I love this flower. I love all flowers, but this one, ah, this one comes packaged with
the most wonderful stories. Its scientific name is
Lycoris radiata; in English it's red
spider lily; in Japanese it has several names including higanbana (ヒガンバナ), in other words, autumn equinox flower.
It's also referred to
as manjusaka (曼珠沙華), based on an old Chinese legend about two
elves: Manju guarded the flowers and Saka the leaves, but they could never meet,
because the plant never bears flowers and leaves at the same time. They were
curious about each other, so they defied the gods' instructions and arranged a
meeting. I assume it was not via Twitter. The gods promptly punished them, as
gods are wont to do, and separated them for all eternity.
To this day, the red lily
is associated with loss, longing, abandonment and lost memories in hanakotoba(花言葉), the language of flowers. It's believed that if you meet a person you'll never see again, these flowers
will grow along your…
I have become used to the confusion I cause in Japan, but this week delivered a new highlight. Student: Where are you from? Me: South Africa. Student: Africa? Me: Yes. Student: Is your country very cold? Me: Cold? No! Africa! Why? Student: Because your skin is very pale. Which is the roundaboutest way yet of asking but why aren’t you black if you’re from Africa? Wait. It gets better. This specific student is a university lecturer. One would assume a certain level of knowledge about the world. One would be wrong.
A recent discussion class focused on the lack of nursery schools in Japan, which is often cited as a major reason for Japan's declining birthrate. One man -- a new father -- was particularly vocal about the issue, but he kept confusing infant with infantry.
"Japan's lack of infantry schools is making us weak!" he thundered forth.
I’ve been granted permanent residency in Japan. This morning – 10 years and 11 months after I arrived here with
a work permit, and 5 months and 2 weeks after I'd applied for it – I collected
my permanent residency card at Immigration in Shinagawa. Epic journey halfway around our globe, this, and it's ... ironic? Freudian? immaterial? ... that my trip to Shinagawa included all my petty irritations about my new permanent home. Gobs of spit on the road to the station, a pool of vomit in front of a Korean restaurant, commuter train jam-packed with sniffing men (and I'd like to point out yet again that we're talking about uvula-rattling snot avalanches, not delicate sniffs into lace handkerchiefs). The guy who stopped in front of me at a red light had his finger halfway up his nose. What is it with gold-digging in this country? I waited at the relevant counter at Immigration. There were about 100 people in line. Every hue of black and brown; only two of us melanin-deficient.…
I'm floundering. I
don't know how to start a post about Kanda Myōjin (神田明神), because how do you choose a highlight from
this collection below? The decapitated
head of a rebellious samurai who's still haunting Ōtemachi is buried in the
vicinity, and his deified spirit is enshrined here.It's been called
the world's geekiest shrine thanks to its proximity to otaku heaven Akihabara.
The shrine has a Facebook, Twitter and LINE account.You can see some
extremely generously endowed young ladies on the shrine's ema.It has a horse. A real horse. A tiny living
breathing pony.Birds protect it
See my problem? Where do I start the ultimate guide to the ultimate shrine?
Why Kanda Myōjin? Let's be boring
and kick off with my own connection with Kanda Myōjin, which is very simple: I've always lived within walking
distance of the shrine. My first four years in Tokyo were spent in Kanda,
blissfully close to the book district Jinbōchō, and I frequently passed
I really didn't mean to start the year in an X-rated
fashion, but what's a woman to do when the situation arises unexpectedly? You may recall … Well. You probably don't. This was six
years ago, before the long hiatus, when I went on a few walkpeditions to find
Tokyo's remaining phallic stones. It amused me – still does – that here in the
heart of the city of robots and bullet trains you can still find old gods and
ancient beliefs, hidden behind neon lights and artisan coffee shops. There's a phallic stone in the heart of Ueno Park, and
nobody knows about it. Or rather, very few do, and certainly no tourists. It stands on Shōtenjima (聖天島), a small island next to
Benten-dō in Shinobazu Pond in Ueno Park. It's not easy to see it, though,
because the island is fenced off and in a badly neglected state. If you look at it from behind, it looks like this …
… but it's not what you think it is. It's actually a Jizō figure. That's clear from the other side,
sure I should write about this house, because I suspect the Lonely Planet
hordes haven't discovered it yet, and if there's one thing we have enough of in
Tokyo right now, it's tourists. Let me
reiterate: I have nothing against solitary travelers [hello, self!] or small
groups. I do loathe, with an exponentially growing intensity, tour buses
vomiting forth one obnoxious group after the other. God help the
Former Kusuo Yasuda House and Garden, to give it its full English name, if
those buses ever arrive. The house is
a Japan National Trust for Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation property,
and I'm going to plagiarize / summarize shamelessly from their brochure: "Located
in the quiet Sendagi residential district, the house survived both the 1923
Great Kanto Earthquake and the WWII air-raid bombings. The house was built in
1919 for Yoshisaburo Fujita, a connoisseur of traditional architecture. He sold
the house in 1923 to Zenshiro Yasuda. When the latt…
I kept my cool until I
saw my dentist's second bill. "Are you insane?" I squealed. "Is
this a joke? You expect me to pay this?!"
Never mind teething
problems; I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a bill
for ¥550. That's less than you pay for a telephone call
to your dentist in South Africa, and I'd just been fitted with a brand-new
crown. Japan, I love you.
Here's the story. My dental dilemma
started when a molar that had an old, big filling decided to say sayonara. The
back part of the tooth, which held the filling in place, snapped off. I didn't
experience any pain, but I realized I wouldn't be able to pretend that nothing had
happened. I wanted to do just that, because I'd read so many horror
stories about dentists in Japan. They suck.They're hideously
expensive.You have to go back,
like, seven times for just a filling!
Thus spoke colleagues,
discussions boards and comments sections. I consulted my best