The kites of Kanagawa.

1. Any diurnal bird of prey of the genera Milvus, Elanus, etc, typically having a long forked tail and long broad wings and usually preying on small mammals and insects. – Collins Dictionary1
2. A pretty pain in the ass that sent me on a two day quest for a four letter word.
The Nut

I have this thing about needing to being able to identify plants and animals that I photograph. While some people, according to my blog’s search traffic, spend their quality time with Mr. Google looking for jessica rabbit gif tits or toilet boner pics (no comment), I pass most of mine using every possible combination of adjectives I can think of to reveal the scientific identity of whatever obscure weed or skittish critter I’ve found a moment to point a lens at that day.

I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that on the rare occasion that I can’t find what I’m looking for, it bothers me forever. You know what I’m like.

So of course on Nutty Hubby’s and my first full day out doing the tourist thing in Japan, we go to an island that is absolutely swarming with large, gorgeous birds of prey. Circling on high in the endless blue of the heavens; swooping down low in sudden rushes of wings and wind; wheeling and dancing gracefully away from the attacks of vocal, divebombing crows fearing for the safety of their nearby nests.

It was way too bright and my telephoto lens too short to do their aerial acrobatics any justice with my camera, but that didn’t change the fact that I absolutely had to find out what these beautiful birds were.

My first thought was of a hawk…except the tail was clearly wrong for all the types of hawks I knew. Perhaps an osprey? Did Japan even have those? (Yes, says Mr. Google.)

C’mon, Nutty, think. You’ve been to plenty of wildlife sanctuaries; what other kinds of bird could this be?

Nutty Hubby suggested a falcon, but I’d seen enough of those to know better.

We continued hiking around Enoshima Island from shrine to shrine, and I continued wracking my brain for species matches, until we reached the Iwaya Caves and I promptly forgot about birds for two reasons: 1) because the caves were awesome and deserved my full attention, and 2) you had to hold a candle going through to help light your way, and I generally try not let my mind wander too far when I’m carrying open flames.

So I let the bird thing go, and wandered around in the cool, dripping dark looking at awesome stuff, and all was well with the world.

Aaaand then the caves pulled a dick move.

Yup, just as we were leaving, I caught sight of a framed image and description of the very bird I wanted to ID!

Huh…too bad I can’t read Japanese.

Fate was clearly fucking with me, but I took a photo of the display anyway, intending to try and look up the characters in the name later.

We spent the rest of the day lazing around the many pools of the island’s spectacular spa, where phones and their internet-surfing abilities weren’t allowed, but where nameless goddamn birds were perfectly free to keep up their constant flying and diving in full view overhead.
Mocking me.

By evening I was so irrationally angry with the agile bastards that I didn’t even try to Google them when we got back to the hotel, out of sheer spite.

Why yes, I am a grown woman in her thirties, why do you ask?

A new day dawned. After breakfast, Nutty Hubby and I took the train to Kamakura and began touring more temples and shrines. And of course, as we climbed the many stairs of Hase-dera Temple and got higher and higher up the mountain, who should I see but more of the same anonymous flying motherfuckers from the day before?

I tried to just ignore them; after all, we had more caves to see and a date with a giant friggin’ golden statue. But they were everywhere. No escape.

And then, finally, Fate threw me a bone.

In the corner of a random lookout point, high above the city, I learned the name of my tormentors. And peace returned to the land of Nut.


And hey, after discovering that they’re dirty rotten food thieves, I don’t feel so bad about all those names I called them anymore.2

Everybody wins.

Today’s blog post was brought to you by the letter K, the number 2, and the FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU Challenge, AKA the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

1 “kite.” Collins Dictionary, 2016. Web. 13 April 2016.
2 Turns out their name in Japanese is “tobi”, which is actually kind of cute and certainly sounds a lot nicer than “WHAT’S YOUR FUCKING NAME, ASSHOLE?” which is how I’d been referring to them up until my lookout point revelation.

13 thoughts on “The kites of Kanagawa.

  1. This sounds exactly like the sort of island I’d like to visit (especially now that I know what the birds are called). A place that offers the chance to admire birds of prey AND walk around caves with a candle? Yes please! (I hope that doesn’t sound sarcastic; it really isn’t.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t forget the spa! You’re gonna want to treat yourself to a nice soak in their pools after hiking up and down so many stairs all day. Seriously, the island has a LOT of stairs.

      Can’t recommend it enough, though. Totally worth my thighs not being on speaking terms with me for days.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel a little disappointed that they have such a prosaic name. Osprey, eagle, falcon–these are badass names for badass birds.
    Then again maybe those kites got their names from flying up and stealing the name of a child’s toy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. LOL – what a delight to be led to your blog via A-to-Z. Now that you’ve properly identified those awesome birds and we know you’re safe from any potential open flame mishaps, I’m ready to head back to the beginning of your series and enjoy my way through.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you – I like to be able to assign proper labels to the beauties I shoot too, not just ‘bird’ or ‘flower’. And just in case you have any other incomprehensible Japanese that is driving you batty, I can translate it for you. Maybe. I mean, I could read ‘tobi’. Which I *can* say with some authority is pronounced “tobby” not “Toby”.
    I am loving your Japan-centric alphabet challenge! More, more!

    Liked by 1 person

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