Festival of the dead.
Well, if you're Buddhist. Which all my neighbours are. Well except for the two Shinto families but even they seem to be Buddhist for the weekend. Friday was mukae-bon and all the neighbours trooped up the mountain to the temple to collect their ancestors' spirits. We were up at the ground adjacent to the temple as well. Not picking up spirits but playing dodgeball while K cleaned the community toilet there. I know. Bad timing. And no, I wasn't being a horrible wife having K clean the loo- it's his job. Not mine. I even offered (half-heartedly) to help but no, it's his job.
I didn't offer twice...
They carried paper lanterns, flowers and kettles of water which had the girls convinced they were all going on an exciting picnic.
I explained about Obon and that FIL is Shinto and MIL is Christian and therefore K was brought up without religion and so we don't observe Obon.
All weekend the neighbourhood has been full of different faces as all the rellies blow into town to pay their respects, eat watermelon, check out what's new in the neighbourhood since last time they were here, eat more watermelon etc etc. M & A are quite jealous of all the comings and goings and want visitors to stay at ours.
I explained (again) about Obon and that the relatives are all coming back to their original homes to pay respects to their ancestors and M & A are super lucky that all their grandparents are still with us so there's no need (and we don't observe Obon anyway...).
The little girl Meg walks to school with travelled three hours plus to a grey sand, rubbish and people littered beach for the day yesterday. She brought home a new beach floaty ring. Meg was incredibly envious (It's quite possible the grey sand, litter and people infestation was not in the original description of the beach but I've been there so trust me.).
I heard her complaining to Amy that it wasn't fair that we don't observe obon as look at all the great stuff everyone else gets to do.
In the interest of cultural accuracy I jumped in to clarify that going to the beach is not a Buddhist observance.
"Yes it is. H-chan said they go to the beach every obon."
No amount of explaining would ameliorate her and she went to bed demanding we buy an obon next time we go shopping.
It's not much fun being a bon-less kid in Nagano but it's proving to be quite the task being a bon-less mum, too!
*tonight's blog was brought to you by the number -196 and the flavour lemon. We are after all unfettered by Buddhist dictates... Please excuse all subsequent typos.