One of the things I’ve mentioned to people that I found most different about Japan is the lack of Christianity. It’s there, but it’s sparse and not that noticeable. I grew up in a town of 17,000 people and we had six churches, all with tall steeples, taller than most of the surrounding area. They were visible everywhere. It was fascinating to be someplace where Westernized religion isn’t really a thing at all. The Moomins and I went to heaps of temples and shrines. They are are tucked into every nook and cranny. I got very attached to them.
I looked up the swastika thing and I learned a bunch. Thank you internet! I learned that the word “swastika” is Sanskrit for “it is good.” It is used in Buddhism to invoke Lakshmi ( the Vedic goddess of wealth, prosperity and auspiciousness). And it’s called a tetra-gammadion in Greek, which I think is a super-cool name. It was even used as a good-luck symbol in Western cultures until the Nazis had to go SCREW IT UP and now it’s banned in Germany. Butt-weasels, taking a nice symmetrical symbol for happy stuff and ruining it. Back to shrines. The Moomins and I stayed in a hotel right next to the extremely old Sanjo shopping arcade. Here’s one of the storefronts in it.
See? Old. It was a wonderful covered arcade with an adorable mascot. I think it’s a baby chicken wearing a traditional headdress. Can’t be sure, though.
In the arcade was a beautiful shrine tucked away between two storefronts. It appears to be the place to leave your thousand folded origami cranes (called senbazuru).
I walked past the shrine one night after some rain. It looked extra-beautiful.
Get ready to get really bummed out: do you see those red bibs on the statues in the shrine itself? Later on I finally found out what they meant. In Buddhism after you die you go back to Buddha and heaven. But if you’re a baby or a small child, you do not know the path back to Buddha, so mothers who have lost an infant or child sew these red bibs and put them on statues of Buddha so the child can see their way to salvation. And they’re on so many statues. It’s so sad. Predominantly they’re on a cheerful-looking childlike monk statue named Ojizo-san.
But really, they’re on anything in a shrine/temple.
Look at these ones that are bleached by the sun. That sound was my heart getting a little splintered.
The shopping arcade was the home of the finest piece of Engrish I saw on my trip.
In case you can’t read it, I will type it out for you.
We love city
and the nature and.!
the fashion shop
for city people
who are full of curiosity.
The variety of
make our daily
new “Doki Doki
in fashion for people
who live in
an urban city to enjoy
their city lives
and nature around.
There was the pig statue (once again, making the assumption it’s a pig, not quite sure):
And several pachinko parlors. I did not go into a pachinko parlor because I don’t much care for gambling, but I passed many on my trip. Most of them had no name, just an enormous sign that said “Pachinko!!!” or “Slots!!!!”, but some of them did have names, and I wondered what the criteria was for picking those names. There was this one:
“It’s an important part of your diet!!!” and this place which was in the arcade:
This is a good time to talk about “Let’s.” The Japanese use a ton of “Let’s.” “Let’s go to Ota City!” “Let’s fold origami!” I found this stellar example online.
The Japanese use it a great deal and for some reason it irks me to no end. I found myself saying, “LET’S NOT” through gritted teeth at inanimate signs.
In the arcade was something I thought was super-racist.
“What the hey??? Bowing mannequins??? SERIOUSLY??? Oh, we’re in Japan. You know, where lots of people bow. It’s pertinent to their lives. I should take it down a notch maybe.”
Additional things in the arcade: a dentist’s office with a charming sign.
Look, the dentist got flowers with ragged edges, I believe, to resemble teeth! How delightful.
A variety of nicety shops. The word “niceties” in my family mean little, usually useless things that exist solely for prettying up the place. My grandmother had small handpainted porcelain flowers she kept on her bureau. Perfect example. There are a million nicety shops in Japan everywhere you look, and you have to go into as many as possible because their tiny horse figurine might be different from everybody else’s tiny horse figurine. In the arcade I found one shop selling this little guy. The teruterubouzu. The blue-to-white mound with the two wee froglets under a leaf and a weather ghost.
Until Snorth said the word about four times to me, I called it a Teterboro. Because I am lazy.
At the intersection of two of the branches of the arcade was one of the greatest things ever. An enormous 3D crabitorium sign.
I bet you’re saying, “The only thing that could make this better is if it moved.” Well, it did! Merry Christmas, kids! Mommy made an animated gif for you!
In a dedicated covered area was the Nishiki Market, a food market that originally started with one fish seller in 1310, but is now a whole long alley of all kinds of food stalls. It was lovely. Go to Google Image Search, type in “Nishiki Market” and tell me your mouth doesn’t start watering from the sheer variety of textures and colors. It’s good stuff.
I loved the signage.
There was tiny gray shrimp with different flavors:
Terrifying whole fish with death-chompers:
A whole lot of grilled eel:
All the seaweed a girl could want:
And most importantly, these.
The Moomins had one and said it was extremely tasty. First she ate off all the legs and then she popped the head in her mouth and the quail egg added flavor happened and it was yummy.
Next, a temple fair in the pouring rain.