Sunday, 15 August 2010

Can Someone Cancel Obon Next Year Pretty Fuckin Pleeeeeease

(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.
I know he doesn't look like much of a bastard in this pic but it is 10pm and him and I are the only ones still up. Well him, me and baikinman peeking out from behind the fire. Didn't get him to sleep until 2am and then he was awake again at 5am. There was a lot of huha involved with the baby cot and such and I doubt very much that eldest son will be back to stay for at least four years, by which time all kids should be sleeping on their own. How very fuckin painful.

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.
From left - Granny K, the microwave, Granny K's brother the priest, nephew in law (??), niece, eldest son holding two year old grandson, sister in law, Marina.

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...
From my sister in law. She had tried to give me 10,000 yen the night before. I tried to refuse, she shoved it down my top (seriously), so I blind sided her and gave it back to her husband. This says thank you for having us. It's not much but please use this money to buy something yummy. Take care of yourself in this friggen heat.

If she is going to resort to such measures then I will go ahead and pocket the money.

Thanks SIl.

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.



Sara said...


just got home from visiting the small house in the middle of a rice paddie and eating crap veggies and fish and rice for 4 days straight (your egg and sausage sounds amazing)

well its over for a year... i hate obon. seriously.. why make the damn thing right in the middle of the blazing japanese summer.

anyways good job on keeping up the shred even though you were so busy, seeing any differences one week in?

i'll be starting from weds!! scared and excited....

Gaijin Wife said...

Sara - the Shred is definitely getting easier and I am feeling genkier - but not today due to shit sleep. I haven't lost weight but I have done NOTHING to compensate in the food department. And this summer heat equals cold beer equals ...... !!!!

Must soldier on though :D

Fifi Kida said...

osukare indeedy!!!

For next year I want to come to your house for Obon ... Pretty please can I? I will befriend and then feed alcohol to the vestlings :)

No money from me, but I will bring a crate of "gaijin only" wine on the shinkansen with me ... pretty please :D

(the codeword today is "Strai" .. how appropriate it would be if that last letter was changed :D )

Gaijin Wife said...

Fi - you are more than welcome to come and force feed Granny K alcohol. That, and bearer of gaijin only wine crate can be your official duties. See you in 364 days then :D

thefukases said...

ohh ohh ohh fabulous idea- you know how all us foreigners are obviously related right? And my kids are obon-less and lonely? How about obon at your Nagano- jikka next year? No smelly rellies and I'm not to keen on hot soup in summer but you get lots of berries, cool nights and bearable days? All welcome!

Serious otsukare-sama. How are you going to spend your loot? I hope it's a splurge and not something necessary and boring!

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

ohhh...shit...I'm the gaijin wife of an eldest son.....soon to move to Japan

Gaijin Wife said...

thefukases - sister Heather - see you in 364 days. Fi might be joint us with crate of wine.

NIS - yes, but you know what you are in for - your hub also doesn't sound like mine and am sure will be huge help. You aren't living with MIL are you? or are you?

Generic Jen B said...

I love your rambling shit!

sassymoo said...

Obon escape retreat here next year. Pizza and booze all weekend. Will ship my hub off to the jikka. All gaijin wives welcome.

Adam W said...

Wow. At least your SIL sounds nice. Or was that just a very Japanese thing to do?

kuri, ping & the pinglet said...

Otsukaresama! Ugh...sounds like quite the awful weekend. I hope you can get some sleep tomorrow!!

We are obon-less like thefukases as well, but the Pinglet doesn't yet know about such things so it's been pretty smooth sailing so far. :)

Danielle said...

My husband is, oh dear I forget the word, his grandparents adopted him. So he's head of the whole family and me at his side. So there is the main house with grandma, mom, dad and youngest sister (oldest sister got married in June). Then we have our own house 10 minutes away, thank god. T wanted me to move in with the family :O

Anyway, t doesn't have national holidays off, obon or anything. So he doesn't have to go do all the hassley stuff which means I get a break. But I have heard that when grandma dies I will be the host of everything.

I am bookmarking this post so I know what to do in the future.

Oyomesan said...

O-Bon Horrors.....I think every single wife in Japan feels the same way as you!

So so glad we only have an old lady downstairs who hardly knows is IS Obon...

illahee said...

oh man, i had no idea!

yoshi is the eldest son, but his father is the fourth of five kids (third son). i think. whatever, we have no obligations whatsoever. i suppose we're supposed to start a family alter when FIL is no longer with us? don't know if that is going to happen.

Y decided to skip the traffic this year so we spent the holiday at home. awesome.

you are my hero. seriously, i don't think i could put up with that shit!! esp. granny k and her switcharoo at the last minute. how fucking annoying! gold star for you, and instead of going to katy's next obon, i think we need to have a gaijin wife only retreat to an onsen resort. start setting aside your 1 man a month now!!

Anonymous said...

ew ew ew...hubby is chonan but family is so small I don`t think traditions will be continued, prob only a butsudan. This is the first year we`ve actually managed to get together. All the brothers tend to travel etc at the time (us too).

granny K, MIL does that kind of shit and I hate hate hate it..makes you feel so shite and the conversations you had before seem to mean nothing.
Hope you get a better sleep and Ryu obliges too.

anchan said...

I could NOT do this! My DH is also chonan, but his younger sister (or rather, her husband) took on that role (without consulting us) when she married (her husband took our family name). I was miffed at first (I assume that this all had something to do with him marrying a foreigner), but having read about all you go through...

You definitely deserve the cash - I'm sure SIL is just so thankful that someone else is doing what should be down to here and it's a small price to pay!

Chrysanthemum Mum said...

Sounds awfully stressful catering for such a large family. Otsukare!

I'm married to the oldest son too, but he has no contact with ANY family nor does he take the time off work so we are obon-less too. Would be nice if we could meet some of the relatives at some point but I guess it's not going to happen.

I like the suggestion of a gaijin wives' onsen trip next yr.

Well done on keeping up with the Shred too.