Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Japan: Where The Old Gods Wait


The old gods wait for you in Japan –

the Shinto gods –

a hundred, hundred of them

in the trees, the rocks, the streams, the wind

but most reliably in shrines behind their Torii gates.
They don’t mind if

the neon lights draw you to Akihabara or Shibuya

where cartoon girls strike provocative poses

inviting you into maid cafes

while the Robot Restaurant brightly beckons.


The old gods don’t begrudge you ham and beer

or other refreshment


or games of chance.


They don’t mind if

you spend time at the Isetan department store

gazing at edible chrysanthemums 

and thousand dollar mushrooms.

The old gods know

you might find yourself

in Kyoto at dusk sharing the street 

with a geiko (known in olden days as geisha)

or kimono clad tourists

or fashionable street smart kids.

They simply sigh, the old gods, for all that is old, and all that is new – 

for all that is false, and all that is true.

A night can glow in all times and places.

The old gods don’t mind Buddhist pagodas – 


the golden temple – 

or even Buddha himself.

Buddha, they whisper, is only another form of us.

Amongst themselves, they confess

they are happiest in

the gardens of Tokyo –



the gardens of Kyoto –

and the bamboo forest.

The air is clear in garden and forest –

we can breathe, the gods say –


*       *       *

Thank you,  Gus, for inviting me to join you! Thank you to Chrissy and Bill Hagerty and the Asurion team for the warm welcome. Sincerest thanks also to our wonderful tour guides, Rie and Masayo! For help organizing your trip abroad, try DAI Travel.

With U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty and wife Chrissy

With the Asurion team. Jim Flautt, we missed you!

In Tokyo with Rie Kotari

In Kyoto with Masayo Uchimoto

*       *       *

Japan is an incredibly sophisticated country in every way, but some things inevitably get lost in translation. Or just seem funny. Or brilliant!

I think they meant Soup

But – what if you are a Chicken Woman?

Don’t you love that the Propaganda Shot Bar is right next to the Family Mart?

Crispy sweet potato latte, anyone?

The most mysterious sign in all of Tokyo

Finally – no post from Japan would be complete without the dearest, darling –

*        *         *

Do you want to know Japan? Begin with this book:


  1. Fun post to browse, Jennifer. Thanks for the delightful tour of Japan and the book rec.

  2. Jennifer, thank you for the delightful tour of Japan this morning. Such a contrast between the peaceful greens of the gardens and the colorful street life and your prose which unites them.

  3. What a magnificent adventure! Although I’ve never been (and want to go) to Japan, I feel like I’ve already been there thanks to this awesome post. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer!! The old gods await! ❤️❤️

  4. Dear Jennifer, It was delightful to have you at our home in Tokyo and to share the unique and wonderful culture that is Japan!

  5. They also love Kurosawa, but of course he is one of them made flesh from 1910-1998. Have a blast.

  6. Such a splendid visit to Japan, Jen! Such a huge city, but you seized the essence of it in this “the old gods wait” presentation through photos, poetry, and prose!

  7. Enjoyed the tour of Japan. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Beautiful pics! Thank you for sharing this adventure!

  9. Thanks Jennifer for sharing all of the lovely pictures and wonderful comments.

  10. Jennifer, your beautiful writing of the old gods is inspiring.

  11. Jen, your words are so resonant and as rich as these photos! I want to go to Japan, and I want a photography class with you!

  12. Hi Jennifer, Thank you for the link. I enjoyed your prose and pictures! It’s very interesting to see Japan through your eyes. Please come back. The old gods are waiting for you 🙂

Leave a Reply