Sensō-ji and an earthquake



The temple was swarming with Japanese tourists, and some gaijin (foreigners, or aliens. A Japanese friend subsequently told me that gaikokujin, or foreign-country-person, is a more polite term). A bright five-storey pagoda towered next to the main temple, and nearby was a small garden and lane of gift shops. Incense rose from the burner, there was a water trough for cleansing, and a ten foot sloped tray into which you could flick coins and clap your hands together to make a prayer. 

Further west swung an adventure playground with miniature plastic teahouses, circling high up in the air, and small streets with tangles of electricity cables overhead. Houseplants grew up the masonry, plaster and timber facades. Advertisements, house names, and air-conditioning vents jostled for space amongst the foliage and cables. 

At a small café I ate udon noodles in the salty miso soup that is served each mealtime, everywhere. It was topped with a single and very large tempura prawn. Ebi is the name for all things related to prawns – from shrimps to their lobster cousins. 

Flavours here are strong like the sandy coloured miso soup, the soy sauces of various viscosities and blackness, and the incense burning at Sensō-ji that afternoon. Flavours here are delicate like silken tofu, pale and creamy, or like tea-flavoured wafers or the wet crunchy pears that leave hardly a trace in your mouth. 


That night I experienced my first earthquake. It was far less shaky than I’d imagined them to be, and felt more like I was on a ship, being rocking and swayed back to sleep.