Garfield Nate

Big Fat Hairy Programmer

July 4, 2014: Internet and a Bike Ride

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Maybe I’ll manage to keep a somewhat OK journal if I write it on my blog…

Dear journal-that-everybody-can-read,

Today we finally got internet in our apartment, which I may explain another time. A guy showed up at 9 o'clock sharp and installed it, after which I had to call the support center for help because their installation disk didn’t work (because I have English Windows?). The internet is blazing fast, and now I can work on online classes without taking a trip to Erika’s work.

I needed to send a rental phone back to SoftBank, so I took a ride to the place in the main shopping street (商店街) that had a Kuro Neko sign outside. The shop is a recipient for packages, but mainly they sell hanko and religious items. I filled out the form and we talked for a while. I was looking for the translated version of Glenn as a hanko (small valley; 小谷) and she showed me the ones that her father carved. The light wood is coated with black ink before being carved and the dark wood with red, so that it is easy to see what shape has been carved. He must have carved thousands of hanko, but apparently his eyesight was still good in his 80’s. She talked about wanting to learn English, and having English-speaking friends.

Next I asked about the objects in her shop and she taught me about ihai (位牌), a Buddhist memorial tablet. When someone dies, the local priest(s) and family work together to make a posthumous name for the deceased. The name might have something about the person’s hobby or work. The piece she showed me had “ocean” (海) because the man was a fisherman, and because the wife was so diligent about paying regular respects at the shrine she was able to get her husband a rather good name which included the character “弘”. The character is nice because it immediately brings to mind the name “弘法大師”, the founder of the Shingon Buddhist sect. The top of the tablet has a single Sanskrit character (अ) representing the Shingon sect inscribed on it. (Each sect has it’s own bonji (梵字); the characters that go with each sect are given here). The back of the tablet contained the name of the deceased’s original name and death date, in esoteric(ish) Buddhist style. The tablet is placed in the home’s Buddhist altar (仏壇) for 50 years. The family meets on certain years to commemorate their death, and after the 50th year there is a final celebration and the name is inscribed in a special register book (帳面) instead. The ihai is burned ceremonially at the grave site, and the register that contains the names of many deceased relatives is kept in the altar ever after. She showed me the one for her family, and it had lots of names in it, some of them with old kana characters that haven’t been used for a long time (specifically a hentaigana form for “hana” using the characters based on 者 and 奈). We exchanged names (笠原秀佳) and I told her I’d bring back my wife as a possible study mate.

Then I explored the town a little bit. There’s a park on top of a hill on the edge of town, but the steps to the top are full of weeds. There’s also a monument to someone, which I’ll have to go back and read when I have my dictionary. I found 4-8 small temple/shrines along the mountainside, and one seemed to be abandoned and overgrown with weeds. On my way back an old lady stopped me to sell me some cucumbers (きゅうり) she had just picked. Her skin was dark from working in the field, and she stuttered while she talked so she had to repeat some things for me. She gave me several handfuls of shiso leaves. “You’re married, right? Good! Have her cook these up for you.” We exchanged names (石岡) before parting.

Next I found a community center. They might only have activities for children and the elderly, but my interest was piqued because they have art, cooking, and several other categories. I picked up a copy of a city newsletter, and what I thought was a culturally interesting ad for consultation regarding being Ainu (mistreatment, racism, invasion of privacy), with a special guarantee that all communication would be completely secret. There was also a big sign outside with a list of foods that are unique to Kasaoka. I think I’ll go on a treasure hunt to try all of them!

Tonight Corey and Chun Mi picked up Bentley and me and we all went to Ooshima elementary (大島小学校) to play badminton. I think the Japanese players were all elementary school teachers. One of them has been playing badminton every Friday there for the last 20 years! It was my first time playing, so Bentley and Chun Mi helped me figure it out, and we formed teams to play until about 10:30. The gym was pretty warm and muggy, and so of course I was soaked.

Whew. I’m hungry!

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