« December 2006 | Main | February 2007 »

6 entries from January 2007

Stumbled onto While Drinking: Hip Hop

Hip-hop legend and historian Paradise Gray, accepts his award.

I joke that I really don't live in America. I live on an island off the coast of America called Manhattan. Sometimes I drive into America to buy gasoline, because it's cheaper.

Well, America beckoned me on a recent weekend. To Pittsburgh, where The Honurable Husband was born and spent the first decade or so of his youth.
To ease the stress of dealing with America, I found a little slice of Not America in which to retreat each evening. Thanks to a cache of frequent something-or-other points, I checked into the Pittsburgh Hilton.
A classic moderninst structure clad in brass, it was built in the sixties as a golden symbol of Pittsburgh's rebirth from the wreckage of its industrial past. Now, it's pretty much just a Hilton like any other Hilton on the planet, competing for trade from travelling salesmen on tight expense accounts and wedding-night newlyweds, just escaped from the reception.

A perfectly nice place, but like all international hotels, it feels like the zone between your plane and passport control. Even though you stand on American soil, you’re not technically in the country.

Was it quite prepared to host the Pittsburgh Hip Hop Awards that evening? From my stool in the sports bar downstairs, it looked doubtful.
Thirsty hip-hoppers flooded downstairs because the ballroom had run out of liquor. The bartender confessed that management assumed few of the music crowd would fork out six bucks for a beer.
They were right, up to a point. Only cash-strapped, middle-aged, suburban mortgagees chug suds. The hoppers preferred French cognac.
(I edited out a passage where I tried to capture their speech, but it was clumsy and insulting. I'm sure it was all an act, anyway. Everyone knows urban youth speaks like this.)
Silly of the Hilton not to anticipate hopper cash. Hip-hop is the biggest and most pervasive cultural movement of our time; it changed popular music in the same way rock did in the 1950's.

Urban youth in the South Bronx, disenfranchised by Reaganomics—yes, that long ago—began to recite rhythmic poems about their lives in public, as a performance. And as more joined the ranks of the disenfranchised, the movement grew.
Now, it has not only red-carpet awards, but archivists and historians (like Paradise Gray, above). It keeps a large slice of the Italian fashion and German car industries in black ink.

And it seems largely invisible to white Americans over thirty.
Not that any of our Martell-swilling young men and women cared very much. With great gusto, the movement has begun enjoy the tastes of their former oppressors. (And who can blame them?) They felt rather comfortable, here in Not America.
The Post-Gazette quoted rapper and big-time award-winner Nick Nice: "You don't last as long as we do by hatin'. Spread the love."
The musicians were having so much fun making music, that by the end of the evening, someone noticed that almost none of the awards had been distributed. By the time I snuck in to take a candid snap or two, a line of rather fatigued ladies bravely tried to stay glamourous while palming trophies to several winners who had, clearly, found a working bar.
Alas, I have seen many award shows end this way. After all, I work in advertising. Which is kind of like hip-hop for shallow, boring materialists. 'Scuse me while I go riff on Tide. Over a beer.


I’m looking at my fingers, trying to work out if I’m really gay.

No, I’m not looking for an obsessively neat manicure or, god forbid, traces of nail polish. To an untrained eye, these hands seem pretty straight; wrinkly knuckles on pudgy digits. They belong on a dentist. (Why do dentists always have fingers so unsuited to delicate manual work in close quarters? All the dentists I’ve ever seen carry forearms like meat-axes and fingers like cocktail frankfurters.)

No, I’m looking for the one, ironclad clue. A ring finger the same length as the index finger.

Surfing the Hormones

It's like this. One of the many theories about why men are born gay is congenital oestrogen wash.

Women, bless them, become hormone soup when they get pregnant. A coordinated symphony of chemical yin and yang bathes the foetus in successive waves of testosterone and oestrogen. A little too much girl-juice in the mix at a crucial time, the theory goes, and instant Nellie. A good description of it is contained in Chandler Burr’s beautifully-written account of the biological origins of homosexuality, A Separate Creation.

(To prove the point, my mother is a total oestrogen factory; Freud must have coined the word hysterical with her in mind. Oestrogen wash? My mother's womb was an oestrogen car wash.)

At a seminal moment, the oestrogen normally ebbs, and the young man's own testosterone asserts itself. Three things happen.

This opens a can of sexist worms. For years, we have struggled with the question of female performance in mathematics, especially spatial geometry.

As sexist assumptions fall, women proved themselves in mathematical disciplines such as algebra and calculus. Exclusively male skills seem to number fewer and fewer.

Stuff Guys are Still Good For. (Beside the obvious)

Still, some intractable differences remain:

  • Rotating objects in your head,

  • Shooting at a target,

  • Perceptual field-independence.

It seems that the first is a male skill, period, hard-wired direct to the Y-chromosome. No matter how much oestrogen you mainlined in the womb as a boy, you’ll still rotate objects in your head better than a woman, on the whole. So all you flaming nancy boys, get busy with your Rubik’s Cubes.

And your rifles, too, because the ability to shoot is a male attribute. In so many ways.

But the third skill, field independence—an ability to pick objects out of their environment—comes directly from a 'roid surge in the womb.

OK, look at my fingers. Index and ring fingers are, if you’ll pardon the expression, dead ringers.

No point staying in the closet any longer. That hand was meant to poke out of a lace cuff.

Women who have spatial reasoning that rivals men, in line with the theory, tend to sport longer ring fingers. (Barbie is one such woman, you may notice. Why on earth hasn’t Mattel introduced Structural Engineer Barbie and her pal Foreman Ken? In a cute pink hard-hat and driving her Dream Bulldozer? Put Midge in overalls. She'd like that. )

Here’s where I fuck up the bell curve, literally. My ring finger should be longer. I am a mild genius at field-independence.

Psychologically Certified

Say the word "psychologist", and many imagine a goateed shrink or touchy-feely therapist. Where I studied, at the University of Adelaide, we’d have none of this cuddly clinical therapeutic stuff. At the time, it was 100% behaviourist orthodoxy, or flunk, mister.

Many of the faculty possessed only the most prosaic interest in the workings of the human mind, as opposed to the brain. They thought understanding the mind meant learning how to design better dashboards, or in those quaint days, the first GUI interfaces. (This was so long ago that we actually used UI's that weren't G.)

One of my more interesting courses involved working out the maximum possible degradation to an image or sound before it becomes unintelligible. I actually found these lessons on information theory useful in my professional life.

All rats and stats, we joked. The undergrad psychology student is the most widely studied lab rat on the planet, mainly because real lab rats are so expensive. I was such a rat, in my day. Yours Truly needed to do his quota of rattery as a course requirement.

They gave my group a Witkin’s Embedded Figures test, an easy example of which is shown at left. I finished the whole thing in five minutes, perfect score. It was supposed to take half an hour, and many didn’t finish it at all.

What does a standard deviant like me do to the standard deviation? Totally screwed it up. They asked the ENTIRE sample in again to do a more difficult version of the test, which I also aced.

TheHonourable Husband was Mr. Popular after that.

My Brush with the Draw.

I was so good at all this spatial stuff, it led my teachers to think I could draw. Indeed, I could, up to a point.

A minor whiz at perspective drawing, I was obsessed with becoming an architect as a child. I drew and designed so many houses, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t draw the trees in the garden convincingly. I had to use one of those wooden artist’s models to draw a human form, and even then it was crummy. And drawing faces? Fuggedabout it.

How HH still doodles on the back of an envelope, even today.

Fooled by this particular idiocy savant at primary school in Pittsburgh, my teacher sent me off to the famous Tam O’Shanter art class, run by prominent American sculptor Joseph Fitzpatrick.

Every Saturday, Mr. Fitzpatrick would ask the best students of the previous week to reproduce their work before the class, in oil pastel. This was known as an invitation to The Easel. The only time Mr. Fitzpatrick invited me to the easel was after the annual persepctive drawing lesson; I drew a modern office complex. (Ah, what a rich imagination!) My mother lost the drawing years ago, naturally.

Are you Gay in the Head?

I'm curious to hear from gay readers. How's your digits? How well do your rotate objects in your head? (And if you're gifted, can I have a date?) Have any of you measured your field dependence?

So many gay men work in the visual arts and design disciplines. There seem to be many more gay pilots than the odds would allow. Gay engineers thrive in the profession, if they can overcome the entrenched homophobia of the workplace. So, do you feel your skills intertwine with your masculinity, your homosexuality, or both?

Please comment or email me with your thoughts. The subject has piqued my interest.

The Second Coming Out.

Table at a New York street fair, Summer 2006

I've been blessed, I guess. Blessed with love, modest financial security, the opportunity to live in many parts of the world, and to visit many more.

But since arriving in the United States two years ago, I have never been so blessed.

I am in a room full of people at work. I sneeze. The chorus of "Bless You's" rings out loudly. If not from the sub-continent or Middle East, cab drivers bless me as they hand me my change (angling for a bigger tip, maybe?). Bless-yous outnumber thank-yous, even here in heartless, godless...nay, Democrat New York.

The other day, a homeless man hustled me for a donation. He was one of these ambitious types, eyeballing passers-by, asking point-blank for cash, thanking even those who refused him.

No, he was doing more than that; he was God-Blessing them and their kin. Rather loudly, I thought, perhaps to impress the next good soul who walked down the street.

This enterprising attitude holds very little sway with me. I often think if I were forced to beg for a living, I'd be the mildly-catatonic, sign-writing, cup-holding sort of beggar. Too ashamed to meet another's gaze, or just too weary of the struggle to lift my head. I feel like that already, from time to time.

Still, I gave the guy five bucks, with a smile, as is my usual habit. It unleashed a torrent of blessings that would ensure my passage to Heaven should a rogue bus jump the Lexington Avenue kerb and despatch me.

"Please," I said. "A simple thank-you is fine. I'm an atheist."

He gave me my money back.

He explained how grateful he was, but if I weren't a proper god-fearing type, he couldn't be sure that I had come by the money honourably.

A phrase sprang to mind. It ends with "you", but doesn't begin with "thank".

"Of course I came by this money honestly. I have a well-paid job with New York's largest advertising agency..." He turned on his heels without so much as a have-a-nice-day.

Frankly, it's easier to come out as gay in the United States, than to come out as an atheist. Freedom of religion obviously doesn't extend to freedom from religion.

Strange, since every statistic on crime, divorce, and general misbehaviour points to the fact that atheists seem to be the most highly moral of people. Even the evangelical Barna Social Research Institute finds it difficult to conduct studies that paint a picture of atheists as evil.

I am told that a head of the Boy Scouts of America once said that if an atheist came upon a ten dollar bill on the footpath, he would have no compunction in just pocketing it. A PR spokesman for a prominent atheist organisation quipped in reply, that the gentleman must be confusing atheists with the clergy.

Gay activists have fought to remove the social stigma from being gay. Maybe in the United States, atheists will need to do the same.

The Imperial Muppets Sing Vogon Poetry

To your left you'see the chrysanthemum crest of the Japanese imperial family, borrowed from Eryn Vorn's excellent photographic website. Eryn, if you'd like me to take it down, please email me.

One of the movies to which United treated its long-suffering travellers on my flight from Tokyo to Washington DC was The Queen, starring the incomparable Helen Mirren. As a commentator remarked, "Is there a queen this woman cannot play?" Male ones, probably.

The movie shocked me a little. In it, the writer imagines Cherie Blair in coversation with her husband, referring to the Royal Family as "emotional retards". Every contact between royal procedurecrats and the elected government generates a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head that reads where do they find these people?

Now, Americans respect the institution of the presidency, but it doesn't stop us from calling the current president a retard, emotional or otherwise. But loyalty to one's monarch cuts a little deeper for most Britons.

(Not surprising that Granada produced The Queen, and not the BBC.  Still smarting from the Christmas Message snub, no doubt.)

Would NHK touch the same subject in Japan? The Imperial Family is a high-voltage touchy subject.

They were descended from gods until 1945, when MacArthur forced them to admit they were people. Not that they like being people very much, with all that entails.

The current Empress was the first to bear her own children. In previous generations, childbirth was thought too icky for someone of imperial rank, so the task was delegated to her husband's concubines.

This truly crudded up the gene pool, with the result that these people are perhaps the ugliest royalty on the planet.

Every January 2, they show exactly how human they are. The Emperor and his family invite their subjects inside the palace grounds for a little chat. A very little chat, rarely more than a few sentences, delivered from a bulletproof glass box.

Of course, there's not much chance of him being shot at, or even heckled. His subjects are frisked before they enter. His Majesty's Riot Police remove weapons, noisemakers, and other items of bad taste. The year we visited, the guards convinced one well-wisher that waving a six-foot inflatable Pikachu may be charming, but not terribly respectful of the one-time son of god.

That year was 2001, probably the last time we humble subjects got to see the elderly outlying members of the Imperial family. The dowager Prince Mikasa (the Emperor's uncle) and Prince Hitachi (the Emperor's brother) will sometimes show up for the first speech of the day, but sit out later performances. You see them to the emperor's far left.
Hitachi and Mikasa are their real names, by the way. Familiar Japanese brand names, like Mitsubishi or Fujitsu, often have royal or noble (i.e. samurai) origins.

To his right, you'll find Crown Prince Sanyo and his glamourous bride Princess Toshiba. Second son Prince Ricoh and his wife Minolta stand at the Emperor's near left. She's recently performed a valuable service to the Imperial family by pumping out Prince PlayStation, its only son in 40 years, assuring male primogeniture for the NipponDenso dynasty into the next generation.

The audience stood rapt as the emperor made his speech.
"Now we have entered the 21st century. In the new year, I would like to continue to reflect on what we lived through in the 20th century. Our country at present has numerous tasks such as the measures to cope with the aging of the society or to bring about economic recovery, and I can well imagine that people's daily lives are beset with many difficulties. I believe that, by surmounting these difficulties, we can construct a society more sound and spiritually rich. It is my hope that each and every one of our people will cherish their mutual ties and will help one another, striving toward a better future for all. I also count on our people to cooperate with all the peoples of other countries to grapple with and solve global problems such as peace and the environment. I pray that this will be a happy year for our people and for all the people of the world. "

Only in Japan could a monarch get away with a line like "I can well imagine that people's daily lives are beset with many difficulties".

He concluded this little homily with a loving glance at the Empress, and the crowd went tastefully ape, waving their uniform government-issue flags in wild fin-de-siecle abandon.

Just as well Master Right and I decided to skip it this year. The old boy spoke with such gloom that you'd think he was having an annus horribilis.
"I am deeply saddened that last year as many as 150 people lost their lives in natural disasters including heavy snowfalls, torrential rains, typhoons, and tornadoes. My heart goes out to the people of Niigata Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefecture who are spending another winter living in temporary housing as a result of the earthquakes in those areas. There were also regions where salty winds from typhoons caused great damage to rice crops, and my thoughts are with the people of the farming communities affected. At the start of the new year, I pray for the happiness of the people of Japan and the world. It is my sincere hope that all of us work together to pursue a society in which people can live in mutual trust."
Oh, and his poetry's gone off. The Japanese upper classes write poetry to one another, which sounds pretty cool until you remember that a Japanese poem is never more than one stanza, and doesn't have to rhyme. Here's the Emperor's 2007 official New Year waka.  
My day's duties done
And I quicken my footsteps
On my way back home
While the light of the moon
Shines down whitely on the path.
It ain't Shakespeare. Now, if this weren't tedious enough, royal bureaucrats felt the need to add an official explanantion by way of press release:
Note: This poem describes the scenery as His Majesty saw it on the way home from the Imperial Palace to the Imperial Residence where he lives after the ceremony of the appointment of senior officers, whose appointment His Majesty attests, was over in the evening.
(Check out the Imperial Household Agency's website for some more literary snoozers.)

Master Right and I have regular arguments about which royal family is the uglier, Japan's or Great Britain's. He always loses. He's such a snob.

The New Year in Japan. Getting up god's nose.

"OK, this is a Buddhist temple, so you don't clap your hands. You only do that at a Shinto shrine, since no particular spirit lives in a Buddhist temple."
Master Right is instructing me on the finer points of religious etiquette. He went to a Shinto university, where all freshmen train in the novitiate, no matter what they go on to study. Like most Japanese, he's not particularly religious, but he is a stickler for good manners. If you’re going to pray, pray right.
I ask him to explain. “Well…Buddhism is more a philosophy rather than a creed. You don’t really worship anything; you just pray, like, in general. Shinto is an animist religion, though. The congregation enshrines a totem of their local god inside. He—or she—is actually there. "
"Now, think of gods as important people you want to get a meeting with. They’re self-absorbed, and won’t notice little old you. So before you pray, clap your hands loudly to attract their attention. Or burn some incense. That really gets up their noses.”
I swallow my atheist principles once every 12 months, and participate in the religious rituals of ganjitsu. Shared rituals have become especially important for us over the last two years, since we’ve been doing our relationship long-distance. In James Joyce’s words, they become the little sacraments of everyday life.
One of the joys of couplehood is discovering, after a time, that you’ve developed a We Always.
You know. Nancy and I always pick up a cinnamon bun when we walk the dog. John and I always visit my cousin Mildred and her husband Bob in the summer. Melanie always makes me put the star on top of the Christmas tree. Linda always gives Cole a cigarette case on opening night. Jeff and Steve always make popcorn and watch Letterman.
Master Right and I always visit our old neighbourhood for New Year’s Eve, to do the shrine-and-temple circuit. Atago, near Tokyo’s embassy district just outside the Palace gates, is absolutely filthy with places of worship.
As I said, the Japanese aren’t particularly religious. But, of course, that doesn’t mean they’re not superstitious. In the east, new year celebrations focus on good fortune for the coming twelve months.
And when it comes to luck, most Asians take Pascal’s wager. The shrines are packed. The atmosphere is festive, social and optimistic.
Here’s what We Always do.
9.00 pm Eat soba at local cheap ’n’ cheerful
Eat noodles on New Year’s Eve, and you’ll live a life that's long, like a noodle. If you're going to hold a superstition, make it an easy one.
10.00 pm Drop off last year’s good luck charms
One of the best ways to get god’s attention is through his nose. So, deposit the good luck charms bought last year on a bonfire, along with wishes for the new year scribbled on cedar boards and sticks, and let the smoke waft its way into god’s head. He might sneeze some good luck in your direction.

10.15 pm Obtain government-issue wish-balloon

Shinto lay claim to the big icons of religious tourism in Japan—the Meiji shrine, Asakusa, Himeji—but one of the biggest and most popular churches in Tokyo is actually a Buddhist temple.

Zozoji is the St Patrick’s Cathedral of Japanese Buddhism, just down the road from Atago. President Ulysses S. Grant planted a cedar in the grounds when he visited Japan in the 1880s; the first President Bush did the same a century later, during a visit when he famously ralphed over Prime Minister Miyazawa.

Now, the Buddhists don’t want to stuff anything up a god’s nostril. You just kinda release your wish to the universe. At Zozoji, that takes the form of writing it on a card, putting it in a helium balloon, and letting it float away on the stroke of midnight.

The Minato City Ward gives away these balloons for free, but being an instrument of Japanese government, demands a complex series of procedures to get one. Wish cards distributed between 8.30 and 10.30. Balloons distributed 10.30 to 11.30. Wishes attached to string with official wish-widget in designated wish-attaching area no earlier than 10.45. Boy Scouts are on hand to help with tying the string. Say bye to your zen vibe.

10.45 pm Resist takoyaki.

No festival in Japan is complete without street stalls selling takoyaki; fried, battered octopus balls. You slop some rice-batter into a muffin-tin griddle, pop a slice of tentacle in the centre, and flip them halfway through with a special fork so that the octopus is completely sealed on the inside.

I have never been able to eat one properly. It’s kind of like Baked Alaska in reverse: when the outside cools down enough to eat, the rubbery tentacle is still piping hot. Think of biting into a potato in a stew. Takoyaki are everywhere. Master Right is tempted. I nix the idea.

10.47 pm Diss the Red and White Song Contest

Next to Zozoji sits the Tokyo Prince Hotel, a time capsule from the 1964 Olympics. In their splendid Garden Islands Beer Restaurant, neatly groomed waiters pour generous drinks as revellers watch the 57th annual Kohaku Uta Gassen (The Red and White Song Contest)

Kohaku is a national institution which, in its day, captured over 80% of all television viewers in the country. The (putative) most popular vocal artists of the year are invited to NHK Hall, and divided into male (white) and female (red) teams. Over the course of four syrupy hours, they sing their hearts out for Nation and Emperor.

Kohaku makes the Eurovision Song Contest look like Philip Glass. Several of the (truly) most popular acts in the country declined the invitation because, well, the whole thing reeks of cheese.

Now, you gotta sit up and take notice when a Japanese celebrity thinks something is too tacky to do on television.

We arrived as co-host Masahiro Nakai of SMAP was introducing the next act. (Ah, SMAP! With members in their mid to late 30’s, SMAP is no longer a boy band, but not quite a man-band.)

We were just in time for enka legend Yoshimi Tendo. If the Kohaku is cheesy, Tendo-san is gorgonzola. The pic at the right comes from her website. Judging by the gallery, she's a fag hag of the highest order.

A cross between Elizabeth Taylor, Roseanne Barr and Doraemon, she’s one of those females who, it seems, dresses like a drag queen with the misguided notion that it looks feminine. (By the way, several real drag queens have sung the Red-and-White. They always play for the Red team.)

On her 30th anniversary in show business, she granted a rare interview which, with an eye on the key enka demographic of elderly housewives, revealed her favourite hobby was cleaning the house.

“She’s very popular with the gay community,” said Master Right. “I’m so ashamed.”

11.45 pm Nearly lose balloon in beer garden roof.

Luckily, my reflexes were quick enough to catch it. Even after a few generous beers.

12.00 midnight. Release wishes to the universe

In the grounds of Zozoji, the Mayoress of Minato City counts down the last seconds of 2006. Kyu…hachi…nana…rokku…go…shi…san…ni…itch…zero! And with thousands of others, Master Right and I release our wishes to the universe.

An American lady standing next to me revealed that she had wished for world peace. I tried to explain that New Year in the East takes a more Confucian outlook. That is, show me the money.
We high tail it out of there fast. As soon as the balloons dissipate, the monks begin to peal a large bell, each clang around five seconds apart. They do this one-hundred and eight tedious times, to atone for the one-hundred and eight stupidities we all commit before we become enlightened. If you exceed your lifetime stupidity quota, you'll start from scratch again in the next life until you get it right. Being a Buddhist ain't all beer and skittles.

12.05 am Elevator to mountaintop

Now it’s the Shinto turn. A quick walk to Mt. Atago, or more correctly, Atagoyama.

Few people realize it, but you can find an extinct volcano in the centre of Tokyo. Few know of this steep-sided outcrop, since it’s now surrounded by buildings which dwarf it—Master Right and I used to live in one of them.

On top of Mt. Atago rests a charming oasis. A quiet garden—zen in abundance—surrounding a modest church. It is Atagojinja, a Shinto shrine.
Ours is one of three Atago shrines in Japan. The kanji for these various atagos refer to love and intimacy. The most famous of these, overlooking Kyoto, does a healthy business blessing relationships. The Tokyo version stays a little more demure.

It may look modest, but looks deceive. If Zozoji is the Tokyo equivalent of St. Pat’s on 5th for Buddhists, then Atagojinja is St. Bart’s on Park. A very establishment congregation; Right keeps pointing out his customers’ names on several of the newly reconstructed steps. This is the equivalent of naming a pew.

A business-class congregation


The steps are nowadays largely ornamental—they’re so steep, few congregants can climb them. Samurai wishing to prove their machismo would, from time to time, ride horses up the steps. Most attempts proved foolhardy. A friendly property developer endowed the church with its own elevator, which Master Right and I rode to the top.
The claps here are muted, and the prayers, no doubt, involve high stakes. The requisite hefty donation earns you a post-prayer sake in its own cedar cup. More sake is imbibed in the churchyard.
If you’re one of the foreign residents, you’ll smuggle in some bubbly.  Bringing your own wine is a good policy most places in Japan.  Wine hasn't been adopted as a normal part of Japanese life, even after many years of global influence on cuisine and drink. Atagojinja celebrated its 400th anniverary recently. To commemorate, the sophisticated, worldly congregation decided to bottle a special vintage of wine. I picked up a bottle of the red, and asked the lady behind the counter what kind of wine it was. She seemed confused.
"You know...the variety. Is it cabernet wine? Is it shiraz wine? Is it malbec wine?"  The parishioner behind the counter confessed that she didn't know, and excused herself to ask a colleague. 
She returned some minutes later, wearing a smile.  She'd found the answer. "It's Suntory wine," she said.
You'll be pleased to hear that this year, Master Right brought some very, very nice sake noveau.

The hard way, and the easy way

No matter what you choose to drink, you drink until the new year good cheer carries you away.

1.00 am Home to bed.

Akemashite Omedetoh Gozaimasu!

The New Year in Japan. Portable good fortune

In Japan, most buildings sport new year wreaths (made of rice straw) to invite good luck and ward off misfortune. This is especially important for business premises. What happens if your business is mobile, like a cab driver or fisherman? You do the same thing for your car or boat. Or, in some cases, your raft. The garland below was installed by the oarsmen on Tom Sawyer's raft in Tokyo Disneyland.