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Hidemi Woods 

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

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Some Remain, Others Disappear hr582

November 25, 2016

Once a year in autumn, a road race of classic cars is held in Japan. The race starts in Tokyo, runs through five prefectures in four days and finishes back in Tokyo. It stops for the night at a certain checkpoint during the long journey and one of the checkpoints is a hotel in a small town where I live. On its way there, it passes through the desolate main street of my town. I look forward to this event and go out to see it every year. More than one hundred beautiful classic cars like Fiat, Bugatti and Alfa Romeo, some of which are about ninety years old, run past right in front of my eyes one after another on a narrow street almost within my reach. I can also get to spot a few Japanese former Formula One drivers and celebrities who participate in as proud owners of the cars. The promoter hands out small flags for this event to spectators along the street. They wave the flags to the cars and the drivers wave back. This year, I left my apartment a little early for the race to stroll around the main section of my town where I hardly visit. When I shop or eat, I usually travel to the city far from my town that is too small and forlorn to hang out. I walked around the center of the town for the first time in a year and found it more desolate. A small grocery store I have shopped for several times had been out of business. A bookstore in front of the train station was closed along with a restaurant across it. There was no sign of any new tenant at those locations. More and more stores are gone, as a small population of my town is getting even smaller every year. I sat on a bench at the best spot to see the race along the main street that also had more shuttered shops than before. I was waiting for the cars to come while looking through a race brochure with a flag in my hand, both of which I’d gotten at the town’s empty tourist information office. As it was about the time the cars were scheduled to pass, I was prepared with my smartphone camera. But not a single car appeared. I waited more and there were still no cars. And I noticed there were no spectators either. I made sure the date and the time in the brochure again, and they were correct. Since an unpredictable incident can happen in the race and a delay sometimes occurs, I waited patiently. No cars and no people showed up. It was getting dark and cold. I went back to the info office and asked about the race. The clerk said, “Hasn’t it come yet? It should be here, I think.” Because she sounded she knew nothing about the race, I assured that her info was false, which meant, the race shouldn’t be here. I must have gotten the right time, but the wrong place. I left the main street and hurried toward the checkpoint where the cars would eventually arrive. On the way, I started smelling a strong odor of exhaust that came from nothing but classic cars in these days. The race must have been near. I hurried on, and finally saw a classic car turning the intersection with an explosive engine noise at the bottom of a steep slope toward the checkpoint. The race did come to my town but used a different route. It had dropped down the main street as its route this year and the info office didn’t know that. With only few spectators even along the main street every year, the new route was outside the town center and there were literally no spectators. I managed to see the last one-third cars in the dark while I missed the most part of the race, especially fast cars. Like this, my town is gradually declining with fewer people, fewer shops and less information. I will watch the whole race next year near the checkpoint not along the main street. Unless the race excludes my town from the route altogether, that is…

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