As mentioned before, Obon is the festival of visiting ancestors, the time when they come back to visit from their homes on the other side. It's a Thanksgiving-Halloween combo package, right in the dead heat of August. You go see your relatives, you go clean gravestones, you do the bon-odori and you eat stall food while watching fireworks. There's the homebody component (family focus), and the festival atmosphere. There's the traffic and the heat and the way every single place of leisure will be crowded because Obon is one of the few times of year that everyone is off work, and everyone is off work only a few times a year.
As a new JET, the sense of Obon as a reconnecting, a joining to family and return to one's 'old home' was almost like a cruel joke. Only a week after landing and you get to watch a bunch of people you don't know enjoy returning to their roots, their furusato.
But this is my fourth Obon season (kind of.. last year I missed it by being in the US a bit longer than before, so I was, I suppose, in my own furusato then), and I finally feel like coming to Shiso is a kind of coming home. I spent the last week running around, visiting Japan sites, mixed in with good old fashioned hanging-out with friends in both Kyoto and Tokyo. I've been expending my energy in the city and then finally, like a sigh of mountain and river air, getting off the bus in my own countryside home.
It wasn't so much a desire to be back in Shiso for the 13th, as a natural assumption that this is where I will spend that time, even if its just to be there and do nothing interesting. I've been in the cities doing so much interesting for so many days.. one almost needs a break. Where else would I be when everyone is traveling and everyone is going home? Where else would I want to be?
I walk through the festival with friends old and new, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of 'my kids,' who are graduated or grown or not mine anymore anyway.
I am rewarded.
|Earlier in the day, I met up with Rio, my speech girl and last year's winner.|
|Minato, speech boy from two years ago, to my right in dark blue; glad to see he hasn't changed a bit.|
|Some current third years, the sweet gangsters?|
|Assortment of ages and locations. But all kids I like, from the first-year smartass to the class leader to the sharp-as-hell goof off to the judo star.|
|She was a first year when I arrived and is still cute enough to tempt me to steal her.|
|Recent graduate, looking classy.|
|Second year girls.|
|Graduates of two years ago; far left is Kumi, who went to America for a short exchange (and who I hope can come back sometime!)|