Thursday, February 20, 2014


I am getting a bit behind on the posts now... photos of nieces and nephews seem to be flying into my in-box from all directions. Very grateful!
These photos go way back to August... it was the first "Obon" since my mother-in-law died, which is quite a big deal here.  Obon is the season where deceased come back to visit for a few days and check that everyone is doing okay and looking after things in the way they should be.  For about a week before hand there needs to be someone at the house all day every day to receive visitors who come to pay their respects, leave an envelope of money, drink a glass of cold tea and then go home with a little bag of goodies.  We had a total of 163 people come to pray... which means 163 cups of cold tea... and 163 envelopes of money to open, count and record who gave how much.
As well as the envelopes of money, the relatives and close friends give lanterns, baskets of packaged foods surrounded by plastic flowers and boxes and boxes of beer. 
I am in two minds about the whole process.  I like the fact that it is a time when people can remember the recently deceased.  I like the fact that the whole family gets together for a few days.  What I don't like is the commercialism and waste assosciated with the whole thing.  All of the food baskets cost a minimum of about 10,000 yen (often up to 20,000) and are on lovely wooden frames etc. which are all thrown away.  The value of the actual food is probably only 3-4,000 yen.   A lot of the food is also wasted because there is so much of it and it can't be opened until everyone has already gone home - ie. you can't use it when all the family is gathered and it would be most helpful!   The lanterns are also thrown away... each one again costs at least 10,000 yen....
My biggest gripe is about the big monstrosity in the corner of the first photo.  It is basically a lot of plastic flowers and some plastic doves with lots of silver glittery stuff (which is now keeping crows out of my garden!).  It cost 90,000 yen (on special) .... it was burnt when it was all finished.... my husband and his sister were expected to buy it... in fact it was ordered for them by my father-in-law and they were given the bill.  As far as I can tell it is not a necessary part of the whole event, but the companies have done such a good job of pushing them on people that they have come to believe they will bring bad luck on the family if they don't buy it.
Anyway, we managed to survive the whole thing and are still getting through cans of crab meat and bottles of beer.  Here's hoping we don't have another event like this in the near future.

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