Monday 25 December 2023

鷹 (Hawk)

I had a unique experience on Christmas Day here in central Oita City. Whilst walking through the remains of Funai Castle, I was eating a convenience store burrito. Normally I don’t eat on the run nor eat junk food, but I was in a real rush and needed some quick calories.


As I was eating, suddenly an ominous shadow came from above. Looking up I saw a 鷹 (TAKA - hawk) rapidly swooping down on me!!!


In that moment, without a word of a lie, the hawk literally grabbed my hand with one of its talons and snatched my lunch with its beak... I pulled the burrito back. The hawk then immediately soared upwards. In this process a kiai automatically came out, but only from shock and needing composure to react.


This story sounds crazy…even impossible, but it really happened. So, I feel compelled had to write about it! For me it has been the oddest experience of 2023. To be frank, I was completely caught off guard, the speed and angle the bird came at me was utterly astounding. The shadow was my only indicator of its incoming. My reactions were not skilled in any way nor form, just from sheer shock and reactive desperation. I just couldn’t believe what had happened. The suddenness and randomness of the incident... 


Fortunately, one city council worker witnessed the whole thing (the Oita City Office is next to the castle remains). She asked if I was harmed as it had clearly made physical contact. She was amazed at the speed the hawk and stated (in Japanese): “So scary, but your yell scared him off!” To be honest, I’ve never been attacked by wild bird before, so I was still stunned as she spoke.

To be frank, I was just lucky it was clearly not wanting to harm me. She went on to explain that—she’d never seen a hawk do that before—even though she walks through the castle grounds four times a day for her job.


She introduced herself as (Ms.). Ishikawa and even asked if she could have a photo with me! It turns out that she is a yoga instructor here in the city in addition to her day job. I did not reveal that I was a karate teacher as I’d just been totally outclassed by a feathered thief! An opponent I've never trained for, nor expected.

That hawk has balls! Or maybe not, it might have been a mother hawk stealing my food? I have no idea, but attacking a man like that is certainly courageous. In karate this is referred to as KIHAKU. 


What I find really interesting, about what happened, is that I’m sure the hawk could have really hurt me, but with the exception of getting a chunk of my lunch, it didn’t even slightly damage my hand with its talon. It actually, somehow, grabbed me gently. What incredible control, dexterity, and, I assume intelligence.


It was a good reminder for me that we are no match for nature. Of course, after parting ways with Ms. Ishikawa I immediately called my wife to tell her about what I'd experienced. I hope the hawk enjoyed a little piece of my burrito and didn't get a bad stomach from it!!!


Later when walking back through the castle grounds I found my new feathered friend again: circling high in the sky. I could only wonder if he/she recognized me from earlier; moreover, if it knew it was Christmas Day and wanted to steal a present!? Who knows, but the experience is something I'll never forget!!




© Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

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