There was a cat on the stairs leading to the cemetery.
As I glanced at it, the cat held my gaze.
It walked in front of me as if to say, "This way, please."
The cat bounded along with ease as I strained to keep up.
It would have been hard to spot the tombstone I was looking for in such a large cemetery, but by following the cat, I managed to reach it without getting lost.
This slightly peculiar bit of serendipity brought me to Wasaka-hime's grave.
Stories describe her as "Japan's first international bride."
Her father was Yaita Kinbei, who was the first to successfully manufacture matchlocks in Japan.
At the time, Yaita was working day and night trying to build matchlocks, but was unable to figure out how to make the "screw" for the bisen bolt in the barrel of the firearm.
Seeing her father struggling, Yaita's daughter made a bold decision.
To help her father, she would marry a Portuguese man and leave for a far-off country.
There, she would learn how the screw was made and bring the knowledge back to Japan.
If it were not for her marriage, work on completing the matchlocks would have stalled and the history of Japan's Warring States Period may have turned out very differently.
Tanegashima was home to a woman who greatly influenced the course of history.
She took on a mission to go alone to a foreign country in a foreign land and research technology.
I wondered, "What if that were me..." and realized that I could not do what she had done.
She was a wonderful and strong woman who lived not for herself, but for her father.
Perhaps the cat had wanted me to know this about Wakasa-hime and that is why it led me to her.
Encounters come hand in hand with travel, but some of those encounters are with people from long ago.