A scorching wind awaits me as I disembark at Hikone.
Shiga is hotter than Tokyo. The cicadas cause a racket. The platform is deserted and the train pulls away quietly, leaving me alone.
I pass through the ticket barriers to survey the station for the first time in a year. The payphone. Vending machine. The country never changes. Only the station attendant is unfamiliar and observes me with an expression of curiosity. It is past 2:00PM. The heat suffocates me.
I can’t help but look at him. He stares up at me as always, buried between advertisements for tutors and ballet class. The sketch is so vague that I feel irritation at the fact that they had not drawn something more descriptive. Apart from a mole beneath his eye, there are no outstanding features.
You can find men like this anywhere.
In the upper half of the poster “Biwa lake decapitation incident – information wanted” is printed in bold lettering. The date shows June 2008. Tenth-anniversary, a blunt part of me thinks. The poster has become part of the scenery, faded and resting beneath a fine layer of dust. The nameless man quietly awaits information.
Christ, it’s hot.
The cicadas turn deafening.
I was ten years old in the summer of 2008 when the head, right leg, right hand and left hand of an unknown male washed up on the shore of Lake Biwa in Oumi-Hachiman. It is rare for such a gruesome incident to occur in a sleepy country town like Shiga. The news sparked panic within the community. Flyers featuring his face were distributed and police expected his identity to be revealed within the following few weeks.
One month later, the still unidentified body sent police into a frenzy and the man’s face came to be plastered on light poles in front of stations and advertisement boards in department stores.
The same summer my siblings and I chased grasshoppers and hunted shellfish in Lake Biwa. Our summer was the colour of lapis and so exhilarating. We frolicked in the same water his body had floated in, burnt brown and bouncing through pine trees.
We felt no sense of danger.
Now at nineteen years old, I find myself fixated upon the incident. Who is he? Why won’t anybody come to get him? Is he even a person from here? There is a theory that he may be a person from Tokyo.
Are there incidents like this even in the country? Or are there incidents like this because it’s the country?
I wonder if the murderer is still here. Whether he walks the streets of Banba, eats rice balls sat on the dirt paths between the fields. I wonder if at twilight he looks out to the lake where he once discarded a body.
(It makes my skin crawl.)
The lake nestles quietly by my feet.
The bus bound for Mitsuya is empty. The driver turns his eyes to me. At this time on a weekday Lake Biwa is deserted. Rice fields roll out to touch the horizon. The lakeside houses are old, tiled roofs glinting beneath the sun.
I’ve turned nineteen and many things have changed.
That innocence is beyond reach. I can never return to that summer.