steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Matsuri Miscellany

Two slightly awkward incidents.

I went into a shop and looked at some traditional sweets (I was thinking of buying some as a present). After a minute a young assistant came and asked me in fairly good English whether she could help. I replied (also in English) "I'm fine, thank you." That should have been that, but she was friendly and persistent. She started to tell me about the sweets, and went to fetch me a sample.

At this point I entered the zone of uncertainty. Was it better to pretend not to know any Japanese, since we started on that foot? That had been my initial strategy, but now it looked as if the encounter was to be extended might there not come a point at which it became dishonest to feign ignorance? (And also, if I'm honest, more than my ego could bear?) But, if so, would that point arrive sooner or later than the point at which it would be too late to tell her? I wasn't sure - and guessed wrong, of course, or so it seemed to me afterwards, by revealing my secret Japanese speaking identity just a little too late for it not to be awkward. Nevertheless, the following day I returned to the scene of the crime in the company of Haruka and Eriko (who was visiting), and the same assistant greeted us warmly, and in Japanese.

Later, in a café toilet I noticed that someone had left an umbrella in my cubicle. I thought it would be a kindness to leave it just outside the cubicle, in case the owner came back for it when it was occupied. A mother and two small children were there at the same time, and saw me do this.

Ten minutes later, and several streets away, the same small family accosted me. (Had they really followed me? Had they been scouring the streets?) Anyway, they had the umbrella. The mother encouraged the boy - maybe four years old - to return it to me, which he attempted to do, evidently believing that I'd left it by accident. I explained that the umbrella wasn't mine, only to see the virtuous pride in his eyes turn to disappointment as I spurned his chivalry. I felt guilty - but better that than being a receiver of stolen goods, surely? Or would it have been better to take it, then wait till they were out of sight, and hand it in at the local police box (which I happened to be standing next to)?

Perhaps I overthink things. But sometimes I underthink things, too. The effects are much the same.

Meanwhile, the Odawara matsuri was happening over the weekend - three days of festival food (think yakisoba, yakitori, and various other yaki things), and a lot of omikoshi (portable Shinto shrines) being carried about the town. I've tried and failed to upload this to Flickr, so have had to resort to YouTube for this example of the unique (I think?) Odawara style "Holy Dash":

It rained later, and I was charmed to see that shrines come with rain covers, much like children's buggies:


Meanwhile, from the "every dog has its day" department, I bring you the surprisingly delicious asparagus and cheese hot dog:


Oh, and here's Fuji again. I was rather pleased with this Hiroshige-esque picture of a domestic street scene, in the background of which Fuji broods like a fond old white hen:

Tags: nippon notes, voyage to japan
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