Yesterday many of our Be One team and volunteers attended a first – the dedication/christening (?) of an oyster fishing boat being put out to sea for the first time. It is significant because it is in an area that one NHK reporter described as the worst-hit area in all of Tohoku by the tsunami. This town has been so decimated that they are expecting it will be at least another two years before electricity and water can be brought in! The tsunami wiped out the livelihood of the region- oyster farming. One entire year has been lost for all of these fishermen; this winter they have slowly been able to start again. For many, though, they have not had the resources to replace their boats, nets, and supplies; some of course lost their homes and their work areas. Some Be One members and volunteers have been helping one of the local oyster farmers build a log fence. We all went to cheer as this family christened a new boat, signifying hope for the future for this family and also for this village.
A Shinto priest was brought in to formalize the event. ( I found out that women are not allowed on the boat during this ceremony! I told our friend Beth that I would give her fifty dollars if she jumped on the boat with all of them. She didn’t go for it.) It was quite windy- apparently the priest’s hat was prepared for the wind, for it stayed snugly in place.
There was a group of Japanese volunteers from another prefecture also cheering with us. The girl on the left shared the same name as Olivia’s middle name – Mei- so they hit it off.
The priest and owners opened a large bottle of sake, and some of it was ceremoniously thrown over the boat, then cups were passed out to all those watching. The highlight of the boat ceremony, though, as well as the solar panel dedication that followed, was the mochi-throw. Those on the boat started heaving dozens of individually-wrapped pieces of mochi into the crowd. It wasn’t just the kids going for it – the adults were gathering it up in their own little bags as well.
The kids had a great time, catching as many as they could.
One of the most eye-catching sights in the crowd was this man’s jacket. During our lunch together, he came and told us that he bought this in Hawaii – it is a one-of-a-kind designer jacket custom-made by a designer who made stuff for Elvis Presley. Wow.
While it was not an exuberant celebration, there was the feeling of hope in the air. An expensive sushi lunch and more sake was served to the guests. During the several hours, I hung out with different ladies who were either neighbors or relatives of this family. During the mochi-toss, I got several new recipes for serving the rice cakes. The newest one that I need to try is pizza mochi– you top the mochi with tomato sauce and cheese and then put it in the microwave. (I found out that you aren’t supposed to prepare mochi from an event like this in an oven or toaster, as it could symbolize the boat burning in a fire. But a microwave is fine!).
And I heard from several of the older ladies their stories and impressions. The older sister of the owner was a beautiful, dignified older lady. She was wearing a blue lacy dress, which she claimed was really just an apron that she put on to keep her warm.
She lives in southern Sendai (1.5 hours south), and she had not been able to make the drive up to visit her relatives since the tsunami. Until this day. As they got closer to the town, she began insisting in the car that they were on the wrong road. She said this couldn’t be where her brother and family lived. Where had all the houses gone? How could it look like this? Even though she had seen all the newspaper and television reports, she could not believe her eyes at the devastation. She said even still, her bowels and stomach were just aching with pain at all that was around us. I understood what she meant. It is one of the most haunting sights I have ever seen.
Our family ended the day with some mochi- ozoni soup (see recipe from a previous blog entry here.) It hit the spot!
Our friends Mr. A. and his daughter T. ended up coming over around 9 pm for some late-night soup. We sat together over soup, mochi, and coffee, and talked about the events of our day, and the funeral they would be attending tomorrow for a 27 year-old colleague who had also died last year in the same bank building as their wife/mom. I brought up Mother’s Day, knowing it would probably not be an easy day…
Today T. and I texted a bit. I sent her a verse on my heart for her – Isaiah 40:11. She wrote that she had bought a carnation and some baby’s breath and put it in a vase to remember her mom. I was really glad. We have to keep finding ways to grieve, ways to celebrate, ways to remember.