Running Ronin

Asakusa Walk, Sendai Students and Michael Lewis


Asakusa and its Senso-Ji are a typical tourist destination in Tokyo that gives both Japanese and foreigners the chance to see some great temples and to shop around the market.

This time around a host of Sendai students were on a school trip. Many of them, almost in turn repeatedly interviewed me and the colleague I was with asking the same questions. "Where are you from? Do you like Japan?" They would then take notes, thanks us and some times ask us to pose for a photo with them.  All this accompanied by a series of giggles of other students who looked at the events in the sideline.

In was nice to see Sendai students in good spirits and having fun, especially after the terrible earthquake of 2011. As I walked around, I was cued to remembering an old article, also cause I had been listening to one of my favorite authors on Audiobook: Michael Lewis (book is "Boomerang", btw). After the quake, I read an article on Vanity Fair that had him predict how there most certainly would be another massive quake in Japan. The article was written like in 1989 and also criticized the fact that Japan had relaxed a lot of its severe building codes.

We all know how Japan reacted to its recent massive earthquake, but in Michael Lewis's words, what is disconcerting is his thoughts on how other areas of the world would react to such an event:
Vanity Fair: In what ways are the Japanese prepared to deal with this catastrophe compared with, say, Californians and the Irish?
Michael Lewis: Don’t know, of course. But I’d bet the big difference would be in the political fallout. The Japanese put up with an amazing lack of honesty from their politicians, and an amazing lack of attention to their personal care and comfort. The sheer level of hysteria would be much higher if this happened anyplace else, but especially if it happened in California. The shrieks from my neighborhood in Berkeley alone would drown out the sound of any tsunami. An earthquake in Ireland, if it could be arranged that it knocked down the empty buildings without harming the people, might actually be useful.
I was in Tokyo a few months after the earthquake, and all seemed back to normal. The only difference was a more attentive use of energy and lights being turned off for longer hours in Shibuya square. At one dinner a friend pointed out that if I had been Tokyo for a day, I was due with some sort of aftershook. As he finished the sentence, the Sake in my cup started showing rings and the whole restaurant started trembling. It was the first of a variety of aftershocks I would feel while visiting Japan four times for work, from May 2011 to December 2011. None of them seemed to faze any of the Japanese.


Walking towards the central fair of Asakusa.
My colleague as he is interviewed by a student from Sendai.

Workers look over plans and documents and discuss as heatedly as a polite Japanese can.


View from under the Senso-Ji
Shadow of your's truly - sun was blasting so much I had to wear my tuca.
We then proceeded to the Hondo where we bought some incense for 100 yen. We lighted it and placed it in a brazier where we then proceeded to shower ourselves with the fumes. My understanding is that this is done for good health.

Something some people can find disconcerting, is that the incense is covered with paper showing a swastika. First time I saw the symbol it had me raising an eyebrow too, but - to be clear - at the Asakusa Hondo you are not proceeding to shower yourself with "Nazi smoke". 
The symbol is actually not a swastika - a quick internet search reveals (thanks Sara-Kun):

This is called a manji. It has different meanings depending on the direction that it faces. This is a Buddhist symbol and represents Dharma or balance. It can mean love and mercy or strength and intelligence. 
When you see it on a map it usually represents a temple. It is often referenced in the key on the map as such. 
It not have the same stigma in Japan as it does in the west. 

Unfortunately the effing Nazis seemed to have stolen and ruined many symbols around the world. As an Italian I can think of a lot of the ancient Roman symbols, for instance. 

Buy some incense for 100 Yen and plant it into this brazier. Then shower with the fumes for good health.



By far, ma favorite statue in Asakusa and possibly in Tokyo.
I expect our friends from Sendai got to visit Tokyo Disneyland.
A girl modeling for a "Ice Cream Burger" ad.
Directions: "No hold it more like this..."
"aaaa"


A rickshaw driver teaching another junior one how to maneuver his rickshaw.



A typical metro sight: "zzz" - only in Japan I feel secure enough to sleep on the metro.

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