Aug 17, 2004

O-bon in Iiyama

We just arrived back in Tokyo yesterday after spending five days with Rie's folks in Nagano. Visiting Iiyama typically means:

  • clean tap water that comes out mountain stream cool

  • falling asleep to the sounds of silence, or a few chirping frogs in the rice paddy just outside the window

  • the dog refuses to take long walks at night, as beyond the reach of the porchlight lies pitch black

  • an everpresent odor of mosquito coils in the summer, and kotatsu charcoal in the winter

  • eating and drinking way more than my fair share, and

  • not much to do, except possibly some farm work

This time was a little different. Since we were back during the O-bon holiday, we joined the family in visiting their ancestors' graves. I was surprised at how little ceremony was involved. A short walk to the graveyard for their mountainside hamlet, a little water splashed to clean the stones, some incense lit and hands folded in prayer, and we were finished. No dancing, no special clothing, and no torches outside the home. But I learned a little about the connection between the family grave and Japan's rigid koseki, or family registry, system.

Due to weather considerations, our work in the fields over the weekend amounted to only one afternoon of potato pulling. Not enough to earn our keep perhaps, but now her folks have a year's supply of taters warehoused.

Otherwise, our time was spent making preparations for our non-wedding reception in November, when we'll be formally introduced as a married couple to all her relatives who haven't met this wierd gaijin yet. Mom-in-law took us to the spot she picked out in Nagano city, where we had a look at the room, food, etc. And since we'll be dressing in traditional Japanese wedding garb (somewhat like the two on this page), we ended our day by trying on costumes. Well, I'm looking forward to the souvenir photo at least.


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