Yes? I answer the door after running down the corridor. We have a bell with a rope attached as a door bell and someone is having a wild time ringing away. And it's 6:49 am... I'm thinking please please please don't let it be about Mr K..... Usually early morning/ late night door bell ringing (especially with gusto) indicates someone has passed away. With K being head of the neighbourhood association he gets woken up as soon as the ambulance has been called kind of thing. He has to go down, pay respects and politely ask the family's wishes for the timing of the nighttime vigil, the send off and the funeral. Mr K is very old and is getting less and less mobile as the months go on. His wife is absolutely devoted to him and is going to be devastated when the inevitable happens.
Anyway, "Yes?" I answer.
It's a man I don't know, still holding the doorbell rope and grinning like a naughty kid.
"Thank you." (I'm guessing this is not a funeral notice...)
"I'm Nagasaki S... from down the side road" (I already like this guy! It is so unusual to get any name at all from random neighbourly visitors, and when you do it's inevitably "I'm Techan" or "I'm Nagasaki". The first is useless as I will never be able to call a man I don't know who is 40 years my senior by his childhood nickname. The second is useless as it only narrows the search down to half the neighbourhood (the half not called Mizutani.)
"Morning. I'm the neighbourhood rep for Omiya Shrine. We had a meeting last night and I heard you have a kid starting school this April?"
"Yes, our oldest."
"The shrine has a blessing for all the new schoolkids at the end of the month. 10:00am. Dress up. We need a boy and a girl to pass over the thank you money. Anybody else starting school this April around here?"
"Ahhh, yes. Nagasaki at the house at the top of the mountain."
"Ahhh, Shinichi's granddaughter?"
"I'm sorry, I don't know. The girl's name is H..."
"Ok. Can I borrow a pen? I'll write that down. .... Well, I'll leave you and see you then. 10:00 at the Shrine."
The old guy grabbed his umbrella, gave the bell rope a flick and headed back down the road.
Nowhere in this conversation did the question of whether we want a Shinto blessing come up, nor whether we're available on that day or even an acknowledgement that 6:49 is rather early for non-urgent neighbourly business...
Just when I think I've had every unusual experience there is to have here I meet another one...