About 2 weeks ago we had dinner with a nearby Japanese couple for the second time. I’d had a feeling that the husband didn’t like me as he only talked to me when he needed me to translate for the men. But I quickly shook that feeling as he ended up talking to only me and pretty much leaving the men in the dust. I nodded, smiled, and grunted where I thought appropriate because he was slurring so much it was hard to understand.
Well, I must have done something because after we finished dinner he snapped his drunken gaze on me and excitedly announced “I made my own bath! Wanna see?”
I was then whisked out of the dining room, presented with a pair of slippers for outside (the men were seemingly completely forgotten by this point), and brought to a small wood burner outside his house. He explained that they burned their trash as well as small bits of wood in the stove. All of the heat was then channeled right underneath the bathtub in the closest room. They said the tub generally sat right above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees in American).
After being told to gaze upon their lovely bath tub, he told us all that we could come back anytime and take baths in their special bathtub.
We said we would show up in towels.
Back on track to leave after our awkward side mission, the wife told us to come back anytime. Which was immediately followed by a “Sunday!!” from the husband.
He looked at me and grinned happily. “There’s an Oki wedding on Sunday! Will you go?”
And so began the world’s most confusing conversation: “Uhh, whose wedding?” “I don’t know. Will you go?” “Uhh…” “Oh! There’s a house building ceremony, too! Will you go?” “Whose house?” “I don’t know. Will you go?” “Umm… You’re going?” “Yeah! Will you go?” “Uhh. Suuuure?” “Great! Let’s go at 11:30!”
Fast forward to Sunday.
We arrived to find the husband in his woodshop wearing what we assumed was a bright purple, full bodied rain suit (complete with a zippered kangaroo pouch dead center of his chest), and a cowlick the size of The Great Wave.
After the wife bestowed us with plastic bags that she said were a necessity, we heard their daughter ask her dad if he could even speak English. He responded by saying “Zisu iza a peah” (“This is a pear”) as he stuffed something into his kangaroo pouch. Making it protrude a further 2 inches.
Half hour and a nail-in-the-tire later, we arrived at the scene to find a crowd of people clutching plastic bags, staring hopefully at the new house. Many of whom were old ladies hunched at the waist from age. They smiled at us pleasantly.
We knew something was starting when a group of men in suits took off their sock and shoes, began climbing up a slick ladder (it was drizzling rain), and gathered on the top of the roof.
Aaron and I giggled for a good while as it looked like any normal business meeting, but without socks and shoes (some wore sneakers). And on top of a wet roof. Our giggling and fear intensified when we saw that they popped open a bottle of sake and drank some on the spot.
And then it began. The men launched four large mochi (rice balls) off the four corners of the house and into the eager crowd; all of the cute little grannies around us then turned absolutely vicious. A younger gentleman at our corner of the house caught the large mochi but then fumbled it slightly. He was then literally tackled to the ground by no less than three 70-80 year old women.
Aaron and I stared in horror/amusement as the grannies scrambled furiously across the ground, on top of the young gentlemen, and into a small ditch to reach the rice ball.
We then turned back to the house just in time to see handfuls of small rice balls flying off the roof in every direction. The crowd began to lurch about like pigeons being fed at the park. Rice balls bounced every which way, and we scurried across the ground to scoop them up and put them in our plastic bags.
At one point, Aaron turned back to me and snickered, “Watch this!” He then promptly turned around and, as the next wave of rice balls were hurled at our heads and a herd of grannies scuttled about his feet snatching at bouncing rice balls, Aaron stood tall, raised a single hand, and without moving plucked rice ball after rice ball out of the air.
This image has been burned into my brain permanently and my mind seriously has no idea what to do with it. A week later and I’m still in shock at what we witnessed that day.
After about ten minutes of horror, the spectacle was over and we took off with our bags full of little pink and white mochi.
But the strange adventure wasn’t over. We then went downtown to a hotel to see a random person’s wedding. (We were informed that if someone had their wedding at this hotel, it meant they wanted people to come see).
If the house ceremony was terrifying, then this wedding was painfully awkward. While the wedding party was giving speeches, and then later eating, there was a crowd of about 100 people standing right outside the doors peeking in. Not only that, but they would stick their phones through the doorway in attempt to take photos of the bride and groom.
It was especially awkward because the doors were right next to the guests. We were in absolutely every waiter and waitresses’ way and old ladies who couldn’t stick their head into the actual room would just sit down in the doorway and watch from there.
Even though it was considered an honor to have guests outside your wedding, it simply felt wrong. And so we stayed for about 45 minutes and got out of there the minute the opportunity presented itself.
And such was our day. Safe to say we were a little shell-shocked.