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Showing posts from January, 2014

A tiny Jizō shrine protects Tokyo Sky Tree

It's partly pride, mostly stubbornness … but I'm writing a short story to increase my January post count from four to five. Four posts. One per week. Have you ever?!
OK. Right. So then.
Sky Tree, a triumph of technology, a miracle of modern engineering, a symbol of all that is logical, rational and mathematical. Science rules.
If all of that were true, then what, pray tell, would this be doing in its foundation?

Bet you didn't know about this: a tiny Jizō shrine built into the very foundation of the world's tallest tower, hidden in a side street where few tourists venture.
Jizō. Most beloved of Japan's deities; protector of women, children and travelers; tender, tolerant, infinitely forgiving. I cannot think of a better god to protect the mighty, yet oh-so-vulnerable Tokyo Sky Tree.
The original Jizō that stood here was discovered in 1964 in a freight car filled with sand and stones that originally came from who-knows-where. The statue was enshrined at Narihirabash…

The warrior goddess of Ameyoko

There's this thing called real life, which is sometimes more demanding than the virtual version, and I've never been good at multi-tasking. Does that explain my recent disappearance?
The best thing that can be said about January is that I've achieved a new record, and never mind that it's a new record low: only four posts in one month.
Last week the emperor of Twitter, Alexander Shiroki, very politely prodded me: "Morning, Ru! Haven't seen your blog posts for a while ..." Whereupon I solemnly promised that I would write a post just for him, so here it is.

Alex, it's not the post I wanted to write, which would've been titled "So you thought you knew everything about Sensō-ji? Ha! You ain't got a clue!" That one will be written, or rather is already being drafted, but it's going to be one of my multi-generational War and Peace sagas, which means I've chosen a shorter option.
It's still damn interesting, though, methinks.
You …

Temples where women can pray for beauty

"A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness." – John Keats,Endymion
That’s one of the most famous quotes about this topic, though I – in possession of more brains than beauty and long past the age when youth serves as a consolation prize  – prefer this one:
"You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen, but if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing." – Marie Stopes
Beauty. We all want it for ourselves; we all enjoy being in its presence. Here in Japan a woman's physical appearance seems to be unusually important, based on the hours and staggering amounts of yen that women spend at "aesthetic salons" and on skincare, cosmetics and fashion. (I know only one Japanese woman who never wears makeup, and that's a friend who's a professor in anthropology.) Women want to be beautiful, and if the ¥200 000 they blew on Révive Peau Magnifique's vials didn't deliver what…

Tokyo's riskiest neighbourhoods

Tokyo is the world's safest city, based on the opinion of international travellers. It's also the world's most vulnerable city when it comes to natural disasters, according to insurance companies. Safe people; dangerous earth. That's my city.
Tokyo's schizophrenic personality might be a strange topic for a new year's first post, but on the other hand, we might as well remain aware of the nature of the beast.
Not all neighbourhoods are equally unsafe, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has done extensive surveys to determine the riskiest areas. I was surprised by the results: counter to my intuition, not all of them are in the low-lying, prone-to-flooding eastern districts.

Three risks have been identified: fire, building collapse and overall risk (which includes flooding and difficulty of access for emergency vehicles due to narrow roads). The government's report mentions the following areas:
Building collapse will be worst in alluvial lowlands where the s…