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January 1st, 2006
Sun, Jan. 1st, 2006 01:23 pm

At Osaka's Shitennoji temple, 2006 is chimed in with the sound of gongs. You queue up at one of the two gong towers (they're like huge stereo speakers, and the gongs they contain are tuned less than one semitone apart) and strike the gong to erase one of 108 numbered cravings. In this way, you begin the new year with all your desires erased; blank tape, as it were.



In other parts of the temple grounds people are queuing to throw coins, clap hands and make a prayer, or hanging paper wishes on a "wishing line", or sipping sweet creamy sake from a paper cup. What amazes me most, though, is the ninja show. The buddhist monks have dramatized the fight with evil desires by dressing them up as freakadelic cosplay monsters. One wears an eyepatch, another has a kind of octopus suit on. You're handed a sword and, captured by video projected onto a screen behind the stage, battle each evil desire. Luckily you always prevail in the end; the evil ninjas--your own cravings--put up a fearsome fight, but are soon felled by your sword, accompanied by loud swooshing and thwacking sound effects.

Ake ome! Happy new year!

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