Sunday, 14 September 2003


If you remember back on 27th August I mentioned that I had planted a peach seed in order to grow a tree that had to grow as Minako said it wouldn't. didn't.

Spent a lot of today writing my assignment and did a whole section that includes graphs. This may not sound a lot to you, but it was something of an achievement for yours truly as it was my first time, which was tricky enough, and also was on a Japanese computer, which was exceedingly tricky as I was, at every moment, dicing with the very real problem of deleting everything at the touch of a kanji'd button. But i didn't, which was a triumph in itself. Am now confident that it will be done, it is just the quality of it all that is in question. Also, the hardest thing, the most annoyingly difficult aspect of the whole thing is trying to keep it down to 5000 words or thereabouts. It would be so easy to just let it roll on a little and suddenly marks are deducted for verbosity. Very hard.

Also had the first, faintest to glimpses of Mt Fuji today, away in the hazy distance. Through the cold months it can be seen almost everyday, but when it gets humid, hazy and polluted the poor lad disappears. So it is nice when we can see him again for the first time as it means the summer heat is on its way out (or rather it has been really windy for the last two days, which has moved the pollution out of the way, but that doesn't sound nearly as romantic, or optimisitc about getting rid of the summer weather). I refer to fuji as a chap, although now Minako isn't so sure if this is right or not. If it isn't apologies to the spirits etc. [which is a really smooth segue into]

a grave situation

But here's a weird thing that Minako and I were talking about yesterday. We were talking about funerals and graves. Strange, I know, but it started as a temple in Tokyo has defaulted on a loan and is now bankrupt, which means they are trying to sell it off so it can be demolished and apartments built on the site. Sad, but understandable. But no, a consortium of loclas are trying to buy it as they have their family graves on the site and don't want them demolished, again understandably so.

So anyway we were chatting, as you do, about family graves in Japan, as they are quite different from most westerners experience. What happens is that the head of the family, sometime in the past (or maybe now) buys what is essentially a large lump of granite with two holes in it. When members of the immediate family die, their ashes are placed in one hole, i the front, and long flat sticks with writing on are place in the hole in the top of the lump of stone (don't really know what they are, but everyone, as it were, gets one). Women who marry into the family get placed in their new families hole, and daughters go to their new family's grave. Now, as you can probably see coming, one grave, lots of generations, one rapidly filling hole.

And now a lot of the babies that were born in the pre-wwII baby boom are getting to the age where they are thinking about all of this. There was, apparently, a big Takase family conference about this a few years ago and it was decided that Koichi, Minako's brother and only son in this generation of the family, would take care of the grave. But already there are members of the family who are getting a little ansty as to whether their place in the grave is assured or not, because there is not much space left. Not having a grave to go to is unthinkable.

I thought that you could just clear a little space, I mean, they won't care, will they? But yes they will, for two reasons. Firstly, after a life of slog and toil, one wants, as in the western version of these things, to rest in peace. That includes staying in your family grave (especially if, I suspect, you were the one who paid for it). Second, and more importantly, when you go through life, the spirit of an ancestor is supposed to sit on your shoulder and do stuff for you, like protect you, bring good luck etc. So, annoy the ancestor sitting on your shoulder and there could, literally, be hell to pay.

Where this leaves us, who knows. Now Minako is out of the Takase family she is not entitled to a place in that grave - rather it is now my duty to provide a suitable resting place when the time comes - Arakawa River perhaps...?

This is not meant to be morbid, by the way, just it is so different from what goes on in the west that I find it really interesting. Also, it might end up like a Japanese episode of Eastenders, with every angry with everyone else because the family grave is full nad no-one wants to buy a new one (granite is expensive, after all).

Anyway, tomorrow is a national holiday, yaay, which means no work but more study. As with all national holidays, this one has a theme, it is respect for the aged day.

So, yo, like, respect, aged people!


thanks to Steve for writing comments on the last posting - and people thought I was becomming negative about Japan!

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