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“Frogscript • Frogs”
by Evette Kwok
One morning at around half-past ten I made my way to the little railway station at Takachiho and, after buying a ticket for a train not due to depart till after 11 o’clock — so having a little extra time up my sleeve — I set off at once in the direction of the platform to search for tiny Japanese tree-frogs of the most gorgeous green.
One of my elder sisters had visited here only a few days earlier and, using WhatsApp, had sent me a photo of a frog with a note saying that she had seen large numbers of them while waiting for the little train. She insisted I go and look for them myself!
As I recall, before I went to work at Kadoorie Farm, my knowledge of frogs was limited in the extreme. We were always eating tin kai (“field chickens”, a common kind of frog) and, when I was a child, we had to eat up whatever we were given. In actual fact, I had never seen a living tin kai frog — all I knew was that they have plenty of meat on their back legs. Later, when I took on the job of environmental education at Kadoorie, my very first assignment involved frogs: that year, it just happened to be the International Year of the Frog and many organizations were involved in educating people about these creatures as well as trying to protect them.
Kadoorie Farm was no exception, and an expert on amphibians working there had been asked to run a workshop on frog education for teachers. Apart from enriching my knowledge of these very inconspicuous animals, another benefit of the workshop was to take part in my very first nocturnal frog-hunt! In one night, I saw quite a number of different species and I came to understand that the same frog can adopt different habits in different habitats and that, apart from helping humankind by eating gnats and mosquitos, they had a significant influence on the ecological balance. This was a real eye-opener, and I decided from that day onwards never to eat another tin kai again!
Now, with my train ticket in my hand and a heart bursting with expectations, I made straight for the platform. This railway station, which had once connected Takachiho to various other places in Japan, was now used by a little sight-seeing train. When I saw local Japanese tourists having their picture taken with their children on the railway track as a momento of the occasion, I walked over to them eagerly.
Opposite the station there was a wide expanse of paddy fields and as I walked slowly through them, I glimpsed something hopping aside at my feet. Just a common grasshopper, that was my first impression. When I took a closer look, however, I realized my mistake: the shape was quite different. It was actually a tiny frog no bigger the size of the tip of a finger and brown-coloured. I was delighted by my discovery and continued on my way, making as little noise as possible. As I went on, at every step, one tiny frog after another jumped aside as I passed. What a fascinating scene it was!
By this time, I was well and truly on the look out for small green tree-frogs and — because Heaven really does help those who help themselves — I finally got to see a small Japanese tree-frog and, what’s more, it had appeared on a blue wooden bench. The big suction cups on the its feet gripped it tightly: it was as if it knew I wanted to take a picture of it and so obliged by sitting as still as possible so that I could admire it and click away at my leisure. Thank you, Little Frog!
There is another pleasure in hunting for frogs: once you’ve seen the first one, you usually end up seeing a second, and then a third without much difficulty! By the time we had hunted them out, looked at them, and photographed them to our heart’s content, there was still time to get back to catch our little train.
Translated by Simon Patton