i was chased by a bull

Fear #10: Uncertainty
Fear #11: The unknown
Fear #12: Big animals
    Romance, finance, jobs, real estate, getting out of bed in the morning--any worthwhile venture invites uncertainty, challenges us to meet the unknown.  One of my goals this year is to schedule an overdue trip  Japan. What's been holding me back? For starters, the only time I've returned as an adult, about 10 years ago, I got shingles before departure, had a migraine at Aunt Yoko's, and was chased by a bull. While the last scenario is unlikely to recur (unless I embark on a new career as a toreador) it's the perfect example, literally and figuratively, for risk-taking:
This and following photos are mine: so remote
are the isles that I couldn't lazily Google images.
   I'm traveling with my younger sister Julie, who's teaching English in Shimane prefecture, on the southeastern coast of Japan. We're headed to the nearby Oki Islands for two nights, a remote locale in the Japan Sea that is known--if known at all--for raising horses on wild land. I'm drawn by the poetry of free-roaming horses; I'd taken pilgrimages to Ocracoke and Assateague in the U.S. for the rare sight. Alas, in Oki the horses are raised for sashimi, but the chubby equine enjoy magnificent vistas before landing on sushi platters.
    Just getting to Oki is inauspicious. We take a ferry--the sole mode of transport--on a blustery day. Inside, there's a single enclosed mainhold for passengers. No seats, just a carpeted floor with a few hard pillows strewn about. One side of the room is Smoking, the other Non-Smoking, a distinction marked only by the open aisle in between. Above the heads of reclining smokers, mostly businessmen, clouds of cigarette-smoke billow and trespass to the wrong side. The stench combined with pitching waves conspire for a stomach-churning case of seasickness. Green-faced, Julie and I curl up on a cold bench outside. I stagger to the concessions-stand and mumble kusuri, medicine, too weak to summon any other words from my spare arsenal of Japanese vocabulary.
   Thanks to kusuri and fresh air, we recover by the time we dock and arrive at the traditional-style inn: shared hot bath, kimono-style bathrobes, and no central heat. Julie and I roll ourselves burrito-like in blankets and sleep with our legs under the blissfully warm kotatsu. This is, in my opinion, the most genius Japanese invention, a staple of every household: a square, quilted coffeetable with an electric heater underneath. In winter months, the kotatsu is the hub for all activity: eating, reading, watching TV (but not sleeping, unless you are two baka tourists visiting in the chilly off-season.)
   The next day, a bit stiff and arthritic, we walk to the scenic seaside: horses gallop and graze in open, gold-grassed fields. A mare and her colt nibble weeds against a backdrop of cloudless sky and sheer stone plummeting to white-capped ocean. We're the only humans in sight.
   In the distance, we spot an animal grazing alone just at the lip of the cliff. "Look at the pretty cow!" I say, snapping photos, hoping to capture the dramatic scale. We hike along a vague, winding path toward our cow. The cow takes notice, begins to meander toward us. Big cow. Cow breaks into a trot. Big, big cow. Broad shoulders, massive, square chest. Horns? Ain't no cow, damn bull, zig-zagging closer and closer. Julie and I grip each other and turn the other way. What does it want?  The jacket tied around my waist is flapping madly in the wind, but I'm too scared to take it off and look like a matador waving my cape. I desperately calm the flapping by pressing down my elbows. The bull bellows and beelines toward us.
    "Wh-wh-what do we do if he charges?" I whimper to my baby sister. "If we run it'll chase us."
    "We could lie down and play dead?" Julie says.
    Noting the complete lack of fence or shelter within view, two outcomes flash through my mind: gored in the kidney, or mashed into mochi.
    We agree upon the lying-like-possums-plan, and slither away as quickly as possible without running. Then, for no apparent reason, the bull gives a haughty snort and slows down into a walk. He backs off, eyeing us warily, as if to assure that we exit his territory.
    Goosebumped, mad-scientist hair on end, we speed-walk back to the cold inn. Along the way we notice that every other house (where were they before?) has a barn and animals--cows, horses, and bulls. We later learn that, after horse sashimi and tourism, bull-fighting is the third most profitable industry in Oki. Ah yes, bull-ru once charge German rady, the innkeeper says nonchalantly. We are too polite to query further; we mustn't insult our hosts nor the bulls. Being sick on the ferry-ride home isn't so bad, as the enchanting Oki Islands disappear behind us.
My impression of Maria von Trapp, before spotting the bull.