Obon festival is something that I never fully experienced full-hand in California, although it was definitely not because of the lack of festivities going on. Obon festival was an annual treat at the Palo Alto Buddhist Temple but I felt like a transplanted mixed Japanese girl that didn’t quite belong because I didn’t understand much about Japanese culture. I knew how to use chopsticks like a pro and I knew not to stick them in rice but my cultural awareness didn’t dig much deeper than that. I didn’t – and still don’t – know how to be Japanese (but I’ll likely tell you more about that later, in a post about being ha-fu in Japan).
So my first real Obon experience had to be big. Go big or go home. And I’m certainly not ready to go home yet. So to the infamous Tokushima Awaodori Festival I went, my mind open and gaijin showing.
Flying in to Narita is a little painful. Narita Airport is fairly far removed from the heart of Tokyo so it took about 90 minutes by bus. We arrived in time to catch the sunset.
So it’s been a while – I’ve been a flurry of setting up my home office, entertaining the masses (my students and my coworkers), and struggling to find a reliable routine that agrees with the changing of the seasons. I had hoped to post this two months ago, about the time when these photos and experiences actually happened. As the Awaji islanders say in their curious dialect, “bettchanai”, or “don’t worry about it”. For the perpetual worrier, this laidback manner worries me further. Either way, bettchanai. Here’s a brief flirtation with Tokyo.
“Hell-o. My name is Hillary. I understand some Japanese but I cannot speak very well. I have three brothers. My mother is Japanese. I am nervous but excited. It is very nice to meet you all,” I stammer in hesitated Japanese, probably sounding somewhat foolish in front of ten of my new coworkers at Hirota Junior High School in Minamiawaji-shi. Despite my broken speech and all-too-embarrassing hodgepodge of random information mashed together, the faces around me seem amazed that the gaijin* can say even one word in Japanese. They burst out in clapping, crying out, “wow!”, “very good!”, and what I imagine to be something along the lines of “well, that was unexpectedly whimsical”. In Japan, I feel like self introductions are a polite way to simultaneously introduce yourself and be judged with curious eyes. As rudimentary as my Japanese was, the inevitable probing questions are just as broken.
“Marr-a-KECH! Marr-a-KECH!” As we descended into the sunny and yellow countryside, a toddler several rows in front of me began chanting what I was quietly thinking to myself. Marr-a-kech, Marr-a-kech. I had heard dreamy reminiscing tales of the markets, stocked with a tannery, silver, and bolts of silk. We departed at 4am in order to catch our early flight and the cold in Milan has been finding ways to rip through my jackets and rattle my bones. As we were landing in Marrakech, however, the sun glittered on lakes and winding rivers. The sun had been something that I was eternally grateful for, as it brought more warmth than the Milanese can dream of in the middle of winter. Many were wary about my trip to Marrakech but it’s a very stable city that beats with the flow of tourism through its arteries. I would not recommend going alone as a female and going out past dark unless you stick to main lit roads. The city can be beautifully illuminated at night and while I would hate to rob anyone of that sight, I would just caution that your safety is always paramount to getting a nice picture.