Must have been some nasty accident, I idly assumed. From a distance, they had looked like workmen at the turn-off to Kasayama, but as I cornered the bend, they were clearly policemen. At 7 am on a Thursday morning? Another few kilometers on, and the other turn-off to Kasayama was similarly staffed with police. Something must have happened up there. But I didn’t stop to think. I was on my way home after an evening walk up Daibosatsu accompanied by the eerie screeches of deer under a full moon, followed by a dawn piston up Kumotori.
As I drove further down the sweeping curves toward Enzan, there were police at every road and track connecting with route 411. And what were all these young men doing, bags slung over their shoulders, loitering in the open spaces? Then I noticed one of them adjusting his earpiece, and it was not an ipod. I pulled up alongside, startling him. “Are you police?” I asked directly. He nodded. “And why are there police everywhere this morning?” I continued. “The Crown Prince is coming to hike.”
10 minutes later, after three patrol cars at intervals and several intimidating white police motorcycles, the whirring of a helicopter heralded the arrival of the Prince’s motorcade. A further two motorcycles immediately preceded the sleek black car. As it passed, the Prince’s face leaned forward against the glass. He appeared to be staring at Hana, straining at the leash of a dishevelled gaijin in muddy running gear by a country roadside at 7:30 in the morning.
I hope he enjoyed a quiet hike in the hills.