黄色い縞を探す Searching for the Yellow Stripe

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黄色い縞を探す

 鮎釣り教室で最初に教えてもらったのは、天然鮎と養殖鮎の見分け方だった。「天然鮎はこの辺が黄色やで」とおじさんは胸ヒレの近くの黄色い縞を指した。とても爽やかな色彩だった。教室の参加者は中奥川沿いの駐車場で集合した。僕らは長靴とズボンとサスペンダーの組み合わせである胴長(ウェーダー)を履き、竿とタモ網と友舟を漁業組合から借りた。

 僕は先生と一緒に歩きながら、目の下で流れる中奥川をよく見た。「鮎がいる川というのは、ピカッと光っとるねん」と彼は言った。僕らは川の大きな石まで下り、道具を準備した。先生は友舟から鮎1匹を出し、ハリの付け方を見せてくれた。オトリ鮎の鼻と背と尻ヒレにハリを付けた。糸の最後に、3本束ねたイカリのような「掛バリ」がまだ残っていた。ナワバリ意識の高まった天然鮎は、オトリ鮎を見て闘争にきたら、この掛バリに引っかかる。この釣り方は「友釣り」と呼ばれているが、僕は鮎同士の友情をあまり感じない。

 僕は膝まで川に入り、長い竿を両手で持ちながら、先生の指導を受けた。おとり鮎をちゃんと泳がせるために、竿と糸の角度を水平に近くした。次の2時間で鮎釣りの「山あり谷あり」を経験した。早速アタリが出たが、逃げてしまったみたい。竿の感覚でまたアタリが出たと思った時、自分の掛バリに引っかかったオトリ鮎だけだった。こういう曲がりくねった姿になった鮎を「エビ」と呼ぶって。そのうち、黄色い縞のある天然鮎を何匹も釣れた。元気な天然鮎を疲れたオトリ鮎と入れ替えた。天然のオトリ鮎は流れのきついところで頑張って泳いでくれた。「養殖のオトリはああいうところでよう上れへん。天然やから、違う。食べても違うね」と先生は笑った。

 この鮎釣り教室は海の日に全国豊かな海づくり大会、奈良県と川上村の漁業組合に開催された。川の水が海まで流れるから、豊かな海をつくることは山から始まる。また、綺麗な川で苔を食べる天然鮎は育ち、生き生きした黄色い縞を見せてくれる。今まで中奥川が大切にされたおかげで、僕は鮎釣りの楽しさ、天然鮎のうまさを知る機会があった。その夜、釣れた鮎に塩をかけて炙り、友達と一緒に食べた。

Searching for the Yellow Stripe

The first thing I was taught in the ayu fishing class was how to distinguish wild ayu from raised ayu. “This part of wild ayu is yellow, ya’know,” the old man said as he pointed at a yellow stripe near the pectoral fin. It was a very fresh shade of yellow. Participants in the class gathered at a parking lot along the Nakaoku River. We stepped into our boots-pants-suspenders combination known as “waders”, and each borrowed a rod, scoop net, and fish carrier from the fisherman’s cooperative.

While I was walking with my teacher, I looked down at the Nakaoku River flowing below us. “Rivers with ayu in them, it’s like they’re just glistening,” he said. We climbed down to the large rocks on the river and set up our equipment. My teacher grabbed one ayu from the fish carrier and showed me how to attach the hooks. He attached hooks to the nose, back, and anal fin of the otori-ayu. At the end of the line was the kakebari hook, which looked like three anchors bound together. When the territorial wild ayu see and attack the otori-ayu, they are caught on the kakebari hook. This method of fishing is called tomotsuri, or “friend fishing”, but I don’t sense a whole lot of friendship between the ayu fish.

I walked into the river up to my knees, held the long rod with both hands, and followed my teacher’s directions. In order to let the otori-ayu swim properly, I held the rod and line at nearly a horizontal angle. Over the next two hours, we experienced the “mountains and valleys” of ayu fishing. We caught one right off the bat, but apparently it got away. When the rod felt like I had caught another one, it was just the otori-ayu caught on its own kakebari hook. When ayu are in this kind of twisted pose, they are called “shrimp”. In time, we also caught a few wild ayu with yellow stripes. We replaced the tired otori-ayu with an energetic wild ayu. Now, the wild otori-ayu swam vigorously through the rough currents. “A raised ayu wouldn’t be able to swim in those waters. The wild ones are different though. They’re different when you eat’em, too,” my teacher laughed.

This ayu fishing class was held on Marine Day by the National Rich Ocean Creation Congress, and the fisherman’s cooperatives of Nara Prefecture and Kawakami Village. Since the river’s water flows to the ocean, creating a rich ocean begins in the mountains. Also, the wild ayu who eat moss in these clean rivers grow up and show us their lively yellow stripes. Thanks to the Nakaoku River having been taken care of up to now, I had the opportunity to know both the joy of ayu fishing and the delicious taste of wild ayu. That night, I sprinkled some salt on the ayu I caught, broiled them, and enjoyed them with my friends.

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土と手根部 Dirt and the Heel of a Hand

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土と手根部

 6月上旬の平日の夕方に匠の聚の陶芸体験工房に下った。大きな窓越しに山々の夕焼けが見えた。その窓沿いに何台かの電動ろくろと木のスチュールが並んであった。工房の反対側の大きなテーブルに手回しろくろが何個も用意された。僕は抽選の結果でそのテーブルの手回しろくろで作業を始めた。

 今夜は匠の聚の「夏の陶器」教室の1回目だった。他の13名の参加者と一緒に、合計4回の陶芸教室に参加した。僕らは鈴木智子先生の作った石膏型を一人ずつ選び、自分の手回しろくろに設置した。僕はカレーのための食器を作りたくて、長くて深みのある型を選んだ。板状粘土を石膏型の上に乗せて、手根部で粘土を型に合わせて押した。この静かな作業を続けながら、テーブルを囲んだ参加者の間、雑談が自然に始まり、流動的に進んだ。みなさんは自分のペースで自分の作りたいものに形を与えた。最後に、傷や気になったところを濡れた「なめし皮」で仕上げた。2回目の教室にその食器に色を塗った。

 「夏の陶器」の3回目に、手回しろくろから電動ろくろに移った。まず、電動ろくろの真ん中に粘土をどんと投げつけた。両手を濡らし、手根部と小指の間のL型を使いながら、くるくる回る土をちょっとずつ持ち上げた。そして、右の親指で土のてっぺんを覆い、倒すように土を向こうへ押した。「それを何回も何回も練習してください!」と山本喜一先生は応援で言ってくれた。僕はラーメン鉢を狙い、粘土の真ん中に親指を両方差し込んだ。親指が凹みを作り、土を食器のような形にした。

 結局、4回目の仕上げ作業をしていた時、ラーメン鉢が電動ろくろから落ちて、大きな傷がついた。鈴木雄一郎先生は筆を取り、手際よく「ドベ」の土をラーメン鉢の傷に塗った。「土の硬さが違うから、焼く時に割れてしまうかもしれません」と彼は説明してくれた。それは仕方がないと思い、ラーメン鉢の運命を窯に任せるしかない。

 「夏の陶器」で土と再びつなぐことができた。石膏型にくっ付いた土、電動ろくろで永遠に回りそうな土。土を触ることは人間性の深いところとつながっているような気がする。少なくとも、この何万年前から続いてきた作業は、毎回僕にスマホを忘れさせる数時間をくれた。その時間の結果である食器を、これから日常生活で使いながら、あの土の感覚を嬉しく思い出す。

Dirt and the Heel of a Hand

On a weekday evening in early June, I stepped down into the pottery experience workshop at Takumi-no-mura. We could see the sunset over nearby mountains through the large windows. Lined up along those windows were numerous electric pottery wheels and wooden stools. On the other side of the room was a large table prepared with a number of manual pottery wheels. As the result of a lottery, I began my work with a manual wheel at that table.

Tonight was the first night of the “Summer Pottery” classes at Takumi-no-mura. The other thirteen members and I participated in a total of four pottery classes. We each chose a plaster mold made by Satoko Suzuki-sensei, and set it onto our manual wheels. I wanted to make a dish for curry, and chose one that was long with depth. I placed a board-shaped piece of clay over the plaster mold and pressed it with the heel of my hand, shaping it to the mold. While continuing this quiet work, participants around the table naturally began a conversation that just flowed along. Everyone gave shape to what they wanted to make at their own pace. Finally, we finished off any scratches or points of concern with a wet leather nameshigawa. At the second lesson, we painted color onto these dishes.

For the third Summer Pottery class, we moved from the manual to the electric pottery wheel. First, we heaved a big lump of clay onto the center of the wheel. I wet both hands, and using the L-shape between the heel of my hand and my pinky, I brought the spinning dirt up little by little. Then, covering the top of the mound with my right thumb, I pushed the dirt away from me as if knocking it down. “Practice that over and over again!” Kiichi Yamamoto-sensei said in support. Aiming to make a ramen bowl, I plunged both of my thumbs into the center of the clay. My thumbs created a hollow, and turned the dirt into the shape of a dish.

Eventually, when I was finishing it during the fourth lesson, the ramen bowl fell from the electric wheel and suffered a large tear. Yuichiro Suzuki-sensei grabbed a brush and skillfully applied wet dobe dirt to the torn part of the bowl. “The dirt’s hardness will be different, so it might crack when we bake it,” he explained. I figured that couldn’t be helped, and all I could do is leave the ramen bowl’s fate to the oven.

I was able to reconnect with dirt through the Summer Pottery classes. The dirt stuck still on the plaster mold, the seemingly infinitely spinning dirt on the electric wheel. Touching dirt seems like it is connected with a deep part of being human. At the very least, this work that has continued for tens of thousands of years always allowed me to forget about my smart phone for a few hours. The results of that time are the dishes, which I will use in my day-to-day life while I happily recall the feeling of dirt.

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屋根の下にあるもの Things Below the Roof

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屋根の下にあるもの

棰木。通柱。鼻隠し。それらを含めて、住宅の図面にはおよそ38個の部材が載っていた。白黒のA3紙に部材の細かいところが描いてある。川上さぷりの土井理事はコーヒーを杉のテーブルに置き、明るい表情で「もう、みんなを覚えた?」と僕に聞いた。

 18年前に設立された川上さぷりは、吉野材の加工施設である。「それまでは、我々は山に行っていた」と土井理事は言った。「原木が売れなくなったから、なるべく付加価値をつけたかった。原木だけじゃなしに、木を製品にしたら、また還元できる」。最初、彼らは山の木について何でもを知っていたが、木材の加工が新たな分野だった。いくらの値段がいいか、木をどうやって乾燥すればいいかなどが分からなかったから、彼らはそれぞれのノウハウをだんだん身につけた。そのうち、迫から東川に移った川上さぷりは、最適な機械を整え、加工施設として運営するようになった。

 現在、川上さぷりは住宅に使う木材を加工することに集中している。白川渡と北和田にある村営住宅は最近の事例だ。一軒の住宅を建てるには、木材をたくさん使い、近くで育てられた木を活かす。しかし、川上さぷりの与えた付加価値はそこで終わらない。あのA3図面に載っているおよそ38個の部材の組み合わせは、家の壁、戸、窓、屋根を支える。そこに住んでいるのは、新しくこの村に住まいを求めた人々だ。お祭りやクリーンキャンペーンに参加する人々、通りすがりの車に手を振って挨拶する人々だ。山で育てられた木はコミュニティーで活かされている。

 僕は土井理事に話しを聞くため、川上さぷりを少し見学させてもらった。僕は敷地に入ったとたん、木材の香りが漂い、大型エンジンや高速刃物の音が聞こえた。従業員は柱になりそうな分暑い木材をヤードの奥からフォークリフトで運んだ。もう一人は防音用イヤーマフを装着しながら、分暑くて長い木材をローリングコンベーヤに乗せて、切った。倉庫の天井に届きそうな細長い木材は何枚か壁にたけかけられていた。この木材は、かつて山で代々育てられた木だった。これからどこかのコミュニティーで生き続けるのだろう。

Things Below the Roof

Taruki. Toshibashira. Hanakakushi. Those are some of the 38 components shown on the residence blueprints. Specific details of the parts are drawn on the black and white A3 paper. Kawakami Supply’s director, Mr. Doi, set our coffees on the wooden table, and with a bright expression asked me, “So, have you memorized all of’em?”

Established 18 years ago, Kawakami Supply is a facility that processes Yoshino lumber. “Until then, we had all been working in the mountains,” Mr. Doi told me. “Wood wasn’t selling so well, so we wanted give it some added-value. By selling not just wood, but also wood products, we could help bring the industry back to where it was.” At first, they knew everything about trees on the mountain, but lumber processing was a new field. They did not know things like what prices would be appropriate or how to properly dry the wood, so they gradually acquired the know-how for every step in the process. In due time, Kawakami Supply moved from Sako to Unogawa, assembled the appropriate machinery, and began operating as a processing facility.

These days, Kawakami Supply is focused on processing lumber for housing. The village-owned residences in Shirakawado and Kitawada are two recent examples. Building a residence uses a lot of lumber, and makes use of trees grown nearby. However, the added-value brought by Kawakami Supply does not end there. The 38 parts on that A3 blueprint combine to hold up the walls, doors, windows, and roof of a house. Living there are people who wanted to try living in our village. People who participate in festivals and cleaning campaigns, or wave hello to cars driving by. The trees grown in nearby mountains are being put to good use in these communities.

After speaking with Mr. Doi, I took a look around Kawakami Supply. As soon as I entered the yard, there was the scent of lumber and sounds of large engines and high-speed saws. An employee used a forklift to carry some thick, pillar-like lumber from the back of the yard. Another wore noise-reducing ear muffs as he loaded long, thick lumber onto a rolling conveyor and cut it. Planks of lumber that looked like they could reach the roof of the warehouse leaned stacked against the wall. This lumber were all once trees grown over generations on the mountains. From now, they will continue living in a community somewhere.

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心の拠り所 Where Your Heart Can Rely On

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 寄席出囃子が流れてから、お寺に座った十五人の客は手前の女性から目を外さなかった。彼らの右に弥勒菩薩像は静かに立っていらっしゃい、左の縁側の下に波津地区が広がった。着物を着た女性は拍子木を見台に叩き、声を一瞬で上げ、荒い言葉を拭き捨てた。数秒後、落ち着いた口調と表情に戻った。彼女はそのやりとりを繰り返し、突然、みんなから笑いを誘った。左の縁側から涼しい風が吹いてきた。

 今年も波津のみなさんは、匠の聚のイベントに合わせ、地区の弥勒寺で「弥勒茶屋」を開催した。昔、近所の子供たちは弥勒寺まで登り、宿題などをしたと言われる。お寺が長い間使われなかったが、波津のみなさんは去年から一歩ずつ、それぞれのできることで弥勒寺を復活した。具体的な計画などを立てずに、自然に現在の形になったらしい。一人は弥勒寺の歴史を分かりやすくまとめ、小さな資料で配った。お花をしている先生は色とりどりの花でお寺を飾った。若手の夫婦は近所の野菜を使ったキッシュやアイスや飲み物を出した。波津の木工作家は料理のための器、お花のための一輪挿し、落語のための見台を作った。関西弁で落語を演技する女性は客にテレビやスマホより楽しくて、面白い二十分を提供した。表の人も、裏の人もみんなはこのお寺に心を込めている。

 大きな拍手の後、受け囃子が流れた。キッシュを食べ続けた客はいて、きんすを鳴らして参拝した客もいた。僕は座布団に座りながら歴史の資料をゆっくり読んだ。最後の段落に、次の文章が載っていた。「昔から弥勒寺・弥勒菩薩は住民の心の拠り所・集いの場となってきました。今も波津垣内の人々には『弥勒さん、弥勒さん』と親しまれ、見上げれば、今も昔も、弥勒さん!と慕われています」。

 それぞれのできることから始まった集い。人を笑わせる、食べさせる、美しい弥勒茶屋。波津の上からみなさんを見守る弥勒寺。これから住民の心の拠り所として賑やかになると思う。

Where Your Heart Can Rely On

After the jangly entrance music started playing, the fifteen guests sitting in the temple never took their eyes off of the woman in front of them. To their right, a statue of Miroku Bosatsu standing quietly, to their left, the Hazu district spread out from under the temple’s ledge. The kimono-clad woman struck the small table with wooden sticks, raised her voice in an instant, and began spitting out some harsh words. A few seconds later, she went back to her calm tone and character. She repeated the back and forth, and suddenly, elicited a laugh from everyone. A cool breeze blew in from the ledge on the left.

Once again this year, the people of Hazu co-ordinated with Takumi-no-mura and held the "Miroku Tea House” at the local Miroku Temple. It is said that a long time ago, local children would climb up to Miroku Temple and do their homework, etc. The temple had not been used for a long time, but last year the people of Hazu revived it step by step by just doing what they can. Without a specific plan or anything, it just naturally came to be as it is. One person summarized the history of Miroku Temple and passed out small leaflets. A teacher practicing flower arrangement decorated the temple with all kinds of colors. A young couple made ice cream, drinks, and quiche made from local vegetables. A woodworking artist living in Hazu made dishes for the food, vases for the flowers, and the table used in the rakugo performance. The woman performing rakugo in Kansai dialect offered guests a twenty minutes that was more fun and interesting than their television or smart phone. With people in the front and people in the back, everyone put their hearts into this temple.

A big applause, and then the jangly exit music. Their were guests who continued eating their quiche, and there were also guests who struck the kinsu and prayed. While sitting on my cushion, I slowly read about the history of the temple. The final paragraph had the following words. “From a long time ago, Miroku Temple and Miroku Bosatsu have been a reliable presence and a place to gather for residents. Even now people of Hazu feel close with “Miroku-san, Miroku-san”, and if we look up above, both now and a long time ago, we long to meet Miroku-san!”

A gathering started by people doing what they can. The Miroku Tea House, making people laugh and eat. Miroku Temple, watching over everyone from above Hazu. From now on, I think it will be very lively as a place people’s hearts can rely on.

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ミミズを刺す、朝のアマゴ釣り Piercing the Worm, a Morning Fishing for Amago

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ミミズを刺す、朝のアマゴ釣り

 ミミズを刺す、朝の県道258号線。僕らは軽ヴァンで中奥方面へ県道を走った。チゴロブチの近くにおじいちゃん一人はぽつんと椅子に座りながら、中奥川を見下ろしていた。そのあと、枌尾地区と中奥地区に人影がなかった。中奥より登りながら、県道が荒く、狭くなった。僕は助手席から中奥川の自然な綺麗さより、ガードレールのない道路と数十メートルの崖の方を見ていた。「誰もいないといいけど。」と友達は軽ヴァンをどんどん走らせながら何回も言った。しかし、道にあちこちにトラックが停めてあった。窓に釣り道具のステッカーが貼ってあった。僕らは昔人が住んでいた瀬戸地区を超え、さらに川の上流へ登った。

 手掘りトンネルを抜け、小さな橋の脇に軽ヴァンを停めた。友達3人と合流して、みんなは竿を伸ばし、長靴を履き替えた。僕は腿まで届く長靴を友達に借り、必要な道具をリュックで運んだ。5人で川の下流へ歩きながら、道路の端に近づかないように言われた。「魚はおれらを見たら、逃げてしまうから。」と友達は注告した。数分歩いてから、川へ降りる道を見つけた。転がりそうな石を踏みながら、僕は不安な足取りで急な斜面を降り、なんとなく河原に無事に着いた。

 竿から伸びた糸。糸に結ばれた針。針に刺されたミミズ。僕らは竿を大きく振り、ミミズと錘を川の上流へ投げた。ミミズは川の流れにゆっくり運ばれ、時々石に引っかかった。僕らはそれを繰り返しながら、源流へ一歩一歩登った。アマゴは警戒心が強くて、石の影で隠れたりしながら、とても綺麗な川でしか生きられないらしい。なんだか親近感を感じる人間もいるのだろう。友達は大きな岩の後ろで体を隠しながら、岩の上から糸を投げた。彼はいくつかの石の間に落ちたミミズをサングラス越しに見届けた。数秒後、糸のついたアマゴは空中でもがきながらくるくると回った。僕は友達と同じところからミミズを投げてみたが、何も釣れなかった。

 5人はそれぞれの場所を狙いながら、川を少しずつ登った。数回、僕は竿の位置と角度を忘れ、糸が木の低い枝に巻き込まれた。長靴のおかげで深いところを歩けたが、どうしても歩けなかったところまだあった。一歩一歩、岩から岩へうまく登れたが、思うどおりにいかなかった。大きくて、急な勾配をもった平らな岩を登ろうとしたら、手の掴めるところがなく、足の踏み場がなく、四つん這いになったまま、進めなくなった。お腹をなんとなく岩に付けようとしたが、それもうまくいかなくて、結局、川に見事に落ちてしまった。

 そのうち、僕らは車の近くに帰ってきた。友達は車から食パンと用意した材料を川の畔まで運んだ。みんなはガスカートリッジとカセットコンロを囲み、ホットサンドをどんどん焼いた。黙々と釣りをしたみんなは、サンドイッチを建てながら盛り上がり、興奮した。スマホの電波が届かない、山奥の渓流で焼きたてのホットサンドを食べる楽しさ。パンの上に具をたっぷり乗せても、お腹がぱんぱんになるまで頑張って食べても、材料がまだ残っていた。あの楽しい時間が永遠に続きそうだったが、雨色の雲に追われた。ゴミや何もを残さずに気をつけながら、持ってきたものを早速片付け、県道258号線を下った。

 白川渡で吉野川の本流へミミズを投げ、釣りをした。中奥川の透明な渓流と比べて、大滝ダム湖までゆっくり流れる吉野川は深くて、少し濁っていた。アマゴはいなかったけど、ものすごく大きな鯉、ウグイ何匹が見えた。僕らは最初に壁の上から川の深いところへ竿を振ってみた。友達は広い川の遠いところまでルアーを投げ、長い糸を手際よく巻き上げた。一人は小さくて、名前の知らない魚を釣った。僕らは川の浅いところに近い岩へ下り、川の上流へゆっくり登った。友達は大きなウグイ一匹を川から持ち上げた。何匹ものミミズは行方不明になった。壁と岩を行き来する数時間。

 雨色の雲が結局、約束を守らなくて、僕らは黄昏どきまで穏やかに釣りをした。夕飯の時間を知った魚の群れが次々に通り、何匹もは友達のミミズを召し上がった。友達はみんなのためのホットコーヒーを淹れ、おかあさんの作った苺大福を出した。手作りの苺大福が柔らかくて、甘かった。朝から夕方まで、僕は魚を一匹も釣れなかったから、「僕は釣りをした」となかなか言えない。「釣りの大半は、誰と釣りしているかだろう」というセリフを子供のころから覚えている。名前不明な、やすっぽいテレビ映画からだ。でも、今までも忘れられなかった。やっと意味が分かったような気がする。

Piercing the Worm, a Morning Fishing for Amago

Piercing the worm, the morning Pref. Rd 258. We drove our light vans up prefectural road toward Nakaoku. An old man sat by himself in a chair near Chigorobuchi, looking down onto the Nakaoku River. After him, there was no sign of anyone in the Sogio or Nakaoku districts. As we climbed past Nakaoku, the road turned rougher and narrower. Sitting in the passenger seat, I found myself looking at the guardrail-less road and dozens of meters of cliff, rather than the natural beauty of the Nakaoku River. “It’d be nice if there’s no one else there,” my friend said multiple times as he drove the light van farther and farther. However, there were trucks parked here and there along the way. There were fishing equipment stickers plastered on the windows. We passed the Seto district, where people once lived a long time ago, and climbed higher upstream along the river.

We went through the hand-dug tunnel and parked the light van beside a small bridge. We convened with our three friends, lengthened our rods, and changed into our long boots. I borrowed some thigh-high long boots from my friend and carried the necessary tools in my backpack. As the five of us walked downstream, we were told not to get too close to the edge of the road. “If the fish see us, they’ll all run away,” my friend warned us. After walking for a few minutes, we found a path that lead down to the river. Stepping on rocks that looked like they could crumble anytime, I took unsure steps down the steep slope and somehow made it to the river in one piece.

The line leading out from the rod. The worm pierced on the hook. We gave our rods a big swing and threw our worms and weights upstream into the river. The worm was carried slowly by the stream, and was sometimes caught on a rock. We repeated this, climbing our way step by step toward the source of the river. Apparently amago are a very frightful fish, hiding in the shadows of rocks, and are only able to live in very clean rivers. There are probably some humans who can somehow feel a kinship with them. My friend hid his body behind a large boulder while swinging his throwing his line over it. He watched through his sunglasses as his worm landed between a cluster of rocks. Seconds later, an amago attached stuck on a line writhed and twirled in the air. I tried throwing a worm from the same place as my friend, but couldn’t catch anything.

The five of us each took aim at our own spots while slowly climbing up the river. I forgot about the location and angle of my rod a few times, getting my line tangled up in the low branches of trees. I was able to walk through some deep spots thanks to my tall boots, but there were still some spots that I couldn’t quite get through. I climbed step by step, boulder to boulder, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. When I tried to climb a large, steep, flat boulder, there was nowhere for my hands to grip, nor for my feet to step, so I ended up flat on all fours and unable to move. I tried sticking my stomach to the boulder, but that didn’t work either, and I ended up falling beautifully into the river.

In due time, we ended up back near our cars. My friends carried loaves of bread and ingredients they’d prepared from the car down to the riverside. We all surrounded the flames of portable gas cartridges, and cooked hot sandwiches one after another. Having quietly fished, we were all now loud and excited as we built up these sandwiches. The joy of eating a fresh, hot sandwich along a mountain stream far away, where there isn’t any cell phone reception. Even after loading our bread with plenty of stuff, even after eating our hearts out until we were full, we still had ingredients left over. That fun time seemed like it could continue forever, but we were chased away by rain-colored clouds. As we were careful not to leave any trash or anything else, cleaned up everything we brought with us, and headed back down Pref. Rd. 258.

In Shirakawado we threw our worms and fished in the main current of the Yoshino River. Slowly flowing into the Otaki Dam Lake, the Yoshino River was deep and a little muddy in comparison with the clear streams of the Nakaoku River. There weren’t any amago, but we saw a very large carp and numerous Japanese dace. We first swung our rods from the top of a wall into the deep parts of the river. One friend threw his lure to the far side of the wide river, and quickly reeled in the long line. Another friend caught a fish whose name I didn’t know. We moved down to some boulders near a shallower part of the river, and then slowly made our way upstream. My friend pulled a large Japanese dace out from the water. Worms went missing in action. A few hours of going back and forth between the wall and the boulders.

The rain-colored clouds couldn’t keep their promise, and we were able to fish in peace until twilight. Schools of fish knew that it was dinner time, passing by us one after another, with many partaking in worms offered from my friends. One of my friends made hot coffee for everyone and brought out strawberry daifuku made by her mother. The homemade strawberry daifuku was soft and sweet. From morning to evening, I wasn’t able to catch a single fish, so I can’t really say I was “fishing”. "Most of fishing is about who you're fishing with," a line I remember from my childhood. It was from an unknown, cheap TV movie. But I haven't been able to forget it, even up to now. I feel like I finally understand what it means.

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写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

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写真:田野雄大

写真:田野雄大

も・な・か Mo-na-ka

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

も・な・か

 冬の昼下がり、西河のアルボールに入った。外が寒かったから、僕はホットコーヒーを注文して、真ん中のテーブルに座った。ストーブの上に乗っていた餅が膨らみ、やかんからの湯気が正面の窓を曇らせた。太田さんはお冷とお菓子を運んできて、「これを知ってる?」と僕に聞いた。僕はラベルを見て、「あ、サイチュウですか」と答えた。キッチンでコーヒーを淹れていた中平さんは大きく笑った。カウンターで立っていた小林さんは微笑んで、僕に言った。「違う、違う。『も・な・か』ですよ、最仲」。常連さんも突っ込み、アルボールの3人と楽しくやりとりをした。やがてコーヒーが運ばれ、僕はそれをゆっくり啜りながら、周りの会話を楽しく聞いた。 

 この3年間、やまいき市の手伝いをしながら、アルボールがだんだん毎週の楽しみになった。朝市に買い物しに来る小林さんは、いつも経験者ならではの商売アドバイスを優しく、こっそり言ってくれる。太田さんは一言だけでみんなを笑わせ、朝市を盛り上げる。中平さんの明るさは周りの方々にも広がり、初対面でも人の笑顔を引き出す。昼の頃、その中の一人はアルボールの玄関から「お〜い!できたよ!」と呼ぶ。彼らのおかげで、僕と他のやまいき市のメンバーは暖かい昼ごはんを食べられただけではなく、笑いで溢れた土曜日も過ごせた。

 3月の下旬、アルボールは5周年を記念するために、お客さんにぜんざいを出していた。もともと1〜2年間だけお店をする予定だったが、めはり寿司からダムカレーまで様々なものを出しながら、あっという間に5年間になったらしい。アルボールは4月から6年目に入り、定休日を火・水曜日にしながら、一生懸命営業を続ける。僕もこれから教えてもらうことを楽しみにしている。この3年間でアルボールで習った「味のある日本語」が日本語能力試験に出ないかもしれないけど、僕はこの貴重な道具を忘れられない。

Mo-na-ka

On a winter afternoon, I entered Arbol in Nishigawa. It was cold outside, so I ordered a hot coffee and sat down at the middle table. The mochis on top of the heating stove were expanding, and the steam from the kettle fogged up the front window. Ms. Ota brought me water and a snack, and asked me, “D’ya know what this is?” I looked at the label and replied, “Oh, is that saichu?” Ms. Nakahira gave a big laugh as she made the coffee in the kitchen. Standing at the counter, Ms. Kobayashi said to me, “No, no. ‘mo-na-ka’, it’s monaka.” One of the regulars chimed in, and had a fun back and forth with the Arbol three. Soon my coffee arrived, and I slowly sipped it while enjoying the conversation around me.

While helping out at Yamaiki-ichi these three years, Arbol gradually became something I enjoyed every week. Coming to shop at our market, Ms. Kobayashi always quietly and kindly gave us the business advice of an experienced merchant. Ms. Ota would make everyone laugh with one word and liven up the market. Ms. Nakahira’s friendliness would spread to those around her, even eliciting a smile from those she met for the first time. Around midday, one of the three would call out from their doorway, “Oi~! It’s ready!” Thanks to them, not only were the other Yamaiki-ichi members and I able to eat warm lunches, we were also able to spend Saturdays filled with laughter.

In late March, Arbol commemorated their five years by serving zenzai to its customers. They originally planned on running their shop for only a year or two, but while serving up anything from meharizushi to dam curry, it turned into five years before they realized it. In April they will enter their sixth year, and while closing the shop on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ll continue their business as strong as ever. I too look forward to the things they will teach me from now on. The “flavorful Japanese” I have learned from them in these three years may not appear on the JLPT, but it is a precious tool that I do not want to forget.

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光るもの The Shining Ones

光るもの

 川上村シルバー人材センターは役場付近の労働会館にある。多くの村民は親しみをこめて、「シルバー」だけで呼ぶ。シルバーの会員は村民さんに依頼された臨時的・短期的な仕事をする。お家の掃除、障子の貼り直し、春からの草引きや草刈りの仕事が多い。シルバーの56人の会員は60歳から88歳までの幅広い年齢層がある。その中から、毎月の末ごろに「しばざくら会」のメンバーは事務所に集まる。

 僕は2月の集まりを覗きに行った。手作りの干支、アクセサリー、色とりどり裁縫材料が事務所に温かい雰囲気を与えた。壁にある振り子時計と何枚のカレンダーが時間をコツコツと計った。真ん中の長いテーブルに座っていた数人の女性は、イチゴのストラップの作業で忙しかった。「今度、匠の聚のアートフェスティバルでこんなもんを販売する」と一人は教えてくれた。後数人が事務所に着いて、みなさんは3月の草引きの日程調整をした。それから、突然カメムシが一人の手に着いて、突然事務所を騒がせた。「美味しそうなところに飛んできたや!」と笑いながら、みなさんは早速裁縫の作業に戻った。着物を解いて、その材料でカバンを作る人もいた。「ここに来て、みんなと話して、色々を教えてもらうのが楽しい」と一人は言ってくれた。みなさんの住んでいる地区が違って、日常生活でお互いになかなか出会わないかもしれないけど、シルバーの仕事で会える。そのうち、コーヒータイムに入り、僕はみなさんと一緒にコーヒーとロールケーキをいただいた。でも、あっという間に、みなさんはまた作業に戻った。もちろん時計の振り子が揺れ続けた。

 村民さんに頼まれた仕事をするシルバー人材。使わなくなった服を新品のカバンに変えるシルバー人材。この事務所でみなさんが仲良く話し合ったり、笑ったりして、とても素敵な空間だと思った。これからしばらく草引きの仕事で忙しくなりそうだが、みなさんは相変わらずお元気でやるのだろう。今朝、みなさんのお話を聞きながら、なぜ「シルバー人材」と呼ばれているかが分かった。みなさんは本当に光っているから。

The Shining Ones

The Kawakami Village Silver Human Resources Center is located inside the Labor Hall near the Village Office. Many village residents familiarly call it just “Silver”. The members of Silver perform temporary or short-term jobs requested by village residents. There are a lot of jobs cleaning houses, re-applying the paper on sliding doors, and pulling or cutting weeds in the spring. The 56 members of Silver have a wide age range from 60 to 88 years old. Among those, members of the Shibazakura Club meet the end of every month in the office.

I went to take a peek at their February meeting. The handcrafted zodiac animals, accessories, and colorful sewing material gave the office a warm feel. The pendulum clock and numerous calendars on the wall diligently measured the time. Sitting at the long table in the middle of the office, a number of women were busy knitting strawberry straps. “We’ll sell these at the next Art Festival at Takumi-no-mura,” one person told me. A few more people arrived at the office, and everyone coordinated their schedules for pulling weeds in March. Then, a shield bug suddenly landed on someone’s hand, sending the office into a flutter. “It landed on a delicious spot,” everyone laughed, as they quickly got back to their needlework. One person was taking apart a kimono, with plans to use that material to make a bag. “It’s fun coming here and talking with everybody, and having them teach me things,” one person told me. Everyone here lives in different wards of the village, so though they might not see each other in day-to-day life, they can meet when doing Silver work. Eventually it was time for coffee, and I sat down to have a coffee and slice of roll cake with everyone. However, before I knew it, they were all back at work. Of course, the clock’s pendulum continued to swing.

The Silvers, performing jobs requested by village residents. The Silvers, turning clothing that is no longer used into a brand new bag. With everyone in this office chatting and laughing, I felt like it was a very beautiful space. They will be busy from now on pulling weeds, but I am sure they will do so with vigor as always. This morning, while listening to everyone’s stories, I realized why they are called the “Silvers”. It is because they really are shining.

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草餅の朝 A Morning of Kusamochi

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(Please scroll down for the English version.)

草餅の朝

 柿の葉寿司のレッスンが無事に終わった。「早朝やけど、今度、草餅を作ってもらおうか」と徳岡さんはにっこりと笑った。あんこを包んだよもぎ餅は「草餅」と呼ばれる。徳岡さんは柿の葉寿司と同じように、ほとんど毎日草餅を作っている。

 僕は朝七時ごろ西河のお店で徳岡さんと合流してから、大滝の上まで急な坂道を登った。工房の中に入り、暖房で脇で餅を丸めていたお母さんに挨拶した。餅米とよもぎを蒸していたセイロから湯気が上った。徳岡さんはその餅米を餅つき機に移し、よもぎを中に混ぜた。餅米がだんだん緑になり、そして大きな塊になった。徳岡さんはその塊を出し、小麦粉をかけた。お母さんは一口の量を塊から掴み取り、掌で平にした。「この上につぶあんを載せて、こうする」とお母さんは説明した。指を動かしながら、お母さんは餅をつぶあんの周りへ押し上げ、丸めた。餅の表面が滑らかな円盤形になった。

 僕はお母さんと一緒に座り、自分の手で草餅を作ってみた。お母さんを真似しようとしても、餅が思うように動かなかった。「左手の使い方が大事、こうして、こうして」と徳岡さんは見せてくれた。僕の手の効率がだんだんよくなった。餅が掌にくっついてしまったら、すぐあきらめて、手を洗うしかない。小麦粉もちゃんとつけなきゃ。草餅を一口ずつ木箱で並べた。二つ目の塊が出来上がり、つぶあんを載せて丸める作業を繰り返した。徳岡さんは手際よく草餅を販売用のプラスチック箱に入れ、ラベルのシールを貼った。

 徳岡さんは余った一口を取り、僕の渡してくれた。緑の餅がやわらかくて、中のつぶあんが甘くて、とても美味かった。僕はうちでよもぎを料理で使ってみたことがあるが、うまくいかなかった。やっぱり草餅が正解だった。「最後に、明日のための餅米を洗わなあかん」と徳岡さんは言い、僕を流し台へ連れて行ってくれた。

A Morning of Kusamochi

The kakinohazushi lesson finished without delay. “It’ll be early in the morning, but next time, I’ll have you make kusamochi,” said a smiling Mr. Tokuoka. Mugwort mochi wrapped around red bean paste is called “kusamochi”. Just like kakinohazushi, Mr. Tokuoka makes this almost every day.

After meeting up with Mr. Tokuoka around 7 a.m. at his shop in Nishigawa, we climbed the steep hills to the top of Otaki. I entered the workshop and greeted his mother, who was next to the heater balling up mochi. Steam flew out from baskets steaming mochi rice and mugwort. Mr. Tokuoka moved the mochi rice to the mochi pounding machine, and mixed the mugwort into it. The mochi rice gradually turned green, and then into a large clump. Mr. Tokuoka took the clump out and covered it in flour. Mrs. Tokuoka grabbed a piece off and flattened it over the palm of her hand. “We place the red bean paste on top and wrap it like this,” she explained. While moving multiple fingers, she pushed the mochi up and around the red paste, then rounded it off. The surface of the mochi became a smooth, disc-like shape.

I sat with Mrs. Tokuoka and tried making kusamochi with my own hands. Even if I tried to imitate her, my the mochi would not move as I hoped. “It’s important how you use your left hand, so go like this, and like this,” Mr. Tokuoka showed me. The efficiency of my hands gradually improved. When mochi stuck to the palm of my hand, the only thing to do is give up and go wash my hands. I also had to be sure to apply enough flour. We lined the kusamochi one by one in the wooden box. The second large lump of mochi was ready, and we repeated our work of loading the red bean paste and rounding out the mochi. Mr. Tokuoka quickly packed the kusamochi into plastic containers for selling and added the sticker label.

Mr. Tokuoka grabbed a leftover kusamochi and handed it to me. The green mochi was soft, and the red bean paste inside was sweet and delicious. I have tried using mugwort when cooking at home, but it did not go very well. As I expected, kusamochi is the right choice. “Finally, we need to was the mochi rice for tomorrow,” Mr. Tokuoka said, and led me over to the sink.

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圧し、包む作業 Press and Wrap Work

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

圧し、包む作業

 地元の伝統食品である柿の葉寿司について聞きたいと思い、川上村西河の徳岡さんを訪れた。「圧してみる?」と徳岡さんは温かく微笑み、お店の奥へ案内してくださった。僕は手袋にお酢をつけ、型の底に鯖を一つずつ入れた。また手袋にお酢を少しつけ、型がいっぱいになるまでご飯を鯖の上に乗せた。型の蓋を閉め、体重を使いながら、両手で型を強く圧した。蓋を開け、型を裏返してみたら、5個の鯖寿司が綺麗に並んでいた。お店の前に戻り、お寿司を柿の葉で包む作業に入った。両手の何本かの指を順番にゆっくり動かしながら、徳岡さんは一個を包み、木の箱に入れた。僕は彼の手を真似しようとしたが、最初に指が思うように動かなかった。四、五個目からリズムができ、「右、左、右」の作業に夢中になった。あっという間に木の箱がいっぱいになった。

 川上村の柿の葉寿司は日本遺産として認定されて、国籍を問わず観光客に愛されている。吉野山が観光客で賑わっている桜や紅葉の季節に、徳岡さんは一日に早朝より夕方までかなりの量を作る。冬も休まずに、徳岡さんは一年中、鯖と鮭の寿司を一つ一つ圧し、柿の葉で包む。保存食である柿の葉寿司は昔から塩で辛かったが、徳岡さんは現代の好みに合わせ、塩分を控えめにしている。「やっぱり『おいしい』や『口に合う』と言われたら、嬉しい」と徳岡さんは一個の寿司を柿の葉で包みながら言った。

 僕は柿の葉寿司を何個も持って帰り、レコードを流し、美味しくいただいた。川上村の家庭はみんな柿の葉寿司を作れるとよく言われる。当然かもしれないが、僕の実家で柿の葉寿司を作らない。僕は自分の手で寿司を圧し、柿の葉で包み、家で食べることによって、みんなの生活を少し垣間見たような気がする。一個を作るためどのぐらいの手間がかかるかを実感したおかげで、これから食べる柿の葉寿司がさらに美味しくなる。

Press and Wrap Work

As I wanted to ask about the traditional local dish, kakinohazushi, I visited Mr. Tokuoka in the Nishigawa district of Kawakami Village. “You wanna try pressing it?” He asked me with a warm smile, and led me to the back of the shop. I wet my gloves in vinegar and placed individual pieces of mackerel on the bottom of the shaping mold. I once again wet my gloves with vinegar and loaded rice on top of the mackerel until the mold was full. I closed the lid, and using my body weight, pressed down strongly with both hands. When I opened the lid and flipped the shaping mold over, five pieces of sushi were lined up perfectly. We went back to the front of the shop and got to work wrapping the sushi in persimmon leaves. Slowly moving multiple fingers of both hands in a specific order, Mr. Tokuoka wrapped up a single piece of sushi and placed it in a wooden box. I tried to imitate his hands, but at first my fingers wouldn’t move how I wanted them. I developed a rhythm around the fourth of fifth piece of sushi, becoming absorbed in the “right, left, right” work. Before we knew it, the box was full.

The kakinohazushi of Kawakami Village is a recognized Japan Heritage cultural property, and is loved by many tourists regardless of citizenship. When Mt. Yoshino is busy with tourists in the cherry blossom and colored leaves seasons, Mr. Tokuoka makes a ton of sushi from the early morning into the evening almost everyday. Without taking any time off in the winter, Mr. Tokuoka continues to press mackerel and salmon sushi, then wrap them in persimmon leaves year-round. As a preserved food, kakinohazushi was originally very salty, but Mr. Tokuoka has catered to modern tastes, and tries to go light on the salt. “Of course I’m happy when people say, ‘It’s delicious’ or ‘This is just how I like it.’,” he told me as he wrapped a piece of sushi in a persimmon leaf.

I took home some pieces of kakinohazushi, put on a record, and ate the delicious local specialty. I am often told that most households in Kawakami Village can make kakinohazushi. It might go without saying, but the house I grew up in did not make it. By pressing the sushi, wrapping them in persimmon leaves with my own hands, and finally eating them, I felt like I caught a short glimpse of everyone’s life. Getting a feel for how much work goes into making one piece of sushi, the kakinohazushi I eat from now on will taste even more delicious.

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上社での新年 New Year at Kamisha

(Please scroll down for the English version.)

上社での新年

 丹生川上神社上社の手伝いを始める前に、宮司さんに白衣を着せていただいた。何層もの白い布に包まれ、自分の行動が普段と違って感じた。世界が一際静かになった。しかし、それについて考える余裕がなく、早速宮司さんの手伝いに取り掛かった。

 足袋と草履に慣れていない僕は砂利の上を歩いたり、階段をのぼったりして、足の長い宮司さんについて行こうとした。大晦日の朝から宮司さんの孫と一緒に本殿を掃除して、昼からテントを立てて、休憩所のストーブを準備した。竹箒で砂利を道から掃いてから、夕方の前に家に帰り、数時間仮眠した。

 大晦日の夜から神社に戻り、白衣に着替えた。さらに寒くなったから、村民ととんど焼の火を囲んだ。「よう燃えとる、よう燃えとる」と一人は言った。零時からみなさんは本殿に入り、宮司さんにお祓いしていただいた。本殿の三階までの階段が金で光っていた。龍神である高龗大神(ルビ:たかおかみのおおかみ)と色とりどりのお供え物は、みなさんを新年へ歓迎してくださった。最後に、僕は参拝者にお神酒を注いだ。その後、参拝者はテントで暖まりながら、日本酒を飲んだり、おつまみを齧ったりした。

 数時間深く仮眠して、鮮やかな夢を見てから、元日の朝六時前に目覚めた。宮司さんは受付窓で座ったまま、ずっと参拝者を待っていた。晴れた空に恵まれて、初日の出が上流の山々の裏からゆっくり上った。僕は宮司さんと奥さんと一緒に年越し蕎麦を食べてから、受付窓で参拝者を待った。地元の知り合いが来たが、大阪府や兵庫県からの参拝者が多くて、ご祈祷、朱印、お守り、おみくじ、甘酒を求めて、初詣でに来た。この数日は神社の一番忙しい時期らしい。寝不足の宮司さんと奥さんはバタバタしながら、いつも明るい笑顔で参拝者を迎えて、ゆっくりお話を聞いた。

 神社の手伝いの最終日は少し寒くなった。宮司さんは朝から本殿の隣の水神社でお祭りを2回行った。昼から成人式の七人がお参りに来た。みなさんが本殿の前で写真を撮っていた時、淡い雪が降り始めた。日が山の端に差し掛かり、僕は竹箒で砂利を石畳から掃いた。帰る前に、僕も百円玉を赤い販売機に入れて、おみくじを引いた。

New Year at Kajisha

Before I started helping at Niu Kawakami Shrine Kamisha, I was dressed into white clothing by the reverend. Wrapped in layers of white cloth, my actions felt different than usual. The world became a shade quieter. However, I did not have time to think about that, quickly got to helping out the reverend.

As I was not used to the tabi socks or zouri sandals, I did my best keeping up with the reverend while we walked across gravel or climbed up and down the steps. In the morning, I cleaned the main hall of the shrine with the reverend’s grandchildren. In the afternoon, I helped set up the tent and prepared the stove heaters in the rest area. After sweeping the gravel from the paths with a bamboo broom, I went home just before evening and napped for a few hours.

I went back to the shrine the night of December 31st and changed into the white clothing. It was even colder than before, so I gathered around the tondoyaki fire with other villagers. “It’s burning good, burning good!” one person said. After midnight everyone entered the main hall to be purified by the reverend. The steps leading up to the third floor of the main hall glistened in gold. The dragon god Takaokami-no-okami and the colorful offerings welcomed everyone into the New Year. Finally, I poured the sacred saké for our worshippers. After that, the worshippers warmed themselves in the tent while drinking saké and munching on snacks.

After taking a deep nap for a few hours and seeing a vibrant dream, I woke up just before 6 a,m, on the first day of the year. The reverend was still sitting at the office window, waiting for worshippers. We were blessed with clear weather, and the first sunrise of the year slowly climbed up from behind the upstream mountains. After eating toshikoshi soba with the reverend and his wife, I waited for worshippers at the office window. Some locals I knew came, but there were many people who came all the way from Osaka or Hyogo Pref. for prayers, shuin stamps, amulets, fortunes, and amazaké on their first shrine visits of the year. These few days are the busiest of the year for the shrine. While the sleep-deprived reverend and his wife were busy running around, they greeted every worshipper with a bright smile and took the time to lend an ear.

My last day helping at the shrine was a little colder. That morning the reverend performed a ceremony twice at the small Sui Shrine next to the main hall. In the afternoon, the seven young villagers of the Coming-of-Age Ceremony paid a visit to the shrine. While they were all taking a photo in front of the main hall, a light snow started falling. As the sun approached the edge of the mountain, I swept the gravel from the path with the bamboo broom. Before I went home, I slipped a 100 yen coin into the red vending machine and received a fortune.

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