“I don’t use the scope these days,” Mr. Michio said. A hunter and beekeeper, he lived high up on the mountainside above Lake Sameura. “I shoot with the iron sights.”
I held his Japanese sniper rifle and his Beretta over and under shotgun, heavy and terrifying things. “In the old days, the samurai used antlers to display their swords on,” he said. But there were no samurai now, only deer, wild boar, and Mr. Michio to hunt them.
Later, when he showed me his hives and his magnificent Damascene steel hunting knife, he absent-mindedly slapped a hornet the size of a songbird. “It’s a queen, looking for a place to nest,” he said.
A positive note of Central Kōchi’s depopulation is that there aren’t enough cars to squash every snake that ventures out on the road. This juvenile Japanese striped snake (Elaphe quadrivirgata) was very much alive, poised and silent, a runway model, and we looked at each other for minutes, one of us the scientist, the other the ocean of Solaris. Then it was gone like quicksilver, swallowed by the undergrowth.