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This report is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

Letter from Tokyo: Corporeality Penny McCarthy

In the'new' (newly laid out) town of Lewisham, a mile from my home base in London, is a gigantic construction of two sumo wrestlers, straining against each other. This, in a borough which has notably few Japanese residents, now seems to me no stranger than the fact that I have been uprooted and deposited in a Tokyo borough- one which has considerable similarities, I now reflect, to Lewisham.

Both are nuclear-free zones. Both are concerned with the intricacies of rubbish-collection, the Lewisham garbage operatives priding themselves on collecting rubbish at the double, to help cut rates; the Minato Council issuing regulations about separation of types of gomi and the necessity of using the new see-through bags, so non-conforming garbage-muddlers can be dealt with. (But residents rebelled at the idea of putting their names on the sacks: the authorities backed down.) In the same way that Lewisham is new, the shrine of the Forty-seven samurai is old, dating from the early eighteenth century though rebuilt after World War II (apart from the second gate in, which is older). In both, officialdom is concerned to promote harmony between different racial groups: about one in twelve of the population in Minato is foreign -but not in appearance, being overwhelmingly workers from neighbouring Asian countries. And some health concerns are common to both: AIDS, for example. 'Sharing a biro or word-processor will not lead to infection' says Minato Monthljl the local newssheet. Most of which goes to show that the same ...

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