Forest protected by Mononoke
photo and text by Fujiwara Koichi
ISBN978-4-591-16712-0

publisher:
POPLAR PUBLISHING Co.,LTD.

もののけまもる森
 写真・文 藤原幸一
ポプラ社

表紙
a
  P1-5  total 4 photos  

My job is to capture wildlife in photo.
Almost every year I visit a forest in the warm Southern Ocean home to many creatures.
This particular year the summer was so hot, the locals had never experienced anything like this before.
To get away from the heat, I headed to the top of the east mountain before the sun rose.
The bus that took me travelled through the winding roads in the forest to the top of the mountain.

We finally arrive at a lonely cottage in the middle of the forest. This is where I will be staying. By this time, the surrounding mountains covered by thick forest were starting to shimmer in the afternoon sun. A big full moon was beginning to shine in the sky. I opened the big window in the room "the cool air is delicious" I said. Beautiful light of the moon flowed in from the sky. As I stared at the big full moon, I feel my eyelids gradually become increasingly heavy. Then, like something had possessed me, I fell into a deep sleep.

Jabber jabber
I wonder how long I had slept. I start hearing some very strange noises. Was it the sound of the leaves on the trees brushing? I went outside to find out.

Rustle rustle, crunch crunch
“Welcome, this is our forest” says a voice. Was it a ghost? A monster? Or a spirit?
*rustle rustle* something with huge googly eyes appears in front of me. They are shaking their clothes made of leaves.
“Come, I will show you around the forest” it says and heads deeper into the forest. My body froze and wouldn’t stop shivering. However, my legs naturally started following googly eyes.



 P6-11  total 15 photos   


Screech squeeel
It must still be before dawn. The forest is still dim. Only the vague light  of the moon shines through the trees and the loud cries of the birds can be heard from a top the trees.
After walking for a while, I come to a big tree with a tree cave.  In the dark tree cave I see shining eyes.
“Human, don’t come into the forest! The forest is where the Mononoke live.”
I felt like I heard a small voice come from within the tree cave.
I suddenly notice that googly eyes had disappeared. Nonetheless, I chose to go deeper into the forest like I was being guided in.

Graagh groarrrr
A piercing cry shrilled through the forest.
Suddenly a big mouth appeared from the darkness.
“Human, don’t come into the forest! Do you not see my sharp teeth?” it says.
“Are you a monster? How can you speak to me!?” So afraid, I yelled for help while nearly falling over.
Where did googly eyes go?
Googly eyes said it would show me around the forest, so I sought help but no matter how hard I searched, I couldn’t find googly eyes.
“I am a kodama Mononoke. I can copy anything. Even the human voice. I’m going to drive away all humans!” says the kodama Mononoke as it disappears into the forest.

I hear lots of suspicious voices from deep within the forest.
Gibber, screech, growl, awoon, grunt, yowl, cackle, laugh, scream, croak



 P12-19  total 4 photos    


In the shadow of the grove there’s a glaring eye. The eye rotates. I feel a lot of power in these eyes. It stares at me says “I am spiral eye Mononoke.” then stealthily disappears into the darkness. I sensed something terrible run through my body.

*laughing
I hear a voice from the treetops. Something is dancing as it laughs. “I am hehe Mononoke. How about a forest dance? Though, your legs will keep dancing forever” hahaha…

*hmph hmph
Something emerges from the neighbouring tree. “Are you thinking that I must have come from outer space? I am fancy kimono Mononoke. There are many Mononoke in the forest that you have never seen before” says this Mononoke with red makeup very softly.
“Humans are afraid of us, but we protect the forest.”

I had travelled quite deep into the forest.
Forest plants seek sunlight and some use vines, which cover the forest. Strong smell released from flowers engulfs the forest. I see a suspicious face at the end of a vine. “Are you a Mononoke?”

You have come here guided by our smell. We are tezuru muzzle Mononoke. You must be a human, you are not our friend.” It replies disappointingly.




 P20-27  total 17 photos     
 

A ray of light enters the forest and shines golden. A Mononoke appears. “I am ketoketo Mononoke. Humans are not welcome here. You shouldn’t go any further.”
“A long time ago, humans cherished the forest and lived in harmony… I am spiky Mononoke. I drive away humans with my sharp spikes. We will protect the forest.”

From the depths of the forest, you can hear the voices of Mononoke.
Red, yellow, and purple Mononoke are singing the forest song.

The sounds of animals such as insects and birds echo throughout the forest. A terrifying face that says it is a “dirt Mononoke” appears in front of me and starts talking. “Can you understand the voices of the birds and the animals of the forest? Can you talk to the insects? Do you understand the trees too?”

But suddenly the voices of the forest stop, and the forest became silent. “The big tree that is the forest lord wants to talk to you.” “Where should I go?” “Ask the tree cave Mononoke in front of you” says the dirt Mononoke.

The sounds of animals such as insects and birds echo throughout the forest. A terrifying face that says it is a “dirt Mononoke” appears in front of me and starts talking. “Can you understand the voices of the birds and the animals of the forest? Can you talk to the insects? Do you understand the trees too?”

But suddenly the voices of the forest stop, and the forest became silent. “The big tree that is the forest lord wants to talk to you.” “Where should I go?” “Ask the tree cave Mononoke in front of you” says the dirt Mononoke.




P28-31  total 2 photos      

The sun had started rising and rays of sunshine came through the forest. When I pass through the grove of trees, suddenly there was a ginormous tree in front of me. It must be the Mononoke that the painted Mononoke were talking about. I took a big breath, hugged the big tree, and put my ear against the trunk.
I heard sounds within the tree.

“Welcome to the forest.” The tree starts talking. “Long ago the humans called us spirits and respected us as the guardians of the forest.”

Suddenly out of nowhere, googly eyes appeared in front of me. “Where did you go?” I ask. “I was always with you!” it says. “but I couldn’t see you! You’re lying!” I say. “I was inside your body and observed from within you.” Googly eyes said. “The Mononoke were all angry and told me to leave the forest.” I said. “Humans keep destroying the forest. This big tree will also be cut down soon.” Says googly eyes very sadly. “It’s goodbye now, this is the end. This forest… it’s the end too.




 P32-37  total 10 photos      

Forests around the world follow the laws of nature. The animals of the forest will become old and one day die. Trees over time will break and die too. Then, everyone will return to the soil.

In spring, new plants will sprout from the soil, and animals will give birth to babies.
There is death and there is also birth.

The Mononoke protect the rich forest and the natural processes that occur within the forest. Humans once lived by receiving the blessings of the forest but seem to have forgotten. The blessings of the forest are the plentiful food that changes every season, the many medicinal plants that help to keep humans healthy, and the rain that collects in the soil and plants of the forest, slowly flowing into streams and springs to become drinking water for humans.




 P38-43  total 10 photos      
 
I remembered that when I walked through the forest on the border of Thailand and Myanmar in tropical Asia, I met a Buddhist monk who was praying deep within the forest. Trees were being cut down one after another in this forest. The monk was  putting a cloth, the same as what he was wearing onto the tree infront of him. “Don’t destroy the forest! Trees are divine entities! Cutting down a tree is the same as killing me!” The words spoken by the monk were strong and fierce.

Forests everywhere in the world that have been destroyed and turned into roads, fields, and garbage dumps. These places will probably never return to the forest.

There were people who still prayed to the gods of nature in various places in the world where I visited. There, the people would thank the gods of the earth and forests every day and give offerings. “oh yeah, there are prayers in Japan too” I thought.



P44-47  total photos      
Shinto shrines in Japan have large and very old trees that have been growing for many years. These trees are known as “Goshingi”, the God tree. The Goshingi has a rop wrapped around it and on the rope, are white papers called “shide” and “gohei”, a testimony of God is hung. When something bad happens, people pray to the shide, which houses god. Perhaps in the past, worshipping nature was not a special ritual performed only at shrines but also held daily in Japanese houses. However, in the present they are rarely performed.

After I said goodbye to the big tree, I walked for a while and saw a rice field created by humans through the gaps between trees.

In the forests, the gods have long been providing humans the important things that human need to live as blessings from the forest. For a long time, the forest and humans had lived in peace. Humans were supposed to live in peace and harmony without fighting the forest. However, right now humans are about to lose something very important.

I finally see the cottage, I’ve finally returned. I take one last look back at the forest of the Mononoke.





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