Yes....strangely enough...busy is better for this camper. Due to the holiday coming up (more on that in just a bit!), I had one class yesterday and one today...and will have only one tomorrow. As I usually have 3 classes on Monday and Tuesday and 1 class plus my dance class on Wednesday....I'm feeling a bit...at odds today.
You'd think I'd be loving the free time and enjoying the heck out of the easy schedule.
Actually....I'm about to go nuts....or more nuts, as the case may (or may not) be.
After going 90 miles-an-hour for so long, 6 days a week....I'm finding it hard to just. do. nothing.
I experienced this last year in America...and after about a week, I got over that feeling and started enjoying the "doing nothingness" of being on vacation.
I wish I had a few weeks to become accustomed to it, but...alas...no. So will just suffer through these strange feelings and hope that no one gets hurt in the process!!
Tomorrow starts the beginning of the Obon Festival here in Japan.....and it will last for 3 days. This is a special season where many people return to their hometowns for a couple days or, as of late, many will take this time off from work (some companies this year have been off almost a whole week!!) and travel abroad.
What is Obon, you are asking?
Well....it's kind of like a part of Halloween.... with Memorial Day thrown in...and then add a bit of 4th of July....and VOILA!! There you go!!!
If you want to get the whole exact explanation, you can go to Wikipedia and search for "obon festival" and they have a pretty good one. But...that's pretty long and drawn out, so just stay here and let's see what I can do to do my own bit of 'splaining. Okay? Okay.
The Obon Festival is a time to pray for the souls of the family members who have passed away. If someone has passed away in the past year, then this year is especially important....it is their hatsubon, or "first obon" and there will be special, official ceremonies and possibly a "spirit boat" will be involved.
Each family will follow the basic principles of the festival, but, sometimes families or different religious groups have their own way of doing things.
Here is what the Kuroiwa Family will be doing:
Tomorrow, on the 13th, we will go to the temple where the K-man's father's bones are being kept (yes, here in Japan, after cremation, the bones are kept in special urns...the ashes~~I assume~~ are thrown away!!). At the temple, we will pray, leave an offering for his spirit (usually his favorite candy bar, tea or something else like that) and we will "take his spirit back to the house". Issei told me that we have to "go to the temple to remind Grandfather that it is time to come home for a while." The K-man just said that we have to go and get him....which just made me kind of giggle.
At the house, the family butsudan, "family altar", will be decorated with flowers, lanterns, special food and such. Even though his father passed away 13 years ago, we still do this...and will continue to do this for many, many more years.
For the next day, or so, the spirits of our loved ones come back and..... hang out, so to speak. As you walk along the streets, you will find beautiful lanterns, with the family mark on them, hanging outside the houses....to mark the way for the spirits so they can come home safely.
On the 15th, it is time for them to go back to "the other world".
For us....we will take some of the fruit and food from the butsudan and pack them tightly into a small straw boat....traditionally, we would light an incense on it and then take it to the river and send it off, letting it drift out to sea. But...due to the changing times and pollution and such, we will just carry it down to the pier where there will be a barge waiting to take it away. They actually have a Buddhist priest waiting on the barge to pray as they sail away!
For those families celebrating the hatsubon, here in Nagasaki we have a very special tradition called Shodo Nagashi...or "spirit boat parade". Nagasaki is very unique in that this is a very loud and festive affair. A friend of mine from the northern part of Japan was in total shock about our tradition down here. Thousands upon thousands of yen have been spent on fire crackers and fireworks. Boats have been built (also not done cheaply!!) that will be carried throughout the city by family members and friends...again, traditionally, they would carry them to the water and set them afloat. But...they are lovingly placed on the barge to be taken away.
When Koji was born, my mom came to be a part of his blessing at the shrine...and she was here for this festival. I went through some of our pictures and found some that might make this a bit easier to understand...or at least, that is what I am hoping for.
I will take the camera when we go on Friday (the 15th) and take some more pictures.
It really is a wonderful time to be here in Nagasaki....noisy, butwonderful.
Oh...must remember to buy ear plugs for all of us for Friday as it can get a bit too loud!!
So...enjoy the slide show! (I wrote comments on most of the pictures and it might go a little too fast to read so go ahead and pause it if you want!!!