"They didn't take it like that man."
Runners are usually perpetual convalescents, leading a life of rich, vigorous afternoons, nodding evenings and stiff, groggy mornings. Easing training before a race sometimes humanizes us, but we are incomplete tourists. Our sense of mission makes us unwilling to tire ourselves in search of culture or Christmas presents.
One morning Shibuya-san told us we were scheduled to go to a Shinto shrine to be purified for the race.
"It makes no difference whether or not we are believers?" inquired Frank.
"No difference. It is automatic."
"That sort of thinking might have saved us a few million in crusaders, heretics and Northern Irish," Frank said.
We were greeted by a tiny, energetic man in beige and dark brown robes. Nobusada Nishitakatsuji explained in rapid, precise English that his family had served as priests at Dazaifu Shrine for 38 generations.
Detecting an accent, Frank asked if he had ever been in the U.S.
"Harvard Divinity School," he said.
He led us through high stone gates and gilded arches to an inner courtyard. Under a sacred plum tree we were given a sip of ceremonial sake from a three-tiered golden bowl. Small printed fortunes were selected for us according to the animal of the year of our birth.