“That’s not a foot,” she said, pointing at the giant mosaic of a foot. “That’s Ayumi-chan.” Every Japanese town has a mascot, and Ashoro’s was a pair of feet sheltering from the drizzle under giant leaves of butterbur. She had come out from her house to greet us, and to show these large, hairy, walking creatures to her daughters. Later, they ran after us, and the girls gave us cakes. “It’s definitely not a foot,” she said. On our cold Ayumi-chans, we walked up the silent valley, towards the volcano.