Plot Outline:

When Hagurosan is told to take an offering to the shrine, he reluctantly begins his trek up the mountain. But when he gets hungry and eats the cake meant for the spirits, things take a turn that no one could have expected. Now Hagurosan must face the consequences of his actions.

Author Notes:

Hagurosan went on sale on 15th May 2013, although the short story that it was adapted from first saw print back in 2002.

Even though the Zom-B books came out fast and suriously (an average of one every three or four months) I sill found time to release some other work in between undead releases. The first of those was Hagurosan, a book produced by publishers Barrington Stoke, who specialise in work for reluctant readers and readers with reading problems, e.g. dyslexia. It was adapted from a short story that I had released in a collection called Kids Night In back in 2002. I didn't add a huge amount to the story, so it's the shortest book I've ever release by a long way, but Barrington Stoke did a beautiful job with it, adding lots of incredibly detailed interior artwork by Zack McLaughlin.

I first visited Japan in 2002, when the World Cup was on. I went to support my country, Ireland. I had a fabulous time in Tokyo, meeting up with lots of other fans, teaching locals football songs, trying to make it to every Irish pub in the city! I went to all three of the games involving Ireland and had an amazing time. The warmth and friendship of the Japanese people was incredible.

Although I spent most of my time in Japan watching football, I also did a bit of work when I was there, and arranged a short trip out of Tokyo to see more of the country — which was how I came up with the idea for Hagurosan.

First, in Tokyo, I did a large event in a shopping mall. It was my first ever event in Japan and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew my books were popular, but would people actually come and see me? How would I get around the language barrier? Would it be fun for those who came?

I arrived early at the mall and was astonished to see hundreds of fans already waiting for me! I was told that it was a ticketed event, but that a lot of fans without tickets had come just to watch. It was an astonishing turnout and the next few hours passed in a happy blur. I posed for LOADS of photos, shook hands with every fan, and tried to say the few words of Japanese which I had learnt (but I sometimes mixed up “Konichiwa” with “Sayonora” or “Ariagato”!!!).

I came away from the event in a happy daze. I felt like a pop star! I made up my mind to do two things after the event — come back to Japan (which I have done, three times since), and write a story which would always remind me of this first visit.

I also wanted to write a story for another reason. I had agreed to write a story for a collection of short stories called Kids’ Night In. I had a very short, not very special story in mind, but I wanted to come up with something better. My girlfriend, Bas, worked for the charity organisation which was publishing the book, and I didn’t want to disappoint her!

I had bought a couple of guidebooks about Japan and read through them, trying to find somewhere outside Tokyo where I could visit, to get a small taste of what the country was like away from its big cities. There were lots of places I wanted to see, but in the end I decided to go to a holy mountain called Hagurosan.

The trip up by train was lovely. There were lots of Mexican fans on the train out of Tokyo, going to a game, and they kept running up and down the carriages, singing and dancing. They got off about halfway there and it was a much quieter journey after that. I remember travelling along the coastline for part of it. I loved the rugged scenery, the sea, and peering out at the small towns that we passed. I was especially interested by the cemeteries that I saw — I’m sure it comes as no surprise for you to learn that I’ve always liked cemeteries!

Even though it was off-season, it was a lovely sunny day when I got off the train and caught a bus to the foot of Hagurosan. I was all alone when I started up the path, and only passed a couple of people on the trek up the mountain to the temple at the top, where I had booked to stay that night. I had lots of free time, so I went slowly up the path and took some detours, exploring the countryside. I remember a gorgeous old pagoda, a snake crossing my path (the first snake I had ever seen in the wild), the views out over the countryside, stopping at a small shop to buy some gifts and exchanging a few broken words of English and Japanese with the charming people who worked there.

I was ecstatic. I felt as if I was in a different world, all alone, on a very special adventure. The mountain gave me a creative burst and I found myself making up poetry for the first time in years (most of the short poems in the story were composed that day). I wanted to write something which celebrated the mountain, which would remind me in years to come of what I had felt.

As I continued up the mountain, I saw areas – grottoes, we call them in Ireland – to the side of the path with small, strange-looking stone statues. Offerings of coins, sweets and other gifts and been left in front of some of the statues, and scraps of cloth had been tied to others. My guidebook explained that people came to pray at these statues, and leave offerings at those which meant a lot to them.

I felt that I was in a very spiritual place. I was all alone as I explored one particular grotto, but I didn’t feel any fear. This was a peaceful, tranquil place. I was respectful of the mountain, and if spirits were present, I like to think they welcomed my curious visit.

As I was leaving, I spotted a coin on the ground near the exit. I decided to place it at the feet of one of the statues, to restore someone else’s offering to its rightful place. It felt like the right thing to do. I wished the spirits well as I set the coin down, bowed farewell and turned to leave.

Then I spotted another coin.

I smiled as I picked up the second coin and placed it at the feet of a statue. I wondered what would happen if I saw a third coin … and a fourth. What if the spirits were putting the coins there, and I saw a coin every time I turned to leave? How long would it be before I decided to ignore the magical coins and flee? What if I didn’t go — what if I stayed there for the rest of my life, collecting coins sent by the spirits?

There wasn’t a third coin, but the seed of a story had been planted, and it grew inside my head as I continued up the mountain. It was the story of a small boy, and when I came to write it, I chose to name him Hagurosan, in honour of the mountain which had given the story to me. And I do believe I was given the story. Hagurosan isn’t a story of my creation — it was a gift from the spirits of that holy mountain, one that I was very pleased to share.

There were two other Irish fans staying at the temple on Hagurosan the night I was there, and we were the only three guests. I was welcomed by a caretaker who didn’t speak much English but who was very friendly. He made it clear where dinner was, showed me the onsen (a hot bath --- I made the mistake of using the ladies’ onsen later that night, but luckily there were no ladies staying in the temple at the time!) and took me to my room. I went exploring around the temple complex and the top of the mountain in the evening, then returned for dinner.

I sat with the caretaker and the other two Irish fans. As we ate, we watched Brazil play a football match on a small television which the caretaker brought out. I loved the mix of the old and the new — the carefully prepared, traditional meal in an ancient temple, and the twenty-first century television set in the corner!

I went to bed on a futon that night. It was the first time I’d ever slept on a futon and I found it quite strange and a bit uncomfortable. Luckily I found a couple of other futons in the room, and I stacked them one on top of each other — I slept like a baby after that!

The next day, as I caught the bus and the train back to Tokyo, I jotted down my ideas for the story in a notebook. As soon as I got back to Ireland, I wrote the story, then submitted it to the people who were putting the book together. They liked it, as did the staff at BarringtonStoke years later. I like to think that the spirits of Hagurosan liked it as well. But most importantly, I hope YOU like it too!

Global Cover Variations

  • Book Cover Image Hagurosan (UK rough draft)
  • Book Cover Image Hagurosan audio (UK)
  • Book Cover Image Hagurosan (UK)
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