held as paragons of virtue for killing themselves on the evening of Emperor Meiji's funeral.
...”Where do we go tonight?” she’d asked Morie, who looked at her with an expression she didn’t understand. It was so cold—still winter, with snow everywhere, as though spring was hesitant to arrive in such a serious place. And so dark—no streetlights or city lights, nothing but black sky and looking black mountains.
The Japanese expansion into Manchuria had been particularly violent and the Manchurians, beleaguered and beaten down, carried a strong, lingering resentment of their conquerors, who were now immigrating in great numbers into their towns and cities. Kitako was shocked by the way her countrymen behaved in Manchuria, treating the Chinese like lesser beings, “as if they weren’t really human,” she says. And when she went to the market, she felt self-conscious, suspecting that she was hated by the local vendors simply for being Japanese, and for having money....
Nobody talked about the thing in the woodshed—the creature that was now eating six pounds of food a day—or said anything directly to Morie about his dog. Morie never raised the subject either. He fed it quietly, walked it quietly [in the dark of morning and dark of evening], and tried to keep it out of sight. Actually, he wasn’t sure if his in-laws even knew about it. But they knew. They all knew. And they were speechless with disgust. You weren’t supposed to feed dogs when people were starving. You weren’t supposed to give dogs rice when your family got only potatoes.
Uesugi came by quite often that autumn, until the deep winter snows in December drove him away, farther south. He traveled all the way to Osaka then, on foot, in his tabi and snowshoes, migrating from snowy forest to snowy forest, sleeping in abandoned bear caves and beside fallen trees. His clothing grew heavier and more eccentric: fox pelts around his neck, wool scarves wrapping his head, a wide-brimmed hat with rabbit fur earflaps. He carried a shotgun inside his coat, a knife at his waist, and a fishing hook and line curled in a pocket. And in the fabric pouches that he slung over his shoulder, he kept dry rice, miso, toasted green tea, shavings of ginseng, and chunks of kumanoi—the dried gall bladder of a Moon Bear.
...He’d be gone for days sometimes. He slept in snow dens and built fires in caves. He pole-vaulted across creeks and ponds with tree branches. He studied the differences between poisonous wild mushrooms and the edible varieties.... He tracked rabbits and deer and learned to catch fish using the maggots inside the bark of a beech tree for bait.
Everybody else had gotten faster and busier. Morie had gotten slower and more single-minded. And while modern life seemed more complicated but more convenient, Morie had gravitated to the essential and the difficult. He craved the natural world, the mysteries of its woods and groves and meadows, the primal focus of the hunt, and the company of dogs.
His life was changing as much as anybody’s had, but seemed to have gone in the reverse direction.