Wandering the grounds at Hikone Castle, I came across this curious little box on a post. It had cards, it had a writing shelf, it had a slot for depositing the cards after one had used the writing shelf. I couldn’t read the kanji on the front. What was it? A suggestion box? Why would they put a suggestion box in the middle of Hikone Castle?
“Hi, I think the castle would look more cheery if you painted it a nice buttercup yellow”?
“Why aren’t there any ninjas? You should have ninjas.”?
“It would be a big improvement if you sold hot dogs.”
I snapped a picture and studied it later. It actually says:
THROW DOWN A POEM BOX
Throw down a poem? No way! But guess what? That’s what Japanese tourists did before there were cameras! They’d journey to a famous destination and dash off a poem to capture the moment instead of clicking a forty-six megapixel snapshot. And amazingly enough, haiku clubs STILL pen their way around Japan chewing their pencils and jotting down their impressions of famous waterfalls, temples, whirlpools, you-name-it. I actually encountered a group like that at a temple café the next day, all sitting around a table with their green tea and sweets, taking turns reading their poems out loud!
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!