Friday, January 11, 2008

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

Yesterday was Ebisu Matsuri, the festival which honors the God of Wealth. As we are both self-employed, Miki and I wanted to pray for a prosperous year. Thus, we followed the elderly hoards (praying to get their pensions?) into Gion, down a street lined with food and toy stalls, most run by dark-skinned youth of the dyed hair variety. The shrine itself was slightly less crowded than a Who concert. We joined one of the four queues leading to the roped bells hanging to call the gods. Old women jumped from queue to queue like they were navigating an LA freeway. The younger, white clad miko on the Noh stage nearby moved with far more elegance. I was just getting used to the tiny, wrinkled hands pressed into my back, when we suddenly changed lanes to a spot behind a blind man. His dog was dressed in a plaid apron like a maid in a 70's sitcom. Once at the front, I prayed, one of the only people who didn't make a monetary offering. I mean, if the whole idea is to make money, the last thing I'd do is throw cash away into a wooden box. To quote Bono, "The God I believe in isn't short of cash, mister." Karmically, I was almost blinded when a coin tossed was deflected by an well-timed pull of the rope, bouncing off the shoulder of the pushy old timer to my right. The huge tuna between us and the gods passed no judgement, simply laying on it's side looking like a beat-up eggplant.

Back out on the main street again, we ducked into a temple dedicated to wild boars. Last year was this animal's year, and being Miki's Chinese zodiac "sign," she prayed to give thanks for 2007's safe passing. I simply walked around looking at the temple's many statues and paintings of boars. For some reason, I've recently grown slightly nervous at running into one of these in the wild. It's more a sense of apprehension than a full blown fear, but one that's increased in these days where the weather has gone crazy and the behavior of animals has gotten more unpredictable. If I run into a bear or boar some time this winter, I wouldn't at all be surprised.

Further down the street, we ate takoyaki next to a man who was well into his cups. For some reason, he was convinced I was French. Parting with an "A bien tot!", we then rode our bikes over to a smaller shrine at the south end of the Path of Philosophy. The Shrine's ema of a three-legged crow suggests it's link with the Shugendo sites of Kumano. But the main attraction here is the large statue of Ebisu. A real beauty. The national government has hopes of making this a national treasure, but the Shrine politely refuses, hoping instead to entrust the kami.

At the opposite end of the Path is soft cream. Miki and I sat on a stone bridge, lapping away the warm day. Nearby, a rickshaw driver was having a rough time drumming up business. Perhaps a prayer to Ebisu would help...

On the turntable: Neil Young, "Harvest"

On the reel table: "Tokyo-Ga" (Wenders, 1985)

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