JAPAN: Benten-sama

Saluted by beaming policemen, chattering lightheartedly, fluttering in their bright kimonas like iridescent butterflies, 2,000 geisha girls flocked last week to the spacious park of their famed Yoshiwara quarter in Tokyo.

A bronze image of Benten-sama, complacent "Goddess of Mercy," was unveiled. For generations to come it will remind Japanese, whose thoughts might otherwise be bent too much on pleasure, that 730 geisha girls were killed at Tokyo by the earthquake of 1923.

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