Monday, July 14, 2008

Billiken

Today we really wanted to go to a water park in Kobe, to cool down in a pool (hopefully filled with cold water), but the weather report informed us that there was an 80% chance of rain in Kobe today, so we decided to stay in Osaka. So instead we did some preliminary sightseeing in preparation for my family’s visit in Obon. I don’t really know Osaka yet, so I need to test some tourist spots to see if they deserve a visit from my parents and brother. Yasu suggested Tsutenkaku, which translates to ‘Tower Reaching Heaven’ in Shinsekai. It has an observation deck at 91 meters above the ground and even though I’m afraid of heights I love observation decks especially when I’m armed with my digital camera.
Remarkable in the area around the tower is the presence of Billiken. A charm doll created by an American artist, from an image she saw in a dream and named him after the American president of that time, William Howard Taft. This year is actually Billiken’s 100th birthday, as the artist patented Billiken in 1908.
Here in Japan Billiken is revered as ‘ The God of things as they ought to be’, and he’s a popular symbol of good luck. The most important Billiken statue can be found on the fifth floor of the Tsutenkaku tower. It’s made of wood, and Billiken is sitting on a pedestal in his golden throne. Billiken is surrounded by hundreds of messages and wishes from people on wooden cards in the shape of his feet. Why in the shape of his feet, well if you donate a coin you can rub his feet for good luck. I think feet are disgusting so I didn’t want to rub them, especially not when they want me to pay for it, but a lot of people felt differently, which is why his wooden feet are hollowed out.
Even though I enjoyed our little visit to Tsutenkaku I don’t think I’ll honor it with a visit from my family, simply because we’ll definitely be checking out the Umeda Sky Building which is almost twice as high and will provide them with a better view of the city. Also I’ve been hearing Shinenkai is the closest thing in Japan to a dangerous neighborhood. Not sure if that’s true, but I’m not willing to take any chances.

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