TsukuBlog

A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Ancestors Remembered Around the Autumnal Equinox ( and some photos of the O-Higan scenery from a bike-ride through Teshirogi, Tsukuba)

The grave of a former head priest of the Henjo-In Temple in Teshirogi, Tsukuba- with offerings of flowers and incense for O-Higan (Febuary 23, 2014)- the grand tombstone takes the form of GORIN TO monument symbolizing earth,water,fire,wind and sky. Note the Shinto Torii gate and the SOTOBA  wooden memorial slabs engraved in Sanskrit and Kanji, a reminder of the days before the Meiji Restoration, before Shintoism and Buddhism had been separated

The grave of a former head priest of the Henjo-In Temple in Teshirogi, Tsukuba- with offerings of flowers and incense for O-Higan (Febuary 22, 2016)- the grand tombstone takes the form of GORIN TO monument with the five layers symbolizing earth,water,fire,wind and sky. Note the Shinto Torii gate and the SOTOBA wooden memorial slabs engraved in Sanskrit and Kanji, a reminder of the days before the Meiji Restoration, before Shintoism and Buddhism had been separated

 

Avi Landau

The Japanese never go very long without taking care of their ancestors or departed loved ones. In fact, there are many who pray and make offerings at their family altar (butsudan) every single day. In addition, as part of the annual cycle of events, there are four times a year (besides individual memorial days) for special ceremonies in which extra efforts are made for family members who have passed on: New Years, O-Bon (in August) and then the week around (three days before and three days after) the equinox days. In fact, there are national holidays in March and September making it possible for anyone who wishes to do so to visit their family graves for O-Higan (for more detail see my article).

Flowers left at old mound-type graves at the Henjo-In Temple, in Teshirogi-  which was once the headquarter of the Anti-Tsukuba Science City Development Movement.

Flowers left at old mound-type graves at the Henjo-In Temple, in Teshirogi- which was once the headquarter of the Anti-Tsukuba Science City Development Movement.

Since higan-iri (彼岸入), the first day of O-Higan which was htis past Sunday, I have noticed, on my morning walk that the graves in all the old neighborhood cemeteries have been swept and decorated with offerings of seasonal flowers.

Red and white spider-lilies (HIGAN BANA) grow in a cluster outside a graveyard in Teshirogi, Tsukuba (September 23, 2014)

Red and white spider-lilies (HIGAN BANA) grow in a cluster outside a graveyard in Teshirogi, Tsukuba

In and around these graveyards, and in many other places as well (the gardens of old houses, parks, or even along the road), are the amazing higanbana. These flowers are so named for the very fact that they appear, each year, during the higan season.

Higanbana along Tsuchiura-Gakuen Road

Higanbana along Tsuchiura-Gakuen Road

At convenience stores, department stores and traditional sweet shops, O-Hagi are on sale. These are oval shaped mochi-rice cakes, covered with a layer of sweet beans, soy bean powder, or black sesame. You can buy them individually, or in sets. The name of these traditional cakes during the autumn o-higan is o-hagi because hagi are a typical flower of this season, while the same sweet cake in spring is called botan-mochi, after the peony, a typical spring flower.

O-Hagi at Seibu

O-Hagi at Seibu

Packs of fruit on sale as O-HIGAN offering to the spirits of ancestors  (September 23, 2014)

Packs of fruit on sale as O-HIGAN offering to the spirits of ancestors (September 2015)

You will notice that many Japanese, when talking about the weather will use the expression- atsusa samusa mo higan made (hot and cold until O-higan), which I guess means that the equinox days (spring and autumn) are seasonal and climatic turning-points. With the crazy weather we’ve been having who knows when it will get cooler. One thing is for sure, though, the nights will start getting longer and longer, until next spring’s equinox.

While most people in Japan today are cremated after death, the deceased were actually buried under these mounds in Teshirogi, Tsukuba- these poles, derived from the Shinto YORISHIRO, act like antennae, attracting the souls of the deceased back to their graves from the world beyond

While most people in Japan today are cremated after death, the deceased were actually buried under these mounds in Teshirogi, Tsukuba- these poles, derived from the Shinto YORISHIRO, act like antennae, attracting the souls of the deceased back to their graves from the world beyond. (September 2016)

Flowers, incense, candles and packs of fruit are on sale at supermarkets and department stores for O-HIGAN

Flowers, incense, candles and packs of fruit are on sale at supermarkets and department stores for O-HIGAN

HIGAN-BANA at an old grave-yard in Teshirogi. The cluster of old sacred stones are a typical feature of temples,shrines and graveyards in Japan. The stone, rendered homeless by road construction or other types of developmnet are moved to "sacred places"  instead of being disposed of.

HIGAN-BANA at an old grave-yard in Teshirogi. The cluster of old sacred stones are a typical feature of temples,shrines and graveyards in Japan. The stone, rendered homeless by road construction or other types of developmnet are moved to “sacred places” instead of being disposed of.

Grave with offerings in Teshirogi, Tsukuba (September 23, 2014)

Grave with offerings in Teshirogi, Tsukuba (September 2016)

 

A day earlier, at Muko JIma in Tokyo (across the Sumida River from Asakusa) a memorial to  the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 with offerings of flowers and incence for O-HOGAN

A day earlier, at Muko JIma in Tokyo (across the Sumida River from Asakusa) a memorial to the victims of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 with offerings of flowers and incence for O-HOGAN



2 Comments

  • Martin says:

    The Anti-Tsukuba Science City Development Movement
    Avi,
    Please tell us more about this.
    Thx,

  • Avi says:

    Resistance to the creation of the science city? What was that all about?

    Well, in the early 1960`s, the Japanese government had decided for various reasons to move many government research facilities out of the capital. Of the several candidate locations, the Tsukuba area ( then the towns of Tsukuba, Sakura, Oho, Toyosato, Kukizaki and Yatabe), was selected to be the site of a new Science City ( the other candidates were Mt Akagi in Gunma, Nasu in Tochigi, and near Mt Fuji).

    Immediately, oppossition to this plan sprang up. First from the labor unions representing the civil servants who would have to move from convenient Tokyo, out to the boondocks that this area once was ( and many say still is!).

    This particular opposition was quelled by the offer of a TE ATE (手当て), a special subsidy ( extra salary) which would be paid to those who had to endure the hardship of life out in the country.

    More passionate resistance to the governments plans, however, came from local farmers- especially those in Yatabe and Kukizaki Towns.

    The main reason for this is that the original blueprint for the new science city called for about two thousand farmers` families to be relocated due to road and building construction.

    I guess they could not accept the fact that the government could order them to leave their ancestral lands. Anyway, they were surely disatisfied with the price they would be paid for as compensation.

    Another important factor must surely have been that the government in Tokyo was proceeding with its plans without lending an ear to the opinions, thoughts and feelings of local residents.

    There was also inspiration from the movement to stop construction of Narita Airport- which ended up lasting much longer, more violent, and much better known.

    Negotiations and changes in the BLUEPRINT for the newly planned city and the amount of compensation paid to local farmers for their land did lead to a loosening in the anti- science city mood.

    You might be surprised to hear, however, that five families involved in the resistance movement, actually packed up and emigrated to Brazil!

    On November 30th, 1966 the most virulent opponents of the governments gathered at the Henjo-In Temple to raise the flag of the resistance movement that they would form on that day.

    Over the next few months and years these people kept up the pressure and actually harrassed government surveying teams. There were even threats of violence (locals waves sythes at the intruding surveyors).

    A few years later, on Aug. 30th 1969 another major meeting was held at Henjo-In. And though some people still expressed strong opposition, it was agreed that compensation would be accepted for property which was needed to build the science city`s roads and research facilities.

    The other day, I walked over to a nearby house and called out to a man ( probably in his late fiftes) and asked him about those days.

    He said that yes, there was opposition, but only really from those who owned no land. He said that the land owners just pretended to be against the governments plans as a show of solidarity with the poorer folk.

    In the future, I will try to find out what other people who lived through those times in Teshirogi feel about those heady days.

    I would be most interested in contacting those families who emigrated to Brazil. What do they think about their decision today?

    Thanks for the question Martin!