Japan is an incredibly beautiful and overwhelmingly crazy place, as anyone that’s been to the country has probably told you as soon as they hopped off the plane. There’s an almost passive-aggressive politeness that everyone has towards each other. When you’re a tourist who doesn’t speak the language or have a bloody clue about the customs, everyday life becomes a bumbling ritual of pointing at things and trying not to piss anyone off too badly.
So on the second day of my trip, I found myself at the Meiji Shrine, an extremely holy site dedicated to the worshipped spirits of Emperor Meiji and his boo thang, Empress Shoken. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and obnoxiously loud American tourists were somehow finding a way to make the whole experience about them.
At one point during my stroll through the grounds, I stopped to look at a map that was entirely in Japanese and pretended to look like I knew what the fuck was going on. My incompetence must have been visible for miles around because before I knew it I was approached by a rather unsuspecting woman dressed in a kimono.
She reckoned that she was a monk from the grounds and asked if I would like to receive the shrine’s blessing. “Bloody lovely,” I thought to myself, who doesn’t want a lifetime of peace and prosperity?
So old mate flipped out her little notepad, which seemed a strange way of blessing me in the first place, and guided me through the pages. “Name?” easy enough, I’ve done that a thousand times. “Country?” ‘STRAYA, I jot down without hesitation. “Blessing?” At this point, she told me to just put down peace which seemed like a bit of a cop out but I did it anyway.
Now we’re at the last section: donation. Ah fuck, she’s conveniently left this part till last and I’m gonna struggle to weasel my way out of this, but I try anyway. “Ughhh, I don’t actually have much money on me,” I say whilst carrying two fistfuls of shopping bags. She’s obviously noticed that I’m less than inclined to swing her some moolah, so she ups the pressure and starts poking the word donation.
I try and get away with a ¥100 donation, which equates to about $1.50 in Australian money, and the persistent little bugger wasn’t having a bar of it. She started pointing to everyone else’s donations of thousands of yen and proceeded to make me feel like the biggest piece of shit to ever grace the earth.
After several back and forths of her haggling ME for more money, I was able to escape having donated ¥2000, or about $20 dollars. After walking away in complete bewilderment, I did a little googling and found that interactions like this were fairly common at the shrine. Apparently, some monks are actually legit and want to give you nothing but blessings and happiness, while others are just after your money.
So I guess I’ll never find out if I’m walking around with a lifetime of good fortune or if I’m just a stooge who got scammed on holiday.
Image: Around The Globe