He-y, Come On Ou-t!

by Shinichi Hoshi

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In "He-y, Come On Ou-t," why do the villagers tell the young man not to throw the pebble into the hole?

The villagers tell the young man not to throw the pebble into the hole because he might bring a curse down on them. Despite an old man warning him of a potential calamity, the young man throws it in anyway. The villagers knows that a shrine—which was swept away by a landslide—had occupied the ground around or even over the hole. They suspect that his act could be sacrilegious.

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The short story “He-y, Come on Ou-t” describes how Japanese villagers toss garbage, toxic chemical waste, incriminating evidence, and more into a seemingly bottomless hole, all in the name of money and convenience. Their cavalier attitude is punished eventually.

At the beginning of the tale, a typhoon causes much damage to the village, starting a landslide that sweeps away a shrine. While debating where to rebuild the shrine, people notice a large hole that mysteriously opened nearby:

Where they had all gathered there was a hole about a meter in diameter. They peered in, but it was so dark nothing could be seen. However, it gave one the feeling that it was so deep it went clear through to the center of the earth.

No one knows where the hole came from or its purpose. A young man surmises that it is a fox hole and calls down into it, “He-y, come on ou-t!” Much to everyone’s surprise, the man’s holler results in no echo. Puzzled, he and others around him wonder just how deep the hole is and if it has a bottom. So the young man picks up a pebble to throw into the hole when he hears,

"You might bring down a curse on us. Lay off," warned an old man, but the younger one energetically threw the pebble in. As before, however, there was no answering response from the bottom.

Because that specific place might be where the shrine was located before the typhoon, the hole itself may have religious significance. The hole should be treated with respect; tossing a rock into it may constitute a sacrilegious act. The old man warns, as he tries to stop the young man, that this act may be blasphemous and bring a curse onto the villagers.

At the end of the story, the villagers indeed are cursed, as the young man’s shout and the pebble later fall out of the sky, foreshadowing the return of the discarded, unwanted objects and trash. Everything the litterbug villagers tossed into the hole will ultimately rain onto their heads.

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