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Sotoba behind Tochoji
Not giant popsicle sticks, no.


I needed to pick something up from the office. I think this was the first time I had been to the office in a month? Two? And I haven't been back since.

This temple has always caught my eye, because it seems so modern. One of the nice things about this project is that it's really gotten me to slow down and have a proper look at some of the things I'm passing by. I don't have the patience to walk everywhere a lá Craig Mod, but I've paused along my usual routes and finally poked my head into some of the interesting places along the way.

The temple is actually more modern than I thought. There is a weird tower across the street, which I would not have imagined was related. But apparently it's a meditation hall. I don't even have a picture of it, because I had no idea there was a connection.

I love walking through graveyards. On a windy day the wooden markers (sotoba) clack and rattle against each other. Aoyama-reien is a favorite of mine. There's always another corner to explore there. I think the connection I feel to graveyards here is because the rituals of care, of cleaning, decorating, and communing, feel so close to the rituals of care for the graves of my mother's family.

When I first moved to Japan, I would occasionally take a shortcut through a temple graveyard to shave a minute off of my fifteen-minute walk to work. It was my first summer here and I had to wear a suit every day. I didn't have any light suits, nor did I even really understand that there was such a thing as different suits for different seasons. I say this to try, and fail, to justify my reasons for shaving as much time off my walk as I could. Anyway, one day an elderly woman was there, taking care of her family grave, and she gave me The Look of Death, specifically the What The Hell Do You Think You're Doing Here You Damn Dirty Foreigner, and in this case she was absolutely right. That was enough to keep me from using that shortcut ever again.

Published May 25, 2020

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