Following the tradition of millions of Buddhist Pilgrims throughout the centuries before us, Auntie and Uncle Jim set out on a cold and rainy day, umbrellas in hand, to visit the Sensō-ji Buddhist Temple in Asakusa.
Sensō-ji is Tokyo's oldest temple and lining the approach to Sensō-ji are hundreds of interesting shops and food stalls, the air fragrant with the aroma of traditional little Ningyo Yaki or temple cakes stuffed with sweet red bean paste. We did what everyone else was doing, munching on temple cakes, buying souvenirs, snapping pictures and then swimming our way through the crowds and clouds of incense to climb the steps to visit the very beautiful temple.
One thing I always like to do when I visit a temple is to buy an omikuji, or fortune. To get your fortune at the Sensō-ji Temple you donate ¥100 and then shake a metal container filled with 100 thin wooden sticks. There is a little hole in one end of the container and after a bit of shaking, one of the sticks eventually falls through the hole. Each stick has a number on it and each number corresponds to a small wooden drawer. In this drawer is your paper fortune.
Traditionally before you shake the container you should have a question in mind and the fortune you get represents the answer to your question. I really didn't have a question in mind when I shook the container, my head being very busy with all the fabulous things I had seen on the way to the temple.
Well, my fortune couldn't have been worse. It predicted doom, failure, and gloom in all aspects of my life. Yikes! We decided to donate another ¥100 and have a second go to counteract the first fortune and guess what? It was just as bad!
When the fortune is bad, it is customary to fold it up and attach it to either a pine tree or metal wires that are strung in the temple, the idea being that the bad fortune will stay on the wire or the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. Well, being more tourist than Buddhist, I took our fortunes home with us and having re-read the fortunes today I thought that they could not have been more wrong.
For here we sit, happy and comfortable, a world away from the sad and tragic events unfolding in Japan. It's hard to imagine anything worse than the sorrow of injured or missing friends and loved ones or the devastation of having your home and cherished possessions swept away, to who knows where, never to be seen again.
Tragedies like the Tsunami in Japan always remind me of how truly lucky we all are to live a safe and joy filled life and to have cherished friends and loved ones with whom to share it. You just never know when it can all be just swept away. These days my loved ones are getting plenty of hugs.
And just in case, I plan to tie those fortunes to a pine tree.