The days are still warm, but the mornings and evenings are much cooler- no need to keep the fan running. (By the way, the gel pad was wasted money- kept me cool for about 30 minutes and then it warmed up and just made me hotter). The autumn fruits-persimmons, grapes and asian pears are in the markets and the Sports Day Festivals-undokai (video from rockinginhakata.com)- are happening all over the country. Rice is being harvested and soon we will be eating the first new rice of the year- it really does taste different!
We attended the undokai at Jiro’s niece’s school with my brother and his 10-year-old daughter visiting from Australia. It was a lot of fun for everyone and Angelica even participated in the tamaire and pankui events.
Tamaire 玉入れ is a game where two teams compete competition to throw as many balls into their team’s basket within a specified time. The baskets are affixed to tall bamboo poles and the balls are strewn all over the ground. As soon as the starting whistle blows, the participants scramble to pick up the balls and throw them into the basket. The action stops when the ending whistle sounds and then the teams count off the balls in their basket. Angelica’s team didn’t win. I was surprised to see that there is a national tournament.
Pankui Kyoso パン食い競争 is simply a race to run and grab a piece of filled bread with your mouth (no hands allowed). Silly fun, but probably 100 people ran this event in heats!
The best part of any Japanese event is the food and for outdoor family events, everyone prepares bento. My sister-in-law made inari-zushi, fried chicken, simmered lotus root and tamago-yaki(rolled omelet). I made sandwiches filled with Japanese-style potato salad and tofu pate. We both brought fruit. I saw an article about Japanese style bento in the NY Times today-nice slides. This is my favorite bento site and the author is working on a bento cookbook.
After the undokai we returned to Saiki and that night, both Jiro and my brother got hit hard with some nasty foodborne bug….not sure what it was, but the girls and women were all fine. My niece attributed it to a gender-specific bug.
The next day I took all three girls (Japanese nieces and Angelica) to the beach- it was so warm and we totally
messed up by not bringing our swimsuits because we were stupidly following the unwritten rule that it isn’t okay to swim in the ocean after August 16th- jellyfish (we didn’t see any) and just general “no one swims in the ocean in September” rationale. We did see a few surfers, though.
Silver Week complements Golden Week– the five-day break in May. Silver Week occured this year because of two national holidays that conveniently landed on Monday and Wednesday-making for a 5-day holiday (there is a law that stipulates when there is only one day between any two other national holidays, that day automatically becomes a holiday).
Keiro-no-Hi: Respect for the Aged Day is always the third Monday in September. This year it fell on Monday, the 21st (also my birthday- I’m feeling a little confused by this coincidence). This week is also called Silver Week because of ths day to honor the elderly- “silver citizens”.
Shubun no Hi / Higan no Chu-Nichi: Autumnal Equinox-usually falls on Sept. 23rd.. On this day, families vist their family graves and eat ohagi (rice balls made using mochi rice covered in azuki bean paste).
These two holidays will not lineup for a 5-day holiday again for another 6 years. I wonder where I will be then.
OMG, I just reread my May 2009 post- I have made no progress in kanji since then! I need to get back on track.
The last day of my brother’s visit we visited a beautiful exhibition of bamboo craft and art (竹の世界) at the Oita Prefectural Geijutsukaikan. The scope of the exhibit is quite remarkable with work both from craftspeople and artists. There were several pieces by Shono Shounsai (1904-1974), who was designated a Living National Treasure in 1967. If you are in Oita, this show will be up until October 11th. Jiro also has two pieces in the show and he participated in a panel discussion last week.
After visiting the bamboo exhibition, we went for lunch of reimen (cold Korean style noodles) at a place that makes their own noodles. And we got in a visit to see the monkeys at Mt. Takasaki before they caught the train back towards Osaka. Lots of fun in three days- it took me two days to recover!
All this was happening as Jiro’s mom’s condition is declining. She seems less engaged with the world and less steady on her feet. It is hard to know how to be helpful, because she says everything is okay and she is still making her daily visit to the family grave. She isn’t eating much- I wonder if she has a cold, but I think she is just feeling bad about being old and unable to do the things she wants to do. She is a bit better today, and I hope she bounces back. The hardest thing about living and being supportive to her is realizing that it will be a steady decline. Luckily there is a pretty good support system here and she attends Day Service (elder daycare) twice a week which provides some outside stimulation.
I think a lot about how it will be as I age. What can I do now to make it easier, especially for my family.
I am hoping to get some baking done this weekend- and definitely plan to pull out the kanji flashcards. Starting to get back into the swing of things here.