I was looking up at a dragon staring down at me. That was how it was standing directly under the giant chochin, that iconic Japanese lantern, hanging under Kaminarimon, the entrance gate to Sensō-ji. The stream of tourists washing into temple grounds was oblivious to the intricate carving on the wooden, hidden dragon above them. I timed a gap in the human flow to take a groufie with my girlfriends before another wave of people nudged us to move forward.
Ah, to be in a small town trapped in a big city. In just a week’s stay, I felt in the zone in Taito-ku, one of Tokyo’s more traditional wards encompassing the quaint districts of Ueno and Asakusa. I could live here, I thought. Having been welcomed so warmly by friendly, familiar faces accounted for that sense of home. My student-turned-friend Taka came by within minutes of my arrival.