Japanese short novel translation “Memoirs of a Traveller” (ある旅人の手記): Ch.4 “Festival Girl”

By | August 18, 2016

This is the fourth chapter of the story “Memoirs of a Traveller” which I am translating from Japanese to English. As you might guess from the name, this is a fictional tale about someone’s travels throughout various places. You can see my review of this story here, and the translation of the prologue here, chapter 1 here, 2 here, and 3 here. I highly recommend reading all of these before you read this chapter, but if you are short on time you could potentially just read the prologue.

Each of the chapters in this novel I liked for different reasons. This is the first chapter that has elements which are decidedly Japanese, and I found out from the author that there are specific cultural references that inspired it. I won’t say more since I don’t want to ruin the fun.

I hope you enjoy it! You can see the original chapter 4 in Japanese here if you are interested.

Note: this is the last chapter published on syosetsu.com from the author, Romo Mamiya. If you want to see more of this story (I definitely do), please consider liking, or even better writing a comment on this post. I have the author’s contact info and will inform him of how many of his fans are eagerly waiting, and also translate messages into Japanese as needed. I think he is working on other projects in parallel (aren’t we all) and hopefully we can get him to up the priority of this story. In the meantime, you can check out my other translations here.

Chapter 4: Festival Girl

That day, a festival was going on in the village.

As I was driving around searching for my hotel and parking my car, a crowd of what looked like village locals was heading towards presumably where the festival was being held.
I heard the faint sound of taiko drums coming from that direction.

After dropping off my luggage and changing into a fresh set of clothes, I decided to check out the festival myself.
Most likely it was being held in the plaza in the center of the village.
As I proceeded inwards, the number of glowing decorative paper lanterns hanging and displayed on long stands gradually increased, as did the number of street stalls.

I decided to grab a bite in one of the stalls nearby before things got too crowded, and then continued further in towards the festival’s center.

It suddenly occurred to me I should have brought my light summer kimono with me.
Of course, my car was small enough as it was, and there was no room for it.
I looked around, and sure enough there were many people wearing summer kimonos in the crowd.
Those with a relaxing navy blue color seemed to be popular around here.

The number of people attending the festival had grown so large that I couldn’t figure out where they had all come from.
Before I knew it, I was holding a mask that someone had passed me.
I put it on, still unsure of who I got it from.
It was a white-colored fox mask, with the mouth and eye holes framed by a deep scarlet color.
When I looked around, suddenly everyone in the crowd was wearing similar masks.

In the sea of navy blue kimonos, a young girl wearing one with a red goldfish pattern caught my eye.
She was wearing the same fox mask as everyone else, but it was pushed up diagonally, revealing her face clearly.
The girl was very beautiful with slightly slanted eyes and strong facial features.
As she looked around, her eyes darted here and there, eventually settling on me.
For a brief moment, we silently gazed into each other’s eyes.

I wonder if I should say something.
Maybe just hello.
But when I opened my mouth to speak,
the girl suddenly ran towards me, her wooden clogs rattling on the ground.
She grabbed my hand and quickly led me to the center where the villagers were gathering.
It was amazing how easily we reached the center of the plaza in the midst of such a massive crowd.
There stood a large tower, illuminated by lights of various colors.

Ching Chi-ri-ring Ching Chi-ri-ring
Tohko-tohko Tohko-tohko-tom Tohko-tohko Tohko-tohko-tom

Near the tower, I could hear bells ringing and taiko drums being pounded on.
The villagers seemed to be dancing around the tower to the simple, repeating rhythm.
The lower part of the tower was quite dim, probably because the lights got brighter the higher the tower went.
There, as I stood watching the crowd form a circle and dance together,
I remembered a dance from my hometown and something a close friend had said as we watched it together.

When this festival ends, summer will end with it.

In the middle of the crowd,
I donned a fox mask that was probably a local tradition here,
and gazed at the others passing by as they danced.
At last, the girl released my hand, straightened her mask, and entered the circle of dancers.
A school of red goldfish swam through the sea of swaying dancers.
I stood there for what felt like an eternity, watching everyone dance.

The next day.
The festival had ended, and the people of the village had returned to their regular lives.
The tower was quickly taken down, and the street stalls also disappeared.
Not a single paper lantern remained.
It was as if yesterday’s bustling festival was merely a dream.
The locals who had appeared in such great numbers were nowhere in sight, and I walked the deserted streets, stocking up on some needed items in a few shops.

I ended up staying in that village for two more days.
But I never saw the red-goldfish girl again.

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