One of the last writers of the Buraiha, or decadent school of postwar Japanese literature, decided to take a long sojourn on the western edge of Europe just before he turned 60.
Kazuo Dan lived in Santa Cruz, a fishing village in Portugal, for 16 months, writing "Kataku no Hito" ("House on Fire") there. Some locals still remember him fondly.
It took about an hour and a half to get there from Lisbon, including transferring between bus lines. The small village, which had a population of only 2,000 in Dan's day, has grown into a popular resort town packed with beachgoers.
But the white beach where Dan used to take walks with his puppy has changed very little. The earth-toned roof tiles look vibrant under the bright sunlight of the southern coast.
Dan came to this village in 1970 when he was 58, looking for a place to live where he could "have a conversation with heaven and earth." He returned to Japan in 1972 and spent his last years in Nokonoshima Island in Fukuoka.
At the Imperial cafe near the beach, Theresa Reis Antunes, a 62-year-old woman, remembered the day when a strange Japanese man stopped by. "He was the first Japanese I'd ever met. He told me he was looking for a house to live in."
Dan settled in a now-vacant white house on a hill about three minutes away. He went to the cafe every day and would sometimes write for hours at a table with a cotton tablecloth.
One of the menu items was a plate of braised octopus and potatoes. Now known as "Octopus a
Dan's interpreter was Ana Bela Rosa Gvilherme, now 60 and works at a pharmacy. A high school student at the time, she taught him Portuguese.
"I got the job because few people in the village went to high school back in those days. We communicated through gestures and English," she said with a smile.
Because he appeared on the beach road in a suit every Sunday, local residents called him "professor."
Dan sometimes invited locals to his house and served fish he had prepared, including sea bass and bream.
He always chose wine produced in Dao, a region northeast of Santa Cruz, whose name was pronounced just like his own. When I sampled it, it had a thick, rustic taste.
He died four years after he left the village. when many reporters came from Japan, the residents learned for the first time that he had been a famous writer. Dan's major works are "Ritsuko, Sono Ai" ("Ritsuko, an extraordinary love"), based on his first wife, and the posthumously published work "House on Fire," the story of a free-spirited writer.
"He was just a gentle, large-hearted man that everybody loved," said his former interpreter, shedding a tear. "When he was happy, he clapped his hands, as if to say, 'Yes, that's right!' I'll never forget his smile."
On her bookshelf, she has Dan's cookbook, which he inscribed to her on the back cover. The corners of the book are worn, hinting that she has repeatedly opened the book in the past 40 years.
After Dan's death, the street he lived on was renamed Professor Kazuo Dan Street.
In 1992, his Japanese and Portuguese friends erected a stone monument with one of his poems inscribed on it: "Rakujitsu o hiroi ni ikan umi no hate" ("Going to the end of the ocean to capture the setting sun").
After returning from Portugal, Dan wrote in an essay that he missed the old days when he faced the setting sun, which appeared to vibrate as he shouted, "Give it back to me, give it back to me!"
The stone monument stands quietly, facing the Atlantic Ocean.