Sunday, August 9, 2015

Day 22 - Screaming and Splashing: A Ritual Fight in the Temple Pond

Because we were quite exhausted and tired the evening before, we had to buy all our food in the morning without breakfast (noooo!). As we have rented the same house where we spent our first week, we shop in the same supermarket. But today, we experienced our supermarket for the first time in the morning. It seems like all the elderly people shop in the morning. They were many when we entered, and more and more came.

For us two, it was quite difficult to find even the basic, simple cooking stuff. Unfortunately, Google Translate does not work offline, so we had to guess if that white stuff was sugar or salt... Even butter seemed to hide from us, and jam as well. Not only look packages totally different - they also have different sizes. While they sell potatoes by the piece, rice is available only in bags from 2kg upwards. Different places, different habits.

Since we have been in Japan, we tried nearly every possible green tea, and finally found out which one's the best. Basically, these four drinks are our liquid basis of existence.

While we were inspecting literally every item on our search for sugar, butter and jelly, the supermarket turned into a market. Staff brought in specials in screamed around loud to offer it.
In front of the supermarket, the staff set up market bins and sold vegetables and fruit. We first thought it was a real market, but this was just an annex to the supermarket to make people more comfortable with grocery shopping. We even found potatoes - obviously something very special in Japan because it was sold in mini-mini baskets with 3-4 potatoes each. I gave the man the food I wanted to buy, and he told us the price. Normally, the sum is typed into a calculator so that these foreigners see the numbers. But this was a (fake) market and the staff had no calculator and not even a pen! So he said the amount twice and I fortunately understood!!! My evening vocabulary studies paid off!!! He seems to want 1.500 JPY, we handed over a note and a coin, and he thanked us. I admit I was quite proud of myself that moment.

In the evening, we drove to a shrine by the river that we hadn't visited yet, to watch some sort of ceremony. Even though the "show" should begin not until 7 o'clock and we arrived at 20 to 7, there were already crowds at the shrine. At 7 a loudspeaker voice started to explain the procedure (of course in Japanese, our church ceremonies are neither translated for the tourists). After the priests had lighted their fire cups and swung a stick to kind of bless us, around 30 men in white shorts, white socks, white gloves and a white frontlet rowed up around the temple pond, in which a circle of sticks stuck. One of these sticks, more precisely arrows, was said to be the holy arrow. Then a prayer was read that had at least 20 verses. In the video you can see the main action. It lasted for about 15 seconds of that hour-long procedure.

Traditional priest with iPhone, taking a snap of those men who
caught at least one arrow, in front of the shrine main gate

In case you need to find butter as well...
Even though there were many lightning strokes not far from us, you could not help your sweat, again. On the way back we made a quick side-trip to our supermarket again to get some Häagen Dazs ice cream, and guess what we found:

  • Butter: fortunately I looked up in Internet, how butter looks like in Japan. Cobbled together with cheese, and mostly looked like cheese as well. The symbol on the top is not the Matterhorn, but the shape of Hokkaido...
  • Jam: a mini-shelf at a remote corner of the supermarket, but fortunately quite a selection.
  • Sugar: we decided to buy stick sugar, where it was written in English and we were sure that we don't buy salt.

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