Sunday, May 25, 2008


Sacred Sparrows

I heard a charming story about a family of swallows living in this sweets (youkan) shop in Futaminoura, Japan.

The shop was built in the Taisho period, and specializes in sweets flavored slightly with salt from the ocean. That's a real piece of gold.

Inside the shop, up high against the ceiling, is this little Shinto shrine. You can just make out a sheet of paper sticking out from the bottom shelf. It's hard to tell from this photo, but the paper is covered with bird droppings. That's because, at the very top, is a bird's nest.

The store proprietor told me that the swallow population has plummeted in the area because crows will not stop attacking them. This resourceful swallow couple decided that the safest place to start a family was inside the shop. And what's safer than a shrine?

I asked the shop proprietor if she closes the store doors. She says that she does, promptly at 7PM every night, by which point the swallows have come home for the day. She says they remain inside, quietly, until 5:30 in the morning when she gets up extra early to open the door

The inside of the shop is decorated with antiques and has a lovely, old-Japan atmosphere.

Here's one not-very-good photo from Futaminoura, which is famous for these two rocks. Twice a year, the sun sets in between the stones. I have to be honest--the actual rocks were not that impressive to me. I seem to remember seeing something similar as a child, except those rocks were much bigger. Then again, maybe I was just smaller and I am remembering the same place. Who knows.

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