September, 2002

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A Story of a Well

A Story of a Well!
Does it interest any reader at all?
Well, I don't know. Anything can happen in the world of internet. So something strange and fantastic might occur after you read this story.
It depends on your imagination. Please remember I am not responsible for it.

Noh "Izutsu"
Usually played in September
First of all, I must define what a well is.
Oh, you know? Then I will not say that.
Next, I will tell what the well means for Japanese life.
A well means of course WATER in everyday's life. It is not as important these days as in old days when we depended on wells for water supply.
In the past, not only materialistic meanings but also metaphysical meanings the well had.
Wells appear in Noh Plays, Kabuki, children's stories, poems, etc. Ghosts often appeared from old wells.

Do you want me to tell you about the ghosts from the well?
No. I am just going to tell you that we had an old well and we buried it one of these days.

A neighbor died some time ago. His land was next to our property. We decided to buy the land.
We destructed an old house that had been there for more than 80 years.
Then, we found an well under the old, ragged house.
We thought and thought. But we could not use it any more. We decided to bury it.

We asked Reverend Yashima, a Shinto Priest, to do a ritual of burying a well.

Reverend Yashima, Shinto Priest of Karatsu Tenmangu Shrine
Well and the Altarpiece
On the Altar, Sake, Rice, Holy tree twigs with white paper of purification were laid.

Reverend Yashima respectfully asked the God in the well to come up and rest on the Holy tree. His prayer sounds like a chant. His words are beautiful. It is a divine poem, asking the God to leave the well and go back to the heaven where He originally belongs. The language he spoke was old Japanese, which is pretty hard for us to understand. The part I understood was the words of gratitude to the God for having lived in the well for long and watched and supported the house to prosper. Then he asked the God to keep an eye on this household even after He left here.
( In Shinto, Gods are not The Only One. There lives a God in a tree, rock, water, mountain, lake, fire, even in your stove.)
The constructor also prays. He asks the God not to get angry and harm him when he buries the well.
Reverend Yashima bows deeply to the well.
Reverend pours Sake and Rice into the well.
He also throws in the Holy tree to purify the well.
After the ritual, the well was buried.
In case some spirits were late in ascending, a long pipe was put into the well.
Some days later, rain fell.
I found that the earth sank down a little in the shape of the well.
I believe all the spirits have now left the well and gone back to the heaven. I do believe that if you believe it or not.

Well, this is the end of the story of the well. I hope the customs and habits, or religion? will be long reserved. What Japanese people lack most now is the Japanese mind, I am afraid.
So, Sayonara for this month. See you later.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi
Proprietress of Ryokan Yoyokaku

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