“When these sugi (杉, cedars) were umareta (生まれた, born), if that’s the word,” says Mayumi, “Japan was in its Jōmon Jidai (縄文時代, Jomon Period, c. 10,000 B.C.-c. 300 B.C.). Before bunmei (文明, civilization), before nōgyō (農業, agriculture), before sensō (戦争, war) — before almost everything we think of as human.”

“I’m so glad I came,” says Reiko, flushed and slightly out of breath. The two women have been hiking for hours through a forest almost thick enough to be called a jungle.

“There’s something about an ancient forest that fukkatsu saseru (復活させる, brings a person back to life).”

“Oh, Mayumi-chan, I need bringing back to life!”

“So did I when I first came here 11 years ago. Everyone said to me, ‘You’re mad! What’ll you do on Yakushima, on a little island nowhere near anywhere, for a month!’ Little did they know — little did I know — that I’d end up . . . well, as I have.”

“You’re happy?”

“Oh, very. I have my bar, my customers, my forests . . . There it is.”

Reiko stares at it in ikei (畏敬, awe). Words fail her. She comes to with a start when Mayumi tugs at her sleeve. “It’s getting late. We’d better be going.”

“So that,” muses Reiko on the bus back to town, “is the famous Jomon Cedar. Is it really 10,000 years old?”

Probably closer to five. Old enough, anyway, to shiya wo nobasu (視野を延ばす, expand your horizons), wouldn’t you say?”

Dinner eaten and the dishes washed, Mayumi brings out a bottle of white wine and fills two glasses. “Now,” she says, “tell me.”

Reiko closes her eyes and sips her wine in silence. The mushi no nakigoe (虫の鳴き声, humming of insects) seems to fill her entire being — she’s never heard anything like it before.

“It all seems so far away . . . “

“You mean the saiban (裁判, trial).”

“Yes, the 裁判. Mayu — he’s muzai (無罪, innocent)! I’m kakushin shite iru (確信している, convinced of it)! He’s innocent!”

“But was found yūzai (有罪, guilty).”

Nijūsan nen no kei wo senkoku sareta (二十三年の刑を宣告された, He was sentenced to 23 years). I was the only one among the saibanin (裁判員, lay judges) who voted for muzai senkoku (無罪宣告, acquittal). To everyone else it was hakkiri (はっきり, clear), an open-and-shut case. So tell me, am I kichigai (気違い, crazy)?”

“I’d say yes, but I remember as a kid you had a kind of honnō (本能, instinct), a kind of dairokkan (第六感, sixth sense).”

“I did, didn’t I? Well, it’s that 第六感 that tells me he’s innocent. Not the shōko (証拠, evidence), which looked bad for him, I admit. And he hardly even tried to defend himself. He just said, ‘I didn’t kill her.’ ‘But you wanted to kill her?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And you bought a knife?’ ‘Yes.’ It’s almost like he wanted to be yūzai wo hanketsu sareru (有罪を判決される, convicted), though he pleaded not guilty. Almost like he wanted to be a victim of a goshin (誤審, miscarriage of justice)!”

“It sounds rather arisō mo nai (ありそうもない, improbable).”

“Mayu, don’t you see? He’s a sick boy, he needs a seishinkai (精神科医, psychiatrist), not a keimusho (prison)!”

“Will he kōso suru (控訴する, appeal)?”

“I’m sure he will. His bengoshi (弁護士, lawyer) will see to it, he’s a nōryoku ga aru hito (能力がある人, capable man). But the appeal won’t change anything unless the hikokunin (被告人, defendant) changes. I wish I could get at what’s going on in his mind! I wish there was something I could do! I tried so hard to persuade them, but . . . munashii (空しい, futile). After the verdict there was a kisha kaiken (記者会見, press conference), and honestly, it was all I could do to keep from kuchibashiru (口走る, blurting out): ‘He’s innocent!’ “

“Reiko, you’re impossible! You’re as shōdōteki (衝動的, impulsive) now as you were when you were 10!”

“I am not! I damatta (黙った, kept quiet), didn’t I?”

“Reiko . . . can I speak honestly to you? You won’t okoru (怒る, get angry)?”

“When have I ever got angry at you?”

Mayumi smiles. “Well, it has happened. What I’m thinking is: Is it at all possible, granted your sixth sense and all that, that you’re wrong? I mean, you say yourself the evidence is against him . . . “

“The evidence was gokai sareta (誤解された, misinterpreted)!”

“And only you . . . “

“Yes, Mayumi! Only me!”

“There, you see? You’re getting angry!”

“No, I’m not. I didn’t come all the way here to get angry. Pour me another glass of wine, Mayu, and let’s talk about ancient cedars!”

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