The local Buddhist priest's mum died. She was 89 years old and had a good innings so it was a solemn rather than distraught mood. The priest's family are in sub-group 1 of our neighbourhood association and we are in sub-group 2 so our participation was a lot less this time around.
K went to the viewing last night and the girls and I went to the final farewell see off as the bus left for the crematorium this morning and then after the girls went to holiday care I headed up the hill to hand in my envelope of 1000 yen at the funeral reception desk, sprinkle some incense, collect my funeral postcard and come home again.
The priest's family are the Nishis. My funeral postcard said Fujioka on it. Being nosy I pointed it out to neighbour A and asked if the priest was another adult adoption family. For many and various reasons (but often economically linked ones) Japanese adults can be 'adopted' by another family. They change their name, move family registers and gain inheritance rights. I know two families where the entire family has been adopted and the Tanakas became the Satos overnight.
But nope. The Nishis aren't adoptees.
..... "when you die do you use your maiden name on the funeral??"
"Well, this card says Fujioka. And the priests are the Nishis right?"
Neighbour A accosted the sub-group 1 guy who was directing funeral traffic. This is usually a token job but today with the deceased being the priest's mum and twenty odd priests in attendance let alone guests there was quite the stream of traffic coming in and he was quite busy-
"Hey! Why does this card say Fujioka?"
"EH? What?!" Mr N works with heavy machinery and his regular speaking voice is pretty close to a shout.
"EH??? What the hell!?!"
Mr N went running up the hill back to the temple with our cards in his hand. This in itself was a sight. I realised while I was watching that I never see my neighbours run. Ever. We had a 2 metre long snake slithering across our porch and the neighbour wandered casually over to check it out. The phone rings inside and the neighbour will say 'ok, ok' and wander inside with no extra urgency in his step. So seeing Mr N running, and running in his flash funeral black and dress shoes, was quite the sight.
Neighbour A and I followed him back up at a more leisurely pace. His voice was carrying extremely well anyway...
"What's this???! What are you doing??!!"
Funerals here are jointly administered by the neighbourhood committee and the funeral hall. So reception is manned by people from both groups. The neighbourhood commitee folks were handing out postcards with Nishi written on them. The poor folks from the funeral hall who don't know the priest's mother from any other old woman in the village, and probably do a funeral a day at the moment, had mistakenly opened up a box of cards from a funeral to be held at the same temple tomorrow.
Just as Mr N was grabbing boxes of cards and yelling about idiots and checking basic information the family arrived back from the crematorium with Mrs Nishi's ashes. They were lining up to purify themselves before entering the temple, Neighbour A and I were standing to the other side of the door way trying to blend into the (ornate) woodwork and Mr N was flapping his arms around and barking commands inside. It's a credit to the Nishi's pervading calm that they didn't even blink at the rather unusual scene greeting their return.
As neighbour A and I headed down the mountain again with the correct postcard and Mr N still muttering and shaking his head we noticed a couple of neighbours slowly heading back to the temple holding their postcards. Seems it is common knowledge that you don't look at your funeral postcard until you get home. So our neighbours hadn't realised the mistake until then. It took two socially inept foreigners to break the rules and find the mistake.