––We should all realise that we can only talk about the bad forgeries, the ones that have been detected; the good ones are still hanging on the walls.
It was now nearing the end of October, and we could see the signs of autumn deepening.
Like every day, quiet jazz was playing in the antique store Kura.
As they say, fall is the season of the arts. Come to think of it, fall fits Kura really well.
By the way, I was feeling a little restless, since it was at the point before autumn gets passed over and the season changes to winter, which is jam-packed with events.
I turned to look at my classmate’s invitation again, and let out a melancholy sigh.
“—What’s the matter?”
Holmes-san looked at me worriedly while he wrote in the account book.
“Ah, no. Umm… Holmes-san, have you ever been to a group blind date?”
“A group blind date?”
Even Holmes-san was bewildered by my outrageous question, and his eyes widened.
“I’ve been a university student for 5 years, so I have been to group blind dates. Could it be that you were invited to one?” He immediately returned his usual smile.
“Yes, the friends in my class have been quite insistent about it. Apparently, the other party will be university students, and they need me to balance the numbers.”
“University students…” Holmes-san’s eyebrows twitched.
“Do university students generally want to have group dates with high school students?”
Since a university would be filled with beautiful women, I wonder if they think of high school students as being too infantile?
“Well, there should be men who prefer innocent, youthful girls. However, if they specifically look to go on group dates with high school girls, I can only think of them as people who don’t hold back even when dealing with high school students, so please be careful.”
I was a little surprised by Holmes-san’s cold, blunt words.
It was rare for Holmes-san to answer like that.
That must be because of how much he’s worried about me.
But I found it funny, and burst out laughing.
“Did I say something weird?”
“I mean, you’re so worried about me, but as a plain girl, I’m just there to make the other girls look better. The other girls who invited me are really flashy, after all.”
I grinned, but Holmes-san sighed in response.
“I see, a lack of self-awareness can be a weapon as well as a sin.”
“No, it’s nothing. I phrase that wrongly.”
Holmes-san contemplated for a bit, then scratched his hair.
“No, thank you for worrying about me, but it’s fine.”
“It’s fine, you say?”
A complicated expression appeared on Holmes-san’s face as he rested his chin in his hands.
But certainly, university students who want to have blind dates with high school girls probably have a tendency to think that high school girls are easy to land.
A plain high school girl like me will definitely have to be careful, although I’m not really interested, so I’ll probably reject their advances.
I nodded, but Holmes-san was looking at something with sorrowful eyes.
He was holding something like a card in his hand.
“—What is that?”
I walked towards him, and he was replying, “Ah, this is…” while we looked at each other, when the door opened with a clink.
“Hi, Holmes, Aoi-chan!”
Akihito-san burst in with a full smile on his face.
“…Oh, it’s you again. Could you walk in more quietly next time?”
Holmes-san looked at him in exasperation.
As if having failed to hear those words, Akihito-san sat down on the sofa and started talking again.
Holmes-san openly revealed his distaste, causing me to giggle.
He and Akihito-san actually make quite a good combination.
“…What is it?”
“Do you know Suzumushi-dera?”
Akihito-san asked, his eyes gleaming. In response, I muttered, “Suzumushi-dera?” and tilted my head.
There’s a temple with such a cute name?1
“Yes, you can hear the cries of the bell crickets all year long, so it’s widely known as Suzumushi-dera, but its official name is Kegon-ji, and is an Ojizō2 temple renowned for fulfilling one wish.”
As always, Holmes-san explained smoothly.
“Fulfilling one wish?”
I gave another quizzical look, and Holmes-san nodded.
“Meaning that you can make only one wish, and it will be granted.”
“Wow, only one wish, huh.”
Akihito-san energetically leant forward.
“Have you been there before?”
“With some friends in middle school.”
“Was your wish granted?”
“…Yes, I managed to get into the high school of my choice.”
Holmes-san replied after recalling for a while.
“So it does grant wishes! Suzumushi-dera is amazing!”
Akihito-san clenched his fists.
…Wouldn’t Holmes-san have gotten into the school of his choice even if he didn’t make a wish to Ojizō-sama? I secretly thought.
“Did you come here to ask about it?”
“Come on, Holmes-san, let’s go together to Suzumushi-dera! I have a dream that I want fulfilled.”
Akihito-san exclaimed with a glimmer in his eye, but Holmes-san narrowed his eyes indifferently.
“Couldn’t you just go by yourself?”
“Oh, you have nothing to wish for? Come on, let’s go. Hey, Aoi-chan, you want to go too, right? You’re interested in a temple that grants just one wish, no matter what it is, right?”
While I was surprised at suddenly being thrown a question, I nodded and replied, “Y-Yes!” and gave a strong nod.
I couldn’t think of a wish that I wanted fulfilled, but I was interested.
Holmes-san sighed, as if saying, “There’s no helping it.”
“If Aoi-san says that she wants to go, then let’s go. Is next Sunday fine for you, then?”
“Next Sunday is a little sudden, isn’t it? Also, is it that pattern again? Do you have an appointment on that day?”
Akihito-san replied as he hurriedly pulled out his smartphone to check his schedule.
“Yes, I do have something on at Arashiyama in the afternoon.”
“What is it?”
“This,” Holmes-san showed us a card that was in his hand earlier.
That card seemed to be an invitation.
Written on it were the words, “Yanagihara Shigetoshi’s Birthday Celebration”.
“Yanagihara Shigetoshi… Is that Yanagihara-sensei?”
He’s an old friend of Owner’s, and is also a famous appraiser.
He was also one of the people who came to Owner’s birthday party.
“Yes, and he’s throwing a party for his 80th birthday. My grandfather was actually called over to China, so I have to be there as his replacement,” Holmes-san said with a shrug of his shoulders.
He didn’t seem too thrilled about it. (…Well, I suppose I can understand why.)
“The party will start at two in the afternoon, so shall we visit Suzumushi-dera first thing in the morning, sightsee around Arashiyama, then go to the party together?”
Holmes-san grinned as he made his suggestion.
“Huh? Putting Owner aside, I’m totally not interested in some old man’s birthday party, and I don’t want to go to one! Holmes, you’re afraid of being bored on your own, so you’re trying to get us to join in as well, right?” Akihito-san responded loudly.
…As usual, he’s such a straight person.
“Yanagihara-sensei’s house is near Tenryū-ji, and is a wonderful Japanese-style house. Furthermore, Yanagihara-sensei is also a renowned appraiser, so other famous people from various fields will attend the party as well, I believe.”
“I see, there’s no helping it, then. If that’s the case, I suppose there’s no harm in going.”
“…I’m doing you a favor, so why are you talking down to me? It’s perfectly fine if you don’t come for the party, you know.”
“Ah, no, please let me attend the party, Zen Master Holmes.”
Akihito-san hurriedly clapped his palms together, as if praying.
I giggled upon seeing the usual scene of those two people.
“Well, it’s great that my schedule is miraculously empty on Sunday. It’s recently been jam-packed with work. And now I’ve got a meeting, so see you!”
Akihito-san quickly spoke and scurried out of the shop.
“I didn’t even get the chance to give Akihito-san his coffee…”
After Akihito-san left the shop, Holmes-san, who had been preparing coffee, gave a wry smile and shrugged.
“While we’re at it, shall we take a break? I’ll pour the coffee.”
I sat facing the counter and brought the café au lait that Holmes-san made to my lips. In front of me, Holmes-san also drank his coffee gracefully.
…He has long fingers, and his eyelashes are quite long as well…
“What’s the matter?”
Noticing my gaze, Holmes-san suddenly lifted his head and asked, causing me to panic.
“Ah, I was thinking that it’s going really smoothly for Akihito-san. He seems to be really busy with work recently.”
Yes, he did say that his schedule was jam-packed.
“I don’t think so. If it was all smooth sailing for Akihito-san, he wouldn’t have needed to intentionally show us that he was so busy. I believe he’s making upward progress, but it isn’t stable progress, so he’s feeling really uneasy about it. That’s why he wanted to make a wish at Suzumushi-dera.”
Holmes-san replied calmly. As expected, he was being really sharp.
“…Is Suzumushi-dera famous? I’ve never heard of it.”
“I suppose it’s only known to those who know.”
“Holmes-san, you’ve been there once in middle school, right?”
“Could it be that because Suzumushi-dera only grants one wish, you’ve never been there again?”
“It’s not one wish per lifetime. You can buy a charm from Suzumushi-dera, make one wish to Ojizō-sama, and if that wish is fulfilled, you can pay a visit of thanks to the temple, return the charm, buy another charm, then make a new wish. Many people do that, actually… Come to think of it, I haven’t paid a visit of thanks to Suzumushi-dera yet. I returned the charm from back then by mail.”
“You can do it by mail?”
“Yes, since there are people who live far away. Quite a lot of those people come to give their thanks in person, though.”
“That means that their wishes do come true, right? That’s amazing, now I’m feeling really excited to go there!” I exclaimed, then took a glance at Holmes-san.
As usual, he had a calm expression.
“Holmes-san, you don’t seem to be too into it, but don’t you have wishes that you want granted with the help of Suzumushi-dera? You must have one, right?”
I tried asking a simple question, but Holmes-san suddenly frowned.
“—That’s the thing.”
“I mean, I’m bothered by having only one wish. I’m a covetous man, so I have many desires, but I don’t have any one that stands out over the rest. In middle school, I was unable to decide, so I went for the safe option and wished to get into the school of my choice.”
“…Ah, I see. I suppose it can be difficult to decide on just one wish.”
In a sense, it’s good for Akihito-san that he has a clear idea of what he wants.
He’s probably going to wish for success in the entertainment industry.
—Only one wish can be granted, huh.
Come to think of it, what should I wish for?
I seriously thought about it.
“Currently, there is a wish that’s in my thoughts the most, but I don’t think it’s a wish that I should ask of a Buddhist temple,” Holmes-san said, and I looked up in surprise.
“What kind of wish is it?”
“It’s the wish of crushing Enshou once and for all the next time we meet, but I don’t think I want to borrow Ojizō-sama’s power for that.”
“Ah, I understand. Holmes-san, you really don’t like to lose, huh.”
I giggled, and a smile appeared on Holmes-san’s face.
“Not many people say that about me, but yes, I do have a strong competitive spirit.”
“I know. Also, you have a stubborn, but righteous side of you, which is completely different from the side you usually show, but I think it’s also wonderful.”
I spoke keenly, causing Holmes-san to display a surprised look.
“Ah, sorry, that was rude of me.”
“No, I’d like to thank you for that?”
“Eh?” Why would he do that?
“As you say, I hate to lose, and I’m stubborn… I’m a man with two completely different sides, and I have never been praised for my inner side before.”
Holmes-san quietly replied.
“To me, your inner and outer sides are both Holmes-san.”
Upon hearing my response, the young appraiser-in-training returned a smile without saying a word.
And then Sunday arrived.
At eight in the morning, we headed for Suzumushi-dera, with Holmes-san driving.
“—We’re going out quite early, huh,” I commented from the passenger seat.
“Aoi-san, you’ll be in trouble if you take Suzumushi-dera lightly.”
Holmes-san warned in a low voice.
“Is it such a popular temple?”
Akihito-san leant forward from the back seat.
“Yes, you should never go during holidays like Golden Week. You’ll be made to wait for three hours.”
“T-Three hours?” The two of us exclaimed in unison.
“You should aim to go during weekdays in the off-season. I would actually avoid Sundays in the autumn foliage season like today, but I think it can work out if we’re there first thing in the morning.”
Upon hearing his answer, Akihito-san and I asked, “T-That bad?” and looked at each other.
What’s it like being made to wait at a temple? Is it like the first shrine visit on New Year’s Day? I tilted my head to the side.
“But that just shows how effective it is, right?”
Akihito-san asked as the corners of his mouth ticked upward.
“—Well, I suppose this is a case of popularity generating even more popularity. As more people gather, the energy of a temple is increased.”
Holmes-san smoothly replied and nodded.
“Alright! I, Kajiwara Akihito, twenty-five years of age, will give it a shot!”
Akihito-san clenched his fists, but Holmes-san went “Hm?” and frowned.
“Akihito-san, you’re only twenty-five years old?”
“Yes, I am, but what of it?” Akihito-san answered, his voice tinged with curiosity.
“Since you’re called Akihito, I thought you were born in autumn.”
Come to think of it, we met Akihito-san in early July. At that time, he said he was twenty-five years old, and I thought his birthday would be on a day between that one and September or October.
“No, my birthday’s on June 30th.”
Akihito-san quickly said, causing me to turn around and exclaim, “Eh?”
“So why are you called Akihito?”
Holmes-san instantly nodded and said, “I see”, as if having understood.
“You were conceived in autumn, right?”
“So that’s how it is.”
“I initially thought it was just a simple name, but it’s actually quite a witty one.”
“Well, it’s just like my father to do that, I suppose? And it’s just like you to notice that. You must have quite a dirty mind, eh?” Akihito-san smirked, while Holmes-san returned a grin.
“Please don’t put it in such a horrible-sounding way. Couldn’t you have said, ‘gentlemanly’? But that’s completely different from you, who continually, brashly commits acts of sexual harassment, like an animal.”
“Stop saying things that make me look bad!”
“That’s my line.”
Is it bad to laugh at this?
Unsure of how to react, I could only let my face twitch as I tried hard not to laugh.
“—Oh, excuse me. It seems like we’re arriving soon.”
The car went further into Arashiyama. A sign for Matsuno’o-Taisha3 and a large vermillion torii came into view.
“It’s my first time seeing Matsuno’o-Taisha, and it’s so elegant!”
I said while clinging onto the window and gazing outside, and Holmes-san nodded.
“This is also a high-ranking shrine with a long history and lineage.”
“What kind of rank does it have?”
“Even if you ask about that… After the capital moved to Heian-kyō4, this shrine was known as ‘Fierce Spirit of the West’, in contrast to Kamo Shrine, which was known as ‘Strict God of the East’. It was also positioned with Oujouchingo Shrine5 in the West.”
“Wow, I should take some notes about this,” Akihito-san said as he whipped out his smartphone.
“By the way, what do you mean by Kamo Shrine?”
“It’s a collective term for two shrines, Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine.”
“Oh, I see. Er, after moving the capital to Heian-kyō, Kamo Shrine… ugh, I feel sick typing in the car.”
Akihito-san covered his mouth with a hand, his face pale.
Holmes-san and I looked wordlessly at each other, and giggled.
Before long, the car entered the parking area of Suzumushi-dera.
“Thank goodness there’s space.”
Holmes-san said in relief.
There were quite a lot of parking spaces, but more than half of them had been filled already.
We got off the car and headed to the temple on a path that really gave off the feeling of being in the mountains.
Trees with colored leaves grew along the path. As we crossed a bridge built across a brook, a stone monument with the words “Suzumushi Temple” came into view, as well as a flight of stairs.
A throng of people lined the stone stairs, and almost half of the space was filled up.
By the way, it was now 8:35 in the morning. The temple gate was still not open.
…I can’t believe that so many people were queueing up, even when it’s still so early in the morning.
“Ah, we’re lucky that it’s so empty. If it’s like this, we can probably slip into the first session.”
Holmes-san remarked in relief.
“Eh? You’re saying this place is empty?” Akihito-san openly frowned.
I agreed with his sentiments.
“Yes, when there’s an actual crowd, the queue will go past the bridge, near the parking lots,” Holmes-san replied as he looked off into the distance, causing Akihito-san and I to be at a loss for words.
“B-By the way, what do you mean by ‘first session’?”
“We’ll be listening to a talk by the abbot, who will thank us for coming here, and will give us a detailed explanation on how to use the charm to make a wish. That will take about thirty minutes, I believe.”
“If we don’t listen to it, will we be unable to buy a charm?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Wait, so people are made to wait for hours because of a thirty minute explanation? They could do that in a booklet!” Akihito-san commented, dissatisfied.
“…If you’re being like this, your wishes won’t be granted, don’t you think? Your loud voice was probably heard by Ojizō-sama on top.”
Holmes-san mournfully looked up the stairs.
“Ah, I take that back. I’m very sorry, Ojizō-sama, and I’ll gladly listen to the explanation.”
Akihito-san hastily clasped his hands together, causing the surrounding temple-goers to chuckle.
“Hey, isn’t he the person who appeared in the TV programme that introduces Kyoto?”
“No, it can’t be, they look alike but they give off totally different vibes. The one on TV seemed to be knowledgeable and gave off a composed atmosphere.”
“Yeah, you’re right, but those two people over there are pretty cool, don’t you think?”
I could hear some whispers in the crowd.
Well, he is that very same person in the flesh… just that he was imitating Holmes-san on television, I muttered in my heart.
“Well, your true colors will soon be revealed.”
Holmes-san remarked, causing me to laugh.
That’s right. The prank program will be aired next month, which will expose Akihito-san’s true personality.
“Ah, now I wish my true colors can be revealed as soon as possible. It’s real tough trying to be like Holmes-san even off the program,” Akihito-san said with a shrug.
“That’s why I said it would be difficult later on.”
“S-Shut up, you should have told me before the recording session.”
“I never expected you to do such a cheap imitation.”
“D-Don’t call it a cheap imitation!”
Thanks to their enjoyable (?) exchange, time passed relatively quickly, and the time for the gates opening eventually arrived.
By that time, a snakelike queue had already appeared behind us, and I realized that Holmes-san wasn’t exaggerating earlier.
So Suzumushi-dera is that popular…
Feeling a little overwhelmed, I went up the stairs, and there was Ojizō-sama.
The statue wore a red apron and held some kind of staff.
In front of it was a bar that stopped people from getting too close.
“That’s the ‘Jizō of Fortune’. We’ll properly give our respects to it after listening to the talk.”
Holmes-san said as he clasped his hands towards the Ojizō-sama statue. I followed suit, and we entered the temple grounds.
“Good morning. Please come this way,” monks guided us into the temple.
We paid the entrance fee, took off our shoes and went into a large room lined with tatami mats.
The cries of bell crickets resounded in the room. There was something that looked like a fish tank at the end, and it seemed that they were raising bell crickets there.
Teacups and tea cakes were placed on long tables arranged at one side of the room.
“Come, please sit down. Please sit down close by.”
Prompted by the female guides, the three of us sat down next to each other.
Shortly thereafter, the large hall was filled with people, and the paper sliding door was closed.
“Good day, everyone. Please feel free to rest your legs.” With those words, a monk with a gentle smile on his face appeared.
He first gave us a greeting, then explained about the “Charm of Fortune” that would “grant just one wish, regardless of what it is”. The charm was rectangular in shape, a size smaller than a card, and had the words “Charm of Fortune” written in red lettering on a yellow base.
“Ojizō-san is in this charm, and his head is on the first character, shuku. When you go to Ojizō-san, hold this with two hands with shuku facin’ outward, and make sure that ya say yer name, address and just one wish. Ya don’t have to say all that out loud, but if ya want everyone to hear it, go ahead.
“As for why ya need to say yer address, it’s because the Ojizō-san here is the only one wearing sandals. He will go to the houses of people who made a wish, and grant them. That’s why the address is important, though ya don’t need the postcode.”
The monk quickly said, causing laughter to ripple across the crowd.
“Lots of people come here to this temple to get their wish granted. It’s up to each person to decide on their own wish, but if ya want to get married, it’d be best to make a wish along the lines of, ‘Please let me form a connection with someone suitable for me.’
“If ya want to be with some idol or something like that, it’s impossible, because they’ve got their own circumstances as well. Wishin’ for someone suitable is important.
“Also, it ain’t good to be fickle about yer wish. Many people come askin’, “Please help me cancel my wish,’ but I don’t know how to do that. Make up yer mind firmly before makin’ yer wish.
“And another thing. For couples who want a baby, ya oughta wish for the same thing. If the wife wishes to be blessed with a baby with all her might, it ain’t a good thing for the husband to wish to win the Autumn Jumbo Jackpot.”
With his speaking skills, he managed to get the crowd to laugh many times.
He was like a comic storyteller, and I was surprised by how his ability to talk went beyond simply impressive.
“Also, since yer makin’ a wish, make it something that will bring happiness to yerself and others. Wishin’ harm upon others will only destroy the virtues you’ve built up through the hardships in yer life.
“Hatin’ someone, being envious of ’em and wishin’ harm on ’em will cause yer virtues, luck and fortune to escape, so please wish for something that brings happiness upon yerself,” said the monk.
…That makes sense, I thought it my heart.
“And while we’re here, let me tell ya the difference between a charm and a talisman. There are quite a few people who don’t know this, actually. A charm is essentially used to protect someone, so make sure to always keep it on yer body. A year’s worth of prayers go into ’em, so they are effective for one year. Once that’s passed, please return ’em.
“A talisman is something to be placed at home, since it protects the home. Stick it somewhere facin’ the sunrise, but don’t go usin’ a thumbtack for that, you’ll stab the god residin’ in there. Come up with some other method to stick it on a surface. Talismans are also good for one year, but those in their calamitous year6 should stick one up before the next year arrives7.”
I see. So charms and talismans are effective for only a year.
I think we still have a faded talisman in the kitchen…
The monk’s talk was interesting and even informative. I really enjoyed it, and time passed in a flash.
After the talk, we exited the main hall and went outside to purchase the charms. These could also be used as souvenirs, so there were people who bought multiple charms.
To give the charms to others, the buyer would have to clasp all the charms in their hand, go to Ojizō-sama and pray, “Please help with the wishes of these other people as well.”
All the receiver had to do was face Kyoto, put their hands together and state their name and address.
The postal code isn’t needed, by the way.
For the time being, I bought one for personal use. Akihito-san and Holmes-san followed suit.
“—The monk’s speech was great, wasn’t it? I’m surprised that it was so entertaining.”
I muttered, as if talking to myself, as we gazed at the colourful garden, and Holmes-san nodded.
“Yes, and while it was entertaining, it managed to incorporate some really good points. That was wonderful.”
Akihito-san walked wordlessly ahead of us as we chatted. Come to think of it, he’d been silent ever since we stepped out of the temple. What’s up with him, I wonder?
I quietly craned my neck to peek at Akihito-san from the side, and noticed that his eyes were a little moist.
Huh, Akihito-san… could he have been moved by the talk?
Holmes-san retrieved a handkerchief from his inner pocket and offered it to Akihito-san.
“Akihito-san, use this to wipe your tears if you like.”
“I, I ain’t crying!”
Akihito-san turned around forcefully after wiping his eyes with his sleeve.
It seemed that he was embarrassed that we found out he was moved by that talk and got teary-eyed.
“You were moved by that talk, weren’t you? You didn’t have to hide that at all. Being touched in your heart and having tears in your eyes was a marvellous show of sensitivity. As expected of an actor.”
As a flush rose on Akihito-san’s face, Holmes-san maintained his full smile, the handkerchief still in his hand.
Holmes-san… while he might seem kind at first glance, he was being totally mean here.
Once again, the people around giggled at the sight of those two.
We went around the garden, and finally returned to the sandal-wearing Ojizō-san near the entrance. There were already many other people clasping the yellow charm in their hands and praying. On top of that, a throng of people had formed a queue, waiting for their turn.
Akihito-san firmly clasped the charm in his palms and shouted,
“Kajiwara Akihito, 25 years old! Please allow me to succeed in the entertainment industry!”
“Akihito-san, you don’t need to say your age, but you do need to say your address. Also, you can do it in your heart.”
Holmes-san tapped Akihito-san on the shoulder, producing another wave of laughter from the crowd.
And I was laughing along with them.
As expected, Akihito-san wished for success in the entertainment industry.
What about me? Will my wish be fulfilled if I’m hesitating like this?
“I’ll pray for my grandfather’s health in this year.”
Holmes-san said as he held the charm in his hands.
“…You seriously love Owner, huh.”
“Yes, since I’ll be the one with the wrinkles if he falls ill. There’s nothing I can do to help in the case of an illness, after all.”
That’s it! I’m not at the age for entrance examinations, and I don’t have any desires that I desperately want granted.
“I’ll also pray for the health of my grandmother.”
“What’s with the two of you! You’re making me look like the greedy one here!”
Akihito-san opened his eyes wide in disbelief.
“No, that’s a good thing. I believe that those with firm, straightforward wishes will have them granted.”
Holmes-san said solemnly, causing Akihito-san to put on a face of puzzlement.
With that, our visit to the temple came to a close.
“Let us head for Arashiyama, then.”
Holmes-san said, and we nodded in strong agreement.
We exited from Suzumushi-dera, got onto the car again, and headed straight for Arashiyama.
We parked the car at the wide parking area (which was actually almost fully filled up) and strolled around, taking a look at the row of souvenir shops in the area.
“How nostalgic! I came here for an excursion in middle school.”
It was a place that gave off a nostalgic, and strangely exciting atmosphere.
“I also feel the nostalgia. I think of the jusan-mairi when I look at Togetsu-kyō Bridge.”
Holmes-san said, causing Akihito-san to chuckle and nod.
“Ah, yes I remember the jusan-mairi. That actually makes me not want to turn around now.”
“I’m reluctant to admit it, but I also feel the same way. I don’t want to turn around either.”
As the two of them conversed, I asked, “Jusan-mairi?” and tilted my head to the side, causing Akihito-san to go, “Ehh?” and stop moving.
“Aoi-chan, you don’t know about jusan-mairi?”
“Akihito-san, jusan-mairi is a tradition passed down mainly in Kansai, so there are many people from other regions who don’t know about it.”
“W-Woooow, so you don’t know about jusan-mairi. To me, it’s something like shichi-go-san8. Wow.”
Akihito-san gave a surprised look.
“……” If it wasn’t Akihito-san, I would have probably been offended by that.
“Jusan-mairi gives off the same image as shichi-go-san, and it’s for children who have reached a counted age of 13 to visit the temple and gain wisdom.
“On the other side of Togetsu-kyō Bridge is Hourin-ji, a temple famous for jusan-mairi. According to legend, at the end of the temple visit, if you turn around after exiting the main hall, you will have to return the wisdom you’ve worked so hard to gain. So that’s why we have to refrain from turning around until we’ve finished crossing Togetsu-kyō Bridge.”
As usual, Holmes-san explained in a manner that was easy to understand.
“When I did the jusan-mairi, my grandfather kept saying various things behind me, trying to get me to turn around. Thanks to that, I managed to stiffen my resolve to never turn around.”
He continued with a shrug.
As the thought of Owner making fun of Holmes-san in an effort to make him turn around appeared in my head, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
And thus, we crossed Togetsu-kyō Bridge. Below the bridge was a wide river, and with the autumn leaves on both sides, the refreshingly colorful scenery of the mountains looked beautiful.
I could see many high school and middle school students, probably there on an excursion.
With the row of souvenir shops, the river and the bridge, the beautiful sights of nature— this place was truly fantastic.
Come to think of it, I came to Kyoto for an excursion in middle school, and we went to many different places, but the only three places that remained in my memory are Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji and Arashiyama.
This place doesn’t even have a large temple, so it’s amazing that I can remember it so well. I wonder if it’s because this place seems to always have the atmosphere of a festival?
“That reminds me, we also took a boat tour down Katsura River during the school trip, and I was really moved by that.”
I said as I recalled about the school trip, causing Holmes-san and Akihito-san to stop moving.
“Come to think of it, I’ve never gone down Katsura River before.”
“…Me neither.” The two of them replied in succession.
“It’s quite a waste to live in Kyoto and not take a trip down such a beautiful river, right?” I said mischievously.
“Ah, Aoi-chan’s fighting back.”
“If that’s the case, then let us go together next time. I’ll be counting on you to show us the sights.”
Holmes-san replied with a grin, causing me to be at a loss for words.
“N-No, I’m not sure I’m good enough to…”
As I faltered, Akihito-san burst out laughing.
“Indeed, I don’t think you can show Holmes-san around.”
“That’s also mean, in a way.”
“No, that was just normal conversation.”
The three of us laughed together, then started moving towards Tenryū-ji.
“Tenryū-ji is a Zen temple linked to Emperor Kanmu9, and is known for having a beautiful garden. It has also been registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
We’d reached Tenryū-ji, paid the entrance fee, and started walking down the regular path.
Holmes-san spoke as we gazed at the huge, well-ordered garden and the fresh autumn leaves falling around us.
“So this place is also a World Heritage Site,” I replied in admiration and nodded.
As expected of Kyoto.
It was a garden nestled between mountains. Stepping stones had been placed in the large pond, and the autumnal leaves on the other side was reflected on the water surface.
The leaves weren’t just red, either. There were also yellow and green ones, and the contrasting colors of the trees made the scene look a whole lot better.
I’ve been to numerous shrines and temples with Holmes-san, seen their gardens, and I think they’re all beautiful, but…
“—This garden is really wonderful!”
I said quietly, and Holmes-san nodded.
“It is said that Tenryū-ji exists because of its garden, which is considered top-class in Japan. It was designed by Musō Soseki, a Zen monk who lived in the Kamakura period and mastered the art of garden design.”
“Musō Soseki-san,” I muttered. What an amazing name.
“Wow, there was such a pro in garden design, huh.”
“Yes, and aside from Tenryū-ji, he also had a hand in designing the gardens of Saihō-ji, also known as Koke-dera10, Eiho-ji in Gifu, Zuisen-ji in Kanagawa, and Erin-ji in Yamanashi. They are all magnificent in their own way. If you have the time, you should check them out.”
Holmes-san replied enthusiastically.
“Ah, yeah. But man, you seriously know the ins and outs of these temples.”
Akihito-san nodded stiffly.
We walked further into the garden, and were eventually surrounded by a bamboo thicket.
The bamboo trees stood in a manner that was cool and dignified, resulting in a beautiful, fresh verdure.
It was a huge difference from unarranged bamboo forests in the mountains.
“This is also amazing.”
“It’s beautiful. People from Hokkaido particularly like it, since there are no bamboo forests there.”
“I see,” Akihito-san and I said in unison.
After that, we had lunch in a Japanese restaurant near Tenryū-ji, and slowly passed the time until it was finally time for us to go to Yanagihara-sensei’s house.
From Arashiyama, we moved a short distance by car, and reached the residence of appraiser Yanagihara-sensei.
We parked the car outside and passed the open cypress doors to see a wide, well-tended Japanese garden. The trees had autumnal leaves and were neatly pruned.
Koi were swimming energetically in the pond. At the other end of the wide garden was a one-story house, big in terms of both width and breadth, and with a black-tiled roof.
The Yagashira residence was a stone Western-style building that looked like a Western art museum, but this place was completely different, being a perfectly Japanese mansion.
Then again, I think this completely fits the image of a first-rate appraiser’s house.
(In other words, the Yagashira residence is somewhat unconventional.)
“Why, if it isn’t Kiyotaka-san.”
Dressed in a suit and wearing a pair of classes, a man who looked to be in his forties smiled gently as he approached.
“Thank you very much for inviting us here today.”
Following Holmes-san elegant bow, Akihito-san and I also lowered our heads.
“Sorry for our intrusion.”
“I have heard from Kiyotaka-san. You must be Aoi-san and Akihito-san, the hot topic right now. I have watched the program, ‘Kyo-biyori’11, where you work as the presenter. I am Yanagihara’s secretary, Taguchi,” the man said, still smiling.
He seemed to be a refined person with easy-going facial features.
“You really watched it? Thank you.”
Akihito-san leant forward, his eyes gleaming. Feeling a little pressured, Taguchi-san slightly bent his upper body backward and corrected the position of his spectacles.
“…Akihito-san, you seem to give off a rather different atmosphere from what I’ve seen on television.”
“It’s completely different, Taguchi-san. He’s just like a monkey.”
Holmes-san responded without a moment’s delay.
“D-Don’t say I’m like a monkey!”
Akihito-san exclaimed with a red face, while Taguchi-san and I burst out laughing.
“He’s an energetic, fun person, I see. That will help liven up the entertainment for today.”
Taguchi-san’s eyes narrowed in his glasses. Holmes-san tilted his head to the side in curiosity.
“Yes, for today’s birthday celebration, we have planned a little event unique to an appraiser like Yanagihara.”
“Oh, it’s a game, isn’t it! I’m so hyped!” Akihito-san burst out, openly showing his glee. Holmes-san and I smiled wryly.
The secretary only mentioned an “event”, and didn’t say anything about a game.
“Um, what kind of event is it?”
I asked quietly, and Taguchi-san smiled kindly.
“We were thinking of holding an ‘Authenticity Exhibition’.”
“‘Authenticity Exhibition’, you say?”
Holmes-san asked as he walked to the entrance along with Taguchi-san.
“Yes. In fact, a department store has plans to hold an event called ‘Authenticity Exhibition, Past and Present’, and Yanagihara will oversee it.”
“That sounds like an interesting plan.”
“Thank you. A part of those works have just been handed over the Kajiwara residence for safekeeping, so while we have them, we thought of revealing them to the guests who have come all the way here for the birthday celebration. To that end, we thought of creating some sort of game.”
Upon hearing those words, Holmes-san went, “Wow”, and nodded with his arms folded.
“Oh, so it’s really a game!”
Akihito-san chimed in, his eyes still gleaming. How much does he like games, I wonder?
“Um, is it a game that a complete amateur like me can participate in?”
“Of course. We planned it such that everyone can have fun, so I hope you’ll take part in it. We’ve prepared some gifts as well.”
As Taguchi-san returned a smile, Akihito-san punched his fist into the air and whooped, “Oh yeah, free gifts!”
“So you have something ingenious planned for later. That’s wonderful.”
Holmes-san said as a refined smile appeared on his face.
“Thank you. Please, come this way.”
Following Taguchi-san’s direction, we entered the Yanagihara residence.
I thought it was a complete Japanese house, with tatami mats fitted in even the corridors, but there was apparently a Western-style hall for meetings, too. We turned the corner to see two large open doors.
“Yanagihara Shigetoshi’s Birthday Celebration”
That was written on a sign in front of the doors.
I could see a wide Western-style hall beyond those doors.
The room had a carpet with cinnabar as its base color, a chandelier, as well as a grand piano by the window.
And in the middle of all the invited guest, I spotted Yanagihara-sensei, who was wearing a black kimono. With his white hair and white beard, he gave off the air of a deity.
“Sensei, Kiyotaka-san has arrived!” Taguchi-san called out. Yanagihara-sensei said, “Alright,” and walked toward us.
“Thank you for coming, Kiyotaka-kun.”
“Happy birthday. Thank you for inviting us here today. It is a shame that my grandfather has work and cannot be here today.”
Holmes-san said with a light smile, but Yanagihara-sensei narrowed his eyes.
“I see, but yesterday when I called that stupid old geezer, he said, ‘There’s no way I’ll be attending an old man’s birthday party. I’ll send my grandson instead.’”
…Owner said that?
“Well, my grandfather’s a shy person. Oh yes, he entrusted me with this. Once again, happy birthday,” Holmes-san said as he held out a box of wine.
“Ohh, I’m thankful for that. I don’t know how good his eye for judgment is, but he does know good wine,” Yanagihara-sensei replied as he happily tousled his hair and accepted the box.
…It seems that Yanagihara-sensei and Owner are quite good friends.
While they might be rude to each other at first glance, I could tell from that exchange that they respect each other.
“Well, have fun. And your friends as well.”
Yanagihara-sensei glanced at us, so I hurriedly bowed.
“T-Thank you. And happy birthday.”
Our words of congratulations came off as a little unnatural, but the sensei laughed amiably.
“Ya must be the kid on TV. I really enjoyed ‘Kyo-biyori’. Keep at it, young ‘un!”
“Y-Yes, thank you very much.” Akihito-san lowered his head again.
Just like Owner, Yanagihara-san had some intense, unique aura about him.
“And yer the girl working part-time at Kura, huh. The old geezer praised ya, sayin’ that yer doin’ good work,” Yanagihara-sensei said as he gazed fixedly at me.
I’m glad that Owner praised me.
But why is Yanagihara-sensei staring at me like this?
My heart thumped nervously.
“…Well, normal, I suppose.”
Heh? I gaped upon hearing that remark, but at that moment, a familiar voice came from the side.
—This voice is…
I turned to look at the direction of the voice to see Yoneyama-san with a limp smile on his face.
“Oh, ya came as well? The painting ya did for Takamiya-san was great. Have fun today,” Yanagihara-sensei said, then left the area.
I wonder what he meant by “normal”. Was he thinking that I was too ordinary to work at Kura?
A flustered feeling stirred within me.
“The Yagashira family is made up of weird people, myself included. Yanagihara-sensei found it unexpected that a normal person was working part-time at Kura.”
Holmes-san explained with a kind smile.
“That’s right, Holmes, you’re seriously such a weirdo,” Akihito-san said without hesitation.
“It annoys me to no end that you’re the one to say that of me,” Holmes-san replied with a smile.
“The two of you actually get along well, huh.”
Yoneyama-san leant forward, apparently enjoying himself.
While I was feeling a little down, I could feel my heart immediately lighten up after hearing that exchange.
After that, Yanagihara-sensei greeted the crowd, and now the interior of the hall was enveloped with a calm atmosphere. People were making toasts with their wine, champagne or juice, while picking at an assortment of Western, Chinese and Japanese snacks.
Time passed a while like this, until the secretary, Taguchi-san appeared in front of us again.
“Now, we would like to start off the first ever ‘Authenticity Exhibition’. Put simply, it is a game in which you have to tell if a work is genuine or fake,” Taguchi-san spoke as he opened up a sliding door, revealing more space behind.
The hall increased in width. The space that had been shut off was filled with various works of art, as well as people who looked to be security guards.
“Amazing, is that real personal home security?”
Akihito-san asked, his voice trembling with fear, but Holmes-san gave him a wry smile.
“Personal home security? No, those are probably just security guards from the department store.”
“Now, we will show you these works of art. Raise the flag to indicate whether you think it is real, or just a forgery. In other words, this is an ‘authenticity discernment game’, and you will be eliminated if you get the wrong answer. The one who survives all the way to the end will be awarded with a prize.”
As Taguchi-san explained, other members of the staff distributed a white flag and a red flag to each person.
“If you think it is real, raise the white flag, and if you think it is a forgery as fake as a ‘bright red lie’, raise the red flag. By the way, if you are an appraiser or have a job related to art, please refrain from participating in this game.”
As a result, such guests were not given the flags.
“Ah, and please do not give hints to your companions.”
That line produced some light laughter from the crowd.
“Heh, this seems interesting. I’m seen some good works because of my father, so I’m pretty confident.”
Akihito-san’s eyes glimmered as he held the flags in his hands.
As for me, I couldn’t tell how well I would be able to discern the authenticity of those works, but it did seem like a fun game.
“I wish you two the best of luck.”
Holmes-san encouraged us with a grin on his face.
“Now, for the first article.”
After Taguchi-san’s said those words, a security officer wheeled over a table cart.
On the cart was some object, covered with a cloth.
It was as if an auction was about to start.
“Everyone, please raise your flags together, on my signal.”
Taguchi-san gave a reminder to the crowd, then swiftly pulled the cloth away.
On the table stood a humongous, earth-colored jar.
“This is a Shigaraki Jar. Please look at it carefully for two minutes, then judge if it is real or fake. That is a very short time for an appraisal, but please understand that this is just a game. Magnifying glasses and other tools can be found on the table.”
Upon hearing Taguchi-san’s words, everyone nodded while approaching the table, then stared at the jar.
“It seems like a dirty jar, huh.”
Akihito-san remarked quietly with a frown.
Dirty? Sure, it does have an earthy color and a rough-looking texture.
There was also a part where stone seemed to be sticking out, but that was just feldspar.
I’d been shown a Shigaraki jar in Kura before.
This is, no doubt— genuine.
A feeling close to certainty flowed within me.
“Two minutes have passed. Please decide if this Shigaraki jar is real, or if it is a counterfeit.”
At Taguchi-san’s signal, everyone raised their flags.
I rose the white flag to signify that it was real, while Akihito-san rose the red flag.
Half of the guests also rose the red flag.
“Sensei, please give the answer.”
“Sorry for the high difficulty right off the bat. This is genuine.”
As Yanagihara-sensei spoke, the guests who had chosen the red flag went, “Ahh” in disappointment.
“S-Seriously? It’s such a rough-looking jar, too.”
While Akihito-san bit his lip in frustration, Holmes-san chuckled.
“That was actually used as a plant pot. As such, it isn’t gaudy, nor does it have any decoration. And Aoi-san, I’m surprised you knew the answer.”
“Y-Yes, you’ve shown one to me before. That stone sticking out is feldspar, right?”
“Exactly. Great job!”
Next to Holmes-san who was smiling and nodding, Akihito-san pouted in vexation.
“We will now move on to the next work. This is an old Kutani plate.”
This time, a big decorative plate was revealed.
It had fresh shades of navy, green and yellow on its sides, as well as the image of a bird in the middle.
“Wow, it has such beautiful coloring!”
One of the guests immediately exclaimed. That person was an elegant-looking lady who was wearing a semi-formal kimono.
…The coloring was indeed lovely.
But I had a feeling that a Kutani was supposed to have clearer colors.
This one seemed to have more blurred colors and gave off a lesser impact compared to the one I’d seen before.
But the biggest factor was the picture of the bird.
Holmes-san had told me before that real Kutani works have exceptional artwork.
However, the artwork of the bird here did not give off the impression of breath-taking skill.
Since the plate was standing, I checked its platform by circling around to the back.
“The time limit is up. Please raise your flags.”
Upon hearing Taguchi-san’s words, everyone raised their flags together.
Perhaps the lady’s earlier exclamation had made an impact, for the hall was mostly filled with white flags.
Even so, I raised the red flag.
Taguchi-san exchanged a look with Yanagihara-sensei, who nodded.
“This is a fake.”
That answer caused a stir in the crowd.
Only a handful of participants remained.
After that, I also managed to discern the authenticity of a Koseto jar, as well as a Kiseto tea bowl—
Finally, the only people left in the game were myself, and another male guest.
“Now for the last piece. Will the victor be decided here? Right here, we have a Shino tea bowl.”
Taguchi-san said, as a tea bowl was presented to us.
Unique for having a distorted shape, it is a masterpiece among masterpieces.
Because of that, forgeries were common, and I’d seen a few of them before.
Whenever I saw one, I would think.
I would think back to that time when I first saw a Shino tea bowl at Kura, but forgeries don’t cause my heart to flutter and make me go, “Wow, this is amazing!” like that time.
This is probably quite a well-made bowl, but I definitely would not mistake it for a Shino tea bowl.
“Your verdicts, please!”
While the man raised the white flag, I put up the red one.
“Woahhhhh!” The hall was abuzz with excitement.
Taguchi-san seemed to be quite excited as well, for his voice sounded like it was full of energy.
“…This is a fake. Well, really! This girl has made quite some unbelievably wonderful verdicts. Very impressive!”
After Yanagihara-sensei started clapping, everyone in the hall also clapped and cheered.
“Aoi-san, that was magnificent!”
With gleaming eyes, Holmes-san rushed towards me.
As I turned around ecstatically, Holmes-san firmly clasped my hands.
“!!” My heart skipped a beat.
“That was amazing! At the beginning, I thought you had a good eye for such works of art, and it seems that my eyes weren’t misguided! You were splendid out there!”
Still holding onto my hands, Holmes-san gave a wide, jubilant smile.
My heart was about to explode.
“T-Thank you so much. It’s all because you showed me all sorts of things and taught me about them.”
Yes, whenever I was working part-time at Kura and a good work of art came in, Holmes-san would show it to me and teach me about it. And as the Antique Study Program continued, I’d managed to develop my discerning skills as such.
Naturally, this victory was only possible because I had Holmes-san as my “teacher”.
But now my heart beat noisily, due to the warmth of the hands that were holding onto me.
“…Aoi-chan, you’re actually amazing, huh.”
Akihito-san remarked in blank amazement.
Beside him, I could see the figure of Yoneyama-san clapping and nodding.
“Yes, on top of being born with the eyes of an appraiser, Aoi-san is the type of person to look straight in front without averting her eyes to see the truth… I think that’s amazing.”
Holmes-san praised while applauding, but my heart was beating so heavily that I couldn’t answer.
Yanagihara-sensei then walked toward me, also applauding.
“I apologize for callin’ ya ‘normal’ earlier. It seems I still have a long way to go in judgin’ people. Ya got a talent that young people yer age usually don’t have. As expected of the person Kiyotaka-kun chose.”
Yanagihara-sensei said as he nodded, causing my cheeks to become even hotter.
I was only chosen to be a part-timer, but he seemed to be having some sort of misunderstanding, and was using another meaning of “chose”.
At that moment, Taguchi-san’s face appeared from behind Yanagihara-sensei.
“Congratulations on the victory, Aoi-san. The prize is a pair of accommodation vouchers to Tsukimiya, a ryokan12 in Kinosaki that Yanagihara-sensei frequents,” he said as he held out a white envelope.
“Eh, accommodation vouchers to a ryokan?” My voice betrayed my surprise.
It must be a high-class ryokan, right?
As I was wondering about the ryokan, Holmes-san clapped his hands together.
“I’ve heard of Tsukimiya. It’s a magnificent ryokan with a long history.”
Taguchi-san nodded upon hearing Holmes-san’s comment.
“Oh, so you knew about it. Since it’s a pair of vouchers, the two of you should go together.”
T-The two of us!
Me, go to a high-class ryokan with Holmes-san?
As I thought, they have a misunderstanding about our relationship!
“N-No, it’s not like that, we’re just colleagues!”
Without thinking, I raised my voice, causing Taguchi-san to give a bewildered look.
Next to me, Holmes-san smiled wryly.
Ah, I feel somewhat apologetic for that.
“I apologize for my presumption. You could invite a friend or a family member, then.”
“Y-Yes. Uh, umm… thank you very much.”
While applause erupted all around me, I was too embarrassed to even lift my head as I accepted the prize.
Once the excited chatter in the hall had died down, Taguchi-san looked around at everyone again.
“Now, we would like everyone, including appraisers, to look at this work from the Baroque period, the centerpiece of our Authenticity Exhibition.”
With those words as the signal, the security guards wheeled over another table cart.
On the table was a Western painting, apparently from the Baroque period.
In the center was a man with a white beard and mustache. An angel was holding his arm, as if guiding him around, and behind him were a few young girls.
It was truly an impressive painting.
…I couldn’t tell if it was genuine or fake.
At that moment, a middle-aged man who looked like an appraiser scratched his head and gave a bitter smile.
“Well, it’s difficult to judge this painting just by looking at it. We would have to do chemical analysis on this. I’m not an expert on Western paintings, anyway.”
Yanagihara-sensei smiled and nodded.
“Of course. Western paintings are certainly difficult. Also, the appraisers here have their reputation at stake, so it would be difficult for them to answer. So, how about we ask Kiyotaka-kun to answer, since he’s an excellent but young appraiser with nothing much to lose?”
On Yanagihara-sensei’s nomination, all eyes turned to look at Holmes-san.
Although Holmes-san had said earlier that Western paintings were not his forte.
As that appraiser had mentioned, it was undoubtedly difficult to judge this kind of painting just by looking at it.
Would even Holmes-san be able to answer?
While I was unilaterally feeling worried for him, Holmes-san chuckled and raised his index finger.
“Yes. This is a superb imitation of a Rubens.”
Upon hearing those words, a portion of people laughed uproariously, while the rest, including me, just looked on blankly.
“Excellent, Kiyotaka-kun! Now, will ya explain it to the rest?”
“—As you wish. There was a case in 1978 when the painting of ‘The Flight of Lot and His Family’ was purchased by the National Museum of Western Art for 150 million yen. Efforts were made to check if it was a forgery, because works of the same name appeared in two American museums and one museum in London.
“That was the first time chemical analysis such as X-ray photography was used, and it was clearly found that one work in America was genuine, and the one in Japan was a forgery. That fact caused a huge uproar, but the director of the National Museum of Western Art at the time said that it was a ‘superb imitation’, somehow managed to calm the situation down.
“This is the ‘superb imitation’ in question. I’ve had the chance to see it before, so I can identify it.”
The crowd gave a round of applause to Holmes-san, whose explanation was calm and easy to understand, as usual.
“As expected of Kiyotaka-kun. Now, there’s another work I’d like ya to see.”
On Yanagihara-sensei’s signal, another painting was brought out.
The painting was of a herd of sheep on a gentle cliff, and the sea could be seen on the other side.
It was a graceful, beautiful painting with cute-looking sheep.
I also couldn’t tell if it was genuine or fake.
“This is ‘Our English Coasts’ by William Holman Hunt. I’d like ya to appraise it, and tell me if it’s genuine.”
Yanagihara-sensei looked at Holmes-san with a sharp gaze.
Holmes-san was momentarily lost for words.
He folded his arms and studied the painting with a serious look on his face.
It was the first time I saw Holmes-san take so much time to make his judgment, when he always discerned the authenticity of a work in one glance.
Western paintings must be indeed really difficult.
“Oi, Yoneyama, can you tell?”
“No, not at all.”
Behind me, a man who seemed to be related to the art business started quietly conversing with Yoneyama-san.
Indeed, even if Holmes-san makes a mistake in his judgment, he’s just a young appraiser. One would think that he has nothing to lose.
But Holmes-san is different.
Now that he’s being challenged like this, he definitely does not want to make a mistaken judgment here.
After a brief moment of silence, Holmes-san opened his mouth to speak.
“…This is really well drawn, but it’s a forgery, is it not?”
“Why do you say so?” Yanagihara-sensei asked with a sharp glint in his eye.
“I haven’t seen the real deal before, but I’ve heard that it is the best among Hunt’s paintings of natural light, and that he won the Birmingham Award13 for it.
“But now that I’m looking at this work like this, I can tell that it’s well-drawn, but I don’t sense the magnificence that’s supposed to project from the painting due to the excellent natural light.”
After Holmes-san spoke, Yanagihara-sensei and Taguchi-san exchanged looks.
Tension ran through the hall.
Is his answer correct, or wrong?
I pressed my sweaty palms together, as if praying.
In the next moment, Yanagihara-sensei and Taguchi-san applauded.
“Wonderful. As ya say, this is a forgery borrowed from a gallery. We planned to display this at the Authenticity Exhibition as an example of a well-made forgery.”
Everyone in the hall went, “Wow!” and started clapping as well.
“I don’t know a thing about this, but Holmes is really amazing.”
“As expected of Seiji-san’s treasured grandson.”
While the crowd was chattering in admiration, Holmes-san walked towards Yanagihara-sensei, but he wasn’t smiling.
“Yanagihara-sensei… could you tell me the name of the person in the gallery who lent you the painting?”
Holmes-san asked quietly. In response, Yanagihara-sensei went, “Hmm,” and tilted his head.
“It was called Moriya, I think?”
“No, sensei. It’s Moria. It’s quite a strange surname.”
Taguchi-san immediately answered.
Holmes-san asked, “Moria?” with a frown on his face.
“Could it be that this was the person who suggested holding an ‘Authenticity Judgment Game’ for sensei’s birthday celebration?”
Holmes-san asked in a small voice, and Taguchi-san responded with a surprised nod.
“That’s correct. I’m surprised you know. He gave the suggestion, saying that it would ‘liven up the party’, and thanks to that, everyone’s so excited now.”
“Did he ask for me to appraise Hunt’s work?”
“No, he did not ask for you by name, but he did say, ‘It is really difficult to discern the authenticity of the painting, so you should choose the youngest appraiser with nothing to lose.’ Ah, yes, this Moria-san also gave me a strange instruction… Please wait for a moment.”
Taguchi-san said, leaving the area. He then returned holding something in his hand.
“…He asked me to show this to the young appraiser if they got the correct answer and asked me about his identity.”
Taguchi-san held out a round mirror.
Holmes-san accepted it, peeked into the mirror and burst out laughing.
“Thank you… err, I’m really sorry, but I have some urgent business right now. May I leave?”
Holmes-san asked with a smile on his face.
“Eh? Alright then. Thank you so much for today.”
Taguchi-san bowed in bewilderment.
“Aoi-san, Akihito-san, you two enjoy the party, if you want to. I’ll be back to pick you up later.”
Holmes-san said as he quickly walked towards the exit. We hurriedly followed him.
“H-Holmes-san, what’s going on?”
“Yeah, seriously, what’s up?”
“What Moria? He’s messing with me…”
Holmes-san clicked his tongue.
“H-Holmes?” Akihito-san’s body quivered.
Holmes-san got onto the car that was just parked outside, and we also jumped on.
After checking that everyone had entered the car, he immediately hit the accelerator.
“R-Really, what’s going on?”
I asked again, perplexed. Probably having come to his senses, Holmes-san gave an apologetic, wry smile.
“…Er, the one who prepared the forgery was Enshou.”
“Eh? You mean that’s the Moria person in the gallery?”
“I see! Moriarty, right?” Akihito-san clapped his hands together.
Ah, I understand now. When you think of Sherlock Holmes’ rival, it would have to be Professor Moriarty.
And that was why Enshou used the name “Moria”.
(Knowing that probably also caused Holmes-san to say, “He’s messing with me” earlier.)
“After hearing that Yanagihara-sensei is supervising the Authenticity Exhibition and learning about his birthday celebration, Enshou must have thought that it would be a good chance to prepare a challenge for me. Indeed, I didn’t expect Yanagihara-sensei’s party to have such a smart game.”
Holmes-san made a slightly impolite comment as he drove.
“So, um, where are we going?”
“…Enshou told me his location in the form of a riddle. The painting earlier was called ‘Our English Coasts’, but that was its original name, and it was later renamed to ‘Strayed Sheep’.”
“…Strayed sheep, huh.”
“I was then handed a round mirror. With that, he showed me the location and said, ‘If you know where I am, come find me.’”
Holmes-san spoke with a sharp gaze in his eyes.
Strayed sheep and a round mirror— where exactly does that point to?
Pressured by Holmes-san’s intense gaze, Akihito-san and I couldn’t say anything, and could only swallow our breath.
—We continued moving North.
The interior of the car was filled with a tense atmosphere… or at least that was what I thought.
“Seriously, he calls himself Moria just because of Moriarty? That’s really funny.”
Sitting in the back, Akihito-san roared with laughter as he slapped the seat next to him.
In a way, he’s the strongest person, because he’s doesn’t read the room, or perhaps he cannot read the room.
“Now that you mention it, Akihito-san, you said that you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes. Have you read the entire series?”
Yes, he did say that he was a fan the first time we met.
That was why he couldn’t stand for Holmes-san being called Holmes, causing a quarrel between them.
I wonder how much of a fan he is?
It might be impertinent for me to say this, but I’m surprised that Akihito-san has an interest in reading.
“Nah, I haven’t read them. I became a fan because of the anime.”
Upon hearing that response, Holmes-san and I asked, “Anime?” in unison.
“Yeah, don’t you know of that anime where Holmes-san is personified as a dog? It’s seriously interesting and cool, y’know? Because of that, I got hooked and watched all the movies and puppet shows14. I’ve always thought of playing as Holmes on the stage or in a movie.”
“W-What about the original work?”
“I haven’t read a single line. What of it?” Akihito-san replied with a straight face, causing Holmes-san and I to instinctively exchange looks.
In the next moment, Holmes-san burst out laughing.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Well, it’s just that seeing you go at your own pace helped me cool off. Thank you for that.”
Holmes-san said as he chuckled.
“O-oh, really? You cool off, then.”
“T-That’s right, Holmes-san. Enshou using the name ‘Moria’ might just be a ploy to rile you up.”
I remarked, leaning slightly forward.
“…I think you’re right. It seems that when it comes to Enshou, I just lose my cool and become useless. Thank you, Aoi-san.”
Good, Holmes-san is back to normal.
“So, where exactly are we going?”
I asked again, but Holmes-san was staring off into the distance.
“We’ll reach there soon… it’s actually right here,” he replied as he stopped the car.
The car slid into the gravel-paved parking area with a screech of the tires. The place had a white fence, as well as a tiled roof.
Is this— a temple?
The building was almost at the end of Senbon-dōri, after turning north from Kitaōji- dōri.
“Is this Takagamine in Kita-ku?”
Akihito-san asked as he alighted from the car.
“Yes, that’s right,” Holmes-san said as we also got off the car.
So this is Kita-ku.
Come to think of it, Akihito-san did say that his family used to stay at Kinugaki in Kita-ku.
The road here was quite a mountainous path, and it seemed like we were right at the foot of a mountain.
While I usually go everywhere by bicycle, I would definitely regret it if I rode my bicycle all the way here.
“This way,” Holmes-san said as he started walking off.
Perhaps because it was already some time after 4:30 in the afternoon, there were hardly any other cars in the parking area.
(Since most temples close at 5pm.)
After going down a narrow passage, a small, old wooden gate came into view.
On a pillar was a sign with the words, “Genkō-an Zen Meditation Group”.
“—Genkō-an…” I’d heard that name before.
“Yes, this is place that Enshou called me to— Genkō-an.”
Holmes-san asserted with a firm gaze in his eyes.
His words were soft, but with a strong tone. He then passed through the gate.
We immediately followed right behind him.
The first thing that met our eyes was a beautiful, refreshing garden that wasn’t big at all, but was certainly well-tended.
There was a reception counter at the veranda, where we paid the entrance fee before stepping into the temple itself.
It was a really old mountain temple.
Even so, the entire building seemed to give off a dignified atmosphere that made you want to straighten your back and hold your head high.
The floor and tatami mats had been polished to the point where they were glistening. Also, flowers had been arranged on the tables and corners of the corridors.
As soon as we stepped into the main hall, we could see a rectangular window and a round window next to each other.
Bright red autumn leaves could be seen on the other side of the windows, making it seem like two beautiful pictures.
—I knew about those two windows.
I might have seen them on TV.
They’re called the Window of Confusion and the Window of Enlightenment15.
A wooden trellis had been built at ankle height to deter people from getting too close to the windows.
Further inward from the windows was an object of worship. There was no one else in the room.
“H-Huh? There’s no one here.”
I muttered absent-mindedly.
“…Shall we put our hands together for now, then?”
Holmes-san suggested with a grin. He then stood by the object of worship, inserted some monetary offerings and put his hands together.
Akihito-san and I hurriedly followed suit.
When I opened my eyes, a shiver ran through my spine as I realized that someone else was in the main hall.
He looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. Like a monk, he had no hair, and was wearing a grey kimono.
He was looking at us with a gentle smile on his face.
If I knew nothing, I would have thought that he was just a monk of this temple.
“Good of ya to come here.”
As he looked at Holmes-san, his eyes narrowed in delight.
—This man was definitely Enshou.
“You’re the one who called me here.”
Holmes-san quietly stepped forward, also wearing a smile.
Akihito-san and I stood stock still and swallowed our breaths as we looked on at the two of them.
“…It was fun waiting for ya here. I’m not even sure if I wanted ya to come here or not.”
Hiding his mouth behind an open fan, Enshou chuckled.
“So, what are you feeling now?”
Upon hearing Holmes-san’s quiet question, Enshou stopped chuckling.
“—By the way, good job on seeing through my forgery. What was the clincher?”
“…It was ‘light’.”
“I see, so it’s light, huh. Because of the shade, it’s quite difficult to accurately depict the light.”
Enshou gave another chuckle, then lifted his head.
“So, ya immediately knew about this place?”
“Yes, because of ‘Strayed Sheep’ and the round mirror. ‘Strayed Sheep’ is a rectangular painting, and the mirror is also known as a ‘window of the heart’. That immediately brought to mind the two windows of Genkō-an. The rectangular window, or the Window of Confusion16, represents the ‘trials and tribulations of human life’. The round window next to it, the Window of Enlightement, shows the core of ‘Zen and Entsuu17’, and represents the great universe. A round mirror that reflects oneself can also be said to be showing the inner universe… You put quite some thought into that riddle, huh.”
Holmes-san grinned as he finished his explanation.
Enshou replied as he returned the exact same smile.
While both of them were smiling, it was as if a duel was about to begin. The atmosphere was also sharp, to the point that the tension made it difficult to breathe.
On the other side of the two people facing off with each other were the two windows.
Bright red autumn leaves danced in the wind.
That scene was unsettling, but at the same time, incomparably beautiful, causing me to be unable to utter a single word.
“As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed the time I spent waiting for ya here. I was guessing if ya would come or not, and wonderin’ if I wanted ya here or not. It was as if I was waitin’ for a lover I broke up with.”
“I don’t feel happy in the slightest being described like that.”
“My, what a sharp tongue ye have!” Only Enshou’s eyes were laughing as he took a breath.
“…Somewhere along the line, most forgers will suddenly feel the need to appeal to the world that they are the individuals who produced the forgeries, and want to leave their mark on the world. Thanks to that, some of ‘em get found out, and I always wondered out why they would want such a thing.”
Enshou spoke as if talking to himself as he gazed out of the Window of Confusion.
“I was brought up by my father, who was an artist, in Amagasaki.
“He had quite some skill, but he was heavily addicted to alcohol. Whenever he got a job, he would often splurge the advance payment on alcohol, drink till he collapses, and ultimately fail to complete the artwork by the deadline. One day, I couldn’t stand to see him like this, so I created one of his paintings for him, in his exact style. My father was delighted by this. He’d treated me as a burden before, but he called me a genius, and pushed me to create other forgeries. That was the start of my life as a forger.”
While standing a short distance away, I swallowed my breath again.
So that’s how it is.
He’d started by creating forgeries.
His starting point was producing a work exactly like that of the person closest to him, his father…
And that totally fits Holmes-san’s profiling, too.
“So I produced perfect forgeries, never leaving any traces of myself behind, and I was being praised by my father, the person I most wanted to hear praise from. I was satisfied by that. But then, my father let drink get the better of him and died… After that, even when I received orders for forgeries, it just seemed so boring. Wonderin’ what to do with my life, I turned to Buddhism. But when a work of mine that hadn’t been discovered by anyone was exposed by someone as young as ya, I felt excited. I’d been nothing but a shadow, but someone found me as I was hiding in the darkness. I was also nervous about this work. I was torn between wanting ya to see through the painting, and wanting ya to be unable to see through it at all. Now I understand the feeling of my predecessors when they left their mark on the world for the first time. That’s why I didn’t know if I wanted ya to come or not.”
Enshou then quietly looked at Holmes-san.
“But when you asked, ‘So, what are you feeling now?’, I understood immediately.”
With that, he flipped open the fan in his hand and lunged straight at Holmes-san’s throat.
With a clap, Holmes-san immediately caught hold of the fan.
“…How dangerous. Were you going for my neck?”
“Of course not. I’m just returning your property.”
Akihito-san and I couldn’t say a thing in light of the tense situation. We placed our hands on our mouths, our faces pale.
“It’s all clear to me now. As I thought, I can’t stand ya at all. Yer the type to be all prim and elegant, liked by everyone but no one can understand what yer thinkin’, and yer completely black inside. It’s like yer a man representing Kyoto itself. I just can’t stomach that.”
Holmes-san put some power into his hand and snapped the fan he was holding on to.
“—Thanks for that. It’s an honor to be compared to the city of Kyoto,” he replied, an intrepid smile appearing on his face.
“There it is, yer true personality. Yer making such a frightful face.”
“As you say, the men of Kyoto are dark inside.”
“I find ya unpleasant, but I like that part of ya.”
“On the other hand, I find you repulsive in every way.”
“As I thought, this is good. It seems that I can’t retire yet. Not until I make ya suffer a huge humiliation.”
“Unfortunately for you, I don’t plan to be humiliated. Now, could you retreat already?”
“Don’t say that. Somehow it seems to me that ya want a compliment or something from me.”
“I don’t need a forger’s compliments.”
“My, how harsh.”
Enshou quietly lifted his hand off the fan and chuckled.
“Hey, did ya know? The ceiling of this hall is stained with blood.”
Enshou looked up at the ceiling and changed the subject. Holmes-san nodded cautiously.”
“Of course, I know that.”
Akihito-san and I also turned to look at the ceiling.
There was a black stain as well as footprints, causing my spine to go cold.
“W-Wow, why are there footprints there! Did they come from a ninja?”
Akihito-san raised his voice, causing Holmes-san to smile wryly.
“There was no battle here at Genkō-an, but the ceiling is made up of the floorboards of Fushimi-Momoyama Castle. The loyal subjects of Tokugawa Ieyasu and the army of Ishida Mitsunari had a battle there, resulting in multiple casualties. To honor the souls of the dead and bring them happiness in the next world, they distributed the bloodied floorboards among five temples, and one of those temples is Genkō-an.”
“I, I see.”
I nodded, but when I looked back, Enshou’s figure was missing.
Akihito-san and I were left speechless, while Holmes-san sighed.
“…I see, he is indeed like a shinobi.”
After a moment of silence, Holmes-san spoke and opened the broken fan that was still in his hand.
“…Seriously, he’s so irritating.”
He looked at the fan and scowled.
“Eh, what’s wrong?”
“This was originally my fan, but he wrote the word ‘Victory’ on it.”
—I see, that is certainly annoying.
“B-But you were the one who were victorious, right, Holmes-san?”
“Exactly. You saw through his forgery again. There’s no reason to be annoyed by something like that.”
The two of us leant forward, but Holmes-san bent his head down.
“…That ain’t it.”
“I only managed to see through his forgery because I had the knowledge that ‘it is the best among Hunt’s paintings of natural light, and that he won the Birmingham Award for it’.
“If not for that, I wouldn’t have been able to detect the forgery. When I admitted that the clincher was ‘light’, he laughed as if he’d won.
“I was able to detect the forgery, and ya might think that I won— but this is actually his victory, and my loss.”
Holmes-san tightly gripped onto the fan as his shoulders trembled.
I could tell that he was suffering with regret.
What should I say at a time like this?
“Even so, Holmes-san, you managed to see through his forgery. With your knowledge, it’s your victory!”
…I could say something like that.
But I don’t think he needs to hear a line that just sugarcoats the entire situation.
I clenched my fists and stared at Holmes-san.
“—I-If that’s the case, then when Enshou comes back with another forgery, please see through him properly!”
I exclaimed with a strong tone, causing Holmes-san to look at me in surprise.
Akihito-san also stared at me with his mouth wide open.
“Please don’t lose the next time.”
I continued. Holmes-san eyes widened, but in the next instant he relaxed.
“Yes, I will smash him to smithereens the next time we meet.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as I noticed a sunny countenance return to Holmes-san’s face.
The inner corners of my eyes felt hot, so I looked down.
“Hey, now. Forgive me for scarin’ ya, all right?”
His large hand patted my head gently.
I shook my head.
“Sorry, but we’ll be closing soon.”
At that moment, a voice rang out, causing us to hurriedly look up.
“—Shall we go, then?”
Holmes-san asked, and we nodded in response.
As we were leaving the main hall, I saw the two beautiful windows out of the corner of my eyes.
The rectangular Window of Confusion, which represents the trials and tribulations of human life, and the round Window of Enlightenment, which represents the greater universe.
After reaching the peak of his craft as a forger, Enshou tried moving towards enlightenment, but after having his forgery detected by Holmes-san, he returned to the material world.
Did he choose this place to show his wavering?
If I get seen through, I should just end it all. If I don’t get seen through, I’ll be satisfied, so it’ll be the end all the same. That was probably what was going through his confused mind.
However, the conclusion that he came to was one filled with human feeling, that he wanted to knock Holmes-san down no matter what.
Instead of the round window, he chose the rectangular one—
Just as I was struck by a complicated feeling caused by that unfortunate conclusion, Holmes-san suddenly stopped.
Akihito-san, who was in front, turned the corner and disappeared.
I also stopped moving and looked up at Holmes-san.
“Aoi-san, thank you for just now.”
“Your words of encouragement from earlier spurred me on. I’ll be more diligent so that I can have the discernment to see through not just Enshou, but any kind of forger.”
He spoke firmly.
I peeked at his profile, and was satisfied to see that he now looked refreshed.
Ah, I see.
Enshou… is probably an existence meant to guide Holmes-san to greater heights.
“—Yes, please do your best!”
I smiled. Holmes-san quietly extended an arm and grabbed my right hand.
Surprised, I looked up to see Holmes-san looking straight into my eyes.
Somehow, I felt that this was different from the time he held my hand after I won the Authenticity Judgment Game.
I felt a hot flush rise to my cheeks as he firmly held onto my hand and looked at me with that gaze.
My heart thumped furiously.
It was beating so hard that I thought it was about to break into pieces.
Holmes-san started as he put some strength into the hand that was gripping mine.
“Hey, are you two coming yet?”
Akihito-san’s voice boomed from the parking area, causing our bodies to twitch.
Holmes-san sighed as if he was trying to say something, quietly released my hand and scratched his fringe.
“Ah, sorry, let us talk more next time, when Akihito-san isn’t around.”
I nodded hesitatingly.
“ARE… YOU… COMING… YET?” Akihito-san raised his voice again.
“Yes, we’re on the way.”
Holmes-san answered exhaustedly.
“…Let’s go,” he said to me with a gentle smile.
“Y-Yes,” I firmly nodded and walked forward.
What was Holmes-san trying to say there?
…I could still remember Holmes-san’s gaze and the sensation of his hand tightly gripping onto mine, causing my cheeks to go hot and my heart to beat noisily.
We exited into the parking area to see Akihito-san waving his hands wildly in front of the car.
“Why were the two of you so slow? What were you doing?”
“Sorry. I regret bringing you along.”
Holmes-san replied coldly as he opened the car door.
“Heh?” Akihito-san’s eyes twitched a few times, then he said, “No idea what you’re on about,” with his head tilted to the side in confusion.
“More importantly, shall we go eat some meat? When you think of Kyoto, it’s gotta be meat, right?”
“Good idea. You can’t fight without having some meat.”
Holmes-san firmly nodded with his hand on the door handle.
“When you mention Kyoto, wouldn’t the first thing you think of be ‘tradition’? Why meat?”
I giggled as I fastened the seatbelt on the front passenger seat, but the two of them looked at me in puzzlement.
“Oh, did you not know, Aoi-san? Kyoto is also well-known for its meat restaurants.”
“Yep, Kyoto gets delicious meat from its surrounding regions.”
“Yes, and there is also meat kaiseki18.”
“I would even say that when you come to Kyoto, you have to try the meat kaiseki, over boiled tofu and everything else.”
“I agree. Of course, I would also recommend a traditional Japanese-style meal.”
I looked at the two of them in blank amazement as they rattled on, as if they were in a competition.
“I-Is that so? I never knew.”
“Shall we go, then?”
“Yeah, let’s go to Hiro.”
“Morita-ya is also a good place.”
While listening to their conversation, I looked outside the window.
My chest tightened upon seeing the sky, which had been dyed a beautiful shade of orange.
After etching that sight in the back of my head, I gently closed my eyes.
—I will probably never forget the events that transpired here.
The appraiser and the forger.
The sparks, beautiful as autumn leaves, that were produced when the two young genii collided.
And Holmes-san’s frustration, as well as his determination…
While Enshou was moving towards the path of enlightenment, he chose to stay confused. On the other hand, his existence caused Holmes-san to be enlightened on the path he should take.
It was like fate.
…Confusion and enlightenment.
No matter how hard you strive for the latter, it is probably difficult to be fully enlightened. You continue being confused, have brief moments of enlightenment, but still end up in confusion.
If I ever find myself wavering, I would like to come here again.
—And gaze into the round window that represents the greater universe…
The car moved down the hill, putting Genkō-an behind us and the setting sun on the side.
The autumn leaves falling gracefully with the cold wind announced the end of autumn, and welcomed the start of the Kyoto winter.
Captains (Tier 3) : SuperKatsu, Marieta Tan
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher, Yazmin Arostegui, Slush56, Ashley Soffietti, Cristie Ledesma
Assistants (Tier 1) : Jaime Cuellar, Karen Kronenberg, Anna, Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez, Kevin Kohn, _Maki
Thank you very much for all your support!
- Suzumushi-dera translates literally to Bell Cricket Temple.
- The guardian deity of children.
- A Shinto shrine at the base of Arashiyama, home to a spring that is said to be blessed, and was apparently founded back in 700 CE.
- The old name for Kyoto back in the Heian period.
- A shrine that was near the south entrance of Heian-kyō, but burnt down in 1233.
- Ages that are traditionally believed to be unlucky in Japan. The ages most often considered unlucky in Japan are 25, 42, and 61 for men, and 19, 33, and 37 for women, though there is much regional variation.
- The year following the calamitous year is also considered unlucky, as is the year preceding.
- A traditional rite of passage and festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and five-year-old (and less commonly three-year-old) boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children.
- The 50th emperor of Japan who ruled from 781 to 806. It was during his reign that Japanese imperial power reached its peak.
- Literally meaning “moss temple”.
- Translates literally as “Kyoto Weather”, but I’m not sure why it would be named that, so I just left it in its Japanese name.
- A traditional Japanese inn that typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.
- I’ve done some research into this, but I cannot find any evidence that William Holman Hunt won the Birmingham Award, or some award with a similar name, so I’m really not sure about this.
- Apparently, there have been Japanese puppetry television series of Sherlock Holmes, like Puppet Entertainment Sherlock Holmes (2014).
- Errata: The title of this chapter is obviously a reference to the two windows, so I have changed the translated title to fit the translated names of the windows.
- The term for “Confusion” is exactly the same as the term for “strayed”.
- A Buddhist term that means understanding the truth by putting wisdom to good use.
- Kaiseki is a seasonal multi-course meal (similar to omakase) served before a tea ceremony.