This month began with the promise of breathing space. I’d finally seen the last of a monstrous project that had taken up all of my September (hence, the long stretch of non-blogging). As a celebration of sorts, I set aside an afternoon to leisurely explore some new neighborhoods with Edward, our regular haunts having gotten rather old. Unfortunately, I got lost—something that only happens to me in the insidious urban layout that is Tokyo—and our happy jaunt stretched into over four hours of grim trudging through the darkening and, eventually, rain-slick streets. Without money or cell phone—though in truth, the only thing I could have done with the latter was call my husband and bawl, “We’re lost!”—Edward and I were on our own.
By sheer luck, I eventually stumbled upon my regular train line and gratefully followed the train track home. I’d mostly been worried about Edward, with his little legs, walking such a great distance; but to my amazement, after I’d washed all the mud out of his fur, he did his usual joyful berserker zipping around the apartment at full speed. I guess I was the only one feeling drained—chalk it up to the stress of being lost and the fact that rubber flip-flops are not the best footwear for long-distance concrete trekking.
Anyhow, once I’d had a shower and a hot coffee in my hand, I was feeling safe and snug, when the phone rang. It was my husband, calling to tell me his grandfather had just died and asking me to meet the rest of the family at the hospital. And so began my first experience dealing with death in Japan.
Unsure what to expect, and what was expected of me, I searched online but couldn't find very much on the subject of Japanese funerals. Since it was her father who had just died, I wasn't going to bug my mother-in-law on correct etiquette and all that. My husband hadn't much experience either--i.e., no help whatsoever. So I winged it, and everything turned out okay. I, the clumsy foreigner, managed not to horrify any grief-stricken individuals during this somber time. But for the sake of others who might find themselves in a similarly ignorant position, I thought I'd try to record some of what went on in the couple of days following my grandfather-in-law's death. Later.