As I trudge up the rock face to my quarters, I often avoid the circuitous route up the stairs that eventually leads to the opposite side of the building in which I live. More often than not, I opt for the foot-wide concrete ledge of the monsoon ditch that runs from the top of the mountain to some rice paddies in the valley. I don’t think the word “ditch” paints an adequate picture of this thing. It’s over twelve feet wide across its flat bottom and when my six-foot two-inch self is in it, I can’t see over the edge. At one point there is a slightly smaller ditch that joins it just opposite of my building. This junction creates a little island of sorts upon which grass and a few half naked trees grow. Seriously, it’s like the mange jumped host type and is thriving on flora. I’m not sure why, but I find myself drawn to stare at it once I’ve scaled what I had originally assumed was Fuji until a Korean informed me that Fuji is in Japan. Maybe I stare at this little island because I find it peaceful or a pretty little patch of the world that is just out of place. It may be more likely that I stare at it because I do not acclimate well to altitude and when I’m lying flat on the ground with my head turned in that direction gasping for air in a manner reminiscent of a fish gasping for water that isn’t there, I have no choice but to stare at it since it is the only thing present in my narrowing field of vision.
A few days ago I stopped just short of rounding the corner of the condemned building that lay one terrace below my current residence: The Millipede Marriott. I heard a strange new sound, which is interesting in and of itself since I wasn’t wearing my hearing aids at the time. I’m fairly certain that this means my wife could hear the same sound from our home in Georgia. If you were to imagine what a chicken might sound like if instead of multiple clucks in rapid succession, it was simply issuing a single cluck. Then imagine that the cluck was deeply pitched as if it were from a male animal and that this male creature was from the South Eastern United States. So now you have a deep cluck with a bad Southern twang drawing it out and maybe it’s being uttered from inside a large balloon.
At first I thought that some ginormous bullfrog was in the culvert through which Fuji’s drainage runs (I’m sure the guy was lying about the mountain’s location in order to have a good old chuckle at the foreigner who should obviously be removed from the highlands). I took this opportunity to pause my ascent, thinking that a grown man perched on the edge of a monsoon ditch peering into the black depths of a mosquitobat (more on them later) habitat looking for real life amphibious Pokémon might be judged less harshly than a pause to stave off altitude sickness. The sound continued and to my relief it wasn’t emanating from the cavern in front of me. Not that I have anything against caverns, but as eluded to earlier, there is a sizeable population of these bat sized mosquitos in that vicinity which is why I’d assumed the noise was coming from a giant frog. It would certainly have to be giant to survive and feed upon mosquitobats.
As it turns out, the source of the sound was far less interesting than a 200 pound green Jigglypuff subsisting on giant mosquitos with a taste for human eyes. Instead, it was a pheasant rooster standing atop the only rock on the ditch island that I’d be staring at as soon as I face planted at the apex of my climb. His chest was puffed out and his head was held high as he issued these strange sounding noises that were far too large to be coming from such a small bird. His mate busied herself nearby pecking around and doing her thing. I honestly don’t know what it is female pheasants do, but she certainly looked busy at it. The rooster stood watch, posing and making noise as the hen went about her business.
As with most animals I see, I mentally ran through options on how to capture and consume this rooster. In the end I just opted to take a few pics instead. For one, I don’t know what the hunting regulations are in regards to Fuji Pheasant or if they may be endangered. Also, I’m pretty sure that cooking takes longer than I like in the thin atmosphere up here. I called my wife and recounted the events of my day culminating in my almost participation in real life Pokémon Go. After I told her about the pheasant encounter she responded with a single profound and telling statement that explains so very much to me: “They must have been married for a long time”.
Touché, wife. Carry on. I’m going to stand over here and make some more noise.