Quick factoid: Okinawa is the indigenous home of Ovophis okinavensis, the most venomous pit viper species in all of Japan. Here in the islands, the scaly critter is typically known as plain old “habu,” the Japanese word for venomous snake. Warnings against encountering the dangerous creature had me nervous before arriving in Okinawa; however, since coming here my fears have dwindled significantly. Though I’ve heard the occasional story of habu sightings, they’re more a rarity than the norm (ask locals and you’ll probably find that many have never seen one out in the wild their entire lives). Apart from through clear jars of habushu being pawned off to tourists on Kokusai-dori and behind the safety of glass compartments at the local zoo, in my short time here I have never seen one out and about myself.
Until yesterday, that is.
I was driving Alana and myself home from Tahitian practice last night, through the hills of Shuri. I had just made a sharp left turn onto a dark street lit only by the lights of my car and the few others on the road. I don’t remember exactly what we were saying at that point… I know we had just finished a random conversation on karma and Alana’s belief that “everything happens for a reason.” I think Alana was saying something when my headlights caught onto something on the road no more than 5 meters ahead of us. It was long, fat, wavy, and moving.
Wait, I take that back. Not just moving. Slithering.
It was a freaking habu.
It’s funny because in the first second that I spotted it, I think my mind just went, “Oh, snake.” But the next second, when it was literally less than a couple of meters away (thank God we had the windows up) it was like, “HOLY SHIT SNAKE!“. And I shrieked. And Alana saw it and shrieked. And I swerved. And then it was behind us. And I looked in the rearview mirror just to make sure I hadn’t gone batshit, and I saw the car behind me swerve to avoid hitting it as well. And Alana and I looked at each other with a mix of terror and bewilderment on our faces. Like, dude… we just saw a fuckin’ habu!!!
In light of what we were talking about right before this happened, I couldn’t help but wonder… if everything happens for a reason, then what was the reason for seeing this habu? Might I add that this is the first snake I’ve seen in the wild ever. And might I also add that in the other few instances in which people have told me they’ve seen habu, it was also while driving at night, on the road, except the reptile was already dead (and/or beheaded). Are we thus somehow granted good luck for the rest of the year by having been lucky enough to catch sight of a genki, slithery habu before its inevitable pulverization by a Speedy Gonzales? Or does it mean nothing more than the fact that this snake was stupid enough (or perhaps just unlucky) to find itself in the middle of an active traffic artery?
I do not know the answer, nor am I by any stretch of the imagination a religious or superstitious person. However, this morning I did find out that I got the room in the LA apartment that I was really, really hoping for. Perhaps it is just coincidence, or perhaps, just this once, I’ll allow myself to be a believer. Habu-san, though you freaked me out beyond belief last night… if this is your doing, then I owe you a BIG arigatou gozaimashita!