Sunny Sunday ...

It's a sunny Sunday morning, coming up to ten o'clock, and it's time to make a final pass over the sidewalk with the little brush and dustpan before propping the shop door open for the day's business.

But this is certainly not the 'start' of our day here in Asakusa; Roku-dori has been busy since before sunup. The street is angled in such a way that the early morning sun - in autumn - shines directly down the length of it, but there is plenty of activity here before that happens. I have been sleeping here four or five days a week since we opened at the beginning of the month, and I can attest that Roku-dori goes to bed very late, and comes alive very early!

The sounds of the late-night revellers echoing down the street don't bother me at all; I'm usually fast asleep long before the last of them has staggered off to the nearby train station, but come early morning a different kind of street sound is not so easily ignored. Just a few paces from our front door is the entrance to a long street full of bars, and their practice is to put their garbage out (in heaps) very late every night, ready to be collected by large trucks early the next morning.

These drivers - knowing that this is basically a commercial district - don't go to any particular pains to do their job quietly. Their collection work is all over pretty quickly, in less than a minute at most, but the damage is done, and myself and other local residents begin our new day ...

Heading out for an early morning stroll (and also to get some milk for my granola) I found that today must be a 'race' day; a very large building a few blocks from our shop houses an off-track betting center, and for the first few hours of the day it will be streams of their clients who fill our street, tip sheets in hand, many of them clearly still planning their betting pattern for the day as they walk along.

Mixed among them are the morning joggers, perhaps more of them than usual today, it being a Sunday. Another clearly defined early morning group - identifiable by the luggage they wheel behind them - are the 'let's get going' type of tourists, people who have stayed in one of the many hostels and hotels that pepper our district, and who are determined to make the most of their day by getting an early start.

Many of them are headed towards Sensoji, and I too head in that direction. The temple and surrounding garden are beautiful in the early light, although here too, no more than a few minutes after sunup, it's already getting quite crowded, and a lineup has formed in front of the offertory box. Staff members (and volunteers?) are sweeping the grounds, and a lady is using a large rake to spread out the ash in the huge incense burner, getting it ready for another day's hard work bringing good health to all the believers who waft its smoke over their bodies ...

I return by a circular route, and pass the pair of old theaters that share a building at the other end of our street. Staff members are raising the very tall banners on which are painted the names of some of the star performers who will appear on the stages today. And I see that today also, although it is not yet seven in the morning, a lineup has formed for tickets to today's first shows, which will not begin until ten o'clock. I don't think that anybody in that lineup looks younger than me, and I'm now 63! There is clearly a sub-culture here that many of us know nothing about - rakugo 'rock stars' attracting devotees who will line up to get those prime seats near the stage!

Life on Roku-dori ... it's all new to me, and it's all interesting, and I think that our little printmaking venture is going to fit in here just fine! (Although I suspect that it's going to be quite a while before we are in a position to ask our fans to begin lining up at seven on Sunday morning!)

 


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