Monday, August 30, 2021

Atago Shrine - a Horse and Hanami Story

In Tokyo proper, ie the one with a mere 13 million people (as opposed to Greater Tokyo with its 30 million), there are precisely 2,782 temples (they're tax exempt so yes, there is a known number) providing the services of your local, friendly, neighborhood monks performing a number of historical duties. And if you visit all the nearly 3,000, remember to take your temple book as evidence of your achievements! One, in the center of the Shitamachi district of Tokyo (literally "Downtown") was, in days gone by, situated, at 26m above sea level, upon the summit of the highest ground around, Atago Hill. That is before the elevator was created.

Atago Jinja boasts multiple shrines to various deity though on the whole with a theme of success and good fortune in various aspects of future life. There is, as well, a pond with some of the meanest looking koi I've ever seen as they climb over each other for the food distributed by the tourists. It is also the location of the 86, near vertical (slightly steeper than El Capitan if you see what I mean), "Steps to Success", a flight of stone stairs that led from the street to the summit. And, to woo the good favor of Shogun Iieyesu, were ridden by a samurai, who gained a blossom branch and fame and fortune. 

The illustrations show the intrepid knight riding directly up the stairs, though physics would suggest it must have been sideways or he would have fallen rather inelegantly back to the foot of the stairs. History records the samurai declared he had achieved his life's desire. Strangely however, it doesn't seem to have made a record of what precisely was going through the horses mind as it precariously tiptoed those 45 minutes all the way down again...

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Tokyo - An Olympic Finishing Line?

In 2012, London hosted what can only really be appreciated as a successful Olympics. Yes, I know that's a little tricky to define but let's take it based on a straw pole of the popular vote, the man on the top of the Clapham omnibus was more positive than negative toward the extravaganza. Not sure that can be said in Tokyo of Mrs Watanabe on the Sangenjaya chin chin densha in the midst of a pandemical lockdown. When Ben Johnson was caught cheating he said to his mother in a hotel in Seoul, "mum, no one died". Let's hope Thomas Bach can say the same, come August 24th...

The rings of steel have been in place for the last week or so, to control crowds around the sporting venues, except there aren't any crowds, just empty stadia with canned laughter and annoyed locals who have the inconvenience of long walks in the summer heat to find a way into their apartment when the roads are blocked and locked. Blue Impulse, the aerobatic display team, have rehearsed writing the insignia in the sky, which may or may not come off depending on the weather (side note, the time for rehearsal was not released so as to avoid crowds, no one seemed to consider that for an aerial display, you just look up). And vaccinations have reached an astonishing 15% or so of the population, 85% below the official declarations just a few months earlier.

Japan was first awarded the Olympics in 1940 only to see this one fizzle out after a small invasion of China. '64 was a coming out party and the infrastructure lasted until recent years so let's say that was also a positive. Macron is here to pick up the baton for Paris but the "Olympic Bubble" has popped, teams are abandoning the "Village" and Brisbane has been awarded 2032 after being the sole candidate to contest the bid. So the question has to be raised, if no one is into it anymore, has the Olympics run its course? I cannot recognize the athlete highly enough, their hard work, dedication and sacrifice is unquestionably of heroic proportions. But as an institution, is it time to weave a cocoon and aim for a butterfly reboot one day in a land far, far away? Mrs Watanabe would probably think so...

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

An Olympic Game of Chicken

100 days to go. In 100 days there will be a subdued opening ceremony, no international fans (no discussion about International corporate attendance I've seen to date). Long term residents isolated overseas will watch as some 11,000 athletes (without counting Para-Olympic competitors), coaches, trainers, support staff and (as yet unconfirmed) families of competitors, are waived through the airports of Tokyo. And they won't be too happy to put it mildly.

The country will also watch these visitors from overseas and we're down to 24% support for the entire event as of today. Although the mask culture has been long established and shaking hands the exception, on the ground it is generally seen as a super-spreader event. The one big difference from last year being vaccinations. Except the government has been caught somewhat, flat-footed. Where as Bhutan has managed to inoculate nearly the entire mountain Kingdom, UK is well into it's own program with millions already having had the jab and America, the stumbling giant, has finally woken up and is now running an impressive rearguard action, Japan remains below 100,000 arms with jab wounds. Total, not daily.

The government is now discussing how commensurately complex the logistics are to inoculate a population of 127m. It isn't like they've had over a year to plan for this. One good step forward, yesterday the laws requiring new drugs to be tested on Japanese subjects prior to release (the Pill took over two decades (funnily enough, Viagra required mere months) for approval) were finally suspended. What's good enough for 200 million and counting, can now be applied here too. But the IOC and JOC are playing a tactical game of chicken. It's difficult to know whom will blink first and call it all off. Or maybe it'll be the competing countries who pull the proverbial plug first. The irony being that that would be following the lead of North Korea which pulled out recently due to COVID concerns.

For now however, "Let the Games Begin!". At least until the fat chicken sings...

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Welcome back...

So, a little over a year ago I decided to "park" TenguLife after six years of rambling, though with the plan to be revived at a later date. What had been fun (and interesting for me) to write, was becoming more of an obligation than a hobby. And then we had a pandemic. Japan's constitution doesn't provide for an "actual" lockdown, but the government asked, and the people cooperated. Masks are not obligatory, but everyone wears them. You can sit on a bench, but you're going to be lonely. And my hands have had more alcohol than my mouth in the last year.

Anyway, back to the point. I've enjoyed my year off. Six hundred articles seemed a fairly good place to put the wheel clamps on but now, a year (or so) later, it's time to take the dust covers off, change the oil, and check if the engine still turns over. And, of course, take the wheel clamps off, goes without saying...  Let's get vaccinated and have a hanami party where we can sit and be close enough to walk, talk and laugh again. Welcome back. I've missed you. Hello 2021! A little late, but happy to meet you.