took
a grimy photo album and began to turn the pages. "This is when we
camping in Tateshina last year. This is when we visited Mt. Hakkoda. Two
years ago, we camped at Mt. Tsukuba. We look like we're having fun, don't
we?" he boasted.
"What do you do when you go camping?" asked Ryuji.
"That really depends. Some spend their time listening to wild
birds chirp while taking photos. Others gather wild herbs and eat them.
Some others spend the whole day trekking. So it's really up to you."
"Sounds great," Ryuji nodded nonchalantly, thinking that
might find something he had never experienced in Tokyo if he went camp-
ing with them.
"That's right. Our ancestors lived in nature while receiving
blessings. Genetically speaking, we humans are supposed to coexist with
nature. We're not meant to live in urban areas. Out of sheer laziness,
mans have built civilizations that sully the atmosphere with car fumes,
taminate rivers with heavy metal, and kill off numerous wild animals. On
the other hand, nature in the mountains is filled with negative ions and
fresh air. If we don't regain the splendor of nature, we'll all die out
ally," Ota uttered, intoxicated by his own words.
Rｙuji agreed with Ota, and felt embarrassed at having thought To-
kyo was the best place to live. "I imagine natural water tastes delicious.
tap water here smells like a swimming pool." He imagined natural water
flowing in a valley river, which was sold as bottled water in grocery stores
and convenience stores.
"You're right about that," Ota said, sounding proud.
That day Ryuji asked his classmate Tatsuo if he was also interested
in joining the Nature Exploration Club, telling him what Ota had told him.
Tatsuo was from a mountain recess in Iwate, a snowy northern prefecture.
"That's silly. They have no idea what nature is all about,"
casually after Ryuji finished his talk. "My grandpa died from an appendix
infection because there was no hospital nearby. We have gas and water,
we heat bath water with burning wood in order to get rid of dead leaves.
And you can't drink natural water unless you go to a valley river. Because
heavy snowstorms you're cooped up inside during the whole winter. As for
the summer, homes are invaded by mosquitoes and poisonous moths. It's
not rare that you find a snake in your chest of drawers."
"Is it really like that?" Ryuji asked as a shiver ran down
"Yeah, essentially so. But it seems like a paradise surrounded
sonal colors to outsiders."
"But Mr. Ota said you can't find pleasure in large cities,"
"Oh really? I'd say they were right if they had never gone to
bars or diners, not even once," Tatsuo said. "Nature is like
a stubborn, in-
flexible father, and a city is like an overprotective mother," he
getting up and walking away.
"I see. You just need to learn only good things from both of
Ryuji thought to himself, making up his mind to join the Nature Explora-