Tokyo — Sifting through the clutter just on our Tokyo apartment’s dining table, the maru circle symbol — mostly accompanied somewhere nearby with its opposite, the batsu cross — makes 34 separate appearances.

Wherever you look, they are there: Shibuya ward’s new recycling guidelines; the assembly instructions for a standard lamp; teachers’ marks on the children’s homework. If the search were extended across the whole house, the maru-batsu appearances would certainly number in the thousands...

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