Meeting a water rat while painting Kitsuki estuary

Watercolor painting of the estuary by Kitsuki castle
“Estuary by Kitsuki castle”

Today was “Marine Day”. It’s called “umi-no-hi” in Japanese and it’s a national holiday. 

And we, the family, even went to the beach and it was wonderful.

But before we came to the beach we stopped the car on route and the family had a sleeping break. While they slept I got out of the car and did a painting.

We had parked next to an estuary in a small Japanese town called Kitsuki. I have painted this estuary a few times. To get a view of the estuary I had to climb over a fairly high sea wall. But when I did I found a very nice scene to paint.

When the tide is low you can see a lot of sandbanks and fishing boats which makes for a more interesting scene. But the tide was high and there was only one sandbank. It was an enormous sandbank. And there was only one fishing boat so it was a bit of an empty looking scene.

It was while I was painting this picture, and enduring the smell of rotting fish or worse, that a rat (in Japanese they might say “dobunezumi” which I think means water or gutter rat) suddenly appeared and it was running directly towards me. 

It was ridiculous, but I was suddenly gripped by fears of being bitten and catching the Bubonic plague as this seemingly mad rat looked like it was charging at me with the intention to bite me. I am a city person and have no idea about the nature of rats.

I was also thinking that I might be the first person to ever get the Bubonic plague in Japan, who knows?

But my sudden movement as I rose, startled it and it did a ninety degree turn and went towards the sea. It came to the 2 meter high edge of the sea wall and did a bold leap off, went far through the air and ended the feat with a clean dive into the water. Then it swam (I think about as fast as I can) under the water. Then it came up to the surface near some rocks and started exploring around there. 

Later it came back and ran past me without much fear. I think it realized that I wasn’t anything to worry about.

Despite an aversion to rats it moved with such beauty and speed that it was a mesmerizing delight to watch and it could even swim wonderfully well. In fact, it was kind of cute.

However, to return to the point, which is the painting.

I was lucky that there was a fishing boat present as this became the focal point for the whole painting.

I am, though, a little disappointed with the sea. It was a hot day and when I painted the sea it dried quicker than I expected. Luckily, I managed to salvage it with some dry brush strokes. 

I should add that the building in the middle of the picture and on top of the hill is a Kitsuki castle. The position of this castle within the landscape is perfect and I’m sure that even John Ruskin would have enjoyed the sight of it.

Here is another painting of this estuary. It has no story to go with it, so by putting it here it feels like giving a stray dog a home.

Watercolor painting of a fishing boat in Kitsuki estuary
“Fishing boat in Kitsuki estuary”

And here is one more painting that is around this area. I am very happy with this one but it also has no story to go with it. 

Watercolor painting of a beach in Kitsuki
“Beach in Kitsuki”

I have so many stray paintings. I wish that I’d learned to write about my painting adventures more and to have not been completely obsessed with just the painting. But it is what it is and I’ll make the best of what it is.

You can read part two of this trip to Kitsuki here.



This story was originally written in July of 2014. I’m editing it in 2022. 

I probably shouldn’t have done it but I threw away the original painting that I talk about in this story. 

That is why you are getting the rather poor image above that is a blown up copy from the small image I found on my computer. 

Every artist has to throw away some paintings otherwise it becomes overwhelming. I threw away about half of my paintings. 

And, to be honest, I wasn’t very happy with this painting. 

But after reading this story I wish that I’d kept it for the sake of the story. Alas.