Japan Day 5. Errands and shopping.

Jun 03 2008

Last night I was exhausted after the trip to Ise. We didn’t get back til after 7:00 p.m. I was worried about Kris being alone with Obaachan for so long, but she hardly noticed we were back. She is in bliss. I lied down with her when she went to bed, and although I intended to get up and do some more stuff, I found it impossible to move. Thus, I was asleep by 8:00 p.m. Woke up at 3:00 a.m. Went for a walk up to the local shrine by myself, and down through the rice fields. So peaceful.

Eventually the rest of the family woke up. We had some stuff to do today.

First we went to the temple where Miranda’s father’s ashes are. Visited and prayed. I should explain about shrines and temples. There are two main religions in Japan. About 60 percent of people are Shinto, and about 80% are Buddhist. So that leaves a significant overlap where people are both. For a westerner, that sounds strange, like saying I am Christian and Jewish. But oddly, there is no conflict like that. Many houses, including Miranda’s family’s have a small Buddhist temple, and a small Shinto shrine right in the house.

Buddhist temple in house.

Shinto Shrine in house.

Shinto is the original religion of Japan. It started in Japan, is very Japan-centric, and I don’t believe it is practiced in any numbers outside of Japan. It’s a pretty simple religion from what I can tell, based on the idea that many natural things, such as trees and rocks, are imbued with a spirit, or kami. There is a rich mythology about some of the more famous kami, such as Amaterasu, whom I talked about yesterday. Most of the rituals and ceremonies seem to consist of offering food to a kami. In the shrine here in the house, I often see a banana or other piece of fruit left. As I said yesterday, Shinto shrines are very beautiful, natural places, with a simple building placed here and there for a specific purpose, but mostly forests, rivers, waterfalls.

Buddhism is Buddhism. Started in India and spread over most of Asia. There are as many, probably more, individual types of Buddhism as there are types of Christianity. Buddhist temples are far more elaborate. Large, fancy buildings with elaborate carvings, art, statues, etc. Lots of gold and gilding. A lot of different rituals and good luck charms for different purposes. For example, there is even a “drive safe” ritual you can take part in, and a drive safe charm that you put in your car. Don’t laugh. We have one in our car at home. 🙂

Anyway, after the shrine we had to go to the bank to do a transfer of significant funds. This will be part of the down payment for our house. So that was important, but took forever. After that, some food shopping, and then to a local ramen restaurant for lunch.

Then Miranda, Kristine and I headed out for this huge mall we kept driving by on the highway in Kuwana. It was the first time Kris had been separated from Obaachan, and she was not happy about it. Just kept asking when we were going back to Obaachan the whole time. I’m amazed at how much she has bonded.

According to my wife, the concept of a mall is a new thing to Japan. Traditionally, they mainly had the “depaato” or department store. But depaatos are huge, 7 or 8 story buildings which have everything you could imagine, including groceries and restaurants, but all owned by a single company.

The mall was sort of a mix between a traditional depaato and a western mall. The first floor was a food court and grocery store as well as home goods stuff like kitchen appliances and tvs, dvd playes, cosmetics and perfumes, and artsy souvenir type stuff.

The second floor had woman’s clothes, kid’s clothes, a toy store and a kid’s play area. Third floor was men’s clothes, CDs, DVDs, stationary type stuff, and a larger toy store.

But unlike an American mall, there was little or no division between each section. I’m really not sure if everything was all one part of one company, or a bunch of separate businesses. An American mall is like a series of boxes. Each box is a store which is a discrete entity. This was almost completely open, as if you were walking through Macy’s or Sears, but each section had a very different look and feel and seemed to be run by a different set of people. For example, in the men’s clothing section, there were two or three sections in a row selling fancy t-shirts and other clothes. Each was obviously run by different people with different inventory, but there was no wall between them.

After the mall, back home and chilled out for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The typhoon is here, so it was raining pretty hard all day, as it probably will for a couple more days. Hopefully it clears up a bit soon.

As for the monkey hunt, the cursed beasts continue to elude me. I’m losing hope. Beginning to wonder if they exist at all, or if it’s just an elaborate trick played on the unsuspecting foreigner. 🙂

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