Hie Jinja is the Shinto shrine for salarymen. It’s a simple concrete and gravel affair. When I visited in mid-April, the last few pink petals of the sakura season were being swept away. Some cheeky monkeys – wooden ones, lifted the atmosphere a little, apparently they have permission to stay, something about being messengers of the gods. One stern salaryman was having his new Toyota Bitkrap blessed by a white-robed priest waving a paper wand.
I don’t think Shinto Shrines really deal with death, they leave all that smoke to the black-robed Buddhists. Yet if the white priest’s charms don’t work, the black monks will be quids in.
The grey walls and glass windows of the Akasaka district were a relief after a multi-coloured train ride which stretched all my seven senses. Adverts hit you in the face as soon as you get on board, they rudely knock destinations off the announcements screen and fill all available wall space. It’s all too much. Please Tokyo-san, stop taking advantage of my eyes; they are sensitive and easily distracted by cute colours and challenging kanji compounds.
I was in Akasaka to meet an old friend. He took me for some buckwheat noodles at a place called The Seven Gods. Sitting at the counter, we were both served a tray filled with different noodle-related dishes. I tried to control my urge to put all everything in one pot and ask them to boil the kettle.
It was great to talk about Tokyo again, about places and people we both knew. I stopped feeling like a visitor and remembered what it was like to be a resident. I used to eat a lot of pot noodles then too.