Shank’s pony


Unfortunately the arrival of warmer weather in Tsu has not conferred to me the ‘spring boost’ that comes to the world of nature as summer draws near.  I’ve not been in the best of health of late and my bike is not much better.  The state of my tyres has left me uneasy about straying too far from home before I can get them replaced.  No sense in adding to my woes by busting a tyre in the middle of nowhere.

So in the interim, I’ve swapped out my wheels for feet and have been nosing about my greater backyard on ‘Shank’s pony’.  There is a catch however.  This slower mode of exploration, which lacks cycling’s inbuilt cooling system, is only possible in the late afternoon now that the summer sun is in town.  But the big advantage that feet bring to the table is off-road capabilities. No longer are the muddy gravel paths through the rice fields or other half forgotten trails scattered about off limits.

On Monday’s sojourn through said rice fields following my old running route beside a typical Japanese river (ie one that has had its banks concreted), the unbelievably green verges were alive with critters.  Grasshoppers, dragonflies, butterflies, generic bugs of all sorts and crabs.  Yes, crabs.  The local freshwater crustaceans are quite fond of leaving their river to wander about the paths beside it.  Being the same colour as the ground, unsurprisingly many don’t make it to the other side.  Being trod on is a big danger for the paths are frequented by runners and farm vehicles.

Not that being a different colour would help their chances much.  Case in point – the lime green frogs.  A veritable army of baby frogs, most not much bigger than a thumbnail, were all over the path.  These cuties’ parents are what kept me up at night with their relentless shrill croaking that rang forth from the rice field beside my apartment when tsuyu (梅雨- the rainy season) first came to town.  The adults only grow to be about 5cm long.  How can something so small make such a din that can be heard through shut winders and downed storm shutters?  Power in numbers I guess.

Trying to navigate a path though the fray, I felt sure that I would be slapped with a ‘murderer’ tag before long.  Thankfully I don’t walk quietly enough to catch them unawares for every step I took set forth a wave of tiny green blotches, as though I’d stepped in a lime green puddle and made a splash. Even so, it was difficult to make sure I didn’t step on any.  I must have looked odd high stepping, one pace at a time through the fields.  Crazy gaijin (外人- foreigner).

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