So, if you haven't read the previous post, "5:41", you should do so now...because here is the update: After two stretches of waking up at exactly 5:41 a.m. and then hearing the same time quoted on a podcast moments after waking up at that time, I went to school and told my tale to my friend, Colin. He laughed and said, "You should look it up on the Internet to see if it has any special meaning." I did, and here is what the first result (of "about 18,600,000" that Google took 26 seconds to report)said:
It is a verse from the bible: Mark, 5:41: He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). (!!!)
I nearly fell off the chair laughing! Though I would describe myself as more spiritual (it's about time to find a new word for that, I think) than religious, I decided to take the advice of yet another co-worker and be open to any divine messages that might be headed my way if I should wake up at that time again!
In other news...I thought I had just about broken every social rule and committed every faux pas there IS here in Japan, but today I managed to pull off yet another. I wore a blouse today that has two ties in the back, and at lunch time a woman in the staff room let me know that I was wearing my shirt "like a dead person." Allowing for my less-than-perfect Japanese and the often choppy language Japanese people sometimes use with me, I still had no idea what she was talking about. Finally, she spun me around, untied the ties, and re-tied them so they would be horizontal. She explained that only dead people wear ties that "stand up" vertically. Now I know. If that were the worst of my fashion worries I would be thrilled!
As in most places, there are lots of taboos here for the living associated with the dead: You shouldn't place your chopsticks "straight up" in rice because that is the way they are placed in the rice put on the family altar for ancestors; you shouldn't say the word "shi" (four) at times or give gifts which come in sets of four because one meaning of "shi" is "death"; dead people are dressed in white kimono but have a black border around their photo for the family altar, etc.
Just to end on a happy note, if you haven't seen the 1984 movie "The Funeral" (Ososhiki in Japanese)by Itami Juzo you will LOVE it. It is a very Japanese yet very universal farce. Another one you should see if you haven't already is the 2008 "Departures" (Okuribito in Japanese)by Yojiro Takita. It won an Oscar in 2009 for best foreign film and manages to be funny, sad, touching, educational and beautiful all at once.