Day 9 - First Snow (indoors)
At breakfast today, Sato-san asked me if I knew the actual meaning of the often repeated pre-meal saying of 'itadakimasu' and I had to confess that I didn't. He then very kindly and clearly explained it to me as consisting of the giving of thanks for three things: firstly, thanks to the cook (in our case, Makiko-san) for preparing the meal we're about to receive; secondly, thanks to the animals and vegetables that have lost their lives so that we may have sustenance; and finally, thanks for the sun, air, rain and earth that give us life. Coming from the West, where people are more likely to say 'grace' before a meal, I found it interesting to hear that there's no religious motivation behind this Japanese saying.
After breakfast, Sato-san, Makiko-san and I had the task of giving the two house stoves' chimneys their annual clean. Preparation for this involved carpetting the floor, the chairs and anything else within reach in a layer of newspaper, which I understood when I saw the amount of soot that came once Sato-san started sweeping. The first sign of the mess to come was a fine haze of white dust that began falling from the stove pipe overhead, and soon had all three of us looked like we'd been out in a minor blizzard. Despite a few challenging blockages and repeatedly lost gloves, however, we had the whole place cleaned up and the stove running like a dream in under 2 hours.
I also met a few of the local junior high school students; three very sweet girls that came to the door of the house looking to buy some of the apples that Makiko-san is selling at Wasaikan. They obligingly stood there listening to my attempts at basic Japanese whilst Makiko-san looked on and filled in the gaps for me. It was nice to see that there are still some representatives of a younger generation living here in Toyomi.
I spent the rest of the day doing various
wood chopping jobs. Perhaps most interesting of these was the large cherry tree
next to one of the vegetable patches, which Sato-san told me, amazingly, he had
planted from a seed. This we had to prune quite severely, as Sato-san explained
it had become a ladder for the monkeys to climb in order to get over the
electric fence around the field. It was a shame to see such a clearly cared-for
tree trimmed back in this way, but I guess one is left with little choice when
your daikon are at stake!