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While shuffling back from my early-morning dip in a hot spring at Kambayashi Onsen, I noticed the fish in the garden pond. They had gathered, heads together, in a strange starlike cluster, as if for a piscine tête-à-tête. They were languorously wafting their tails slowly through the water as if barely alive.

All around, the snow was deep; winter had not yet withdrawn, and the air was filled with falling flakes. Less than 2 km away were the famous snow monkeys of Nagano Prefecture at Yaen-Koen, but here I was watching fish at dawn. Slow-witted from my outdoor soak, I wondered idly how the carp tolerated cold mountain water. I watched them for a while, thinking my own fishy thoughts, when I noticed the pipe. A length of tan-brown bamboo protruded from the moss and rhododendrons overhanging the pool. The pipe’s tip, cut at an angle, allowed a trickle of water to flow and drip into the pool, and it was beneath this inflow that the carp had gathered.

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