Sakura Chan was excited. She was on a trip from Tokyo to the heritage city of Kyoto with Chichi and Haha. She was a happy seven-year-old but not fond of the company of other children. She preferred watching them from afar. Her best friends were trees and her parents often found her having conversations with them. They worried, but believed she would grow out of it.
Sakura Chan’s serious eyes and soft features gave her an elfin look. Dressed in a powder blue pinafore and a white shirt she looked like a wisp of the sky. It was a clear day and her window seat in the Shinkansen gave her a lovely view. Chichi and Haha told her to look out for the beautiful Fuji-san, that would appear forty minutes into their journey.
“Do Yokai live on Fuji san?” Sakura asked Haha.
“Hmmm… they don’t show themselves, my dear.” Haha retorted tactfully.
They disembarked at Kyoto Station and walked to their hotel. After a Ramen lunch, they left for The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest.
Sakura Chan could see the enormous bamboo trees. She loved the sunlight streaming through the treetops and scattering into a million magical rays.
Her sharp little eyes spied a tiny red lacquered box lying on the forest floor and picked it up to add to her treasure collection.
Chichi and Haha chose a grassy spot. Sakura wandered around. “Not too far Sakura Chan,” Chichi warned. She nodded as she went closer to the trees, She wanted to speak to them and hear their magical stories.
She felt a sudden tug on her hands and looked around. There was no one but she sensed a presence. Was it a Yokai? She was terrified but couldn’t scream. She tried to run back but the hand kept pulling her deeper into the groves.
Sakura Chan then heard a whisper and looked up to see a green, bushy face in a tree.
“Come here little girl,” said the creature.
Sakura Chan pulled with all her might towards the bamboo tree and hugged it tight. Her heart pounded.
“Little friend, discard the lacquer box right away. I am Kodama, the spirit of the trees.”
She was puzzled but obeyed and immediately felt the grip on her arm loosen.
That was a Tsukumogami, my dear. When people use things for a hundred years they develop soul spirits. The Tsukumogami love to play tricks or scare people.” Said the Kodama gently.
“Thank you, Kodama san. Are you alone in this grove?”
Kodama laughed aloud. It was the sound of rustling leaves and falling raindrops.
“There are many of us. We protect the forests and rivers. Come.” The leafy hand held hers.
Soon she could see her parents looking for her.
Kodama hugged her.
“Will I see you again Kodama san?”
“When you speak to a tree, know that I am within. Ittekimas.”
“Itterashai Kodama san!” Sakura bowed and ran to her parents.
When she looked back the Kodama had disappeared but the trees whispered.
Chi Chi – Father
Haha – Mother
Chan – form of address for young girls
Yokai – ghosts and spirits
Ittekimas, Itterashai – farewell courtesies.
Fuji san – The honorific for Mount Fuji,Japan’s sacred mountain.