Catching up…summer is more than halfway over

Whew! Where did the last two weeks go?

When I arrived in Japan, the rainy season was just beginning; heat and humidity have made the transition to Japan a bit tough. I am hoping that by the time fall arrives, I will be somewhat more acclimated. Obon is now officially over. We had over 100 people stop by to pay their respects. Everyone comes with a gift, usually cash (usually between $20 and $50) to help defray costs for the various obligations when someone dies. We served cold mugi-cha (barley tea) and crackers to everyone and shared stories about Jiro’s father(ji-chan). One neighbor told a story about the two of them as young men just back from the war going on a several day bike ride to Kagoshima just for the heck of it. They relied heavily on the kindness of strangers and good fortune along the way. Our neighbor said he gave up after reaching Miyazaki, but ji-chan kept going to Kagoshima. They each returned by train, tired but feeling like they had had the adventure of their life.

butsudan with Yonezawa crest lantern

butsudan with Yonezawa crest lantern

Over these five days, I chatted with more people over the age of 70 than I have in the past five years. I am going to do everything I can to stay healthy! The stories they shared were great, but I heard more about ailments and pains than I could stand. As each guest left we gave them a “thank you” gift (a set of hand towels).

food for the grave

food for the grave

On the third day of obon we prepared a mixture of chopped eggplant, rice and azuki beans to sprinkle on the grave. We lit incense and pine kindling and sent the spirits back.

lighting the pine

lighting the pine

After visiting the grave

After visiting the grave

walking home

walking home

drummer

drummer

Last night was the neighborhood  bon-odori. Lots of kids, the local hula! dance group, snow cones, dancing, beer, soda, and a raffle. The first prize was a rice cooker that went to a 12 year old girl…we came home with our prize of plastic garbage bags. really!

I took three days off work and had a five day weekend, but really didn’t have much of a rest. Next weekend I hope to go see Hayao Miyazaki’s newest film, 崖の上のポンヨ Ponyo on a Cliff and do some painting on our house.

The monk is reading the names on the tablets of the five deceased people in our neighborhood. It took him about five minutes to confirm the correct readings of the kanji so he could include them in his prayers.

The monk is reading the names on the tablets of the five deceased people in our neighborhood. It took him about five minutes to confirm the correct readings of the kanji so he could include them in his prayers.

why is hula dancing so popular here?

why is hula dancing so popular here?

I have been working really hard studying kanji. I will write more about my progress soon. I spend 1-2 hours every day on this, I am really motivated to build my literacy.

This blog is titled books and bamboo..I haven’t written about either. Other stuff is more pressing…I really hope to find more time for reading and that Jiro can get back to his work soon. I am reading The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama by Pico Iyer. Iyer does a masterful job of describing the complexity of the Dalai Lama and his complicated role in Tibet and in the world.

I am slowly getting used to this medium of communication. It does relieve some letter writing guilt, and it is a good way to keep in touch with many. I really appreciate the comments. My next step in blogging is to reply to comments.

It’s not all beautiful

vacant lot next to the shrine

vacant lot next to the shrine. Check out the kudzu.

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