The roads narrowed as the north deepened, the towns thinned out into lone farmhouses, and the prefectures of Tōhoku connected like the sutures of a skull. I walked from Yamagata into Miyagi, then from Miyagi into Akita, with more snakes than people for company. A mamushi lurked under an outdoor sink, shaking its tail theatrically, a jimuguri folded itself into a high frequency sine wave, and on the wire ropes of a guardrail, a rainbow-hued tiger keelback idled away the afternoon hours. The silence was beautiful, and complete. Into Akita, in the lengthening shadows, I drank from the water of god.
Past the fierce, snow-daubed flanks of Mount Kurikoma, the valley ran hissing and gurgling and steaming with thermal water, and my bathhouse for the night was a concrete tub in a shed. The underworld is never far in Japan, but I had no company for my daily nekyia except for a shirtless man with a fantastically asymmetrical face, who shuffled from his house to his shed at eight o’clock sharp, pocketed his ¥200, and put a padlock on the door. Under an indigo sky, I drank my glass of crepuscular Akita sake, then walked into the rice fields, under a Moon obscured by clouds of steam, and I felt that Tōhoku would never end.