Thursday, September 20, 2012

Obon holidays

From 12th to 15th August, hubby and I visited my father-in-law and several other relatives in Ichinomiya city during Obon festival. Obon is an annual Buddhist event to commemorate our ancestors. It is believed that each year during Obon, the spirits of ancestors return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to welcome the spirits of ancestors, graves are visited, and food offerings are made at family altars. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes, and seas so that the spirits can return back into their world. The customs followed vary considerably from region to region. Obon is celebrated from 13th to 15th August every year.

Hubby and I reached Ichinomiya city late in the evening on 12th August. Next day, hubby went to play golf with his father. I just relaxed and did nothing much the entire morning. In the afternoon, hubby’s sister, her two daughters, and I visited a nearby local temple. At about 5 pm, hubby and my father-in-law returned back after playing golf. Later in the evening, we all had dinner at a local Sushi restaurant.
Dinner with relatives

All happy and chatting

On the morning of 14th August, hubby, my father-in-law, and I visited the home of my father-in-law’s eldest brother who also lives in Ichinomiya city. It is the main ancestral home of ‘Nagata family’. There is an exotic family altar at this home, where father-in-law prayed to welcome the souls of his late parents and all the ancestors. Hubby and I recited Sutras from a sacred book and prayed at the altar. Every year in mid August, we visit this ancestral home. During each visit I look forward to seeing the photos of hubby’s late grandparents because hubby resembles both his grandparents a lot. The home is full of many antiques and unique artistic objects. These antiques are so amazingly wonderful that I can keep looking at them forever and ever. We had a nice time chatting with hubby’s eldest uncle and his wife over snacks and cups of green tea.
Family altar at the home of the eldest uncle of hubby

Father-in-law praying to welcome the souls of ancestors

Hubby reciting Sutras

Hubby standing next to the photos of his grandparents

Many artistic objects on shelves

Hubby sitting next to a polar bear rug

Afterwards hubby and I visited my mother-in-law’s grave located in the same city, and offered our prayers. Hubby cleaned the gravestone with water, offered flowers, and lit some candles and incense sticks.
Hubby cleaning his mother’s grave

Hubby arranging flowers at his mother’s grave

Hubby seems to be talking to his mother

Whenever we visit Ichinomiya city, we stay at my father-in-law’s home. But this time, we stayed at a hotel as the home was going to be demolished in the next few days and a new home will be built at the same location. The present structure is a traditional Japanese home built using lot of wood and is 40 years old. Hubby and his sister grew up at this home, and hubby wished to see the home one last time before being demolished. So in the afternoon of 14th August, we visited the home. We saw that almost everything was removed from inside the home and only a few things remained. Hubby looked around in the garden and remembered playing baseball with his cousins in childhood. Hubby, my father-in-law, and an uncle of hubby got busy determining the color scheme of the roof and exterior walls for the new home. Next, hubby went to his room at the second floor and was shocked to see it almost empty. Later, we went to the first floor living room where hubby started looking very carefully at something written on the wall. He showed me the marked up living room wall chart showing his and his sister’s growing heights in their childhood. Nostalgic childhood memories made hubby a bit sad as he remembered his late mother marking up his height with a pencil on the wall. Afterwards we went to the family altar room. The altar had already been removed. However a musical instrument named Koto was still there in this room, and hubby played it for some time. Later he helped his father in removing the ceiling lights from all the rooms. We stayed at the home for about an hour.
Entrance gate of father-in-law’s home

Traditional Japanese style home looks so elegant. Sofa, massage chair, and other furniture kept in the garden were to be thrown.

The garden in front of the home

Hubby, his father, and uncle engaged in a serious discussion

Choosing the color of the tiles for the new home

Hubby in his room at the second floor of the home

Hubby walking down the steps that connects his second floor room to the first floor

Living room at the first floor

Another view of the living room

Hubby looking at something written on the wall of the living room

Marked up living room wall chart showing hubby’s growing height as a child

Yet another pencil marked wall chart in the living room

Hubby playing Koto in the family altar room

Hubby helping his father in removing the ceiling lights

About two weeks after hubby and I returned back to Akita, my father-in-law made a phone call and told us that his home was demolished on 21st August. He sent us two photos of the ground where the home was located. It is a bit shocking to see the photos as everything is removed and nothing remains at the location. However, we are happy for the future and waiting to see a brand new home probably by the beginning of next year.
My father-in-law sent us this photo after demolition of the old house

Nothing remains. We are waiting for the new home.

As I wrote earlier in this post, my sister-in-law, her daughters, and I visited a local temple on August 13th. I will write about this temple visit in the next post.


Carole Rae said...

Thanks for sharing! I wish I could say I had a childhood and family home, but we moved around so much when I was little. :)

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Carole. I can completely understand your feelings about childhood home because it is the same with me too. My father is an ex-defense personnel and he used to be transferred every 3 years throughout India. So there is no place for me also to call a childhood home. Actually the longest I stayed at some place at a stretch in India was in a student hostel for 5 years during my Ph.D days.
We are waiting for my father-in-law's home to be rebuilt soon.