In The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Ruth Benedict describes the Japanese life course as a great arc. Children and grandparents are as free as they will ever be to react spontaneously and express their feelings. It is in the long center of the arc that the burdens and repressions of adulthood are heaviest. Yesterday, I posted an album to my Facebook Page with the title SOFT Tsukushikai Hanami 2012. Here we see Japanese elders at play at one of the most playful events in the Japanese ceremonial calendar, the hanami or cherry-blossom viewing. Here we are in a park filled with blossoming cherry trees. Our mats are on the ground. There's food to eat, lots to drink, and songs to be sung. In these respects, seen from a distance, this group resembles the many other similar groups with whom the space in the park is shared. The one noticeable difference is that the members are older than average.
In our immediate vicinity there are groups composed of young families with children. I speculate that the wives know each other from shared kindergarten or PTA activities. Other groups are composed of individuals who appear to be singles in their early twenties. I speculate that they are classmates or workmates. Our group is three groups. The largest is the men who make up the Soft Tsukushikai. Except for me, the members once played together on our condominium local government association's softball team. Now we turn out to lend a hand at community events like the annual mochi-pounding described in a blog earlier this year. Three wives of members have joined us. My wife is missing, still in the States helping with the grandkids. At the opposite end of the mat from the wives sit a group of men who are not from our condominium. They take cooking classes for men with the man in the white jacket who sits beside them and can be seen horsing around with them in some of the photos. A sign that times are changing, they were the ones who prepared the bento box lunches. The wives just came along to be sociable and drink. One of the wives (see if you can guess which one) will be running in the Hawai'i Marathon.
I am curious. When my fellow anthropologists here look at these photos, what else do you see?