June 26th was the day of KimuTaku’s mom’s speech here at the shrine. Because was a Saturday and the BIG tea ceremony is coming up, we still had tea class per the usual, albeit a little earlier than normal. Expecting that I would get leave from class early (since I was going to be pitching in to help with things all night), I was antsy to have my turn and then go back upstairs and change (I’m wearing Yukatas and Kimonos now, every week). Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I was kept around as audience for everyone else’s ceremonies as well, and by the time I got to go up and change, I only had about and hour and a half to change a relax before going back down to make preparations for the speech that night.
I’d made plans to have dinner with several of the ladies in the class, and Miho, the girl from the host club tour, at the local (literally next door) ramen place. The place is your typical ramen restaurant, no tables, only a bar, and when you enter you buy a ticket for whatever kind you want (yes, there are SEVERAL types of different ramen) at the vending-like machine in the corner, then sit down on a stool and hand it to the guy behind the counter. You’re given a glass of water, though there’s a pitcher full of it for replenishing, standing next to the napkins and jars of dried garlic and other toppings. When your orders done, the cook places a massive bowl before you with a spoon and chopsticks and you go to town, though its extremely hot, thus the slurping. Japanese people slurp their soup and noodles, and I think part of the reason is to cool it down as they eat. Instead of waiting for things to cool, or blowing on hot food like Americans do, the Japanese never wait, but slurp it in, thereby cooling it, or chew loudly with their mouth open, which cools the food within. These things are not rude eating customs in Japan. If you’ve eaten all your noodles but still have lots of soup left, you can order more noodles only (I forget what the word is), which usually cost 100 yen (sort of, about $1), and the cook brings the strainer over and plops them right into the soup for you.
Anyway, I’d thought that I was going to get to go to the ramen place with everyone to eat, but instead my mom had me stay with her and the other girls that work at the shrine and we busied ourselves laying out fliers on the folding chairs and serving tea to the boorish patrons of the shrine that sat down with my host dad and smoked and, presumably, talked about finances. About an hour before the shindig was set to start, when my host mom was entertaining the aforementioned patrons, KimuTaku’s mom came in and I welcomed her and we chatted a bit, then she was shown into one of the tea rooms to change. Instead of a formal looking outfit, which I had suspected she would wear, she changed into an avante-garde looking thing that seemed to me to be halfway between a jogging suit and a kimono. It was purple and very strange. Then she went out for a walk.
When the patrons finally finished their talk, my host mother hurried myself and the other helpers into a side room and we all scarfed down (as fast as we could) the sushi bentos that were our dinner. In short order, people started arriving and taking their seats.
The topic of the speech, ‘Being a Good Mother’ wasn’t of particular interest to me, but still, I’d been looking forward to the speech, and since I’d gone to the trouble of helping out, was hoping that I might get to sit back with like the other girls who’d helped, and watch. But, unfortunately, when the twins (4 yrs. old) started getting loud and fussy, my host mom had me take them upstairs and entertain them. It was more or less their bed time, so they were fussy already, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t figure how to switch the TV over to the cartoon channels, but we drew in my sketching book and made paper airplanes, and for about an hour and a half things went by fine. But, as kids are wont to do, they remembered they had a mother and missed her and insisted on going back downstairs. And their arrival was loud and caused a ruckus loud enough to interrupt the speech. At that point, I got to see about the last 20 min. of the speech, before bowing everyone out the door.
I got my picture with Mrs. Kimura, then myself, the other helpers and the two boy scouts (for lack of a better word since they’re both in college and my age) that I’d met with and cleaned dishes with before one night a month ago, all helped to put the chairs away. And that was really about it. There was no glamour to it and though I was told the speech was quite wonderful, what I heard of it only seemed to reinforce the ever-present ‘good wife, wise mother’ mentality that is imposed upon young Japanese women today. But that’s the stuff for my gender class, not my blog.