Last Sunday, my Japanese teacher was kind enough to invite me to a special ceremony she was having at the house she and her husband are having built in the city to the north of me.
Thinking that the house was finished, I was excited to see her new place. One of her friends picked me up from the train station and drove me to my teacher’s home. When I got there, I saw that was severely mistaken about the status of her home.
I was standing around outside, talking with my teacher’s friend, when I noticed a crowd gathering. “Wow, T-sensei sure has a lot of friends,” I thought. As we waited, different people tried to explain the different symbols displayed around the construction site. Most were meant to protect the home from various kinds of disaster.
In the upper right hand corner of the previous picture, you can see a rainbow flag. What you might not be able to see are the two fish nailed to the post near the flag that are supposed to bring protection and prosperity.
At some point while we were waiting for…well, something (that no one had really explained to me) to happen, someone asked if I had a bag.
“A bag?” I asked.
“To put your treats.” At this point I thought I had stumbled into some weird version of trick or treating. But the truth was much stranger.
My teacher’s family members started to climb out onto the roof and scaffolding. They then proceeded to throw things down at us. Amongst the “shower” we’re pieces of mochi, 5 yen coins, and bags of snacks. And the competition was brutal. I took an elbow to my sunglasses from an old man when I tried to grab a large thing of mochi that had landed in front of me.
The only reason I managed to snag anything at all was that my goalie skills seemed to kick in as I snatched a large bag of snacks out of the air. I also managed to catch a 5 yen coin and one ball of mochi. Mostly, though, I just watched the chaos and tried not to get hit.
Even after it was done, I was trying to process what had just happened. Seriously, WHAT WAS THAT CRAZINESS?! It was incredibly interesting and completely not what I had expected to happen. The experience really highlighted my favorite part of Japanese culture: it’s a culture of contradictions. While Japanese culture prizes restraint and placidity, there are plenty of events like this that act, I think, as an outlet.
Over all, it was a really great experience and I’m grateful to my teacher for inviting me.