The Emerald Fish of Toto Jinja

The Emerald Fish of Toto Jinja

In the middle of Harajuku in the center of Tokyo, there is a public park called Togo Jinja and it is a lovely green in the middle of a consumerist barrage.  Every Sunday afternoon there is a flea market with all manner of paper ephemera and other curiosities.  Naturally, I spent a fortune here, being a paper fetishist.  I was over the moon with envy for all of the amazing and lovely things that were here and bought as much as I could to make my Tokyo pieces.

It is a gorgeous small park with a shrine in the middle of it and all kinds of small koi and goldfish ponds, some only 10 to 15 feet wide with little bridges over them.  It also has a winding path that takes one in and out of the shade.  Watching the bargaining that goes on is all kinds of fun.  I never dicker and the price they ask is the price I give.  The Japanese bargain hard.  I watched some contentious contests of will that I swore would maybe come to blows, only to be concluded with a hearty “hai” and some laughter and then, perhaps, some sharing of tea.

I like to think about that place now that I am sack-deep in a Chicago winter.  These are getting old for me and the 10 degree days of gray skies and almost no sunlight are grim and depressing.  The temperament of the town sometimes doesn’t help.  It is election season in Illinois and every slack-jawed hand-job in the village is running for something.  Of particular interest is the Governor’s race, with a bunch of haircuts promising to clean up politics.  Yeah.  The one decent guy seems to be Quinn, the sitting Governor, who seems like a boy scout and a decent guy, but I fear he has all of the political charisma of a vanilla milkshake.

There is so much to love about Chicago–its diversity and color and boundless energy. . . its proud architecture and grand theatrical and literary history.  It is a great city worth fighting for.  I often watch movies that are shot here, whether they are any good or not, just to look at the city and marvel at its raw physicality; its brick and steel and wires, its boundless grace and tempestuous history.  It is one of the great cities of this world.  But winter?  Fuck me.

It makes me miss all of the warm places I go; Japan in September, New Orleans in winter, New Mexico and Arizona in autumn.  It is 15 degrees as I write this.  You can’t walk five blocks without your crank turning into a popsicle.

I miss TogoJinja and feeding Big Macs to the koi, drinking green tea and walking foreign streets and parks.  It’s the wanderlust . . . it’s got me bad.

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