Saturday, May 28, 2016

Hyouka Volume 3 The Kudryavka Sequence

A Sleepless Night

As I couldn't sleep, I decided to take a walk outside.

The history of the Chitanda clan can be traced back to the beginning of the Edo period.

The large fields in the north of Kamiyama City used to be a farm village. As the leaders of the village, the Chitanda clan has maintained, farmed and rented out the land around here. As representatives of the village, they were charged with negotiating the taxes with the feudal lords as well as acting as the local magistrates. They were also involved in projects for improving farming products. And of course, they would represent the village and take part in the annual festivals in spring and autumn.

The land here isn't truly blessed by nature. Though the soil is rich, the area is vulnerable to typhoons as well as blizzards. After all, this land wasn't really well irrigated until irrigation works were carried out during the Edo period. Just a minor change in the climate would result in crop failure, so it was natural for the previous farmers to fear and worship the gods.

As people of prestigious wealth, the Chitanda clan would represent the mortals in carrying out the rituals during the festivals. As they would be offering their wealth to the gods in the shrine on behalf of everyone else, before the laying of the crops and after harvest, as well as during Obon and New Year, they would go around collecting food and drink from the village folk. It would seem that this was considered a form of payment in lieu of money for renting land from the Chitanda clan. In turn, the leasing of land would form the basis of their wealth.

After the war, as part of the land reforms, the Chitanda clan, like all other large landowners, were compelled to sell most of the land they held to the government. Yet, Chitanda Shounosuke, the leader of the clan then, saw this as an opportunity to use the money from the land sales to modernize the farming equipment as quickly as possible, and profit from the new farming techniques. As such, Shounosuke was able to slowly buy back the land that was sold off, and by the time my father became head of the clan, the Chitandas had reclaimed nearly half of what was once their land, which was considered to be quite large during the late Showa period.

This may sound like me boasting, but Chitanda Shounosuke was not simply a man with business acumen, he was also a trustworthy man, as well as my grandfather. Though as he died early on, I do not remember much of him.

Anyway, the Chitanda clan had managed to weather the chaos during and after the war and maintained their status. As a result, they are still in charge of representing the local community during the festivals.

To begin with, contrary to what Fukube-san had said, the Chitanda clan aren't exactly so rich as to tower above everyone else. As a result, the annual festivities were reduced from four times a year to just twice, during spring and autumn, and the symbolic "payment" these days was merely a bottle of wine. As such, the ritual was merely an excuse for everyone to gather and have a feast. Though as I can't drink, I can't take part in the feast myself.

The spring and autumn festivals would take place in a small shrine worshiping the "village god", which was a minor deity. There would be the usual rituals of a lion dance and carrying of the mikoshi [1]. A person from the Chitanda clan would act as representative for the shrine pilgrims and pray for a peaceful year during the spring festival, as well as give thanks during the autumn festival.

And I too have been participating in such a festival ever since I was old enough to remember. I often get asked by my friends living nearby as well as visitors to the shrine as to what it is that I do during such a ritual, though I didn't exactly have to do much. There wasn't much to notice besides having to pay attention not to make many sounds until the end of the praying ceremony. So it's just the usual clapping your hands during a prayer.

As for me, I'm not a particularly religious person. To some degree, I'm not too different from my schoolmates. Maybe it has something to do with my experience in such festivals. Though it may be bothersome, whenever I visit a shrine, I make it a habit to hide what I'm wishing. I'm not sure whether this meant I had faith in the gods, or whether this is just my systematic way of calming myself whenever I'm feeling insecure. From time to time, I feel curious about it, but I have never found an answer.

Recently, my wish had been granted during the high school entrance exams. It had also been granted during the "Hyouka Incident", as it was named by Fukube-san.


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