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Road Map (also titled Map Town) is a short story by Junji Ito. It is the third chapter from The Town Without Streets, volume eleven of the Horror World of Junji Ito collection.

Summary

Newlyweds Miki and Hiroshi arrive in Shirube, a small town with a confusing array of road maps and street signs everywhere. Hiroshi doesn't understand why, but Miki figures the maps must be for tourists. She wants to stay in Shirube overnight and suggests they go to a nearby inn, but she walks back towards the station in the direction that she just came from, despite a sign clearly indicating where the inn is. Hiroshi teases her apparent forgetfulness, bragging that he never forgets the way to any place after he visits it once.

As the newlyweds start trying to figure out the maps, they are interrupted by an old man. He shows them that some of the maps have been defaced by vandals, so he was completely unable to find his way home. He asks Miki and Hiroshi to help him find his house. Hiroshi thinks the old man is senile but, against his own better judgment, agrees to go. The couple stay for dinner with the man and his wife, and explain that they're on honeymoon and came to Shirube because it was the only vacation they could afford. When they ask about the maps, the man explains that everybody in Shirube somehow loses their sense of direction. It's believed to be the result of spirits that live in the forest. Many people in the town have fallen victim to "kamikakushi" - a phenomenon where someone is spirited away by an angry god. As a result, the local people are terrified of getting lost, and are upset that visitors to the town have been defacing the maps. The man hints that a treasure can be found in Shirube, but his wife orders him to be quiet before he can say any more.

As Miki and Hiroshi leave, Hiroshi laughs at the old man's stories, saying that he and Miki were silly to ever believe it. To their surprise, they see that one of the maps is marked with an X and the word "Treasure"; despite Hiroshi's doubts, Miki insists they look for it. Because they had to elope, they are dreadfully poor and she is saddened that they couldn't afford a better honeymoon; if there really is a treasure, it could change her and Hiroshi's lives forever. Despite Hiroshi's objections, they go out into the woods to search for the treasure; amazingly, they soon unearth a clay jar full of ancient gold coins. Hiroshi determines that the coins are real, so they hide the jar in their luggage and go to the inn.

However, the townspeople discover that the treasure has been unearthed, and it doesn't take them long to figure out that Miki and Hiroshi have stolen it. They surround the inn where the couple are staying, planning to kill them. Miki and Hiroshi flee for the station, but find that the townspeople are ahead of them. Hiroshi mocks them for being afraid of kamikakushi, and he and Miki destroy the maps and road signs so that the mob cannot find them. The two try to escape, but soon realize that they are going round in circles and can't find their way. Miki begins to worry, but Hiroshi insists nothing's wrong and his sense of direction will get them out of this. He yells at her to shut up and stop worrying. When he looks back, she's not with him any more, even though he just heard her voice. Miki is gone (ostensibly a victim of kamikakushi) while Hiroshi becomes the latest "resident" of Shirube.

Trivia

  • Shirube means "guide" in Japanese.