Village in Amami Islands：Yorojima Island - 4 : Habu stick
（Setouchi, Amami Islands, Kagoshima, Japan）
A friend from Amami Oshima told me that, in her childhood, the teacher took the lead with a stick to avoid a Habu (poisonous yellow-spotted pit viper) on an excursion. In the old days, the Habu sticks were placed on the street side in all Amami islands' villages, and when a Habu appeared, they drove away from it with the stick. Now the scenery with a stick has almost disappeared.
It is a common theory that the Habu has exterminated in the village because the coral stone wall with gaps that became the habitat of the Habu has disappeared since the coral stone wall has replaced a block wall. Due to the severe environment for a Habu to live in, the chances of encountering a Habu in a village have decreased, so they no longer see Habu sticks.
It is Yorojima Island where the Habu sticks stand against the wall everywhere in the village. The cozy landscape with the coral stone walls is a comfortable environment for a Habu, and there is a high possibility that they will encounter a Habu in the village. Therefore, the Habu stick is still an indispensable tool for Yorojima Island. Even if the environment where the Habu inhabits is unfamiliar for travelers, it is the precious landscape element to make Yorojima Island what it should be. At the same time, it is also a device to stir up a sense of anxiety that the Habu may be around them.
The landlady of the guest house, who has lived on Yorojima Island for decades after her marriage, told me that she had never seen the Habu since she came to the island. So, they may no longer need to fear that.
The Habu stick is made by removing the side branches from the felled branches, regardless of the tree species. Although most are straight, but part of branches used have slight crook and bending. There are no steel sticks or plastic ones. The end on the handle side is painted red, and the stick has 3-4 cm in diameter and 130-190 cm long. The length is the sense of distance for people and the Habu to coexist on this island.
As an aside, I could not get close to a bush for a while after I returned to Tokyo from Yorojima Island. Because an anxiety that a Habu may be there struck me by the learning effect that I have seen Habu sticks many times over on the island.
Accommodations in Yorojima Island
"日本歴史地名大系 (47) 鹿児島県の地名"(平凡社,1998)
"角川日本地名大辞典 46 鹿児島県"(「角川日本地名大辞典」編纂委員会,角川書店,1983)
2021.03 Photos in English version, and photos and text in Japanese version
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