Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sunday Part 2: An Unexpected Ritual

As we sat on a rock resting after our big hike, we wondered where everyone was.  Some people were with us in the place we had met.  But the teacher, Matsumia Sensei, we had come with was nowhere to be found…and he had left the top of the mountain before us.  Curious.

We told another teacher this and he called Matsumia Sensei.  We learned that he was at a small festival going on a little ways up the road.  We hadn’t been told anything about a festival… There had been some very loud noises as we were hiking down the mountain.  It turns out they were fireworks from the festival.  So of we went to find Matsumia Sensei. 

When we got there, we instantly realized naps were out of the question. 

It was a Shinto Festival. There were a few dozen people gathered outside a small Shinto shrine.  A priestess was inside dressed in some fancy official looking garb.  She was chanting something as she bowed repeatedly in front of the alter.  When she finished, certain people were invited to come forward, offer a tree branch and say a prayer.  

 We had no idea how long this was going to take.  So we gave up our dreams of slumber land and resolved to learn something and enjoy the situation into which we had been placed.  There wasn’t much we could do about it anyway. 

When the praying and bowing were finished, little old Japanese men started handing around cups and filling them with sake.  They also handed around pickled Japanese vegetables.  It was difficult to say no.  Refusing hospitality (especially as a foreigner, I feel) is very rude. 

So we drank some sake and had some pickled daikon. 

The drinking and snacking continued for at least a half hour.  As the next part of the ceremony revealed itself, we realized quickly that we would be participating instead of watching.  This part of the ceremony included everyone each carrying his or her own small bamboo tree with a sign tied to it.  

 We all processed down the road in a line, stopping at a couple more shrines to pray and place small offering one each alter.  Our final destination was a large rock next to a river.  The small vessel that two men were carrying and all of our bamboo trees were set on the rock.  

 Even though we were missing our naps, we managed to have a wonderful time.  A bunch of Karl’s students were also participating and it is always fun to see the students outside of school.  They are particularly interested in me (Karl sensei’s wife).  We they were asking me all kinds of questions, picking me flowers and being really cute.  They are the sweetest kids!

We finally made it home…about two and half hours later than we originally thought.  And even though we really just wanted to go to sleep right then and there, we forced ourselves to do some cleaning and laundry.  We did give ourselves and break and go out to eat though.  One of our two favorite restaurants: Raj Mohan.  An absolutely incredible Indian restaurant.

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