today I was 1 of a group of 4 girls who cleaned B san’s house, where we were staying. he sorted through all the things that had been put in the first floor, telling us if they were to be discarded, kept, or moved to his new temporary house. in the past, they held all important events in this house, weddings took 3 days, with separate events for different groups of people depending on how closely the guests were related to the family. for this kind of event, each guest would need to be served on their own laquer tray and place settings–we moved boxes and boxes of these. the last time they had used these was for his daughter’s school entrance ceremony, about 30 years ago.
while we were cleaning, we came across a photo of when the family’s main house (up the hill) was built in 1943. after we were done cleaning, we went up the hill to this house, where the other B San (they are cousins) was preparing for the barbecue we had later. the main house is huge, with very large built in shrines not usually seen in private homes. I’d heard that families in this area have this kind of large main family house, located up a hill, and during the disaster, other familiy members whose own house may have been damaged return to the main house.
in this area, they have kept the word ‘buraku’ which is usually used as in ‘burakumin’ which is group of people, like an untouchable caste in japan, who have been discriminated against for a long long time, and in history related to the most unpleasant jobs. but in this area, they use the word buraku to refer to their neighborhood group–B buraku in this case. I’m not sure if all the members of this buraku are part of the B family–seems likely!
while taking a tea break from preparing the food for this evening’s BBQ, mrs B told us about what happened after the earthquake. they had gone to the evacuation center for 1 night, but there was no food there. so they came back to their house, along with 40 people who stayed with them for 10 days. the children were hungry–there was no food at the shelter. they cooked for everyone during that time, using an old-fashioned kind of stove that she had never used before, and cooking brown rice which they had on hand. everyone who could move (meaning except the elderly and bed ridden) helped. the women cooked, and the men went to fetch water by hand, which was also quite an ordeal. they filled 2 liter plastic bottles with hot water for water bottles at night, since it was so cold. it took quite an effort and time to heat the water for hot water bottles for 40 people. Mrs B was clearly the force behind this operation, all of it. her elderly mother (or mother-in-law) who is also sitting at the kotatsu, and gets around using a walker, mentions this, and Mrs B brushes it off, saying she didn’t do anything special, and that everyone helped. but in her eyes, and her voice, it’s all too easy to imagine the exhaustion of that time, and the work that followed. M chan, a japanese volunteer, jumps up to offer Mrs. B a shoulder massage; Mrs B closes her eyes.