"Can you read the

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"Can you read the kanji written on the big stone?" read the metal plaque in the playpark near our house. "It says 'Ootsugi'."

The big stone, taller than I am, is a chunk of rock whittled into a rustic monument. Three kanji characters are carved into its face. The metal plaque near the stone is set at child's height. There is an old photograph etched into the plaque that shows a semicircle of people flanking the stone; an enormous tree stands in background.

The rest of the plaque (written for the benefit of children playing in the park, but at a reading level that makes it comprehensible for me, too) tells the story of the enormous tree. The stone and the photograph date from around 1900, I think. The tree was weakened in a wind storm, and eventually cut down in the 1950s, but the community planted four new trees of the same type in the park.

Discovering snippets of our local lore makes Tokyo a much more engaging city. Not merely concrete buildings and subways; we have a community and a history, too.

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