Not sure whether I think these are creepy or cute...
Showa No Hi is the previous emperor's birthday (which he shares with a little bundle of kawaiiii-ness called Isabella!). His name was Showa (go figure). We are currently in the Heian era of emperors. I was born in 359 (the 59th year of Showa) so I feel special. I gte a new birthday here and everything! Since he was such an important man, it was actually on holiday and I didn't have to go into work, which was nice seeing as I had been invited to a Japanese Barbecue.
Think not of those metallic beasts which roam yon hills and deserts in that land of Oz, for they roam not here. Here dost reside the box of fiery coals and delicate grills.....which one must tame with only a small piece of wood.....
Basically...it's camping without the camping. Everyone is so wonderfully prepared with little shade tents, deckchairs and fold out tables. Not to mention gas burners and the like. We had booked two spaces, and on each one was a big box with a bundle of wood inside it and some newspaper. We built a little campfire, laid some grills over it and once evryone had arrived we started
cooking. It is the best concept ever. Rather than cook up ALL the meat and tehn wait for it to go cold while everyone dishes up the salad etc, you just all sit around the fire, someone lays out about 10 small slices of meat, and you use your chopsticks to cook it to your liking before picking it up, dripping it in your bowl of sauce and eating it. Everyone gets hot food, you just keep cooking and eating, and this continues for about 5 hours (well if you're us it does...)
Along with Japanese beef, we had New Zealand lamb, squid, scallops, sweet potato, normal potato, corn, yakisoba (fried noodles), curry udon, eggplant,.....long stringly mushrooms whose stems look like spaghetti, and also this red stuff called konyaku...which has no taste, has the texture of a balloon, and is supposedly good for you.
I met a lot of new people, and we just sat around eating and (on their part) talking , and (on my part) eating some more. I got to hang out wiuth this little boy Haru, who is my friend Rumi's nephew. He was soooo cuute! There was another little baby there, hinari chan,
Haru and I
he looks a bit suspicious
and the 3 month old boy of Rumi's best friend. Not the same as hanging around with the folks at home, but a nice change from work-home-work-home etc...
After this barbecue we went and dropped Haru (Harunari) home and I met his younder sister Mi-chan, who was convinced that my name was Mikky. She has started to learn a little bit of english so she was caling out 'pink', 'brue' and 'gween' every so often as well as jabbering away in japanese I couldn't understand. Rumi and I just sat and drank coffee while the kids ran around, and we contemplated how we could even fit the coffee into our stuffed bellies.
She invited me to go to here house too, where I was offered the privelege of having yet another new experience. Ever rung a massive bell in a Buddhist Temple?....this will change some perceptions a bit. For me, the term 'buddhist monk' evokes someone who is vegetarian, doesn't drink, and doesn't fornicate......I know this is just a stereotype, but I didn't know enough about buddhism and the practices of monks, and didn't bother to delve into it......so this revelation was something of a shock, but a
Rumi (my Japanese friend) lives in a buddhist temple. For her, buddhism is just her fathers job and the practices are just everyday. For me, it was a case of 'Your dad's a what now?', and being amazed at every little thing about her house. Her dad is part of the Jodo sect of Buddhists here, and it is not a particularly strict sect. He likes curry, he loves to drink, and he has a wife and at least 2 daughters........ cool huh? SInce he has over 100 families as a part of his temple, he is able to live there. and their house is kind of to the side of the temple yet fits in with the overall decor.
The new experience I got to have, was the bell ringing. In summer, every day at 6 o'clock, the bell is rung over shigaraki-cho. 6 times, once every 15 seconds. I got to pull on that rope and slam this big wooden beam into this massive bell, knowing that the people down below could hear it... cool man. I don't really know the significance of the bell, but it's something i would like to look into
as my time here goes on. I got a tour of the temple and then we went in and knelt in the main room, and Rumi's dad gave me a show, doing his chanting which sounds like namlamidabunamlamidabu....... and i got to thump this little wooden thing in time with him.
After that I was led into a little room and we had tea, and then there was some question and answer time and lots of translation on Rumi's part. She says her mum can speak a bit of english but she was really shy! And i tried some of my meagre Japanese....but that didn't go too far.
And that was my Show No Hi. How was yours? ( April 29th)
extra pics at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=34927&l=611ce&id=542646880
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