We were landing at Narita, Tokyo’s biggest airport. Waking up, I groggily pulled the shade up and looked down on an almost nighttime landscape wracked with fog. There was something familiar about the way things looked below—perhaps a bit more crowded together and a bit more orderly than the scene from above when landing at an American airport, but the same idea. Simultaneously, the landscape seemed incredibly different and foreign. Disoriented from the eleven-hour flight, I wondered what Japan had in store for me.
Taking the airport bus into Tokyo Station in a light rain, reflected lights glistened outside. I seemed to be passing through endless, grim industrial suburbs broken by occasional gaudily-lit odd sights: a neon yin-yang symbol high up in the night, the Hotel The Baron (looks like a castle), the very decorative Hotel Hibiscus (I assume a love hotel), and the very oddly named Hotel The Bale (I don’t even want to think about what goes on in here).
Wandering Tokyo is an almost unbelievable mixture of past, present and future. It is architecture made manifest, as if Dickensian ghosts of the past and future had collided in arena comprised of one part understated elegance and one part high kitsch. And always people. Lots of them live here.
At Sensoji Temple there were vast throngs of packed people, shown in the photo inhaling smoke supposed to help with health issues (see photo above).
I was drawn to a kind of huge open closet with many marked drawers. It turned out it was a way to learn your fortune. Junya warned me that this temple was supposed to have a high ratio of bad fortunes to good ones, and maybe I should go to a temple with a reputation for better fortunes. But it was too late. I had already dropped my 100 Yen into the box. There was nothing for it but to go on.There was a way to ritually hang the bad fortunes on a nearby tree to hopefully negate the effect if worst came to worst.
First, I shook up a rectangular container containing things that looked like pick-up sticks. Then I pulled my pick-up stick out. It had a number, which was keyed to the numbers on the drawers. Inside the correctly numbered drawer was my fortune.
I drew No.29 Good Fortune: “Everything you worry about and trouble some affairs are almost over. If you do your best, you will be successful in this society and become well-known… Making a trip will be good.”
So, a positive omen!