Monday, July 30, 2012

帰国 obviously this isn't a post about my Misogi Shrine trip.  My life has been insanely busy the past few days--today, for example, I finished packing my entire room into two suitcases and two boxes (and spent more than $200 sending them back to the States, EW), cancelled my cell phone contract,* hauled two boxes down the post office to send them off, sent my big suitcase to the airport, and then failed to get to the bank in time to transfer money back to my American account.  In unrelated news, my arms hurt.



Anyway, I'm definitely going to work on blog posts on the airplane (YAY, MORE AIRPLANE BLOGGING; WE KNOW HOW WELL THAT WENT LAST TIME!) if not before then, so expect actual posts with actual content at some point soon.  And for those of you in California, I'll be back on Wednesday!  (For those of you in the Boston/Providence area, I'll be back August 18.)


*It took friggin' forever and was also pretty awkward 'cause when I showed up at the Softbank store there was this American woman there who was LITERALLY SCREAMING in English at the employees.  This woman was just being so horrible and treating the employees like they were idiots (OBVIOUSLY THEY'RE NOT GOING TO UNDERSTAND YOU SPEAKING ENGLISH, ESPECIALLY IF YOU KEEP TALKING TO THEM LIKE THEY'RE BABIES), I just wanted to apologize and say that not all Americans are that rude and aklslkfhdskjfhkjsahfdsakfaljka.  'Scuse me, being ashamed of my nationality.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A lot of lasts

...well, this post was going to be up a lot sooner, but then Blogger decided to delete my mostly finished post.  Entirely.  THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR, BLOGGER.  NOT ACCEPTABLE AT ALL.  So, yeah, guh, this is me trying to reconstruct this post while packing and getting ready to head back to the States.  Wheeee.

新しい原稿を書き終わったけど、コンピューターは死んでしまって、原稿を完全になくしてしまった。いやだああああああ。;_;  もう一度書かなきゃ。。。

So last Tuesday was Susanoo Shrine's tsukinamisai plus the summer festival.  Even though there was a lot more to do in terms of set up (there were about twice as many offerings as usual), there were a lot more people attending than usual, so I wound up running around like a headless chicken quite a bit less than usual.


Sekihara-san's husband is making a website for the shrine, and he wanted photographs of the festival, so I got drafted to take pictures, because I am "good at taking photos."  Um.  Well then.


Anyway, pictures:

All the attendees...  There weren't enough chairs, so I was lurking in the back.


Everyone carrying the offerings to the inner altar...

This is what the offerings look like, by the way.  The three trays on the right are for the mountain kami, who is enshrined in a separate building.

So because it was the summer festival, the norito was much longer than usual.  Before the festival started, Nakano-san collected the names of everyone attending, and she read them off as part of the norito.  There are few words I can use to describe how it felt to hear my name in there.  My first reaction was that I really wanted to giggle, because my name sounds pretty friggin' ridiculous in among a bunch of Japanese names.  (Actually, let's be honest; my name is pretty ridiculous even without Japanese names to compare it to.)  My second reaction was, "WOW.  WOW, THIS IS ACTUALLY REAL."  I can't express how grateful I am to everyone at Susanoo Shrine for accepting me into the shrine community and putting me up with my strange questions and my stuttering and my folding papers the wrong way (I swear I have it right now!).  Not only was attending the monthly festivals good for research, it was just generally a great experience.  (You have no idea how calming it is to prepare offerings.  Repetitive actions are a great destressor, let's be honest.)

ちょっとだけ祝詞について話したいと思う。祭りの前に中野宮司さんは参加者の名前を集めた。今年、色々な神社で見学したり、神職の話に聞かせてくれたりしたけれど、どんな神社でも「ありがたい」という概念について話が出た。中野宮司さんが祝詞を読んでいて、私の名前が祝詞の中に出ていた時、本当に「ありがたい」という気持ちがよく分かってきた。学者の本を読むと、神社で色々な見学の問題に関する話が出てしまう。「色々な許可が必要だった。」「一部分の祭りしか見させなかった。」「見学の前に六ヶ月も待たなければならなかった。」が、私は外国人なのに、有名な教授じゃないのに、日本語が下手なのに、いつも変な質問していたのに、須佐之男神社で見学させていただいた。色々な話を聞かせていただいた。言えないほどありがたい。研究の上で、精神的にすばらしい経験だった。須佐之男神社の皆さん、真にありがとうございます。m(_ _)m

Offering tamagushi!  All the people in chairs got to offer tamagushi individually, and those of us who were standing prayed with the last person.

Offering tamagushi is not that hard, but a lot of people don't know how to do it properly.
Step 1: Take the tamagushi from the priest.  Bow as you do so.
Step 2: Approach the altar.
Step 3: Turn the tamagushi clockwise 90 degrees.  The stick should be pointing toward you and the leafy bit should be pointing toward the top.
Step 4: Grip the leafy bit with your right hand and then turn the tamagushi 180 degrees before placing it on the altar.
Step 5: Bow twice, clap twice, bow once. <-- this is the praying bit
Step 6: Take a small step backward and then bow (slightly!) once more before backing away from the altar.
Step 7: Bow to the priest and then sit.
...okay, maybe it's a bit more complicated than I originally thought...


That was the end of the main ceremony, so then we went to the shrine for the mountain kami to perform the ceremony there.


I was way in the back, so my pictures are not all that great.
Also, when I showed Sekihara-san the pictures I took, her first response was, "MY HUSBAND'S SHIRT IS GLOWING!"  (It kind of is.)

And offering tamagushi again...

And that was the end of that!


So then everyone trooped inside...

Festivals usually involve hauling a lot of tables.

Next were the festivals for the kami enshrined in shrines in the shrine office.


By the way, that photograph over Nakano-san's head is from the Meiji era.  This shrine is OLD. that was the end of that.  My camera died immediately after the festival, because it is a pro like that.  I seriously think I need to get a new battery or something, because this is getting kind of ridiculous.

After the ceremony, we had naorai and I got to eat delicious bento and listen to cool stories, because apparently this is my month to eat delicious bento and listen to cool stories.
...also, apparently Nakano-san's daughter saw pictures of me in priest garb and declared me "cool." WHAAAAAAAT.
Also also, I saw a goshintai, which is the object that is actually enshrined as a symbol of the kami. You're not normally supposed to see it, but there's some construction going on at the shrine (I believe a fence is being repaired?) so Nakano-san had to take the goshintai out of the mountain kami's shrine and she showed it to me, because she wasn't entirely sure what was in the box.  So, yeah, this year has been the year of me seeing all sorts of things I'm not normally supposed to see.  (That sentence wound up sounding a lot sketchier than I intended it to.)


So, yeah, that was my last tsukinamisai at Susanoo Shrine.  I'm going to miss everyone, and I'm going to miss heading over on the 17th to fill sake containers (Did you know that if you accidentally spill sake on your watchband, your watchband will smell like sake approximately forever?) and listen to really cool stories and wipe down trays.


The next day was my last penmanship class!  I was actually kind of sad, 'cause only one other woman came...but then after class A WHOLE SLEW OF PEOPLE showed up, because apparently Nakano-san contacted everyone who had taken class with me and said, "Dana's leaving, so you better come if you want to say goodbye to her."  Oh gosh, you guys, I love you all.
...also, I got a lot of (super thoughtful and sweet) presents and I was super embarrassed and stuttered a lot and may have kind of cried a little and GOSH.  GOSH.




This is actually from the week before; I just forgot to take a picture before...


And this is from this week...
It's pretty embarrassing that I've been writing hiragana for 5 1/2 years now and this is how good my handwriting is.  OUCH.


WAIT WAIT WAIT, is this ACTUALLY PRETTY OKAY CALLIGRAPHY?  Yes, yes, it is.  Nakano-san was in the other room while I was writing this and she came back and said, "WHOA, your corners just got weirdly good!"


...anyway, my last last for this post is that last Thursday was my last Japanese class.  (I used "last" a whole lot in that sentence.  HMM.)  It wasn't as sad as it could have been, because I'm seeing some of my classmates again on Saturday (we're planning on going to the Toyota City Fireworks Festival).

木曜日に最後の日本語の授業があった。今週の土曜日に豊田市の花火祭りでクラスメートをもう一度会う予定があるので、そんなに悲しくなかった。 that's all the news for this time.  Next post will be about my trip to Misogi Shrine last Sunday. (Gosh, I am so far behind, and I am going to get farther behind, because I need to finish packing and cancel a bunch of stuff and ahhhhhh busy.)


Thursday, July 19, 2012

This isn't a real post

Hey, everyone.


So last week I showed Nakano-san and Itou-san my blog, and apparently they showed it to a bunch of other people, and now I have gotten a bunch of requests to translate my blog into Japanese, because even if pretty pictures cross language boundaries, English does not.  Unfortunately, translating my entire blog would be A. insane and B. insane and C. really hard, so I'm going to have to pass on that.  However, I am going to try to at least make some of the upcoming posts bilingual, so that the Japanese-speakers can at least have some sort of idea what's going on.  They're not going to be direct translations, because A. my writing style in English is pretty drastically different than anything that can even be attempted to be conveyed in Japanese and B. I'm not that good at Japanese (oh gosh, now will be the chance for you all to find out EXACTLY how weak my Japanese is, oh dear).


In other news, I FINALLY SUBMITTED MY RESEARCH REPORT.  It wound up being 79 pages (21,093 words); for comparison, my senior thesis was 28k. I feel like I managed to say most of what I wanted to say, although I probably could have said more if I had the time/energy/typing stamina.  I haven't been sleeping well for the past...oh...three weeks or so, 'cause of the insanely gross heat, so right after I submitted my report, I passed out on my bed and napped for two hours like a pro.  But then I felt a bunch better!  My air condition is amazing~


Anyway, next time will be a REAL POST about my last tsukinamisai at Susanoo Shrine (noooo), my last calligraphy class (nooooo), and my last Japanese class (nooooooooo).  Basically, it will be a bundle of sadness.  Until then, I shall be listening to "Christian Bale Is at Your Party" over and over and over and over and over and over...


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lady priest clothes are REALLY HEAVY


I think this month will be my month of doing ridiculous(ly awesome) things, because Itou-san emailed me a couple of days ago and was like, "Hey, want to try on priest clothes?" and I was like, "SURE????"  So I went over to Kawahara Shrine yesterday (to take a break from my monster of a paper) and Yamauchi-san and Itou-san had way too much fun dressing me up, because this is what you do when you are studying Shinto, right?

...I now know a whole lot about priest clothes and also how hard it is to move in them and also how amazing your posture has to be.  So much respect.

If you are wondering, this is basically the most dressed up you can possibly be as a lady priest.  I am wearing, uh, five layers?  The red layer, the green and pink layers (they have to be worn together), a white undershirt sort of layer, and my t-shirt under all that.

The crown is only worn by female priests, and it's VERY precariously perched, so you have to keep your head absolutely straight or it will fall off.

The thing I'm holding is a fan that's been wrapped in a bunch of differently colored cords.  It's only carried by female priests.

(Itou-san said she prefers the male priests' dress style, and I have to say that it involves a LOT fewer layers, and the hat is much less...tippy.)


This photo is every day at Kawahara Shrine, let's be honest.

Also, check out those SHOES.  They are like BOATS.  But they're much easier to walk in than I thought they would be.

So if you take off the top layer, that's a separate dress style!

So there's totally a story behind that random doll in the corner.  When you're getting rid of an object with a lot of sentimental value (or an object that seems more "human" than regular trash), you are supposed to bring it to the shrine to have it purified before you dispose of it.
That doll.
Has been sitting in that corner.
Since I arrived in Japan.
I am not even kidding.
Itou-san keeps saying, "...yeah, I'll get to it eventually," but, let's face it, that doll is kind of creepy and also reminds me of the doll in Paprika, and I would not want to mess with it, honestly.

Getting lessons on how to hold things properly...  Itou-san kept saying, "Grip it!  Not like that.  Grip it differently.  More loosely.  No, more tightly.  Yes, like that, except not exactly."


...I don't know what was happening here.  Maybe I suddenly got wigged out by that doll.

Just to give you an idea of how complicated female priests' robes are, at this point I was wearing two layers of outer robes (the pink and the green) on top of the "regular" white robes and hakama.

Bam, changing robes.  The collar on this one was stiff, so if you're not careful you can strangle yourself with it.  Fun, fun, fun.

This is a more male-style robe, and it's much easier to put on, other than the strangling bit.

Hat change!  This is a male-style hat, and it's much more comfortable and less likely to fall off your head than the crown.

The wooden paddle is called a shaku, and it used to be carried by formally attired aristocrats.  Today it's really only used by priests during ceremonies, although by "used" I mean "held."  (Although Itou-san said she used to write her ceremony notes on the back of it.)  According to Basic Terms of Shinto (Revised Edition), the shaku probably "originated in China as a prompter used during official ceremenies [sic]."

 Itou-san was like, "DON'T TAKE A PICTURE OF THAT," so of course Yamauchi-san did. you can probably tell, the hakama were MUCH too short for me, so we tied them MUCH too low, so that they would be the correct length.  It looked ridiculous without an outer robe, basically.

Also, the purple hakama are only for priests of the third level and above, which means you've been in the priesthood for 20 years or more and you've gotten a recommendation from the leader of the branch office.  Itou-san has roughly 5 more years to go before she becomes eligible.  (She actually inherited the hakama from the priest who was head priest before her.)

Another male-style robe!

It might be hard to tell from these pictures, but with these styles of robes, the sleeves are made to be much too long, so you fold them up until they're only slightly too long and then hold the very edge of your sleeve with your left hand.

(This was Itou-san saying, "DON'T LAUGH.  PRIESTS DON'T GRIN," and of course then I had a fit of giggles.)

(Trying not to giggle and failing a little.)

Then we went out to the little garden in the back of the shrine, where I'd never been before...


(Failing at being serious again.)

(...I don't even know what this face is.)

(Yamauchi-san was like, "YOU SHOULD USE THIS FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS CARDS," and Itou-san was like, "YUS, DO IT," so I guess I have to do this now.  Or something.)

Also, check out that collar!  The reason it's shaped the way it is is that there's actually a bit of plastic in the front holding it in that shape, and there's some sort of framework on the inside as well.  I wasn't kidding about being able to strangle yourself with it.

So, yeah!  I learned a lot and it was fun and now I know way more about priest clothes than I ever thought there was to learn!

And then I went out to dinner with Yamauchi-san and Itou-san, and we got miso nikomi udon, which is udon cooked in a big pot with SO MUCH miso and it is DELICIOUS.  As much as I am looking forward to eating cheese (and sourdough and cheap vegetables and fruit and Mexican food and butter and...), I'm going to miss Japanese food like crazy.

So, all in all, a pretty awesome day!

...meanwhile, my paper is 19.5k and 67 pages.  It's only missing the conclusion, though!  So hopefully I can pound that out tonight and then spend the next couple of days editing it/smashing my head against things because it's not beautiful/perfect/brilliant enough, and then I can send it in and spend my last 2 weeks frolicking and stuff.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gosha Shrine's summer festival

Heeeeeeey, everyone.  It is grossly hot here.  It is so hot that I am literally dripping in sweat.  There is literally swear dripping off me.  IT IS DISGUSTING.

Anyway, have some random purikura pictures from a million years ago (I'm really unclear on why Blogger highlights things randomly):

(These were taken during Louki's birthday.  Someone had the smart idea of picking the ~sparkly eyes~ setting, which, uh, made our eyes sparkly.  These are some of the less disturbing results.)

(Also, for anyone who can't read Japanese, our names are written on our foreheads, so we have:
Meredith (purple), Gitari (pink; that's his nickname), Ashley (light blue), Grace (blue), Hali (yellow), me (green), Louki (red), and Mariko (dark purple-ish).)

(Also, I totally stole this picture from Mariko because I am a THIEF.)

ANYWAY, Sunday was the summer festival at Gosha Shrine!  And I am all about summer festivals, so I headed on over.

Fortunately, it wasn't raining!
Unfortunately, that meant it was about a million degrees at 8:30 in the morning and everyone just wanted to go home and hide in dark holes.

A bunch of stands were already set up when I arrived:

They had a stand selling a bunch of used clothes and dishes and books.


This, by the way, is the shrine office where I have calligraphy class!  And since the doors were open, you can now see the beautiful interior~

There was a short purification ceremony that mostly only the soudai and the performers participated in, and then a girl sang a song and then Nakano-san's daughters (who are the shrines' miko) performed a dance.

And then the main performances started.


So this was at about ten in the morning.  As you can probably tell, it was CROWDED.

The next group of performers were a bunch of little girls from a baton-twirling school.

They were kind of adorable, in the way that small children who never turn the correct way generally are.

There was also a group of older girls who were performing.

(This was the oldest group of girls.)

Tambourines are batons, right?

And then the little kids came back with pom-poms...

This was literally all that I could think of...

The next group of performers was a storytelling troupe...

They set up a tent so that they wouldn't die in the baking sun.

Unfortunately, their entire audience was dying in the baking sun instead...

Unfortunately, they were having some serious microphone feedback issues...

They told the story of Susanoo and Yamato no Orochi and also the story of Okuninushi and the rabbit.  Definitely the best version of the Yamato no Orochi story I've ever heard.  It was so exciting!  (Apparently I was one of the few people who actually enjoyed it, 'cause a bunch of middle schoolers told Nakano-san that it was boring.  Ohhhh dear.)

One of the older women at the festival turned to me after the story was over and said, "...are you actually interested in these kinds of stories?" to which I had to respond, "YES," because who ISN'T into stories about Susanoo fighting a giant dragon with his future-wife-turned-into-a-comb in his hair?

So then I bummed around the shrine for a bit longer, talked to some people, and got some ice cream so I didn't die of heatstroke did research on festival food.

A bunch of kids were shooting each other with water pistols, much to Nakano-san's consternation.

These kids are super ball fishing, which is the more animal-friendly version of goldfish fishing.

This random guy was selling vegetables...?

These kids were selling homegrown grilled corn.

...this was the line for ice cream.

It was really hot, okay?

Aaaand here's the front of the shrine, where all the special lanterns were hanging.

So, yeah, that was the festival!

On Tuesday it was Pay 1,000 Yen for Movies Day, so I went to see the new Spiderman movie!  It was interesting.  I feel like there were some things that were definitely better than the old version, but there were things that were definitely worse.  It's much closer to the original canon, which...isn't...necessarily...a good thing.  I also feel like it didn't come together as well as the old version, 'cause there were some things that were giant question marks at the beginning and still giant question marks at the end.  Gwen is kind of amazing, though (although I have a lot of FEELINGS about her last scene, bah).

I had calligraphy class yesterday, and Itou-san dropped by,* which led to the largest concentration of Shinto-nerding I have ever seen in a small single room.  We had a big, long discussion about how kids weren't considered human until they turned 7 in the Edo period, and how that led to a lot of interesting stuff like legal infanticide and shortened funerals for kids.  Hurrah for interesting discussions!

And then I went home and submitted all my papers for Fulbright except for my research paper, which is 15.5k and still growing uggggggh.  I need to turn it in within the next week, so I'm just trying to clean up what I have right now and hoping that it turns into something semi-coherent.  I think right now I'm only missing the conclusion and some transitions in the middle, so it's not a huge amount of work left...

In final news, remember how I decided to fly out of Tokyo so that A) I could have my exit interview face-to-face rather than over the phone (I HATE PHONE CALLS, especially extended ones; it's so hard for me to figure out what's being said without being able to see the other person) and B) I could FINALLY go see the Ghibli Museum?  Well, within the last 24 hours I just found out that Dr. Satterwhite, who does the exit interviews, will not be available when I was planning on being in Tokyo, so I have to do a phone interview, AND that the Ghibli Museum is sold out of tickets until mid-August.  AUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH.  Excuse me while I flip over the UNIVERSE.  I am fairly sure that I am going to wind up going to the Ghibli Museum when I'm a million years old at this rate.  WHY?  WHYYYYYY?  So now I'm trying to figure out when to go up to Tokyo.  BAH.

Well, I should get back to my paper...gosh...

*Why she dropped by is a long story involving a guy giving her a bunch of calligraphy sets years and years ago and telling her to give them to foreign students...?  Oh, and then she's supposed to take a picture when she gives them to the foreign students and send him a picture so that he knows that the set is going to a good home.  And apparently she hasn't managed to pawn all of them off yet, so when she found out that I've been taking calligraphy she was like, "YOU ARE TAKING ONE OF THESE."  So I got a calligraphy set!  Thank you, mysterious benefactor man!

EDIT: Oh my gosh, I just went to check keywords people have used to find my blog, and, uh:

"break up with boyfriend to become fulbright scholar"
I'm crying from laughter here.  Why was someone searching that...?  DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MY QUOTE ON THE TECH HOUSE QUOTES PAGE?  'CAUSE IT'S NOT TRUE, YOU GUYS.