Thursday, August 11, 2005

IT'S ---- O-BON !

THE EXODUS BEGINS. The TV screen tells it all:::TRAFFIC [JUTAI] all over::::: land, air..............and sea? Oh yeah,....... that, too. The ferries that service Yokohama-Kyusho lines are full; so were the SHINKANSEN [BULLET TRAINS]. Local trains continue to run despite the heavy turnover. People just have to go back to their FURUSATO [hometowns] to be with family members.

IT'S "O-BON" FESTIVAL AGAIN! Every year, from 12th of August to the 15th, the Japanese celebrate BON [women use the honorific "O", hence, they say "O-BON"] FESTIVAL. This is similar to the Pinoy's ALL SOUL'S DAY.

THE JAPANESE believe that on these days, the souls of their dearly departed come back home and be reunited with their loved ones. It all starts with a MUKAERU [coming home] . Family members prepare to "welcome" the souls by lighting wooden sticks in front of their homes. This is done to "help" the souls find their way back. The small fire serves as a beacon. Members stay at the gate to welcome the souls.

THE SOULS then stay with the family for three days. They eat together and family menbers make sure that an extra [or two, depending upon how many have died recently] dish is set aside for the soul[s] to use, just like in old times....

IT ENDS on the 15th of August, around twilight= with the MI-OKURI [the SEND OFF]. This is like saying: "Goodbye for now..."

THE JAPANESE go through all these troubles just to please the souls of the departed. They believe that the souls protect and guard the living, hence they make sure that the dead is treated with respect and dignity. This can be glimpsed at how they offer food or OMIYAGEs[PASALUBONGs] to the BUTSUDAN [ a FAMILY Buddhist ALTAR]. Youngsters find it a very good place to look for good eats, myself included!

WHILE it is the usual 'happening' to go to their FURUSATO [HOMETOWN] during the O-BON, some families make use of the long holidays to go abroad for that much-needed respite. Usual destinations are Hawaii, Guam, Hongkong, and South Korea, the latter for a glimpse of the popular "Fuyu no Sonata" [Winter Sonata] sceneries. I did it twice and I was exhausted I slept for two days after that trip. Though it was an exhilarating trip and I learned a lot from it, this year, I am opting to stay put, in this place I now call my second home.

I OFFERED to 'watch' over the house as my relatives hushed off last night. They brought delicacies from this place as OMIYAGEs. That includes, UNAGIs, UNAGI PIEs [of course!], MIKAN [TANGERINES], O-CHA [GREEN TEA], and more....

THE LAST DAY of O-BON also coincides with the surrender of Japan in the last war. For the old folks, it is a doubly humbling experience, because of that.

EVERYONE EXPECT the usual "U-TURN" peak in traffic when all of them come back to work three days from now

WHILE I SAVOR THE HEAT AND ENJOY BEING LEFT ALONE, even for just a litlle while....

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