Monday, December 5, 2011

In which I 迷惑 big time

So last night Itou-san called me up and said, "Hey, do you want to see a funeral tomorrow?" which is perhaps the strangest invitation I have ever received.
While normally I am not a particularly big fan of funerals, since there are virtually no Shinto funerals performed ever,* this was an amazing research opportunity.  As it turned out, the funeral was for the guji of Masumida Shrine, who passed away at the end of November.  Because he was a Shinto priest, he was having a Shinto funeral (performed by the other priests from the shrine), and Itou-san said I could attend without it being awkward and weird.
...there was then a moment of panic when I realized that I didn't have a black top (I mean, seriously, I did not expect to be attending any funerals in Japan), but Itou-san said that I could just wear something dark colored with my black coat on top.  Okay, phew.

So this morning we hopped on a train together to Ichinomiya and then walked to the funeral parlor, where I discovered that in Japan funerals are public functions, which is to say anyone can come.  Seriously, anyone.**  And it seemed like half the town had shown up.  And then Itou-san said there weren't very many people there because it was the middle of the work day????  Yeah.

Anyway, we checked in, which basically meant that we handed over business cards so that the family could keep track of who had come.  There were so many people there that the reception had been divided into areas like "people associated with shrines," "relatives," "people from rotary," "people from the town," and "other people."  (We got to go in the "people associated with shrines" line.)  We were also given gift bags with tea in them?  According to Itou-san, it used to be that guests to funerals would pay a sum (like 5,000 yen) to the family, but then the family would have to return a portion of the sum (like 3,000 yen) in the form of a gift.  But now people have decided that that's too ridiculously complicated and just give people little gift bags at the start of the funeral.

The funeral parlor had been set up so that the ceremony would be performed on the third floor with television screens on the first and second floors so that not everybody had to cram into a single room.  We went up to the second floor to discover that all the seats had been taken, so we joined a quickly growing crowd of standing people.  They also had photo albums set up of all the things the guji had accomplished in his lifetime, and WOW.  He seems like he was an amazing guy.  He reached the highest rank of the priesthood (which apparently has to be given for services rendered; you can't test into it), he was active in the Japanese rotary club, he arranged some amazingly elaborate festivals (literally people in happi FLOODING the streets of Ichinomiya), and he was apparently an all-around really nice guy.  (Itou-san had met him once when he had visited Kawahara Shrine, so apparently she didn't know him very well.)

Anyway, then the ceremony started.  There was a quick purification (most of which I couldn't hear because the microphone on the third floor was having issues) and then one of the priests went to the front of the room to read a special norito which had been composed for the occasion.  Itou-san told me in advance to pay close attention to the norito, because at funerals the norito basically tells the story of the person's life...all in incredibly archaic Japanese.

About three lines into the norito, I suddenly started feeling...really weird.  Within about fifteen seconds I went from concentrating really intensely on understanding as much as I could to "uh oh, I don't feel so good" to "oh frig, I think I'm going to pass out."  Of course, I decided that I was NOT going to pass out, because passing out in the middle of a funeral is approximately the SECOND WORST place you could possibly pass out.*** Fortunately, I didn't pass out, but my legs gave out from under me and I collapsed in approximately the most graceful way I could manage.  I have to say, everyone reacted surprisingly calmly.  If I were at a funeral and some random gaijin suddenly collapsed all over the floor, I would be freaking out everywhere, but Itou-san and some of the funeral parlor staff just scooped me up and dragged me out of the crowd and got me a glass of water and waited patiently for me to be able to form coherent words.  Apparently collapsing does not do good things to my Japanese!  Also, I realized that I don't know the Japanese word for fainting.  WHY DID YOU NEVER TEACH ME THIS, JAPANESE CLASS?  Anyway, one of the funeral parlor employees wanted to call an ambulance (because apparently I had turned completely white), but I was very adamant that I would be okay and I did not need an ambulance, because seriously, the last time I passed out and wound up in an ambulance, they just spent the whole time asking me if I was pregnant.  AUGH.

Anyway, they took me off to a sitting room on the side and I apologized about a million times and they told me to SIT THERE until I felt entirely better and NOT GET UP.  And Itou-san came with me and I apologized about a million times again, and she said it was pretty understandable because the room had about a million people in it and I had probably collapsed from the heat.  Except, you know, I was the youngest person in the room, and I had eaten breakfast and wasn't dehydrated and am actually pretty healthy, so my legs have no excuse for going all noodly under me.

So I wound up sitting there for about an hour (during which time I apologized profusely and Itou-san said that it was fine and then asked me to teach her how to say a bunch of stuff for weddings in English, because apparently she has a lot of foreigners come to the shrine to get married and they don't speak Japanese?) and missing the entire funeral.  GAH.  I feel really bad about being a 迷惑 to everyone.  Fortunately my 迷惑ing was reduced by the funeral parlor staff and Itou-san, to whom I am super grateful.

So, after that adventure, I went to eat lunch with Itou-san and then hopped on the train back to Nagoya and she offered to drive me home but I said I was okay and I was sorryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.  And then I went home and sat and then went to Japanese class where we learned how to count on our fingers in a whole bunch of languages and my sensei and my classmates stole my notebook to look at my doodles.  Oh dear.

In any case, I've decided that it's probably a good idea to go to sleep early today so that I don't go around collapsing everywhere tomorrow, so with that I shall sign off.

I'm so sorryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.  ;_;

*Almost all funerals in Japan are Buddhist.  Part of it has to do with Shinto taboos about death, and part of it has to do with Shinto funerals apparently being incredibly depressing.

**This would explain why it was okay for me to randomly show up.  There were people coming who had never even met the man or his family, but only knew of his reputation.

***The absolute worst being the hallway of the fourth floor of Metcalf, aka the dorm of the living dead.

1 comment:

  1. *Hands you a comforting cup of tea* It sucks when things go wrong that aren't even your fault so you can't do anything to fix them...
    I wanna see your doodles too! Do you have access to a scanner? That would be an AWESOME post.
    That last footnote sounds scary.