The next day.
I was riding my bicycle towards Hyakumanben.
Hyakumanben Chionji was not that far from my house.
It was actually even closer than Teramachi Sanjou.
I traveled down south on Shimogamo Main Road until it merged with Imadegawa Road, then turned left (East). I eventually reached a large, busy intersection known as “Hyakumanben Intersection”. The Kyoto University building could be seen from a particular angle.
After progressing a little East on that intersection, there was the Hyakumanben Chionji Temple.
However, since I had arranged to meet Holmes-san in Tokyo U’s parking lot, I nervously entered Tokyo U, still on my bike.
Even while it was a Sunday, there were still many students milling around. There were absolutely normal students wearing shirts and jeans, but there were also those with ruffled hair, clad in sweatshirts and jerseys, giving the strong impression that they didn’t care much about how fashionable they looked.
Come to think of it, a friend in class said, “Whenever I see someone with clothes that look like they can’t be bothered, I assume that they’re from Kyoto U.”
There were really a lot of students who couldn’t be bothered with how they looked. Were they too focused on their studies such that they couldn’t pay attention to their style?
I was a little nervous about entering the school for the first time, but seeing those shabbily-dressed people helped me relax.
But more importantly, the parking lot is so huge. Where should I park my bicycle?
I frantically looked around.
“Good morning, Aoi-san,” Holmes-san’s voice reached my ears.
When I turned towards the direction of the voice, his figure, clad in a rough jacket, V-neck and jeans, appeared in my field of vision. It was a simple yet clean fashion.
As I thought, Holmes-san was really cool. On top of that, his handsomeness was further emphasized by the location, or the parking lot within Kyoto U.
“G-Good morning. How did you know that I would be here?”
“Well, you know how to get to Chionji Temple from Imadegawa, so I thought that you would enter Kyoto U from this gate.”
Holmes-san casually answered.
That was a stupid question, I thought regretfully.
“Can I park my bicycle here?”
“Yes, it’s fine.”
“Come to think of it, Holmes-san…”
I started, but held my tongue.
It might be a little late for me to realize this, but he could be embarrassed being called “Holmes-san” in front of all these people. This is a university, after all.
Then, how should I address Holmes-san? Should I call him “Kiyotaka-san”? Or should it be “Yagashira-san”?
Those were my concerned thoughts as I locked the bicycle.
“Ah, Holmes-kun, ya came today. Will ya be in school later?”
A girl who was passing by called out, causing me to choke.
“Nah, I’ll be going to Chionji now. What’s up?”
“Chionji! I see, it’s the 15th. Well, I was hoping that ya would take a look at my report. I just need it for next week, so would ya take a look?”
“I don’t mind.”
“Thanks! See ya later, then!” The female university student waved and left.
It might be natural for fellow students, but it was fresh to hear Holmes-san speak casually in Kansai dialect.
…But that wasn’t all.
“Holmes-san, you’re also called ‘Holmes’ in university?”
I squeaked in surprise.
“Yes, I’ve been always called that since elementary school, even up till now. That’s because my family name is Yagashira.”
Holmes-san faced me as he spoke with his usual mannerisms. It was quite a weird feeling.
“Come to think of it, you were about to say something, weren’t you, Aoi-san?”
“Ah, yes. It might be late to ask, but what do you primarily learn in university?”
“I take ‘Philology1 and cultural studies’.”
“Philology and cultural studies?”
I didn’t know what that meant, but it did seem like a subject for Holmes-san.
“Shall we go, then?”
I walked out of the gate together with Holmes-san.
As we did so, I noticed other students peeking at Holmes-san as they passed by.
Yup, Holmes-san is a cool person, after all. And he’s tall.
During the Aoi Festival incident, those university and even the Saiō representative were getting excited over him, so he must be really popular.
…Now that I think of it, does Holmes-san have a girlfriend?
I’ve worked with him for about three months at Kura already, but I haven’t found the slightest trace of a girlfriend, although I wasn’t specially paying attention to that…
We continued walking in silence.
“What’s the matter?” Holmes-san suddenly asked as he peered at me with a curious look on his face.
“You seemed to be deep in thought.”
“Ah, yeah, well. But if you’re saying that, doesn’t that mean that you’ve already read what I was thinking?”
“Your thoughts are often relatively easy to infer, but this time, I can’t really tell.”
Holmes-san said, causing my cheeks to go hot.
I definitely couldn’t say, “0I was thinking about whether you have a girlfriend.”
Since that would probably get me into a weird misunderstanding.
“W-Well, I wasn’t thinking of anything important.”
“I see. You did give off that vibe.”
We laughed, exiting from the school gate.
Once again, the Hyakumanben intersection came into view. As expected of the student quarters, it was bustling with people, and we were surrounded by dumpling shops, gyudon restaurants, burger bars, yakitori stalls, izakaya2, as well as other food and beverage stores.
“There’s an amazing number of food shops.”
“Yes, it’s really lively here, don’t you think?”
“Do you go to izakaya on the way home from school, Holmes-san?”
“Sometimes, but there’s the shop, so not really.”
“Right, you need to tend the store.”
I nodded as went across the pedestrian crossing and headed East.
Soon after, we could see the temple’s old, magnificent gate.
A sign with the words “Handicraft Market” was set against the gate, and there was a great deal of hustle and bustle past it.
Under tents and parasols were various goods, and the temple ground was packed with people who came to browse those goods.
“W-Wow, this place looks really prosperous!”
Seeing me being overwhelmed at the entrance, Holmes-san grinned and nodded.
“The Handicrafts Market is always held on the 15th of each month, and its popularity seems to be compounded by the fact that it’s a weekend today.”
“I see, so it’s because it’s a Sunday today. Weekdays must be slightly better.”
We entered the crowded space together and slowly walked around while looking at the goods on sale.
Like in a normal free market, clothes were on sale, but since this was Kyoto, they were mostly kimono, obi and fabrics.
There were cute animals made of wool felt on sale, as well as bags and shoes made of real leather.
On top of that, there were accessories and gamaguchi3.
I was blown away and pleasantly surprised by the range of products here, which even included pickles, dried young sardines, cookies and coffee.
“It’s such a nice atmosphere, like a festival.”
“That’s great. Finding such treasures here is also part of the enjoyment,” Holmes-san said he held a porcelain cup in his hands.
“…With its deep hue and supple fullness, it’s quite a well-shaped cup.”
As Holmes-san said, it was a superb cup, with a deep blue mixed within a shade of black, and a gentle roundness.
By the handle was a tag with the figure “1500 yen”. A typical price.
“…Is that a hidden treasure? Is it a work made by a great person?”
I asked in a small voice, but Holmes-san shook his head.
“No, this is an honest-to-goodness work produced by that seller over there.”
In front of our eyes was a stern, fully-bearded, middle-aged man sitting on a folding chair.
W-Woah! He’s totally giving off the impression of a grumpy potter!
“He must be a gentle, delicate fellow.”
Holmes-san murmured quietly while studying the cup, causing me to stop and go, “Eh?”
“W-What are you talking about? He looks like he would seclude himself in a mountain to fight bears!”
I replied in an even smaller voice, but Holmes-san chuckled.
At that moment, the fully-bearded old man who looked like he fought bears on a regular basis frowned dubiously.
“So, what of it, mister?” He stepped towards us.
“I would like to buy it. The curves and the hue are exquisite, making it an amazing work.”
Holmes-san replied with a smile and handed over the money. However, the man, seemingly embarrassed, couldn’t say anything, and speechlessly wrapped the cup in a newspaper and placed it in a vinyl bag. He only spoke after that was complete.
“Here you go. Also, this is on the house,” He said as he gave us two pieces of candy.
He even gave us a free gift! He must be really happy that Holmes-san praised him.
“Thank you very much. I looked forward to seeing your future works, sensei.”
Holmes-san said as he received the bag.
“I-I don’t deserve to be called sensei. Really, what do ya mean by that!”
This time, a conspicuous flush appeared on the old man’s face.
…Ah, I see. He is indeed a gentle, delicate fellow.
I could finally accept Holmes-san’s claim.
“I’m glad that we managed to find such a good buy right off the bat.”
With the cup in his hand, Holmes-san spoke, openly pleased with himself.
“Do you think that that person will eventually become famous?”
“Who knows? I do think that he has a brilliant talent, but whether he becomes famous is a matter of chance… Moreover, his other works didn’t have the same brilliance as this cup, so he could be an inconsistent person.”
I instinctively laughed at Holmes-san’s last statement.
“That cup could have been a miraculous work of that old man.”
“It could be, but he does possess the skill to produce this cup.”
“It was an eye-opener for me to hear you call him ‘sensei’.”
“Well, I really appreciated his work, and am thankful towards him for it.”
“That makes me want to find good bargains too.”
“Yes, please do. I invited you here for the sake of learning like this, after all.”
“Ah, yes, I’ll do my best.”
“Don’t work too hard, and just have fun.”
We both laughed, and then continued wandering around the grounds and looking at all sorts of goods.
As we were pushing our way through the crowd, a monk emerged from the main temple building.
“We will begin explaining the origin of Hyakumanben’s name in the main hall. Please come and listen if you would like that.”
The monk spoke in a raised voice, but the other patrons of the Handicrafts Market continued their shopping, as if they couldn’t hear him.
“Aoi-san, since they’ve taken the trouble to invite us, shall we listen to their story?”
Holmes-san asked with a smile, to which I replied “Yes” with a nod, and we then proceeded to the main hall.
The first things that caught my eye in the main hall was an elegant gold-colored altar, as well as a likewise gold-colored lantern and canopy hanging from the ceiling.
“Sorry for intruding,” we said as we removed our shoes and sat with our knees on the tatami.
The hall initially contained a few other people, but after some more appeals by the monk, it became quite filled with people.
With a wide smile on his face, the monk looked around at us and bowed.
“The bazaar’s also good, but this is a good chance to visit the main hall and listen to the story of this temple. You all probably don’t mind after you get4 all those sweet bargains.”
The monk said and laughed with the guests.
I wasn’t expecting the monk to say a word like “get”. That was certainly interesting.
“Right, I will now begin with the story of how the name ‘Hyakumanben’ came to be. Please sit at ease and enjoy the story.”
Complying, I sat cross-legged without reservation.
The monk’s story went like this.
—It was about 680 years ago.
A horrible plague had spread through Kyoto, and the situation was grave.
Many people died, and their corpses lined the riverbed of the Kamogawa River. Observing this scene, Emperor Go-Daigo sighed in despair and asked the heads of the shrines and temples, “What should we do?” However, none of them could come up with a solution for the situation.
In the end, the one who was singled out was Zena-san, the famous abbot of Chionji.
As tasked by Emperor Go-Daigo, he secluded himself in the Imperial Palace and chanted the prayer “Namu-Amida-Butsu”…
On the seventh day, the rampant disease was cured, as if the abbot’s prayers had been heard.
When he finally came out, the emperor asked,
“Zena, how many times did you chant the prayer while you were confined?”
To this, the abbot gave a gentle smile.
“I chanted it one million times.”
“—And thus, this temple was known as Hyakumanben Chionji.”
After the monk finished the story, I applauded, along with everyone else in
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- The study of language in oral and written historical sources.
- A type of Japanese bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks.
- Literally translated as “Frog’s mouth”, this refers to a purse with a metal clasp on top.
- This word is in English.