世の(ほか)の群れ / Communities Outside the World

Japanese
『十二の遠景』の表紙
高橋睦郎著
横尾忠則装丁

幼い魂に「この世の(ほか)」の感覚か最初に訪れたのは、おそらく汽車の中で、だった。祖母に連れられて八女の叔母の家に向う途中、あるいは親戚の若い女に伴われて下関へ母を迎えに行く途中、私は車窓の窓枠に両手をかけ、顎を乗せるようにして、進行方向から大急ぎでやって来ては後方に行ってしまう風景をぼんやり見ている。

「そげん外ぱっかい見よるげにや、いんま気持ン悪うなって、()ぐるけんで」

しかし、私は見つづける。電信柱か退(さし)り、藁屋根か退り、稲架(はざ)か退り、木立か退る。汽車はトンネルの闇に呑み込まれ、吐き出され、ぶつ切りの音を立てて鉄橋を渡る。

突然、がたんと身を揺すって汽車か停る。鉄道服に鉄道帽の車掌か廻ってきて、神妙な顔で叫ぶ。

「しんごオオまちィィィ」

ああ、シンゴー町だ。私は車窓の外に町らしい風景を、二重瞼の眼科の看板を、表に水を打ち、玄関の暗い硝子か表をひっそり映している旅館を、七五三の日のように晴着を着てぽつんと立っている女の子を、そして何よりも、小ぎれいな町の駅をさがすか、目に入るのは切通しの片側の崖か、

人気のない暗い山田ばかりである。

私はあわてて反対側の車窓の外を見る。しかし、そこにも町はない。そのうち、がたんと揺れて、また汽車は動き出す。幻のシンゴー町は、永遠に後方になる。というのは、もう一度同じ汽車に乗っても、同じシンゴー町に停ることは、ふたたびないからだ。

シンゴー町はふしぎな町たった。どこにもなく、しかし、どこにでもあった。汽車か身を揺すって停り、車掌か廻って来て「シンゴー町」と宣言すると、そこが山の中であれ、海岸であれ、まちシンゴー町になるのだった。車窓の外には切通しの赤土の崖か、しらしら寄せてくる海以外に何もない。けれども、おごそかに宣言された以上、そこは疑いもなくシンゴー町であり、私は何もない場所に蜃気楼の町を現出させることを強制されるのだ。こうして、私は、目には見えない、この世の外の場所かあることを知るのだった。

この世の(ほか)の場所のありかを最初に知らせてくれたのかシンゴー町だとすれば、この世の外に生きている人のありようをはじめて教えてくれたのは勘六橋のお玉さんだった。直方の町の東側に沿って流れている遠賀川か、町並の南のはずれに近く一つの橋を渡している。この橋を渡ると、道ははるかに薄藍にかすむ福智山のふもとの頓野の在に出る。その橋が勘六橋だった。

English
Twelve Views from the Distance
BY Mutsuo Takahashi
PHOTOMONTAGE BY Tadanori Yokoo

The first time I was ever visited by a sensation of something “outside of this world” was probably when I was in a train. I am not sure where I was going. Perhaps I was in the train going with Grandmother to visit my aunt in Yame-gun, or perhaps I was on my way to Shimonoseki to go meet Mother, accompanied by a young relative. In any case, I do remember that I had propped my chin on my hands, which were placed against the glass window, as I gazed absentmindedly out the window at the landscape which approached us with great speed from the front of the train then quickly retreated to the back.

“If you keep looking out like that the whole time, you’ll get sick to your stomach and throw up.”

But I continued to look outside anyway. All sorts of things went by — telephone poles, stands for drying rice, and clumps of trees. The train was swallowed up in the darkness of a tunnel then spit out again. There was an interruption in the regular rhythm of the track, then we crossed a metal bridge.

All of the sudden, the train jerked and came to a halt. The conductor, who was wearing a railway uniform and cap, came around to where I could see him, made a strange face, and shouted, “Shingooo-machiii!

What he was saying was “waiting” (machi) for a “stoplight” (shingō), but to me, it sounded like he was saying, “the town of Shingō” since the word machi also means “town.” I looked around hoping to see the landscape of a town. I looked for an ophthalmologist’s sign shaped like an eye with creased eyelid. I looked for a Japanese-style inn with water spread in front to keep the dust down and a dark, glass door to mark the entrance. I looked for a little girl wearing the brightly colored kimono you might see at the seven-five-three festival. Most importantly, I looked for the quaint station you might expect to find in a tiny town. I didn’t see any of these things, however. The only things that greeted my eyes were the cliffs created when the engineers cut the hills away for the train tracks and the dark, unpopulated rice fields that the farmers had created among the hills.

I looked around hoping to see the landscape of a town. I looked for an ophthalmologist’s sign shaped like an eye with creased eyelid. I looked for a Japanese-style inn with water spread in front to keep the dust down and a dark, glass door to mark the entrance.

I quickly rushed over to the opposite side of the train to have a look, but there was no town there either. Meanwhile, the train shook again and started to move. The illusory town of Shingō retreated into the distance where it would remain forever. Even if I were to get the same train again, we would never stop there again.

The town of Shingō was a strange place indeed. It was nowhere, but it was everywhere at the same time. Every time the train stopped and the conductor came round to shout “the town of Shingō,” whatever was in front of me — be it the middle of the mountains or the seashore — would immediately be transformed into the town of Shingō. I would look for signs of the town, but strangely enough, there was nothing there but reddish cliffs alongside the tracks or seashores with lapping, white waves. Nonetheless, because the conductor had made his solemn declaration, I was compelled to think this must undoubtedly be the town of Shingō, and I conjured up visions of a town located there in the middle of nowhere. That was how I learned there were places outside this world which we cannot see with our eyes alone.

It was the town of Shingō that first taught me there were places outside of this world, but it was Otama-san who lived by the Kanroku Bridge that taught me there were people who lived outside the world too. The Onga River flowed parallel to the eastern edge of Naokata, and the Kanroku Bridge crossed it near the southern edge of town where the rows of houses ended. On the other side of the bridge, the road led to a cluster of houses known as Tonno. These houses were at the foot of distant Mount Fukuchi, which was shrouded in pale blue mist.

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