This piece was submitted by Hideo Furukawa as part of the 2014 PEN World Voices Online Anthology.  

Hideo Furukawa’s event: Asia Society and The Japan Foundation present: Monkey Business

Loosely I perceive. I perceive myself to be in some kind of enclosed space. I have no grounds for thinking this, it is an absolutely groundless hypothesis—yet I think I can justify the grounds for its groundlessness. For one thing, there is a breeze. The breeze wafts through the place. In other words, the air stream is not blocked, so there are virtually no surrounding walls. I can conclude therefore that there are no walls. And the breeze is most pleasant. I look upward—and suddenly the second ground supporting my groundless hypothesis enters my field of vision: the firmament, celestial sphere, sky of night. It hovers directly above me. A full moon hangs there. Or would it be more accurate to describe this moon as virtually full? I vacillate somewhat. After all, I do not possess the ability to distinguish the night preceding the full moon from the night after the full moon. Nor can I distinguish the full moon from those other two moons. Is there anyone who can tell the three of them apart at a glance? Is it perceptually possible? I must confess (with some shame) that very often a single full moon seems to last three nights for me, starting on the fourteenth night of the lunar calendar… But enough of this. Let me change the subject. Any of these three moonlit nights are perfect for hunting. What I wish to discuss now is—hunting. For it is the thought of chasing game that… 

That occurred to me just now.
Am I a hunting creature? I ask myself. Just when was this “very often”? More importantly, where am I? What am I doing here? The questions come in rapid-fire succession. Ah yes, I remember now. I was perceiving. Perceiving because it is in my nature to perceive. Perceiving loosely, as present circumstances demand. That’s right. Perceiving how this spot gives the impression of a closed-in space. This is the impression I get, although I have no grounds for knowing this. Yet at the same time, this closed-in space does not feel like a cage. After all, did a breeze not pass through just now? Did I not inhale that breeze, pleasant whiff of night air? Did the air not gently stroke my body? This constituted the first ground for my groundless hypothesis. The second ground was the firmament. From the night sky’s visibility I could deduce that there is no ceiling, no roof thatched above me. I had been sleeping. As it happens, I awoke just now. Was it just now or a moment ago? I was having a series of strange dreams. Wild, incongruous dreams….
This much I perceived.
Now I must get up.
I must rouse myself. 
Exercising familiar caution I exit my burrow in a familiar way. But wait, this is no burrow. It’s merely a hole for sleeping. And it’s a basement, or rather a simple space under the floor. I scuttle out, take a look around. I see now that I have been sleeping under the floor of a wooden house. Crawling on my belly, I forge ahead, until I encounter solid ground: either rock or asphalt. I scuttle softly about on hands and feet. Did I just perceive these front limbs to be hands? I did, it would seem. I did not register all four of my limbs as paws. After all, there is a division of labor going on here. For instance, the two limbs I use to assail prey are hands, limbs far more dexterous than my posterior limbs. Incidentally I also have a tail. A curled cauda that . . .
That is there.
That I now feel to be there.
That I wagged just now.
A tail that wags ever so lightly. I register its weight in a familiar way. The tail has an honest heft, as it were. It feels like a tuft of flocculent wool. From this tuft I deduce that I am not inflicted with mange. Not racked by that horrid plague. This is good news—for depilation quickly saps one’s strength, sends one hurtling toward death. Hurtling toward death . . . or shall I say plunging headlong toward oblivion? I have seen countless of my brethren, denuded by mange, sucked screaming through sickness and death. Brethren small and large. That’s right, even the little ones dropped dead one after another. I recall how radically our numbers decreased. How hardly any of us survived. Survived here in this city. In this metropole, this city of Tokyo…
Is this city even Tokyo?
Something is not right.
This feeling, of something amiss, comes to me intuitively.
Like an abrasive foreign substance. Just awakened, I am in a state of confusion. My memory, in a state of anarchy. Deliberately I reduce the speed at which I perceive. I decelerate even further. Slowed now to a near standstill, I lower it yet another notch. Phenomena now appear to me as simple presences. Shall I attune my ears to the surroundings? Listen—there is no sound of water. I can hear the sound of traffic, but it is far away. Cars zoom to and fro out beyond these borders, reminding me again that this is an enclosed space. That I am somehow shut in, though there are no four walls. That something seals me in. Yet there is a light here. An artificial light, distinct from the moonlight. It is this light that illuminates the ground, the earth’s surface, and the cobbles upon which my four feet tread even now. 
I visually confirm a white glare. Refracted off a hard surface. A surface of flagstone.
But the source of this light, I think to myself. The source of this glare is feeble.should have realized this earlier. The light here is always feeble, no more than a faint reflection. See how the paving stones are bathed in a dim white. I turn my glance upward to find the source of this dim light—when suddenly it presents itself to me. A garden lantern. I perceive one—no, two—garden lanterns. I had not perceived loosely enough at first, but now I ascertain the two sources of light: the first stone lantern, the second stone lantern. At this point my neck swivels on its own accord, until I can see what is virtually directly behind me: the upper area of the space I just crawled from. The ground floor—that is, the part of the building that (for the time being) I can verify with reasonable certainty as the façade. It must be the façade. Ropes dangle from it. Not forgetting the importance of looseness, I count—one, two, three—loosely perceiving each of the three ropes.
And these ropes, by the bye, are massive.
They are knotted together.
When I raise my eyes, I see bells. I apprehend that the bells are attached to the ropes. One small bell, one large. Even farther up is a crossbar that extends along the building, and another rope attached to it—a thick straw rope from which bits of paper dangle. These bits of paper seem to carry some religious significance. In a flash I understand: these ropes are sacred enclosing ropes. Shimenawa, the shime of which denotes “a marking”… I must be at a boundary. The edges of a region marked off by these shimenawa. A region set apart as sacred space. Beyond lies the kekkai, the protective force field…
There is an invisible line.
On all four sides. No, there are multiple lines. Rings of overlapping lines. 
Rings that protect inside from outside. Indeed the three ropes dangling from the façade before me—before my very eyes—form a virtual screen. Two bells hang from them, one small and one large. Should I grab the ropes and tug, I would surely hear the clamor of bells. I sense the unmistakable stench of hands. Of human palms. That’s right, human hands. Scores—no, thousands—of them. Their stench permeates the ropes. The hands of six hundred thousand people. But wait—whence this concrete figure? Let us not pursue this line of inquiry. I shall not launch into a barrage of questions, but shall instead focus on perceiving—perceiving presences, through my eyes and other sensory apparatuses. I perceive that the three thick ropes which dangle before me form a virtual screen, and I gaze beyond it. Beyond to the interior. In the interior sits a wooden box . . .
A wooden box sitting squarely.
Or to put it differently: a wooden box sits as though enshrined.
The box emits a strong presence. Aha! It is an offertory chest! I confirm its identity. 
A box for receiving offerings from visitors to the shrine. But to whom are these offerings proffered? No sooner does this question roll thunderously into my mind than I rev up my perception, allow myself to accelerate the speed at which I perceive. Here is the box for offerings. And over there, the shimenawa, the enclosing ropes. Clearly this is a holy zone. The inner region of the shrine, protected by the force field. So what, then, does it all mean? . . . That which I now perceive at high speed is my ravening stomach. Intolerable hunger. I awoke only a moment ago, and am already famished. Something sits atop the offertory chest. I cannot make it out. The feeble light from the two stone lanterns, perfect for these small hours of the night, illuminate it dimly. It emits a reflection peculiar to synthetic fiber… Or should I say peculiar to plastic? It appears to be wrapped in plastic. I make a leap. I mount the offertory chest. 
I have now mounted the offertory chest.
On it sits an unopened article of food, wrapped in a plastic bag, placed here by someone as an offering.
It is a rectangle, long and narrow. An oblongular quadrangle.
I discern the scent that escapes the wrapping. I smell it through the bag. Whatever it is, it is still edible. The greasy odor of oil fills my nostrils. Is this not rape-seed oil?
I tear into the wrapping.
I rip into the corners of the bag with my teeth and, digging into it, instantly arrive at the contents. The contents emit a sweet odor which I welcome with my whole being. This deep-fried succulent soybean-flavored article tempts my ravenous appetite, continues to tempt it. 
I devour the article.
I perceive myself in the act of devouring.
Yet I perceive the article more acutely than I perceive my own self. What kind of food was it? It was a piece of fried tofu. Prepared and offered by human hands. An offering to someone, to something . . . to someone within this protective force field, someone within this inner zone . . . to someone of this shrine . . . to someone commemorated in this shrine . . .
I perceive myself after the act of devouring. My ravenous hunger remains unappeased. This is only to be expected. After all, it was only one thin piece of fried tofu—a single article the size of a human palm. (I carefully measured it at the height of my high-speed perception.) By no means enough to fill me to satiety—on the contrary, compared to when my stomach was completely empty, my appetite has only increased in intensity, in obduracy.
I am obliged to live.
I am obliged to secure provisions.
In short, I am obliged to hunt. And hunt I shall.
I promptly decide I must go outside. I must leave these premises, leave the inner precinct of this shrine, abscond from here. In a word: I must exit this sacred zone. Or to put it differently, to rephrase, that is to say, to paraphrase—paraphrase . . . ? A certain sensation has begun to occupy a large portion of my mind, but I ignore it. After all, my memory exists in a state of anarchy—that has been confirmed. Again I direct my gaze upward and look around: in my field of vision to which some height has been added by the offertory chest I spot first the hall of worship, then the stone lanterns, and then the approach to the shrine. I make a mental note of the arrangement, although I cannot make out the four cardinal points.
So what if I can’t?
I leap.
I make a mad dash along the cobbled path. 
I sprint forward, weaving between the two sources of light. I race along the dimly lit road toward the other side—when suddenly it becomes present.
Could this be the third source of light?
This as yet unilluminated lantern?
I discern, sensorily as it were, the stone columns. Here is their base. And here, a komainu, a temple guardian lion-dog. Wait—no. I have misperceived. I correct myself almost instantaneously. It is an inanimate statue, some kind of stone beast in repose. But it is not the image of a dog. It is modeled after neither dog nor lion. I know this because its silhouette is rimmed by the light of the moon. Its ears are altogether too pointed. Its face, too angular. Its whole body exhibits a certain sharpness or incisiveness that carries with it a certain element that renders it as possessing the attributes of—in short, it is very pointy. Moreover, its tail is long and puffy.
It is like no species of dog.
It looks more like me.
One might say it is the semblance of a fox.
At this point I am hit by a shocking revelation—a precise and probably objective perception of my own self. Of this presence called I. Thing of this earth. And also of this kindred semblance modeled after me, after us. This is not a guardian dog but some kind of sacred beast. See how it stands guard over this sacred zone, just as a guardian dog would. Together, the two stone figures make a pair. I immediately locate the other stone figure in my field of vision.
And like the guardian dog this second stone figure too is poised in a posture of meditation, as if mouthing the syllable aum
I peer into its mouth.
It appears to be holding something between its teeth. The second figure, that is. Might this object be a scroll?
What about the first one? I inspect it.
The first figure holds nothing between its teeth. In fact its mouth appears to be shut. Yet one of its forelegs—or should I say one of its hands?—rests upon a large globular object. The second stone figure holds a scroll between its teeth, the first one treads upon a globe. And these two figures on either side of the path to the shrine generate a certain force, a force that . . . At this point I am struck by another—a third—shocking revelation. This shrine is dedicated to inari, the fox deity. It is an inari shrine, the kind of shrine where humans come to offer prayers or money—or even articles of food such as that I devoured a moment ago—to the divine presences enshrined here. Is it to my brethren that they make such offerings? Brethren who are on the brink of extinction? In this city of Tokyo. In this here city . . . 
But is this even Tokyo?
Such inferences can only be posited in relation to a future. I give the two stone-built foxes another close look. Predictably, they do not move. They are stock-still, even if they bear some resemblance to me. Yet unlike me, they have not been endowed with the breath of life. I have. Indeed life is all I have. Life that enables me to move. I begin to pace about.
I make another quick dash. To my left is a chozuya, a trough of water for purifying hands. Yet I see no need to approach it. Why should I wash my hands in ablution? The path to the shrine promptly turns into a cobblestone slope. A downward slope. I descend. Shuffling across the invisible lines that separate this space from the outside and generate the protective force field, I proceed all the way to the end. To the outermost line. I proceed as far as I know how. Do I still proceed now?
Is it only henceforth that all things shall start anew?
“Amitābha Increases Exponentially” is an excerpt of the short story of the same title, which appeared in Issue 13 of Monkey Business, a Japanese literary magazine, Spring 2011. This is the first appearance of R. Shaldjian Morrison’s english translation.