[The American Years]

Sunday, June 24, 2007

We moved. We've been moved. We were moved. Movers helped.

On our way to Japan we were packed by an American crew and unpacked by a Japanese one. On our way home, it was the opposite.

And for as kind as the American crews are, I am still embarrassed for all the Japanese people who come over here. The efficiency of the Japanese crews is amazing.

When our goods arrived at our new house here, I instructed the crew that we keep shoes outside. That they must take their shoes off when they enter the house. It was difficult for them to get their heads around. How were they going to bring goods in the house, and stop to take their shoes off as they do.

I wish I had video of the Japanese crew carrying out our couch. It was two guys carrying a couch toward the front door. Nothing strange there. Until they reached the entry way where the shoes are kept, they paused, one at a time, to step into their shoes blindly while carrying the full load of the couch. I would have loved to show that to the American crew. "It can be done," I would have said. Then I would have added,"...and you know what? Nobody gets tipped in Japan."

Another source of embarrassment for me. Japanese people come over to America and get subpar service (by their standards) for which they have to pay extra.


OK. Back to Japan. More data to share.

Japanese people, for all their healthy ways, do eventually die. Though I just heard the oldest documented person alive currently is a 114 year-old Japanese woman.

For the body of the departed, cremation is the only way. Not a whole bunch of space available in Japan to lay out full graves, so their cemeteries have stacked up urns.

This cemetery is in Kyoto. The big stones are the family markers, surrounded by smaller stones around containing the ashes of the family members. I took the picture below of the turtle because it was my favorite family marker.

Now how do they get there. In a hearse, obviously. But a hearse in Japan doesn't look like the one you and I are used to. For one, they are smaller. I guess smaller people, in smaller boxes require smaller cars. Secondly, the Japanese usually go for Buddhist rites for their departed. So the hearse becomes ornate, like a Buddhist temple.

This one it typical, thanks to Miss Tracy for the contribution!

Below is one we saw in Kyoto. The natural wood look is not common, so it must be super fancy. Kathleen and the kids and my brother Daniel are there.

A video of the the hearse being loaded. (Listen for the bell. It's a sound known across Japan as the bell of farewell for the departed. I didn't know that when I set my cell phone ringtone to the same sound...)

One more thing about hearses. It's a childish superstition that when a hearse passes by you have to cover your thumbs. You make a fist with the thumbs inside. If you don't, the superstition maintains, you will not be able to see your parents on their deathbed. Pretty grim superstition to lay on kids.

It has something to do with the thumb being the 'parent finger'. I never saw anyone doing that, but I've heard that adults do the same, just to be sure.

Mata ne.

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