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Memories of Ajewarlae



Mother and Child at Seascape

1989, back when I was still in elementary school, my family and I visited an island called Ajewarlae. Since it was our first trip outside of Japan, I remember my parents studying the Ajewarlaen language day and night. My sister was only four or five years old at the time. She doesn’t remember a thing.My memory is also vague but I remember there were abnormal amounts of dogs on the island. There were dogs all around us when we landed in the airport - unchained and without leads. I was afraid at first in fear of being bitten.

We passed by the beach on the way to our hotel.  As expected, there were many dogs there as well. My mother picked one of the dogs up and after playing with it muttered, “I wish this was a cat island instead.” My sister kept chasing the dogs but she gave up after they ran away from her each time.A continent could be seen across the horizon and my mother said, “could that be the Soviet Union?”

The sky then looked like it could rain any moment while the murky black sea put out an odor similar to that of a leek - it was extraordinary, to say the least. Feeling uncomfortable, my sister and I told our father, “let’s go,” but he gave no response, our voices possibly muted from the resounding waves. Finally, he stretched his body outwardly and only said, “I’m so glad we came here.”

2The Person with Red Spots and an Unknown Bird/Twilight Dog

On the Ajewarlae island, we stayed at Hotel Canary. I heard my father say it was the best hotel in Ajewarlae though it cost the same as a canned juice in Japanese yen. At the reception, I saw my father talking to a man with red spots on his face. Atop the reception table was placed a birdcage with a bird inside that was clearly not a canary. It swayed slowly in the cage. 

When my father finished with the reception, he received the keys and led us to our room. As we were making our way through the hallway he said, “the receptionist said to never go out after seven at night and when it is raining. But to be honest I couldn’t understand half the things he said.” He looked a little disappointed. “At least there’s nothing wrong with the hotel,” my mother cheered him up.

The sun was going down but we decided to take a stroll just outside the hotel since my sister complained of not being able to touch any of the dogs. The black sea was calm. It was illuminated by sunset which reminded me of a dark mirror rainbow.

It was almost night time and there was no one else on the beach. Whenever I remember this trip, I do not remember anyone but my family sharing the landscape. Maybe certain people erase their existence from old memories. Perhaps this is not a phenomenon limited to Ajewarlae.

3.Hotel Canary

The next day, we stayed inside the hotel room. In spite of the sunny weather, it was pouring rain. Earlier, my father attempted to go outside, but the hotel staff had stopped him. 

I was feeling anxious about the bizarre weather. My father was the only one out of the family strangely excited. “This is what makes this island so unique!” he exclaimed as he looked out the window. Out of pure boredom, my sister and I continued to use the bed as a trampoline, and when we got bored of that we competed on who could pretend to be a better corpse on the floor. My mother got fed up with us and bought us playing cards from the lobby. Yet, we didn’t know any rules to card games so we randomly decided strong cards and made the cards fight each other. 

It continued to rain all through the night. As it got dark outside, so did our room because nobody had bothered to turn the light on. My mother and sister had fallen asleep with the latter sprawled face down on the floor amongst the playing cards. My father, on the other hand, maintained looking out the window. “Why don’t you sleep?” I asked him but there was no reply. Only the sound of rain echoed. Enclosed by darkness, I felt as if my family had turned into a bunch of unresponsive corpses. I panicked and tried to bring myself to sleep but no matter what I did my eyes remained awake. 

4.The Silver Man /Karwaminoha

The sun was out the next day so we went out to explore the island. We soon found strange photographs stuck in various places on the island. These were called “Karuwaminoha”. It was a photograph of a clay doll, resembling a polished frog, striking a pose in front of a flower-patterned cloth. We were told that a few years ago these dolls were popular toys among children who would play with them outside.

Later on, I researched the context of these photographs. It turned out there was an incident on this island in which children who had possession of these dolls disappeared in masses. Since then these dolls were viewed as cursed and adults would burn them right away when found. At one point this “Karuwaminoha hunt” escalated enough that the shop that made these dolls were turned to ash as well. 

Rumors said the “Silver Man” snatched these children away, or they said the doll has hypnotic powers to make the children sleepwalk to the unknown. Wherever lies the truth, there was a sudden drop of the population in children close to my age on Ajewarlae.
When I talked to my father about this he only laughed and said, “I would have loved to obtain such a rare item!”

Now that I look back, I find it strange that so many children disappeared on such a tiny island. I’m sure if the adults of the island worked together, they could have found the missing children. The name “Karuwaminoha” was not the doll’s original name. It is the word for “death” in the Ajewarlae language. 

5   Doggy Style Dog Fur

One of my most vivid memories was of an institution that housed numbers of dog breeds just like a pet shop. Similar to a dog shelter in Japan, it was hard to call it a tourist site. But unlike a dog shelter, the dogs brought there would be treated and domesticated before they were released back into the wild. Due to this shelter, most of the dogs on the island were not violent, but kind - or should I say, hollow?

“The wild dogs don’t bark, huh?” my mother said. It was true, they didn’t bark.
On the way back my father remorsefully said, “this is just like Romeo and Juliet.” 
“That’s true,” my mother seemed to agree from the bottom of her heart. To this day I do not know what part of this was exactly Romeo and Juliet, and even when I asked my father about it recently he only said, “I never said such a thing. You must be remembering things wrong.” I have no way to find out whose memory is correct.

6 Searchlight and the Night

That night, my father proposed we go and see the stars. “But we mustn’t go outside, right?” my sister and I asked hesitantly. Yet my father answered, “there shouldn’t be a problem.” My mother seemed to have thought it was a good idea as she said: “I’m sure it’s pretty.” I noticed the landscape out the window was absolute darkness so I stood my ground but my parents soon declared to leave me behind if I didn’t go with them, so reluctantly I followed. I did not want to be alone in the room with the creepy yellow bird figurine atop the television. 

We found the lobby deserted and the red-spotted receptionist nowhere to be found. “Let’s go through the woods. There might be something interesting,” my father said. The forest was strangely quiet. Not even the sounds of insects could be heard. My sister seemed to be free of fear as she kept playing with her flashlight - swinging it like a searchlight. Shapes of sleeping dogs, flowers, plants, and other unidentifiable creatures were illuminated one by one by the light. 

Just then for a split second, I saw a person clinging unto a tree doing something. My family didn’t notice. I knew then that I had seen something that I was not supposed to see. I immediately clung unto my father, shivering and keeping caution as I kept up with my family. I wanted desperately to tell my family what I saw but no voice came out. 

At last, when we came out of the woods, a starry sky like I had never seen before filled my vision. I was still frightened and kept quiet as I kept clinging onto my father. My mind was elsewhere. “Hey, what are you still up to? I told you there was nothing to worry about. On the other hand, look at the beautiful sky!” my father exclaimed. With the starry sky behind him, my father was like a huge mass of shadow.

7 Memories of Ajewarlae

More than twenty years have passed since the trip. I had completely forgotten about it had I not heard the word “Ajewarlae” on the evening news recently. As I dig into my memories, I realized I have no further recollections from the point where I saw the person in the woods. But I do remember how purely frightened I was and the furious longing to retreat home, as well as the relief I experienced beyond words when I returned home safely. 

The contents of the news went like this: a good amount of dogs had been found in Russia, coasts of China, and even Hokkaido who’s believed to have gotten there by crossing the ocean. The dogs were found weak and worn out due to the excess amount of dog paddling. They are now under the care of each country. With evidence of DNA and water currents, it was revealed that all of these dogs came from the island of Ajewarlae.

Because of this controversy, a field survey was commissioned. It was completely desolate - they found no one on the island. The buildings on the island
remain, but no clothes, daily commodities, nor even one strand of human hair could be found. 

English Translation  : Sara Giusto Yasunaga



アジワルラの思い出 / Memories of Ajewarlae
































Doggy Style✳︎Dog Fur






その日の夜、父は星を見に行こうと言った。僕と妹は「外に出ちゃいけないんじゃないの?」と聞いたが 「んーまあ問題ないだろ」と父は言った。母も「絶対きれいだよ」と言って乗り気になっているようだった。窓の外を見るとあまりに真っ暗なので断固として抵抗していると、来ないなら置いていくと行くと言うので、しぶしぶついていくことにした。テレビの上の黄色い鳥さえも怖く感じられて、あの部屋に一人で置いていかれることの方が嫌だった。












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