Lasting Impression

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
translated by Ryan C.K. Choi 


I recently accepted a commission to write about the mountain town of Ikaho, despite having spent only one night there during high school on a hiking trip with two friends up Mt. Myōgi and Mt. Akagi. I recall little about the town itself and even less about its famed views and hot springs. I have but a vague memory of riding a rickety train up the mountainside and being uneasy about the rusted tracks webbed with bush and vine and the lack of straps to hold. After arriving in town, we found a room at a nondescript inn where we happened to make the acquaintance of a sophisticated, middle-aged man who was staying in the room next to ours. He was, by his eager admission, a regular at these hot springs, claiming they possessed special powers of rejuvenation that were the secret to his youthful appearance. We accompanied him to the hot springs no less than six times the following day and after our last bath our bodies were so withered we could barely steady ourselves for the walk back—the halls of the inn seemed to elongate and twist before us, and I remember nearly fainting. Once we had settled in our rooms, we found that we were mysteriously unable to relax. As soon as the sun set, the four of us packed our bags, checked out of the inn and trekked over to Takasaki Station where my friends and I were embarrassed to find we couldn't afford our fares to Ueno. We spent too much money on the hot springs and the inn. We confessed our predicament to the man, who, with no hesitation, gifted us one hundred and twenty sen, then bid us farewell. As I said above, I have little memory of Ikaho and its majestic waterfalls and valleys, and when the topic of its renowned hot springs comes up, I find myself thinking of this man whom we met, and how each time we soaked in the waters together he carried on at nauseating length about his plans to design and manufacture a compact single-seat automobile and become one of the country's wealthiest men. Just today in the papers, I read an article about the invention of a two-seat automobile, and began to wonder about the man, for I have yet to read about a single-seat automobile being made.