dscn1219.jpg At the Asakusa Temple, I watched the Japanese waving incense smoke on their face, ringing the temple bell, tossing a coin in a wooden chest, clapping their hands twice. Then I saw them drawing bamboo sticks from a silver rectangular box. What was that all about?

I looked around for a suitable Japanese passer-by, someone likely to speak english. A young man in a tee-shirt with a backpack slung over one shoulder, possibly a university student seemed probable. I approached him and he told me that the sticks were a sort of sacred lottery for messages from the gods regarding one’s future. After paying ¥100 for the bamboo straw and taking a sheet of paper from the designated drawer indicated by the character on the bamboo stick, I asked him to translate it for me.

He read the sheet of paper and told me that my dreams will come true; that I will have children; that if I study, I will pass the entrance exams; and that I will have a boyfriend, if I’m not too demanding. I frowned, which did not go unnoticed by my translator. Four of the predictions had already happened. What about the fifth? Will my dreams really come true?

He then said in halting but good english that if I considered my lot in life a misfortune, I should tie the paper to a tree branch, so that bad luck wouldn’t follow me home.

No, I replied, there was nothing in it that was unfortunate; only that I could dream of winning the jumbo lottery. Do you think that will come true? I asked.

A big smile came across his face and he started to chortle as he walked away. I watched his receding back and wondered if most Japanese believe in these messages from their gods.