Sunday, September 7, 2014

Obon Holidays

From 11th to 17th August, hubby and I had been to our home in Ichinomiya City during the Obon Holidays. 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 into their world. However the customs followed may vary considerably from region to region. Obon is celebrated from 13th to 15th August every year.

10th August
During the Obon Holidays, first we went to Tokyo area for a couple of days and then proceeded to Ichinomiya. Our flight from Akita to Haneda was at about 4 pm on 10th August. Hubby and I reached Akita Airport at about 2 pm and bought souvenirs for all our relatives in Ichinomiya and also had lunch at the airport. A typhoon was approaching Kanto and Tohoku regions, and it was extremely windy that day. Due to the bad weather, the plane was shaking terribly during the entire one-hour flight and both of us were extremely uncomfortable. It was probably one of the worst flight experiences for us so far. We reached Haneda Airport at about 5 pm and stayed at a nearby hotel for the night. After dinner, we immediately retired to bed as we were a bit tired due to the turbulent air travel.
Waiting to enter the airplane at Akita Airport

11th August
On the morning of 11th August, we stayed in the hotel room and relaxed. Hubby did some office-related work on his computer and I watched some television program. In the afternoon, we went to Tsukuba City where I had some personal work. On our way to Tsukuba City, we had to change trains several times. While changing trains the third time, we took a wrong train and ended up at a station we both had never heard about. I realized that we have got used to the slow village life in Akita prefecture. After reaching Tsukuba Railway Station, we had to walk along a paved walkway for about 10 minutes. The walkway is surrounded by huge trees and we heard the sound of cicadas all around us, which is usually associated with summer in Japan. Hubby remembered his childhood days and started playing with the insects on tree trunks. It took us about three hours to finish the work I had, and afterwards we did some window shopping at a huge shopping complex in Tsukuba itself. At about 5.30 pm we had early dinner at a family-style Italian restaurant named Saizeriya located in the shopping complex itself. We had pizza, pasta, hamburger steak, and a few cold drinks. We enjoyed the food very much but we overate. Afterwards we returned back to the hotel near Haneda Airport where we stayed for one more night.
Waiting at some railway station in Tokyo area after getting down from a wrong train we boarded

Hubby playing with cicadas on tree trunks in Tsukuba City

Our dinner at Saizeriya

Hubby having pizza

Hubby having pasta

12th August
On 12th August, hubby and I went to see Tokyo Skytree located in Sumida Ward of Tokyo metropolis, about which I will write a separate post later on. In the evening, we took Shinkansen bullet train from Shinagawa Railway Station in Tokyo area and reached Nagoya at about 7 pm. From there we took a local train and reached our home in Ichinomiya City by 7.30 pm. On reaching our home, we immediately retired to bed as we were rather tired due to sightseeing and travel.
Tokyo Skytree

13th August
On the morning of 13th August, hubby, his father, father’s wife, and I visited my late mother-in-law’s grave located near our home in Ichinomiya. Father-in-law cleaned the gravestone with water, offered flowers, and lit some candles and incense sticks, and we all offered our prayers.
Father-in-law cleaning my late mother-in-law’s gravestone with water

Cleaning the candle holders

Father-in-law and his wife arranging flowers to be placed at my late mother-in-law’s grave

Mother-in-law’s grave decorated with beautiful flowers

Afterwards we returned home, and hubby started working in our small garden located at the back of our home. We usually do not stay in Ichinomiya, so the three cherry tomato saplings that we had planted in the month of May had grown too much. Father-in-law told us that he had probably harvested about 200 cherry tomatoes. We saw that many green chilli peppers had also grown and we harvested all of them. We worked in the garden for almost two hours, which was very relaxing.
Hubby appreciating our garden

Green chilli peppers

Hubby working in our garden

The work continues

Later, hubby and I had lunch at a curry rice restaurant named Curry House CoCo Ichibanya located near our home. Hubby had chicken meatball topped with soft-boiled egg curry and I had squid curry. Of course, we tasted each others curry too. I feel that CoCo Ichibanya is the best curry rice restaurant chains in Japan.
Our lunch of chicken meatball topped with soft-boiled egg curry (top photo) and squid curry (bottom)

Hubby having lunch

I am having lunch

After lunch, hubby and I returned home. At about 3 pm hubby’s sister and her family, who live nearby, visited our home. It was a very hot and humid day, and both the daughters of my sister-in-law wished to play in a pool. So father-in-law and hubby set up an inflatable pool in the front car parking lot of our home. It took about 15 minutes to inflate and another 15 minutes to fill with water. Our nieces had lots of fun playing with water inside the pool. The nieces were armed with plastic water guns and sprayed water at their uncle. So their uncle used the garden water system and sprayed water on the girls. Sister-in-law and the nieces also blew soap bubbles, and they are really expert at that. However the solution bottle was empty in about 15 minutes. So hubby and his sister tried making new soap bubble solution in a plastic bucket using home ingredients but their experiment failed. However the nieces enjoyed playing with the incredible amount of foam produced in the bucket. We all played for about 1.5 hours and it was pure fun playing with the nieces.
Nieces playing in the inflatable pool and using water gun to spray water at their uncle

Uncle using garden water system to spray water on the girls

Younger niece making a soap bubble

Brother and sister trying to make soap bubble solution in a plastic bucket

Nieces got busy playing with the foam produced in the bucket

So the elders got to play in the pool

But the nieces soon reclaimed the pool

At about 5 pm, hubby’s uncle (father-in-law’s older brother) and his wife visited us. We all gathered in the Buddhist altar room of our home. In fact, the altar room is a common room connecting our home to father-in-law’s home. The family altar is really grand and exotic. We prayed in front of the altar to welcome the soul of my late mother-in-law and all the ancestors, which is the purpose of Obon. My father-in-law offered Somen noodles at the altar, lit candles and incense sticks, and read some Sutras from a sacred book. We all chanted the Sutras in unison. We were sitting in the Japanese kneeling style called Seiza for the prayers, and after about 5 minutes I was extremely uncomfortable. After the prayers were over, it was difficult for me to stand up as my legs were completely numb. But I was filled with a sense of fulfillment for carrying out our traditional family duties.
Buddhist family altar in our home

Enlarged view of the central portion of the altar

Candles and incense sticks in front of the altar

Offerings of Somen noodles at the altar

My late mother-in-law’s photo hanging from a wall in the altar room

All the elders praying at the altar room

We all joined in to pray for our ancestors

After the prayers, we gathered in father-in-law’s home and chatted for some time. I chatted a lot with my sister-in-law. Hubby played some card game with his younger niece. Father-in-law showed us his new rather expensive tailor-made Yukata with the Kanji characters ‘Harumafuji’ written all over it. Father-in-law is a fan of Sumo wrestler Harumafuji Kohei.
Father-in-law wearing his tailor-made Yukata

Hubby playing a card game with younger niece

I tried taking a selfie with my sister-in-law

Tired after a day full of adventure

At about 6.30 pm, we went for dinner at a Yakiniku restaurant located near our home. We were a party of nine people. The restaurant does not have many tables for large parties and so we were split up and sat at two different tables that were back to back. We had various kinds of meat like Rosu, Karubi, Tan, Horumon, and chicken that we cooked ourselves on a grill burner built into the table. It was fun to cook ourselves and eat with sister-in-law and her daughters. We overate and were hardly able to walk back home. It was really a fun-filled day spent with our relatives.
Father-in-law and his wife (left) along with father-in-law’s older brother and his wife (right) having dinner at Yakiniku restaurant

Sister-in-law and her daughters having dinner

Older niece enjoying grilled chicken

Younger niece having grilled Tan

I am having dinner

Grilling meat on the burner built into the table

14th August
On 14th August, my father-in-law, his wife, and my hubby went to play golf at six in the morning. They were going to return only in the evening. I preferred to stay at home as I am not interested in golf. I cleaned the house thoroughly. We hardly stay at our Ichinomiya home and some dust had gathered on everything, so cleaning took a lot of time. While cleaning I found a few toys that hubby played with in his early childhood. Afterwards, I set up a small Hindu prayer area in one corner inside our home. It is very difficult to find Hindu prayer items in Japan, but I could purchase a wooden altar, brass lamps, incense stand, and prayer beads online. It feels good to now have a Hindu prayer altar in our home. It was almost 4 pm by the time I finished cleaning the home and setting up the Hindu prayer altar. I was very tired and thirsty and had red Shiso-leaf juice that hubby’s aunt had made herself and given us the previous day. The cold and sweet juice was very refreshing.
Bear eating fish - a toy from hubby’s childhood

Hindu prayer altar

Red Shiso-leaf juice

At about 5.30 pm, hubby returned home after playing golf. He was very tired and slept for an hour or so. Meanwhile I cooked a simple dinner of pork Shogayaki, Miso soup, rice, sunny side up fried eggs, and vegetable salad. We enjoyed having the simple meal while watching some television program. But hubby was hungry again just after an hour of having dinner. So I made instant Ramen noodles for him. He probably played a lot of golf that day and needed the extra food to regain his energy. Afterwards hubby freshened up and fell asleep on the sofa itself.
Our dinner

Hubby having dinner

Instant Ramen noodles

Hubby having Ramen noodles

Hubby fast asleep on the sofa

15th August
On 15th August, hubby and I went to see Tojinbo Cliffs located in Fukui prefecture about which I will write a separate blog post later on. It was a full day trip and we returned home at about 10 pm.
Tojinbo Cliffs

16th August
On 16th August, hubby and I cleaned the backyard of our home. As I stated earlier in this post, we hardly stay in our Ichinomiya home, so a lot of dried leaves and many other garbage had piled up in the backyard. Afterwards hubby assembled a step ladder for our home wooden deck.
Hubby assembling a step ladder

Hubby appreciating our garden

Afterwards we had lunch at a restaurant named ‘The Meshiya’ located about 8 kilometers southeast of our home, and it took us about 20 minutes of car ride to reach the restaurant. In fact every time we go to Ichinomiya, we make it a point to have at least one meal at this restaurant. It is a family-style restaurant that serves Japanese cuisine. We had Oden cooked in red Miso, chicken Karaage, Nikujaga, grilled fish Yakizakana, Tonjiru, vegetable salad, and rice. We love the food served at this restaurant. After returning home we just relaxed and enjoyed watching some television program.
Our lunch

Hubby having lunch

I am having lunch

17th August
On 17th August, hubby and I left our home in Ichinomiya at about 5 am, took a train to Centrair Airport, from where we took a flight back to Akita. We reached Akita Airport at about 9.30 am. On reaching the car parking lot of the airport, we realized that the battery of our car was dead. A nearby gas-station staff helped in fixing the problem but it was just a temporary fix. Later hubby had to replace the car battery at a repair shop.
The battery of our car is dead

Stranded at Akita Airport

We loved going to our home in Ichinomiya City and meeting our relatives during Obon Holidays.

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