Originally published on 23 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my summer abroad living and working in Japan!
Time for the much-anticipated Third Year Death Ceremony! Mrs. Koda’s mother came to ride to the ceremony with us. She’s cute and looks just like Mrs. Koda. We got in the car and drove to the “most important temple” (not sure if that’s important in Mie or what, but they told me it was the most impressive temple). It’s beautiful outside with a traditional garden, and it’s just very natural-looking. By the way, if anyone’s ignorant like I was before I came, Shintos have shrines, Buddhists have temples. The Kodas are apparently Buddhist!
We went inside and met Anna and Mami there, along with about 25 or so other Koda family members. Anna and I made sure it was ok to take pictures before we started snapping away–and boy did we ever take advantage of it!
The…um… I guess I should have asked his title. I don’t think he’s a monk, I don’t think they’d call him a priest, but he’s the main guy who wore the kimono-looking thing and conducted the ceremony. Anyway, he was fun. He let us bang the percussion stuff (not drums) and got pictures with us afterward. We all sat on very low chairs during the ceremony, except for the Kodas and Mr. Koda’s brother, who sat on their knees on cushions in front. The holy man chanted toward the Buddha statue for a few minutes, then went to the percussion stuff and chanted some more.
We went one by one to pay our respects the Japanese way. Mami was there to help, thank goodness! You have to bow Japanese-style toward the priest, walk over toward the Buddha statue, bow to him while holding this circular beaded thing with tassels on it, pick up insence from a box three times and put it level with, but not touching, your forehead. Then you put it down in a box next to where you picked it up. Then you bow again, turn and bow to the priest again, and sit down. After everyone went, the priest read our names while chanting. Mrs. Koda had written everyone’s name as they came in. She let Anna and me write our names in English next to the Japanese spelling!
After that, the priest came over in front of us and spoke. It was all in Japanese, but I did recognize the word “ice cream!” Not really sure what was said or how that fits in, but people laughed. It was funny. Maybe Mr. Koda’s father liked ice cream a lot? After the talk, it was over and the priest let us bang on the stuff and took pictures with us. Next came tea, and it surprised me when the priest sat down with us, too. Everything was very laid back. We had little cookies and green tea. It was fun. Then we took more pictures outside. It’s so pretty there.
After that part, everyone drove to the cemetery to finish paying respects. The Kodas brought flowers and incense, and the priest said a few more things and splashed water on the grave. When he was finished, others splashed water, and some gave offerings like packaged pastries and trinkets.
Then the fun really began–we went to Daiki, “Japan’s Most Famous Resaurant; The Royal Family Endorsed!” It’s true. It said so on the sign. It was most impressive and definitely the most traditional Japanese meal I’ve had yet! More to come!