I can’t see the significance of traditional Japanese events

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a man in my 60s. Before retiring from work, I lived overseas for years on job assignments. I doubt the significance of Japanese traditional events.

My first grandchild was born to my son and his wife last year, and my wife and I had to participate in events for the grandchild that are in accordance with traditional Japanese custom, such as visiting a Shinto shrine for a blessing, and also for the weaning ceremony. Honestly, I can’t understand the significance of events dating back to ancient times, and I wonder why we hold and attend them. I lived overseas for a long time, and I’m not easily convinced just by the argument that everyone does this and that.

My doubts have caused friction between my wife and me. A recent issue was the baby’s first Children’s Day. I remember getting a Japanese-style doll in a glass case as a token of the day when I was very young. The obviously expensive doll was seldom displayed at home and ended up sitting in the storeroom.

I discussed with my wife how to celebrate our grandson’s Children’s Day, and decided to give a gift of money, as we agreed it would be useful both for the baby and his parents.

However, I never expected I would feel offended over such a matter. I’d rather spend our money on domestic trips, partly as a reward for my hard work in the past. If I was convinced of the importance of such events, I’d be willing to do more than many people do.

Y, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Mr. Y:

I live with my wife, just the two of us. We always celebrate traditional seasonal events. On the night of setsubun in early February, I chant, “Fuku wa uchi, oni wa soto” loudly while scattering beans in and outside my house (to drive out bad luck and bring in good luck). I do it each year. I don’t know how our neighbors feel about it. I don’t feel embarrassed, either.

On the Doll Festival on March 3 and Children’s Day on May 5, we display dolls we’ve owned for many years in our home. On the first day of the Bon Festival in summer, we make a fire to welcome the departed souls of our ancestors. To mark the end of the Bon period, we make another fire to send them off.

I haven’t thought deeply about the origin, history or significance of these events. I regard them as elements to accentuate my life, and we observe them and enjoy the seasons without thinking about reason or logic.

Traditional events for children contain adults’ wish to ward off diseases. By appreciating the idea and holding these events, adults can show their affection for children. Don’t you think so?

It’s smart for you to follow your worldly wise wife, rather than naively insisting that you want to reward yourself for your past hard work.

Such events will bring good memories for your grandson and make your family happy. There’s nothing better than that. It’s your wife you should give a reward to.

Tatsuro Dekune, writer

(from May 3, 2016, issue)Speech

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