Monday, April 28, 2008

大型連休

“Golden Week” has started here in Japan. It’s a series of holidays at the beginning of May that ends up giving people about a week off from work or school. Since I have no formal job I was a bit oblivious to it and was trying to go about my work as usual today, but found everywhere closed. So, errands will probably have to wait until after the holiday.

People here in Otaki are still out working in their fields—no golden week for them. I will be returning to Kyoto for a bit on May 2nd and will be back here by the 10th because there is a festival on the 11th that I have been asked to participate in. Not totally sure what all the festival consists of. I know it takes place at a small shrine up on the hillside above the village-center, and I know we will be cooking takoyaki たこ焼き and yakisoba やきそば, which are customary festival treats these days. I’m sure there will also be plenty of drinking. In addition, I was delighted to find out that the “second party” (the second bar of the night essentially) is held at someone’s house in the village—basically you don’t even need one hand to count the number of bars in Otaki. . . so homes have to do!

Interesting fact that came from my conversations with I-san in Takigoshi yesterday: he and his wife have a 5 year old child and apparently it is the first child to have been born in that hamlet in 32 years!! I-san also told me about some of the history of Takigoshi hamlet. In the furthest back part of the hamlet there is a dam called Miura Dam; it was built prior to the war using forced laborers from Korea and China during Japan’s occupation of those countries. Apparently there used to be quite a town back there, including a movie theater and various other types of entertainment for the workers. There is a mountain in Takigoshi that is also called “Miura” and I-san told me that nearly everyone in the hamlet carries that last name Miura, written 三浦, as well.

I was also told that here in the Kiso Region houses, not families, but the houses themselves have names (apparently this may be common across Japan). I-san suggested to me that for this reason many villagers may not feel comfortable offering personal views or opinions in as far as that they tend to think of themselves as part of a larger household, not simply as individuals. It will be interesting to see how true this is; my hope is that, even if this is so, villagers may feel more comfortable opening up to a foreigner who—in a very real way—stands outside of village society and therefore presents less of a threat in terms of social reprisals for stating one’s opinions.

Sounds like gas is going to jump about 30 yen here from tomorrow—good time to be living in a small village. . .with a good pair of shoes!

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