Tuesday I was in this pre-apocalyptic part of San Francisco right next to the 101 freeway that’s a mixture of big box retailers, warehouses, fast food joints, and a few liquor stores. Homelessness abounds in that part of town, so I wasn’t oblivious when this frail, gentle old man wheeled his shopping cart up to me and asked for spare change.
I gave him a few $1 bills and took a few photos of him, with his permission, during our transaction. And although he didn’t say “What would Jesus do?” while we briefly spoke, I keep looking at my photograph of him and thinking that the question and his image would fit together perfectly.
And for me the answer is I don’t know what Jesus would have done, but I know what I would’ve done if I wasn’t too broke myself to do it…
Remember: people and the world are more beautiful, odd, and interesting than you think, you just have to stop and look long enough to notice.
This Mormon boy
(I didn’t get his name and it doesn’t matter)
was on his mission at Nakano Station
handing out tickets to god and scattering seeds of fertilized Jesus.
The Japanese soil won’t take those seeds.
The Japanese never needed a long-haired hippie foreigner to tell them
how to fear death and ghosts.
Besides, Japan’s gods are legion,
tend to be more entertaining,
and bring darker blood and better humor to dinner parties.
And they’re good for a short loan and fast drink on payday.
What this Mormon boy didn’t understand,
will never understand,
is Jesus will never get more from the Japanese than a 90-day visitor’s visa.
The Japanese love their ancient gods so much
they’ve made them characters in video games.
And how is Jesus going to bring devout people
closer to heaven than that?
(Nakano Station, Tokyo, September 2013)
Kozukappara is one of Tokyo’s most notorious Edo-era execution grounds. This beautiful jizō overlooks and guards the place. The grounds are a very short walk from the south end of Minami-senju Station, and so trains are constantly coming and going on elevated tracks on either side of Kozukappara. But despite its unquiet location, the jizō, in its wisdom and patience, keeps calm, unwavering watch, guarding the living from the dead and the dead from the living…
(Near Minami-senju Station, Tokyo 2015)