Thursday, August 14, 2008

Memories of my father -part 1

Every year around the time of Obon, I think of my father. Even in his last few years, in spite of having weak legs, he still insisted in paying a visit to our ancestral grave. Within my family, I was the only “salary man” who could take a bon-holiday. So I was always the one to take my father to the grave. Our ancestral grave was on a slope of a hill in the precincts of a temple outside of our town. Climbing the slope was not easy for an old man.

During our visit to the grave, he always told me the same story. He told me that the real grave of our ancestors is deep in the mountain. It is in a sacred ground that people are not allowed to step in. I didn’t know why our ancestral grave was in a sacred ground where people are prohibited to enter. He said it was not the usual Buddhist type of grave but a mound like a small hill.

Until my grandfather’s generation our family worked as craftsmen. They made traditional crafts of the region. They also had another job as a priest who specialized in a certain kind of work. They were not official Shinto priests but a local one. But many of our relatives have later become official Shinto priests. One of them has become the head priest of a shrine that has a history of 1500 years. My father used to live in the precincts of that shrine during his time in college. Interestingly enough, this shrine enshrines Ōmononushi-no-Ōkami as the main god and also Hakusan-Kukuri-hime and Amaterasu-Ohomikami.

The area deep in the mountain where our ancestral mound exists, use to be called “Onizuka” (Ogre Hill) in the old days. The mythology tells that long ago, Susanoo appeared on earth. When he had left this plane, he left his physical body on the ground and that body was buried in a mound. For some reason, my father’s family was in charge of looking after this mound. When the eldest son of our family died, the bones were buried in this mound. The rest of the family had another grave outside of town. This long tradition in our family ended in my grandfather’s generation.

Ikashite-itadaite Arigato-gozaimasu

Thank you for letting us live

(Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed spirits of one's ancestors. Obon or Bon festivals usually last for three days around August 15th.)
(For more details about Ōmonushi-no-Ōkami, go to: Ise Hakusan Do Dictionary)

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