Wednesday, January 25, 2006

who's Yoshimi

am listening to Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots . It's a good song, but i have no idea what it's refering to, if anything, so if anyone out there does, i'd be glad for the info.

this might be a bit of a random blog.
feeling a bit random at the moment. Tired as well. Haven't been sleeping too well, but perhaps that's only because i haven't been giving myself the proper amount of sleep on a regular basis and instead catching naps here and there.
The weather keeps changing as well. I won't whine too much. It's still nowhere near milwaukee weather right now, but it's a bit cold.

although there was a bit of a warm spell the last couple of weeks, warm enough for the cherry blossoms to explode two weeks earlier than anticipated. I was told that cherry blossoms usually come in in early February; Okinawa is the first place in a new year that cherry blossoms can be seen in Japan. They then "creep" up through the rest of Japan's islands, finishing their trek in Hokkaido in May.
On mainland, the Japanese will eat and drink with their families under the beautiful cherry blossoms. This doesn't happen on Okinawa, people just come out to look at them, take lots of pictures, to walk around, and to eat festival food.

Last weekend, a few of us went to Mountain Yaedake in Motobu. It is claimed that cherry blossoms appear here first in Okinawa. Not sure about that, because by the time we were driving on our way to the famed mountain on the rainy Saturday afternoon, blossomin cherry trees were lining the roads.
check out the pics here . What we participated in is called Hanami and the Japanese name for cherry blossoms is sakura.
And for those of you who might not be making it out to the land of the red sun anytime soon, and you live in the States, check out the Cherry Blossom Festival that is held annually in Washington DC in celebration of a gift of several hundred cherry trees given to the US by a Japanese emperor in the 1920`s.

oh..and because this is a completely random post, you won't mind if i throw in a bit about one of my favorite things to drink in Okinawa--acerola juice. It's tart and sweet and really good for you. I was looking for info about cherry blossom fests and found this bit of info. I really really like Wikipedia . Here's what it had to say about acerola .

every once in a while something happens on the island to remind me that i am indeed in a foreign country with unrecognizable cultural attributes and unknown traditions.
yesterday i went to a funeral.
Hisako-san's father passed away unexpectidly Monday. I didn't know. I was only told on Tuesday morning. The funeral was being held at 1pm on Tuesday. I didn't have any classes in the afternoon, so asked if it would be ok for me to go to the funeral. I didn't know what to expect and couldn't find my handy JET book that explained ways to behave at specific events. I was given an envelope, specific to funerals, and told to put a 1000 yen in it.
Gabrielle was able to leave her elementary classes for an hour as well, we went home, changed into fully black clothes and drove to the tombs closest to our house. After we parked, we followed the crowd up a slightly steep hill, into the forrest, and came upon a church like structure, previously unseen by us. People were lined up in three rows inside the temple/shrine/mortuary. After we gave our envelopes to the women seated at the entrance, whose job it was to receive the envelopes and to write down who they were given by, we joined one of the lines. From my place in the line, i could see the shrine at the front of the building, a photo of the deceased and a priest sitting cross-legged in front of it.
To the sides of the shrine the family members were seated, women and men separated.
I was nervous and saddened by my friend's grief. Her youngest child is one of my first grade students and i could see him sitting next to his older brother, opposite their mother and grandmother.
The priest chanted and a man at the microphone said some lines. Family members came up to the front, took bows to the shrine and to the sides, and threw something into smile pyres burning inside rectangular, stone containers situated on a table in front of the shrine.
After the family was done, the table was moved back and towards the lined up people who have come to pay respects. One by one, the three lines moved up. I watched carefully what the people were doing at the table, but finally decided not to follow their movements--it is not my religion, it has no significance to me and would be meaningless as a gesture. I decided only to bow to both sides of the family and to the front and follow through the exit. Upon leaving the building, I was given a token gift and a packet of white powder that we were told to sprinkle on oursevles when we came home. I saw people sprinkle it on themselves before they got into the car. I am still not sure what it signifies, but perhaps it has a purifying significance, something to ward off the darker spirits of death.
Don't know.
I came home and washed my hands, because where i come from that's what i've always been told to do when i got home from a graveyard.

Everything about the ceremony was familiar and yet it was very different from the funerals i have been to. Yet grief is universal and funeral's intention seems to always be about respecting the deceased and to come together to show support to the family who has lossed a loved one. A way for a community to gather during the time of darkness. A common sadness that reinforcess communal and familial bonds. Whatever the ceremonial aspects, the goal is the same, to create a moment when the person is remembered and his physical self is let go.


i told you. a random post.
last night, after karate practice, Ben and i found a new, tiny, cute izakaya for dinner. i hope i find it again. it was cheap and the food was good. my favorite thing to order now at restaurants is a sashimi salad. I love a country where i can get a mixed green salad with different kinds of sashimi on it for an equivalent of 6 US dollars.

Karate was great. It's getting much better and i can now follow through two katas. Kata is a form and i like them because they are like well rehearsed dance routines. Of the two katas, i really like the one called "godan" or fifth form...the gestures are akin to someone showing off their sword handling skills. It's very regal and proud.
at some point i am going to shoot video of the two kids with black belts at our dojou. They are incredible. When they move through their katas, it is as if they move air. It's really powerful.

ok. enough for today.

cheers

4 comments:

Chiye said...

The white powder that they were given at the end of the funeral was salt. You throw it over your shoulder after a funeral to ward of evil spirits that may behind you as you leave the funeral. Salt in Okinawa is usually sea salt and its seen to purify and cleanse.

-e said...

ah! thank you, darling. so i was on the right track with my thinking. thanx for filling in the gaps..it's interesting how the ideas of evil and lingering spirits exist in all different cultures but the means of warding them off are unique to where the people live. btw, does it matter which shoulder the salt is tossed over?

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other d said...

i enjoyed reading your random post a lot alos. we throw salt over our shoulder too don't we? or is it spitting? i've only been to very few funerals but they are invariably profound-- it is strange for me to say so because i can't take anything seriously but when people die, even if they are old and its good that they died, its still serious and profound.
what else did i want to say... oh i suppose i wanted to say to you that i am getting all the information i desired and then some from reading your bloggg, and appreciate your time and experience for this. ANd will be glad to continue reading and likely wondering at all the wonder-full things. so alien, so un-american. what is the exchange rate? is a 1000 yen a lot? I apologize in advance for asking questions which i could easily answer for myself with two minutes worth of looking. I don't like to exhert initiative or ambition, you know, and especially prowess.

also i like wikipedia a great deal as well, it is awesome and i hope will stay there that way.

do you have much time to read? i have been blessed with a number of really good books in the past little while. Books i could even mail for not too much if that is something that happens in the world because they are light. but you are coming back to milkywau soon? ...or what are your plans? cheerios erina

-d