The Onion Spirit's Shine on Route 148 doesn't get many visitors these days. The steep stone steps which lead towards the modest shrine are now covered with moss and fallen branches. A small hole protrudes through the shrine's thatched roof, and years of rain and snow have caused the tatami underneath the hole to rot.
"Oh, how I sure would like a new roof for my shine," the spirit often thought. "Whatever happened to my priest and his lineage who was supposed to look after me?"
The priest and his young granddaughter, who acted as a shrine maiden, would visit the Onion Spirit weekly. The two would tend to the shrine's needs and take home the modest offerings farmers, and travelers would leave behind in exchange for the spirit's blessing. The pair lived in a small village at the foot of a large hill, and the onion spirit's shrine was on top of the hill. The shrine had been there since the shine maiden's grandfather was a little boy. It was his father who built the shrine after their village survived on nothing but onions while a famine swept the country. This was all, of course, before the war. Before, the priest died soon after losing his son on some spit of land in the South Pacific. Before the shrine maiden moved to the city with her husband after the war.
"I was raised to be a shine maiden for an onion spirit," she told her grandchildren one day, "I don't even like onions. I prefer subways and rock and roll."
The Onion Spirit always had a lot on his mind. When he tired of worrying about the hole in the shine's roof, he would think back to better times. Before Route 148 was built, farmers and the priest's family would travel all day to honor him. Bringing him gifts of money, fruit, and even sake. Thanking them for their devotion, the Onion Spirit would do his part to fulfill whatever his patrons desired. Juicier onions, a better harvest, no matter what they prayed for, the Onion Spirit would do what he could to make it happen. Tired after their long journey, many Onion Shrine pilgrims would spend the night sleeping under the tall oak trees near the small red gate at the entrance to his shrine. Knowing mortal men and women were sleeping peacefully near him made the Onion Spirit feel contempt.
"Did I not help the farmers enough," wondered the Onion Spirit. "What did I do to deserve the fate of being a forgotten spirit?"
When the government acquired the funding to build Route 148, the Onion Spirit was thrilled. The equipment's noise first bothered him, but when he felt a construction worker take a break on the stone steps, the Onion Spirit felt rejuvenated.
"Hey, you there? Get back to work," shouted the foreman. "We're not paying you to farm; you're here to build."
Watching the construction workers grade and pave Route 148 reminded the Onion Spirit of the first priest. The priest built the shrine and gathered the nearby townfolk to make the stone steps. The stone came from miles away, and the Onion Spirit enjoyed watching the villagers work hard and sing songs in the summer sun. Once they finished their hard work, the villagers held a feast at the shrine, and every dish had onions. Fried onions, grilled onions, onions with fish, and onions with rice. They danced and sang all night long. When it was all over, the Onion Spirit was so joyful that the villagers had more onions than the seeds they planted.
"With a paved road in front of my shine gate, I'll get more visitors, and maybe a new priest will take care of my shrine."
But the completion of Route 148 brought nothing but a headache for the Onion Spirit. Now, everyone traveled in cars, and their loud engines kept the Onion Spirit up at night. Provincial leaders also posted a sign near the shrine gate telling travelers camping overnight was strictly prohibited.
"Onions," said one broke-down motorist, "They haven't grown onions in these parts for years."
"Look at this old staircase," proclaimed a truck driver on his lunch break. "If I climb up there, I will surely take a tumble."
Time continued to pass the shine like an express train. The Onion Spirit forgot the last time a traveler or farmer hoping for a good harvest prayed and left him an offering. The leaking roof now caved in, and the rotten tatami was all but gone. Taken apart piece by piece by mice and raccoons for who knows what. A drunk driver crashed into the gate at the foot of the step smashing one of the posts in two. The next day, city crews hauled the broken gate away. Then, one spring afternoon, the Onion Spirit heard the familiar sound of a car being turned off not far from his steps. A guest, perhaps, or was it just another lost motorist pulling over to look at a map? But just then, the Onion Spirit felt something he hadn't felt in a long time, feet trudging up his old stone steps.
"Someone is coming; someone is finally coming," The Onion Spirit shouted with glee, "Please, please come in. I'm so sorry about the mess. Oh, do be careful on your way up. Those steps can be tricky." As the footsteps got louder and louder, the Onion Spirit could hear not just one person but three, all coming up to greet him.
"I bet they're all from the priest's lineage here to take care of me," said the Onion Spirit, full of joy.
"I hope they brought a new roof for me and a new tatami. I will be sure to bless them with all I have. They will have the best-tasting onions in all of Japan once I'm through with them."
But once the trio reached the top of the stone steps, The onion spirit was in disbelief. It was people he'd never seen the likes of before.
"This place has seen better days," said one tourist after taking a selfie." "Tell me about it," said another as they wiped the sweat from their brow. "That shrine fatigue is really starting to kick in. Once you've seen one, you've seen them all." The third tourist didn't say a word. He just took in the view from the top and walked back down, trampling over an onion stalk on their way out.