Head bowed, eyes closed, silently intoning my birth date and a prayer-like plea for good fortune; I feel a little silly, but I'm doing as I've been told.

Sitting in a small, dimly lit cubicle beneath the streets of Harajuku, I could be in a confessional were it not for the Miles Davis blasting from somewhere overhead.

Then my efforts to focus on the great beyond are further distracted by the rap and clatter of 50 long, thin bamboo sticks being shuffled and divided, shuffled and divided, accompanied each time by a short, swift expulsion of breath.