Ohaka-mairi, or grave visiting plays a large and important part in Japanese culture. During late summer through fall, most Japanese make a point of returning home to visit and maintain family graves.
Both of my host parents are from Awaji Island, an island important to the creation myth of Japan. This small, rural island lies between Honshu and Shikoku. It is connected to both of these islands from each end by the longest suspension bridge in the world, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known as Pearl Bridge.
I was fortunate enough to be invited by my host family to make the journey with them and after a weekend away, I left with a better understanding and appreciation for cultural traditions.
Our first stop was the giant, green Awaji SA ferris wheel.
Visiting the “Lover’s Sanctuary” and looking out at the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.
The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge has a mascot named Wataru. Do you know what he is supposed to be?
We learned he was supposed to be a cross section of the bridge, which is obviously why he has a car on his head.
Upon arriving in Sumoto, we spent the whole first day with my host mom’s side of the family.
My host sisters carefully crafted these for the graves of their grandparents.
A few minutes into our walk to the grave site, my host sisters ran off the path and began trying to pull something out of the ground..
We continued making our way through the rice fields to reach their family grave.
When we reached the graves it was time to scrub them clean before presenting the offerings and chanting prayers.
Early the next morning, we packed our bags into the van and began the trip to visit my host dad’s side of the family. We went from rural Awaji…to…erm, really rural Awaji.
Inside the traditional Japanese house my host dad grew up in.
Soon again it was time to tend to the graves, so my host sisters began gathering branches with their grandmother.
Laying the branches on the graves as offering, more chanting followed.
When we were finished, we went into town to help their family do errands. The town was very small, but it was still most certainly Japan. Hey You, Pikachu!
My host mother led us to a small building in the parking lot. What could be inside?
It was a hot bath for our feet, perfect after a long day of errands. The world needs more of these!
After spending the weekend with my host family’s family, seeing 4 generations of family all together was really something. But the time came when it was time to return home.