Sunday, April 17, 2011

Toward summer

The sand is warm at the beach in Kamakura. I walked down to see the koinobori kite with it's twenty or so koi flying in the wind. Children's day is May 5 and the koinobori fish flags are flown to celebrate this. The old guys who fly the kites at the beach have flown this particular kite in years past since I have been here so I like the ritual of going down to where they are flying it just to look. My husband opted to snooze on the beach while the munsters played in the sand with their new shovels. He bought them metal shovels "like archeologist use" and even got the moose a brush to dust off found objects. Needless to say when I returned from my walk there was a small pile of rubble on the blanket surrounding my sleeping husband. We managed to leave most of the rocks at the beach, dragging home only a few small shells and a bamboo stick.

There is much discussion in Japan about whether to celebrate events in the upcoming summer season or at the very least how to celebrate them in the shadow of the recent disasters. Saturday, I attended the neighborhood mama meeting which discussed school safety issues and the summer mikoshi portable shrine event. The mikoshi is a shrine that the elementary aged children carry through the neighborhood- usually on a very hot sticky June day. I was surprised that there was a discussion of not carrying it this year because it is a spiritual activity in the community. Later, in the early evening we do go to another event where the adult men carry a huge shrine about the weight of a car according to my husband who has carried it three times. There is a small street festival associated with this event which includes games and cotton candy. In the end, at the mama meeting, we did the very democratic thing and voted by secret ballot for the option of our choice which yielded a count to do the mikoshi event but to donate half of the funds to disaster relief. I think it is because the mikoshi is for elementary school kids to carry that it also happens to be the same group of mothers that review the safety issues. An additional duty of this group is the summer "radio exercises." There is a tradition of having early morning (6:30 a.m.) exercise classes during the summer break in Japan. Two mothers have to volunteer to bring the radio, prepare the room, and lead the children in the exercises every day. My thought was why aren't we abandoning this activity? I kept my mouth shut though.

As the summer approaches businesses are making plans for energy conservation with shorter office hours and working from home. I think this is good for Japan where most office workers get home somewhere between nine and eleven o'clock at night! Maybe it will stick. All of the shops have only half of the lights on now for energy conservation- the U.S. Navy base is the same. The neighborhood is much darker at night. One energy conservation suggestion was, "go to bed earlier." I loved that!

I am trying not to overburden my moose who is a more sensitive soul, but between safety issues to discuss with walking to and from school, earthquake and tsunami evacuations concerns, my daily location and activities, and energy conservation issues, I feel he might reach a tipping point. Tonight the translator told me about the sheet that has the school counsellor visit dates on it for kid's being bullied. He's had no complaints, but still it seems I should ask him directly.

His impression of school has been most about making friends- the little boy sitting next to him and of another boy he knows from his previous swimming class. He showed me the three origami shuriken ninja stars one of them gave him. He says the teacher speaks "easy Japanese, but the other kids can say more" than he can. He walked home on Friday with a little girl from the neighborhood; I was happy he wasn't alone. It seems the slow start of school- half days for two weeks, then leaving just after lunch for two weeks, and finally in May the full day schedule begins- is good for children.

On that beach walk I was thinking how peaceful it is to be near the edges of where earth and water meet and yet this is where all of that destruction happened up north. It seems nothing is simple and yet it is.