(this is a very long post - be warned)
Can someone cancel obon next year - pretty fuckin please and with a cherry on top.
For days leading up to Obon, during Obon and a few days after Kunimi (and I imagine most rural areas in Japan) get overtaken by trendy clothed city folk with their out of town car plates - Nagoya, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Kochi, Kumamoto and Kitakyushu just to name a few. Definitely a large portion of Kunimi moved to Kitakyushu as there were shitloads of Kita Q cars around.
Obon festivities are usually held at one's 'jikka' - or the family home, where there will be a 'butsudan' or family alter and nearby a 'haka' or family grave. Traditionally the 'chonan' or eldest son resides in the 'jikka' and either lives close to or with the 'vestling bitch' or vestling bitch - quite commonly referred to as the 'shuutome' or mother in law or 'ofukuro' - which doesn't mean nice bag (although that wouldn't be a bad translation) or owl, but rather is endearment term for one's own mother. And that's enough of the Japanese lesson - some of these words it is just easier to put in Japanese though so now that you have mastered Obon Japanese 101...
For non jikka people Obon usually means packing up the car and driving in horrendous traffic to return to almost abandoned looking house in rice paddy town in some rural part of Japan, to light incense at the 'haka' and the 'butsudan' to welcome back the spirits of their dead ancestors. It also usually means having to endure home cooked foodstuffs by vestling bitch who needs to have an audience at least once a year for her culinary skills, which she herself believe to be of a much higher caliber than the people consuming her enoki mushroom miso soup and pickled cucumbers.
For those unfortunate enough to actually be the 'jikka', Obon is a fun filled weekend of cleaning, cooking, airing old futons, airing old bags... no shit. That's not right. She does need a good belt with one of those futon dust away thrashers though. It also means, especially if you are the wife married to the eldest son (as opposed to the eldest son himself who can get away with jack shit), A LOT of stress. If you happen to be a gaijin wife then add in all that extra 'fuuuuuuuuuuuuck, vesting bitch has left fifty cups on the table for me to use, ten sets all of varying pattern and expensive lookingness - which do I use for which guests and am I allowed to use one myself or should I be lapping beer from the cat dish outside?
Oh and hub is the THIRD son and we have all the 'jikka' responsibilities.
SO anyway, enough faffing around, on to Obon.
Saturday morning was spent as you would expect. Hub took the kids to kinder for their half day and then went straight to the fish markets to pick up some paua (awabi) and some sea snails (sazae). He had been saying all week that he and brother will be drinking beer and bbq-ing paua on the deck. Can't deny the man really. He only sees his brother about three times a year. Do you know how much the bastards cost? He came home with a grand total of THREE Paua - $60 (3,500 yen) for three and $15 for three snails.
While he was at the market I did day six of the Shred. He came home and the cleaning began. The house wasn't a mess but there were lots of things that needed doing. The kind of things that you can't do the day before because with three small children you would just end up having to do them again anyway. Floors, windows (the ones the kids have left rows of smeary dirty hands on), raking the leaves (the ONE tree in our yard drops a million leaves a day), the genkan (front door and shoe area), the kitchen and the bathroom - which even though I did do the other day hub required it to be done again. Fair enough. I did it when I had my shower after shredding, raking, vacuuming, polishing and wiping on and wiping off.
Ryu had a slight temperature so I was allowed out of the house alone to go and pick up supplies for dinner. What a treat. I haven't been longer distances than the local supermarket on my own in ages. Diet cola in the drink holder, Macey on the speakers, aircon on 19 and away we go. Shopping during Obon is like shopping the day before Christmas - fucking chaos. I had a list of what I needed and I was striding down those isles, a woman on a mission. First up - 5,000 yen ($80) tray of ready cooked things for dinner. These are usually only on sale during Obon, golden week and new years - the times when people come to stay and people can't be faffed cooking loads of food for guests. Mushrooms of course - for Granny K's miso soup, beer, beer, beer, grapes that cost more than a months wages for some poor woman sewing the nike label onto jump suits in China, and supplies for breakfast.
Got home and Shou and Marina had been picked up from kinder and were already in the midst of water slide heaven...
Eldest son, wife, daughter, son in law and two kids arrived at three. They dropped some bags in the front door and then headed off the the 'haka' with a bunch of flowers, a big bottle of water, some incense and some matches. They arrive back, pray at the 'butsudan' and then hub cranks up the BBQ for the paua and snails. Somebody has to go pick up the sashimi that has been ordered and I am the likely contender so offer to take both Shou and Marina. I just about vomit in the fish shop as is hundred years old, scodey and although I know the fish are fresh that day I really think the women would have trouble meeting osh kosh safety standards or whatever the hygiene equivalent is. About twelve cats are waiting for fish too. Get in line buddy. I'm the one with the cash. Take sashimi and bag of fish bits home past the store to get butter. When I got back to the car with the fish Shou was on (my) phone to hub. I didn't even know he knew how to use my phone. Hub needed butter for the BBQ-ed paua.
Home James and hub, eldest son and my nieces husband (nephew in law??) are on the deck with paua and beer. Shou joins them (what a bloke) and us women and small children hide inside with the aircon. We aren't sitting inside painting our fuckin nails. They are on toddler and baby watch while I set about getting dinner sorted - which is just really setting things out, cutting fruit, arranging food and the likes but still ... we DO NOT need the list of orders being barked at us from the men. Ooooooooooi, bitches inside there, get us some chopsticks. Ooooooooooooi, woman, I need some paper towels. Ooooooooooooi, cook me some eggs. When hub poked his head in the door and asked after dinner and was it coming out to them on a silver fuckin plater my sister in law looked at me and I was very restrained in saying that I thought he had two of his own hands and legs and could they not somehow propel him inside to pick up a plate himself? I think I may have been holding a meat cleaver and a frypan at the time I said it.
The rest of the evening was pretty much chaos. Kids were fed and put in the bath. Shou and Marina hadn't had naps as I was hoping I could get them down as easily as I did when Illahee was here on Tuesday. I asked hub to please not mention the Obon dancing that night that started at 8pm. Shou wanted to go but he was in such a state and if hub refrained form mentioning it for a few hours I may well just get away with getting Shou to bed. Hub was a bit pished. In an effort to bribe Shou into doing something he played the Obon dancing card. He would take him, IN THREE HOURS, to the drumming and dancing, IF he stopped trying to turn the Paua over with the tongs.
Shou was soooooooo tired by 8pm but no way was he going to bed. He left with hub and then eldest son and Granny K walked off down the road to it too. Ryu was a complete bastard all night.
Anyway, can't say I was in my most sprightliest of moods this morning. That aside, I got up and sorted out breakfast buffet of scrambled eggs, sausages, potato salad, rolls, fruit and assortment of drinks with assortment of 50 glasses to choose from. Everybody up and about by half seven and Granny K comes in with rice and miso soup. I was too tired to fight but we had had this conversation two days ago and then yesterday.
Two days ago...
Me: What's happening with breakfast on the Sunday?
Granny K: I'll make rice and soup.
Hub: You did that two years ago when they stayed and nobody ate it cause they are a bread and fruit for breakfast family.
Granny K: But they like my miso soup.
Hub: OK then, will you fix breakfast on Sunday.
Granny K: Yes.
Hub: OK Katy, you don't need to do anything. Is that OK mum?
Granny K: Yes.
Me: Sweet as. Score. You Beauty .... ..... .....
Yesterday Morning before I go shopping....
Me: So I don't need to get anything for breakfast then?
Hub: No, mum is making it all.
Granny K: actually you do it Katy. Get the eggs and stuff and I'll just do soup for dinner.
Me: OK, no worries. Ittekimaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasu.
This morning - I make lovely buffet. Everyone awakes and comes in here and just as hub is telling them buffet breakfast of fabulous looking spread is self service Granny K walks in with rice and soup already dished out in bowls. This kind of thing has happened a lot before but it is amplified by fact that I have had very little sleep and Marina and Shou are outside in their pajamas without shoes on trying to catch crabs in the meter deep concrete drain by the neighbors house - while hub 'supervises' them from 30 meters away and behind a tree, a deck and a wall.
Shou spends a good half hour explaining the intricacies of stag beetles to his two year old second cousin ??, it is his cousin's son so what would that be?? And yes the beetles do get a ride on the dump truck. All six of them.
Ryu refuses to have a morning nap and must be running on near empty the poor lad. He is soooooo tired. Just as eldest son and co are about to leave Granny K's older brother, the priest who married hub and I, arrives decked out in priestly gears. He was 'in the neighborhood' doing priestly stuff and thought would drop in.
Just as they are about to pull out of the drive way Granny K's younger sister (also her cousin - as Granny K's mother died and her father shacked up with the younger sister) turns up with her husband and their eldest son and HIS family of fours. Bloody hell.
More drinks to sort out, another forty minutes of talking to people I don't know (I know the younger sister and her husband but have never met their offspring before) while trying to stop Shou from driving ALL his toy trucks over the younger sister's husband's head.
Guest are all gone and I am thankful that this kind of Obon only happens every couple of years. Hopefully. I had a bit of a meltdown this afternoon. Ryu didn't sleep again this morning and I was sick of having him constantly at my side. Poor thing. Anyway, I saw Shou pull the cat by it's tail and I lost it - I uptipped their paddling pool and put it to dry, turned off the hose and packed up my clingy baby and drove off the premises. But before I left I noticed an envelope stuck to the fridge...
If she is going to resort to such measures then I will go ahead and pocket the money.
And that is the end of Obon for us. Soooooo over it. Tomorrow will be spent airing out futons again before they get put away, doing shitloads of washing and
And well done anybody that actually read all that rambling shit.