A creepy shrine I stumbled across one day.

I’m extremely happy to report I had a short, slightly scary story published on HalfHourtoKill.com called “Tsumi.” You can read it here.

In Japanese, 罪 “tsumi” means “to sin”, but there are kanji for the word “sparrowhawk” that looks like this 雀鷂 and is also read as “tsumi.”

I am now kicking myself becuase I didn’t record where I read this, but I read somewhere that there is actually a shrine in Japan dedicated to a sparrowhawk that, in a legend, did the things I described in the short story. I just loved the idea that a village decided to dedicate a shrine to the hawk in the hopes of appeasing its vengeful soul. If I can ever find again where I read about that legend, I’ll add it here.

I listened to the soundtrack of the latest rendition of Dune while writing the story. If you feel so inclined, please put the soundtrack on while you read the story.

The feel of the shrine I described in the short story comes from an actual shrine I stumbled across while hiking one day in Japan. I was following quite a few people on a well-worn path when all of a sudden to my left there was the entrance to a silent, empty shrine. I managed to take a photo of it, which is above, but I didn’t have the courage to actually explore the shrine. It was just too eerie, and no one else hiking the mountain even seemed to acknowledge it.

Maybe these types of creepy, empty shrines are all over the place to the point where hikers ignore them out of boredom, but it certainly stuck out to me.

Riding the Sunrise Express

The train was met with so many cameras upon its arrival, it was like a celebrity had graced us with their presence.

Not quite so long ago, Japan used to have a plethora of overnight trains with beds so you could wake up at your destination. The advent of the Shinkansen bullet train basically did away with them. Now, your options are plane, bullet train or overnight bus.

While there are still luxury hotel trains running, only one overnight train remains that runs every night out of Tokyo Station: The Sunrise Express.

The overnight train offers a few compartments and something called the “nobi nobi” seats, which are basically rectangles of hard carpet with no walls separating one space from the next.

The “nobi nobi” seats. The carpet is like cement, so if you ever ride on these seats, bring some sort of cushion!

I got the sense this train is like the Disneyland among train enthusiasts. Tickets go on sale one month in advance, and the compartments sold out within seconds.

As I’ve never ridden overnight on a train, I was curious about the experience. Through sheer luck, I managed to book a bunk bed compartment that would take me all the way from Tokyo to Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture.

I think the bunk bed compartment is perfect for one person and probably a bit of a squeeze for two people (despite there being bunk beds) as the compartment offers about 5 centimeters between the sliding door and the beds in terms of standing space. You can transform the bottom bunk into a place with two little seats and a tiny table, which made it nice to wake up and have a place to have breakfast.

Overall, I liked the experience, but sleeping on the top bunk was harrowing–each curve, each sudden stop made me wonder if that would be the moment I get thrown from the top bunk and hit my head on the little shelf next to the bed below. I didn’t get much sleep, and my body was convinced I was still on the train well into the next day.

Still, I got to see a lovely sunrise, and it was absolutely a unique experience I won’t soon forget. I don’t think I want to ride on it again, or at least for a while, but I’m glad I got to try it out.