Monday, August 01, 2005

The Strangest Thing So Far This Trip

So, this post has no pictures, but do read to the end because the story gets crazy and weird.

On Sunday I was again feeling a little down. Kind of lonely. Also, that morning when I went to take a bath I found all of the spaces in the shower room to be filled, so I went without a shower (which made me feel pretty gross). Anyway, as I planed I went to Kamakura. I got to the beach, and immediately felt a little better. I sunscreen as best I could, then got in the water. It felt great. I then walked down the beach to dry off as my towel had become totally covered in sand. It was than that I experienced the most unpleasant part of my day, as 6 people remarked "Shiro!" as I walked down the beach. For those of you who don't speak Japanese, the meaning of "Shiro!" translates as "Oh my god, that guy is so white!". Yeah. As if I wasn't self-conscious enough about being white after a lifetime of teasing and prejudice in Hawaii. Oh well. At least in Japan the racism is based on ignorance alone rather than ignorance, hate and fear.

Anyway, on to the good part. So I left the beach and decided to stop by Kiyoko-san's house to give her a souvenir I got in Korea and to say "Hi". However, I got to the house and kind of lost my nerve. I didn't know if it is rude to just drop in in Japan, and I wanted to, at all costs, avoid being rude. Kiyoko-san has always been so nice to me, and I wanted to do my best to repay her kindness. For an hour and a half I paced in front of the house wondering whether I should go in or go back to Tokyo and not bother her. Finally, I decided to leave my souvenir from Korea and a note in her mailbox, but I could not find the mailbox. I decided to just stick the souvenir in the gate. But as I was fiddling with the gate, I turned around to find a delivery man who wanted to enter also. I followed him in and he rang the door-bell. Kiyoko-san answered, and after she dealt with the delivery man, she greeted me. I handed her the souvenir and tried to explain that I was sorry for just dropping by, but thank you for last time.

Well, she invited me in for a drink and made me some fresh squeezed orange juice. Then she explained that she was having guests for dinner but she had purchased too much food and asked if I wanted to stay and help eat the food. Having not eaten well for a while, I agreed. We then sat around making bread and talking for several hours. After a while she stopped to prepare some food for her mother (who has been in a slightly comatose state and lying in the room next to the kitchen for several years under Kiyoko-san's care). Then we took the dog for a walk. During the walk I saw Mt. Fuji. We had a great dinner, and during dinner Kiyoko-san asked why I was planning to go to Yokohama when Ann had told her that it was Ok for me to stay in the house that the Alkires rent from her. I agreed to stay the night.

The dinner continued until late, and finally I decided to retire to the Alkires' cottage. I tried to figure out how to make the water in the shower hot for at least 15 minutes before giving up and taking a freezing cold shower. When I emerged from the shower I heard sirens. I got dressed, then I saw men running into Kiyoko-san's house. I emerged from the cottage in time to hear from Keisuke (Kiyoko-san's son) that his grandmother's heart had had an irregular beat, but that now she was OK. I returned to the cottage and went to bed.

I went in to Kiyoko-san's house the next morning and immediately noticed that Kiyoko-san's mother had passed away and was lying on the floor. Many other family members who I knew had arrived and one of them, Moto-san, took me over to the corpse and showed me how to properly pay my respects. Then we all ate breakfast. Terrified of doing anything wrong at this very important time, I worriedly did the exact same thing as the person next to me was doing as we ate. I was amazed at how different it was from when someone in America dies. It didn't feel as sad. Then a Zen monk showed up and recited some sutras. We all sat on the floor and listened.

The day basically consisted of eating, playing with Sai-chan (Kiyoko-san's 7 month old granddaughter) and having family members occasionally come in and look at the face of the corpse. They would sniffle for about 15 minutes, but after that almost everyone moved over to play with the baby or have a bite to eat. It was really kind of nice. It made one feel like death was part of life rather than the end of it.

No doubt I will soon have many observations about Japanese funerals, but right now I am still going over all of it in my head.

I am now staying with Julie and Max at their house in Tokyo. Julie offered me a place to stay and I accepted because I have discovered that I hate being alone.

1 comment:

Mom said...

You certainly do have the oddest experiences. See you soon.