Once, many, many years ago, I found a rail pass someone left behind next to a public pay phone in Hamamatsucho Station in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.

Before handing in the pass into the stationmaster’s office for deposit in the お忘れ物承り所 (o-wasuremono uketamawari-jo, lost-and-found department), I glanced at the owner’s name and age as entered on the pass (no problem there); but the name of the station, 上石神井, left me completely mystified: I had never seen those four characters 上, 石, 神 and 井 (meaning above, stone, god and well) in combination, and hadn’t the faintest idea how they should be read. Ue-ishigamii? Jo-sekishini??

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