Virtual shusse in the city state

A phone in on TBS radio yesterday asked listeners what the word shusse meant to them.  Shusse translates as success in life, not easy to define.

The two kanji of shusse, 出世 often appear on the ema (wooden prayer plaques) and the omamori  (charms) in Shinto shrines.  Shusse also means enlightenment, or entering the world of the Buddha.

On the radio show, one young female caller claimed she was congratulated on her recent shusse by her grandmother in Shikoku.  This girl`s shusse was simply living in Tokyo.

The granny in Shikoku is perhaps not the only person who sees living in Tokyo as success.  Millions seem to have shared the opinion, flooding into the capital.  The population of the metropolitan Tokyo area is 35 million people, the biggest in the world, and almost 5 times as big as it was in 1920.  Almost a third of the population of Japan live here.

People and power might congregate here, but the idea that Tokyo = Success is nonsense.  I might be looking in the wrong places but I haven`t met many shining success stories.  Everybody struggles; all successes are short-lived.

Yet Tokyo remains an incredible, intoxicating place to live – especially for me a s a foreigner  Wandering at will, undisturbed in an alien land is exhilarating. Living here feels I am playing a virtual reality game in which I have not read the instructions.  While real success or enlightenment might be beyond me, but I can virtually succeed.

The only problem is I don`t know how the buttons work. Surely I can`t complete the game just copying other players.

I`ll stop that metaphor now.

No, I won`t.

I don`t need an instruction manual to enjoy this game.  I can experiment and try to work out the rules myself.  Games can be ruined by rules; I don`t need to know them all.




Now I have forgotten what the metaphor was.


Read more on Tokyo`s growth here.


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2 Responses to Virtual shusse in the city state

  1. Rurousha says:

    That paragraph that starts “Yet Tokyo remains an incredible, intoxicating place to live” reminds me of Donald Richie. He was just a bit more successful than either of us. 🙂

    • tomointokyo says:

      Thank you, I couldn`t ask for a better compliment.
      I was probably quoting him unconciously. Quite a few of his ideas and characterisations still live in my head. I wouldn`t like Tokyo as much without them.

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