Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The first O-bon after my mother's passing

Matsuo Basho wrote in his The Narrow Road to the Deep North, “The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers.” Basho chose solitary and humble life for journeys. The journey itself was his home.

We are the travelers from birth to death in the finite time.  Life itself is a journey. We are born alone and pass away alone though surrounded by the people either smiling or crying respectively.

A lotus grows in muddy water for a long time, rises above the surface to the light of the sun, blooms beautifully unsullied for three days only in the morning, and leaves seeds; this is a lotus’ life journey.

Being with my mother, I thought getting very old must be a lonesome journey with constant declining physical strength, outliving a spouse, siblings and even the oldest son one after another.  I’m not sure the love from the loving loved family members could have sufficed my mother's loneliness but hope it eased her who tended to be suffering in silence.  She showed with her attitude that pains and aches with age is something we must get along with self management, medication if necessary, smiles and sense of humor.

When one person dies, not only her body but also her thoughts and ideas disappear.  But her attitude toward life has been perceived and the spiritual patrimony of family traditions and wisdom are handed to the next generation. I’d like to keep in mind what my mother valued.

in my garden
Though most of the precious things she left are invisible, she left some priceless visible and tangible things: some handicraft and three calendar diaries. 

My mother liked hand-sewing.  In her late years, she made cushions, table center, tissue-box cover, or pouch, out of the scrap of yuzen-dyed kimono cloth which was used to my sister’s kimono and mine. 

A pouch with bottom gusset
Tissue cover
She left three books of calendar diary, the year 2010, 2013 and 2014, perhaps  with intention to be read after her passing. The one for 2014 remained blank.  Everyone couldn’t read without tears; her mundane life including her joys and concern was written down briefly with words of appreciation at each end.

Since her passing away, I have not been overly sad or lonely but have void in my mind and that void has been filled warmly by my family, especially by the bright-eyed innocence of my grandchildren.

at 13- month

at 15-month

His favorite summertime pastime in the crocodile pool

at 43-month
She runs, jumps, spins, and pedals!

O-bon lasts from 13th to 16th of August in my region, which is a Buddhist tradition to hold memorial services for ancestors. Their souls are welcomed with sacred fire and seen off with a bonfire for escorting their spirits.  Until last year, my mother hosted family reunion but this year her soul is going to be welcomed home for the first time tomorrow.

These are a few of photos from Tokae Candle Festival held in Nara Park from August 5 to 15.  Candles are lit one by one to pray for the repose of the soul and to pray gratitude. 

Wish peace in the world and in your mind.


  1. thank you so much for this touching post. i do not know you, nor your family very well, but i feel quite honoured and humble to be reading about this tradition which is so thoughtful and kind. love to you all, nadine♥

  2. A beautiful and thought provoking post.....
    I'm lost for words,so I will say thank you Yoko.

    Very best wishes to you all!

  3. Well, you had me in tears! What a fine and touching post to this woman who gave you birth and filled your life with blessings and taught you to care about those things that a really important - family and friends and love and kindness! I'm sure she was proud that you carried on what was important to her.

    Your photographs are stunning and very meaningful and very beautiful. In themselves, they will serve to remind you of your mother in the years ahead.

    And your grandchildren are just beautiful, so full of life and joy. They are fortunate, also, to have you as a guide!

    Peace and joy be with you always!

  4. I, too, found my mother’s love of nature and handmade things most precious. As usual I was enchanted by your traditions and reflections. The group memorial service where loved ones are transported to a different realm satisfies a spiritual need. You are your mother’s seed. Her sense of wonder and family lives on in you and your grandchildren.

  5. It was a privilege to read such a reflective and moving post Yoko - a beautiful and loving tribute to your dear mother.

  6. Så vackert du skriver och så rätt du har. Dina bilder är så fina jag njuter av ditt inlägg.
    Önskar dig en skön och rofylld tid
    Kram Meta

  7. Touching tribute !
    Beautiful pictures !
    Nice post :)

  8. sending you light as you welcome your mom home.
    such a lovely post, gorgeous photos
    and inspiring thoughts.
    I love this: The journey itself was his home.

  9. Dear Yoko,
    I'm glad to see and read your post today, because it means, that you are (hopefully) not affected too severely by the August typhoon Halong making landfall in western Japan. I hope I'm not wrong wiht my assumption...
    The o-bon is really a wonderful custom to honor the spirits of your ancestors. So all your ancestors, including your dear mother, don't slide into obscurity and don't pass out of your mind.
    As always you support your well chosen words with beautiful photographs full of symbolism and atmosphere. Among them one of my favourite plants - the lotos. From ancient times the lotos has been a devine symbol in Asian tradions. In Buddhist symbolism, the lotos represents purity of the body, speech and mind as if floating above muddy waters of attachment and desire. For me as a photographer the lotos flower offers one of the most beautiful blossoms I know. It's nearly perfect - and unstained, although growing in muddy water. There are not too many places in Germany where you can take photos of (many) lotos flowers - this plant is not native here in Central Europe.
    All the best for you and your family - the grandchildren keep you busy and certainly cheer your heart and soul!

    All the best from Germany, Uwe.

  10. Gorgeous way to tribute your mother, Yoko!
    Thank you for sharing it with us...
    I wish you peace and all the best '
    Warm greetings, Anna :))

  11. What a lovely tribute to your mother.


  12. こんにちわ。  素敵なhand-sewingですね。 

  13. How beautiful the hand sewing is. The story is touching.

  14. Hello Yoko, I've been thinking of you. Your mother would be touched and pleased by what you've written. Her attitude and perseverance are a wonderful legacy for her descendants, including those beautiful children. Happily, you have some of her fine sewing and her journaled thoughts as a tangible link to the life she lived. Your tradition of welcoming the soul home offers solace to those left behind. Your photos are luminous. Your grandchildren are precious. Hugs to you.

  15. For some strange reason, as I read this post, I had tears in my eyes. I'm remembering the loved ones in my life who are not here any more, and how much I miss them. But then my mind turns towards the present generation.... my sons and their wives, my energetic grandchildren.... and future generations to come. We come into this life alone, and we leave alone. Thank you for telling me about the O-bon remembrance.

  16. ようこさま。 お母様のPassing,お悔やみ申し上げます。 今年は私の父の初盆でした。 もうすぐ一周忌で日本に帰ります。 ついでと言っては申し訳ないのだけど、日本のあちらこちらを旅行もします。
    とても美しい写真ばかりで、感動しました。日本の伝統は素晴らしく、はかなげでほろりとしますね。 芭蕉の句の翻訳も良く出来ていますし、このポストにぴったりです。
    お孫さんたちがとてもかわいいです。 早く元気になられますように、祈っています。

  17. こんにちは。 燈花会の写真がとても荘厳で美しいです。 お母様が亡くなられたのはとても悲しい事ですが、
    「仲良きことは、美しきかな」 実篤。

  18. Dear Yoko,
    What a beautiful post and a testimony to the attitudes and ideas your mother passed on to you. And what a wonderful tradition, filled with hope and light. Thank you for sharing this.

  19. お母様、器用なお方だったんですね。着物から作られたティシュボックス、ナイスセンスです。洋子さん達に、生き方のお手本を、手渡されたんですね。親たちの死は、悲しいけれど、こういう事なんですね。私は、子供たちに残し、受け継いでもらう何かが、あるかな?お孫さんたち、かわいいね。
    Have a nice day!

  20. What a beautiful post, Yoko. It is an achievement to inspire people and your mother would be glad to know that she succeeded so well in this. What a beautiful craftswoman she was.

    I would have been sad to see the empty diary for 2014, too. It is good to have a festival like O-Bon to welcome her soul back among you all again ...I wish there was something like that festival in England.

  21. 。.✿✿°°
    Post lindo, amor vindo do fundo da alma pela sua mãe.
    Todas fotos muito lindas e inspiradas.
    Boa semana!

  22. Dear Yoko, this is a beautiful and touching post!!! I loved to read about O-Bon tradition, what a wonderful tribute. Your words are full of love and the memories live forever with us. I remember my beloved father that lives inside my heart....his journey only lasted 47 years.. Beautiful sewing works. Your photos are always gorgeous. Lovely grandchildren.
    Thanks for sharing this!
    Hope you have a wonderful day!
    Peace and love from Portugal,
    Ana Love Craft

  23. Oh my...this is just so touching and beautiful. Your words in combination with these wonderful pictures went deep into my heart. I think we all know what you're talking about, no matter which continent we're living on, and that's exactly the beauty of it. We're all the same, in love and pain and struggling through life. Thank you so much for sharing your very personal feelings!


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