Sunday, January 04, 2015


My last full day in Japan started at Mitaka no Mori, the no-photography-allowed museum dedicated to the worlds of Studio Ghibli animation: charming, more than I expected. I've grown a little tired of their movies - all the best ideas were there in the immortal "Nausicäa" and "Totoro" - but it was still fun to be taken back to recreated studios where the lush backgrounds were painted, characters sketched and painted like Hinterglasmalerei. After that I went to see my friend O again, and we went (with his daughter, too) to Sugamo, where the streets around an old shrine are known as the Ginza of the Old. Indeed, we were definitely among the youngest there! The walk there and back to their place near Rikugien showed up more interesting instances of Japanese religion as lived.
At Sugamo Jinja, a few people throw a coin in the shrine itself, but throngs were lined up on either side, one group to get a fortune...
the other to pour water over a Kannon statue (known, indeed as a water-pouring Kannon, mizuaraikannon 水洗い観音).
Just next to it was a cluster of red-bibbed Jizo figures for whom people were leaving dango, roasted rice balls on sticks - though my friend and his daughter deemed this practice mottainai, a waste and a shame.
On the other hand we had a ball with the large softball-like stuffed blob called Sugamo no oshiri, "Sugamo's backside." A photo on the wall suggested this was the hind part of a larger snoopy-like figure but all we had was the blob, which one was to stroke. Why? O's guess - nobody had a better one - was that it might provoke un, the word for poop but also a homonym for good luck: New Year's in Japan is all about such puns!
On the way back to their place we passed the enormous Greek-columned headquarters of a new religion, which has impressive bronze doors recording a world history of revelations (culminating here).
Near their place, a recently built alcove to a new Jizo statue. It's there in memory of a college student killed in a traffic accident; apparently his mother succumbed to grief, too, dying on the anniversary of his death. The Jizo was put up, O though, by the father, sole survivor. 
And then, from their roof, an incredibly-near seeming Fuji on the western horizon, and a just-shy-of full moon in the clear eastern sky. A lovely way to spend my last day.

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