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This report is taken from PN Review 109, Volume 22 Number 5, May - June 1996.

Letter from Bransonia Penny McCarthy

Following my endorsement of the doctrine that one should write abut a country only in the first six months after arriving, or after twenty-five years of living there, I have been wondering whether to venture on another 'Letter from Tokyo' with a meagre two and a half years behind me. The only justification would be that I am leaving, and that might concentrate the mind. Could I weave a musing piece around my last impressions, rather than my first? Perhaps I could draw a connecting thread through the events at New Year - the pounding of the rice to make rice-cakes on 30 December: the tolling of the temple bell 108 times at the year's turn, in which we all participated to reflect on our 108 sins (can there be so much potential fun to be tempted into? or does it include venial things like mistaking the correct angle at which to lay a spoon during the tea ceremony?); the waving of our flags at the Emperor and family on 2 January - through slogans on T-shirts and on the 'City-conscious Crane' I saw digging up the road; the oddities of the packers-up of our belongings, who must have taken their shoes on and off 108 times to enter and leave the apartment; the warm and often touching farewells ('Keep on efforting! We must all effort more').

But I find these remain discrete items, perhaps because of the flurry of leaving. To craft them into serving one ...


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