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With our cameras and crumpled clothes we wait for the bus. We rush to each “beauty spot” through narrow streets, observing signs whose alphabet we fail to comprehend.

Pretty girls are scattered like rain. We pass students on bikes, old people stooped over bundles. The new “good life” of Japan smiles at us from Coke posters on rundown store fronts. Dingy flats and factories crowd the roads, relieved briefly by ragged patches of green and graceful shrines.

Although he tries to make things clear, the guide is mechanical and tired. The bus windows are splattered with rain and each of us is deep in murky water.