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Foot-loose in Tokyo

foot-loose in tokyo jean pearce I recently picked up Foot-loose in Tokyo, not because I thought it would be useful (due to when it was written) but because I thought it would be fun to see what things were like along the Yamanote Line in the 1970s. The funny thing is many of the things the author, Jean Pearce, thought would quickly disappear are still here and many that were thought to be permanent fixtures are long gone.

The book is very interesting to read even though the contents are so dated. Perhaps the fact they are so dated makes it an even more enjoyable read. I read the whole book on the train (the Chuo Line, not the Yamanote Line) one day. The contents changed the way I think about many of the Yamanote Line stops.

The entry for Takadanobaba shows surprisingly few differences from the book’s era until today. Big Box, Omokage-bashi, Mizu Inari Jinja, Waseda University, Kansenen–all are the same today, decades later. One entry caught my eye, dealing with an ancient tree on a street I walk down nearly every day. I had no memory of seeing this ancient tree so I figured, as did the author, that the tree’s location had turned into a parking lot or apartment building in the ensuing years.

“You may see the tired remains of what was once a majestic old shiinoki (sweet acorn) tree which in other days was encircled by a Shinto rope to commemorate its venerable age, said to be more than 500 years…

Years ago there was a five-story pagoda here. It was destroyed during the wartime bombings; only the trees remain. The property is presently a parking lot, but once it belonged to a daimyo family.” (p. 114)

So I looked for the majestic old shiinoki and, in so doing, discovered that what was always there I had never before seen. Sure enough, it still fills the corner of a parking lot and probably goes completely unnoticed by the vast majority of people who pass. There is no sign (as there frequently is in Japan) commemorating its age or history. The Shinto rope (shimenawa) is back up and around its trunk however. A sake offering rests at its base.

椎の木 シイノキ

One Response to “Foot-loose in Tokyo”

  1. 1
    Ada Wilkinson:

    I just ordered this precious book online and I can’t wait to read it. I’ve been living in Japan for over a year now but haven’t really had the chance to tour around Tokyo (we live in Kanagawa) and this is our last year in Japan so I want to make the most out of it. Thank you very much for this review!