Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July 7th

Happy Tanabata! Happy Evening of the Seventh!
According to wikipedia the festival comes from a Chinese story about two lovers that are separated by a river of stars, the Milky Way, and once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, they are allowed to meet. To celebrate people write their wishes on small, colorful pieces of paper that they hang from bamboo branches. They also hang other ornate pieces of paper in the shape of nets and fish in order to wish for luck in fishing and farming, and little bags to symbolize wealth. This is a picture of a bamboo branch with wishes set-up outside the Japanese gardens we visited on Saturday. I added a piece of paper and wished to be able to speak and read Japanese. Unfortunately, it rained all night and looks like it might rain all day so I don't know how decorating with paper works in this weather. I'll let you know. Also, we're supposed to turn off our lights between 8 and 10pm in an attempt to see the stars but that won't work with clouds either.

Here's a traditional song for the festival, courtesy of wikipedia :
The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the eaves.
The stars twinkle;
Gold and silver grains of sand.

On a personal note, I figured out why my offer to volunteer at an English conversation school was rejected. Apparently, and this is according to a woman who has lived in Japan for most of her adult life (so close to 30 years) and is married to a Japanese man, Japanese people like to keep everything even. If you volunteer then they owe you something and they don't like that. She once gave her neighbor some left overs from an Indian dish she had made and the next day her neighbor brought her cookies. The woman's sister-in-law told her she shouldn't have given the food away because the neighbor felt obligated to give her something in return. The tradition here is to give people money when a loved one dies but you shouldn't spend it because they are expecting the exact amount from you when one of their loved ones die. She learned this after her father-in-law died and her sister-in-law told her to keep the cards and money so she knew who to give what to when the time comes. She knew a visiting student who couldn't go home for Christmas and so decided she'd buy food and pass it out to the homeless in the spirit of giving. No one would take anything and she ended up throwing it all away. There are homeless people here but they never ask for anything - ever. There are soup kitchens they'll go to but they will often work at the kitchen in exchange for food. So, no more offers to volunteer from me - I want to get paid for my ability to speak English.

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