Unexpected Bullets

Welcome back to Kiso Valley Diary – it’s been a while. I’ve been quite well. Bought a house four months ago. Still don’t live in it, of course. Mostly I just fill in various forms, occasionally hand someone a large sum of money, and answer “no” when people ask me “Have you finally moved yet?”. But the dream is there. The dream that I will Someday Live in The House That I Own.

How the hell could I afford to buy a house, you may be asking. Well, let me share with you my fool-proof financial advice for debt-free homeownership:

Step 1: find a town where no one wants to live. Preferably one where the population could be impartially described as “in freefall”.

Step 2: find a house whose owner died alone, with no children or close family members to speak of. Your real estate agent may have such bargains listed under “Houses, Bummer”. The ownership of such properties has likely reverted to the state, and they will be desperate to get rid of it no matter how low the price (Why? Please revisit step 1).

Step 3: spend literally almost a year trying to buy that house from a local government that ostensibly wants to sell it to you.

Literally none of these things are mine.

The thing about buying a house so cheap, though, is that all the various house stuff might still be inside it. Also, some of the pipes might have burst.

So we’ve spent the past few months clearing away an entire stranger’s life’s worth of accumulated stuff, and are just starting a months-long renovation/desperately-needed maintenance project that will end up costing significantly more than the actual house. Still – the dream is alive.

“I wonder if we’ll find anything nice?” We wondered, hubristically, as we began cleaning up the house.

Our first major find came not too long after:

The jar on the left contains イノシシ油 (inoshishi abura), also known as rendered wild boar fat. The man who owned this was an avid hunter. The man who owned this house also died six years ago. Well, don’t dwell on it – into the bin they go.

The jar on the right was luckily too dark to see inside, and was promptly fired directly into the sun.

These are apparently organs. Possibly stomachs. Possibly bear stomachs. I was told they’re used in traditional Chinese medicine. We were about to seal them away in that big warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when an acquaintance of ours introduced us to a Nice Old Man in town who might want them. And I promise you I’m not lying when I tell you that he did, in fact, just kind of come and take these 6+ year-old dried bear stomachs away with him.

It took a couple of weeks, but we finally got rid of all these mummified remains. In the meantime, we had been doing lots of clearing and sorting, and were now convinced there was nothing weird left in the house. I mean, the only place we hadn’t looked yet was inside that one safe in the back of the house we never received a key for, and had never been able to open. And surely no weird stuff would could possibly be in there.

So anyway, we found a bunch of bullets in the safe. Rifle clips on the left, and shotgun magazines on the right* No guns, though – they had already been taken away before we bought the house. Also, turns out you’re not actually technically allowed to own bullets if you don’t have some kind of license. So we had to call the local police to come take them away.

When the police officer arrived (after casually flashing us his badge in a way where you could tell he’d practiced it a bunch of times for maximum cool casualness) he came with us to see the bullets. He then took several photographs of the bullets, interviewed us about the bullets, made a 15 minute phone call to his office regarding the bullets. Finally, he told us “You have to get rid of those bullets”, and left.

Apparently we’d have to drive 45 minutes to Kiso town to a specialist gun shop and hand them the bullets. Also, we’d have to pay about ¥5000 (£33, $44) for the privilege.

Trying desperately to avoid becoming the kind of person who angrily yells “My tax dollars pay your salary!” at public servants, I sucked up my annoyance, thanked the policeman, and made a mental note to go make the least cool purchase of my entire life up to this point: paying a lot of money to not have some awesome bullets.

Oh, I should also mention that when the police officer was looking at the cool bullets with us, my wife started asking him what kind of bullets they are, and before he could answer I started giving her a detailed breakdown of the different types and their different uses. And when my wife asked me how I knew, considering I come from the UK, and have never so much as touched a gun, I had to fight desperately to stop myself from saying the unholy words: “When I was in sixth form I probably played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its sequel Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 online for approximately 3,000 hours.”**

I barely managed to avoid outing myself as that very specific brand of loser, but the adrenaline rush of successfully passing as a genuine real person was short-lived – after the police officer had gone I spent a bit making myself sad thinking about how many hours I spent playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its sequel Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 online as a teenager, and how I would now never get any of those hours back.

That’s right – I regret to inform you that I memento moried myself.

After that, the story’s kind of over. We hummed and hawed for a good while, annoyed in advance by the hassle it was going to be, and the money it was going to cost us just to get rid of these damn bullets. We knew we couldn’t just throw them away – far too dangerous, and also extremely illegal. At one point, though, we did half-jokingly discuss just, like, going out in the middle of the night and burying them somewhere deep in the woods, like some inscrutable neo-pagan ritual. But of course, the police now had our bullets on file, and who knows – maybe they’d eventually take some time out of their busy schedule of apparently doing literally nothing and go ask the gun shop whether or not we’d ever handed them over.

So one day a couple of weeks later we drove up to Kiso town and spent ¥5000 to finally say goodbye to the eponymous unexpected bullets of this blog post. I like to imagine they’re off out there somewhere right now, being fired in anger. But most likely they were just taken away and safely destroyed.

The idea of that makes a me a little sad, somehow. Not quite as sad as thinking about the possibly 3,000+ hours I spent playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its sequel Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 online in sixth form, but sad nonetheless.

Bonus picture: my house has a cool little pond out front. I saw a frog just swimming around in there and immediately lost my mind.

* I was just making a joke here – I’m aware the correct terminology is ‘rifle slugs’ and ‘shotgun rounds’.

** This may well be an exaggeration. I hope to whatever god might be up there that it is.

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