It has been snowing on and off here at Shiso effectively since my last post. We didn`t see a White Christmas, but it`s more than been made up for in the weeks since. On New Year`s Eve, the four of us went to Bokusho-san`s Temple (where our local Tea Ceremony takes place) for a Buddhist ceremony with bell ringing, chanting and a couple of speeches from Bokusho-san himself (in Japanese, of course).
It began snowing again about fifteen minutes to midnight quite heavily, and didn`t appear to have let up when we left about an hour later. After we`d rang the bell (a cathartic act to bring good fortune and freedom-of-sin into the New Year), we settled in the main chamber of the Temple and drank shougayu (ginger tea) and listened as best we could to the chanting and the speeches. The particularly long speech Bokusho-san gave ran past midnight, so we didn`t have a countdown or huge cheer when it did finally reach twelve, but all greeted each other with: `akemashite, omedetou gozaimasu` (`Happy New Year`, or literally, I think, `a new beginning, congratulations`) as soon as it was over. This phrase was exchanged with everyone I met for the following couple of weeks, the first time I saw them again, with an added part of `Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu`, which I think literally is: `please recieve me again this year`; I guess a gesture of good relationships and that they may continue.
Anyway, before I bore all of you not studying Japanese, I`ll get on with the rest of the last couple of weeks. The first few days after the New Year were filled with various activities for those residents left behind, and plenty of really good food ^_^. We made mochi (rice cakes) before New Year, and they served them on New Year`s Day in the soup accompanying a really special lunch, foods of all colours, shapes and sizes. (I`m not kidding about the colours either!) A particularly intimidating decorative fish beared its teeth at the feast on one of the tables, which I had to get a photo of :P. Just as well, considering it was served as part of the dinner that evening… o.O;. We had karaoke, videos and music, alongside housekeeping for the first week to entertain the residents (the program has been suspended until after the festivites). We also made a yukidaruma (snowman) of the popular kid`s character `Anpanman`, shortly followed by several of his comrades after one of the staff, Maekawa-san, became a little too enthusiastic about snow characters ^^.
After the celebrations had died down, we had little but housekeeping to do every day while the residents still had `holiday`. I have a better idea perhaps of what Heather`s work is like, as I`ve literally been doing nothing but cleaning rooms, hoovering, washing and toileting the residents for the past week, every day. I`m glad the program has re-started now, along with Gap program and cooking.
I`m afraid I`m out of time, so I`ll have to write about my adventures with Dave in Osaka and capsule hotels in another post. Apologies this has been a fairly uninspired recap of events; I really don`t feel like writing much at the moment. Hopefully it`ll wear off.
P.S. Keiron: Thanks for your letter. I`m writing letters to people at the moment, so bear with me please ^_^.