|

Horton hears a Who in ‘Dare-mura’

by Amy Chavez

I am going to share something with you today that you must keep an absolute secret. You must not tell anyone what I am about to tell you, especially not the police.

You’ve probably heard that Japanese don’t like to break the rules. This is true, as long as you don’t come to my island. No one on our island follows the rules of the mainland — we’re lawless.

I would have a hard time explaining to a policeman why the seat belt buckles in my truck are rusted from disuse and why I drive in Japan with Ohio license plates. My truck has not had a safety inspection for a while either, and I’m sure it would never pass, mainly because it wouldn’t even know what to do on a real highway, since it’s never been out of third gear. You see, we make up our own rules here.

Remember “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss? Horton, an elephant, discovers a small community of people inside a speck of dust. We’re kind of like that — our own secret society. To the outside world, which doesn’t even know we exist, our island appears to be just another of the hundreds of islands in the Seto Inland Sea. But if you take the time to board a ferry and come to see our island world up close, all 7 km of it, you’ll find a whole community working together and prospering. Like Horton’s “Who-ville,” in our “Dare-mura” everyone helps each other to create a simple, beautiful life. No one is rich, but no one cares. Some people fish while others work in the gardens while others preside over ancestral spirits and others write about what is happening. People are quick to do each other favors, and no one would ever dream of accepting any payment for their work, unless maybe it’s beer or a homemade cake. Our utopian society would put Alex Garland’s “The Beach” to shame, because our island society actually works. And has for hundreds of years.

Dare-mura does do something for the greater good of Japan. Due to Japan’s high fees for disposing of bicycles, motorbikes, cars and boats, many mainlanders are happy to bring their vehicles here to pass them on to us. Dare-mura, where the most common form of mass transportation is the back of a pickup truck, serves as a retirement home for used vehicles.

These transactions usually start in San-chan’s Bar on the beach. When I first came to Dare-mura, I didn’t even have a bicycle. Then a guy at San-chan’s Bar gave me a used bicycle from his bicycle shop on the mainland. Next, I was given a scooter, also by a guy in the bar. Then I got a truck, another gift from hmm, a guy at the bar. Most recently, I received a boat from a fisherman. He was not from the bar, but accepted a bottle of whiskey as payment nonetheless.

Our island is like an animated scrap yard, all of us driving someone else’s garbage — a model recycling center. After all, who needs a new car when you’ve only got 7 km to explore? If something breaks down, we fix it. If it breaks down beyond repair, we push it.

So we who live in Dare-mura feel that most rules were made for those living in the modern world, a place we don’t live. But sometimes I wonder about my growing lawlessness. Especially because recently, I caught myself trying to steal someone’s truck. I had parked my truck at the port while waiting for friends to arrive on the ferry. After they arrived, they climbed into the back of the truck and I started it up. That’s when I realized: This is NOT my truck! Everyone climbed out of the truck and into mine parked in the next space. Luckily, the owner of the truck, watching from nearby, was very understanding of the whole matter. As is the custom in Dare-mura, we settled it with a beer.