Gail and I are back to the coastline as we leave Aki. But not before passing some Rube Goldberg contraption of a type that only the Japanese could conceive. Four yellow orbs are suspended from a shiny stainless steel trunk. On the hour, chirpy music emanates from the device and each of the orbs opens to reveal….monkeys.
It’s a good introduction to the odd life that exists on that line straddling ocean and community. Everything suggests threat, from the pounding waves, to the ominous concrete barrier lining the coast, to the half-life of residences, shops and debris in the shadows of those protective walls.
It takes time for us to realize, but the wonderful boardwalk we are walking on — just inside the concrete barrier — is an old railway bed. And, just slightly more inland, are the monumental aqueducts of the new rail lines, rising high above any tsunami waves. Here below, where we are walking, are shacks, marginal dwellings and people presumably living on borrowed time as they await the next great wave to hit this embattled coastline.
It is a strange, wonderful world to walk through, as a tourist. On one side are huge looming concrete walls, occasionally pierced to reveal the adjacent ocean, but gated with vault-like steel doors that can be slid closed at the first sign of an impending disaster. On the other side are the shambles of a no-man’s land. Piles of discarded appliances, abandoned pools and repurposed debris from the sea line our route. Sometimes it’s colourful, but inevitably it expresses the vulnerability of inhabiting this lost place.
The day ends well for us at the Kochi Kuroshio Hotel in Kōnan City. After checking in, we head down to the onsen for a restorative cleaning and bathing, quickly followed by a good Japanese dinner featuring, once again, katsuo takai.