Ancient Neighborhood, Traditional Customs (古代地域と伝統習慣)

My great grandmother Matsue moved to this neighborhood over 100 years ago and birthed and raised my father’s mother, who birthed and raised my father in this neighborhood. They were some of the first settlers in this area in 1920 when my grandmother Midori was born. My sister and I were born and raised here also and I left for the US when I was a junior in high school to begin my new adventure.

私のひいおばあちゃん松江さんは100年以上も前この地域に引越し、おばあちゃんを生み育て、父もこの場所で生まれ育った。何故この地域に引っ越して来たのかは不明だが、1920年におばあちゃんが生まれた頃にこの地域に存在した家は数少なかったという。そして私も妹もここで生まれ育ったが、私は高校2年の冬に新しい冒険を始めるために渡米した。

I have never appreciated this neighborhood as much as I do now. For as long as I have known, the neighborhood had a neighborhood association like HOA where the residents communicate via a bulletin board (yes, it is still the “physical” flyers and lists). Currently, I don’t know the existence of an app like Nextdoor in the US, which could potential be very useful here. The first thing I noticed in the neighborhood that was addressed in a very organized manner was the trash management. Unlike what I was used to in the US, it was more than two categories of trash (general and recyclable) but there are several categories in the recyclable itself. There are pet bottles (plastic bottles with no lid as lids go into another category), cans, glass bottles, cardboards, newspapers, other papers and flyers, clothing, and food packages/labels/pet bottle lids, all separated and collected on different days. Talk about being organized inside and outside the home!

このエリアに住むことを最近までそんなにありがたいとも思わなかった。私が知っている限りこの近所は町内会というものが存在し(アメリカでいうHOA、又は家主会)、住民は回覧板でコミュニケーションをとっている。現在ではアメリカでNextdoorとかいうアプリやメールグループ等があるけれど、こちらの町内会は昔どうり回覧板が回ってくる。そして始めにこのエリアで気づいたことはゴミの管理。アメリカで慣れていたのとは違い、こちらはリサイクル物も細かく分けられる。ペットボトル(フタとラベルは外してパッケージと一緒に)、缶、ガラスボトル、ダンボール、新聞、その他の紙類や広告、衣類、それから弁当や、食物が入っているプラスティックのパッケージ。全てを別々に分けて、別々の日に回収される。整理整頓に関してはウチの中、そして外でも徹底されている。

Mom and Ms. Yoshioka (母と吉岡さん)

The next thing I noticed is the people who have been here in my neighborhood for decades. Ms. Yoshioka has been here since I was 2. She is 85 and her husband is 88. She takes care of her husband who has had dementia for the last 8 years, full time. She is the neighborhood “den mother”, who likes to be a bit nosey but with good intentions. She has practically become one of our family members, very aware of what is happening in each of our lives. She also loves playing with our kids and Himeko and join our parties that we have on the street in front of our houses. She always brings her own drinks and a few dishes to the parties and loves to share fruits and veggies or whatever she may have extra at hand. She is definitely a neighborhood gem.

次に気づくのは近所に住む人たち。隣の隣に住む吉岡さんは私が2歳の時この場所に引っ越して来た。85歳の彼女は88歳の認知症の旦那さんのお世話に忙しい毎日。彼女がこの辺りの”オカミさん”。なんでも人ごとを知りたがり、でもそれも善良心から来るもの。みんなのお世話をするのが好きで、私たちの家族のこともよく知っているのでまるで家族の一人のよう。子供たちと遊ぶのも好き、そして表道のパーティにも飛び入り参加する。その時は持参でドリンクや簡単な野菜料理なども作って参加する。彼女は本当にこの近所にはとって欠かせない大切な存在だ。

When we first moved here in April, we were technically “quarantined” in our house for two weeks. As soon as the home arrest period ended, we went around our neighbors on our block to introduce ourselves and took them each a little gift of okashi (rice cracker treats), which my mother had purchased beforehand. This has been the ritual for the neighborhood and probably any neighborhood in Japan (at least in the old neighborhoods). It’s certainly good to know the names and faces of the neighbors for safety and comfort reasons.

4月にここへ引っ越した時、私たちは2週間家で”待機”させられた。その2週間が終わってまもなく近所まわりをし、母が用意したお菓子を持って挨拶に出た。こういう習性は日本では特に古い地域では当たり前。近所に住む人たちの顔と名前を知っておくことは安全性や住みごごちを良くするにもプラスだと思える。

My house and my sister’s house side by side (我が家と妹の家が隣同士)

This neighborhood along with many old neighborhoods in the city and more in the country side, has been dealing with issues with vacant homes as the population has been declining since 1990’s and people have been purchasing new houses. Home renovation and remodeling is not as popular here in Japan and it is the area that needs more attention and funding to combat this issue. The land values have been increasing in the area where I live due to the proximity to all things business and entertainment. I am also interested in this area of revitalizing the neighborhoods that are starting to deteriorate due to the increase of vacant homes. But first, working on getting to know my neighbors and surrounding neighborhoods give me plenty of things to do.

最後に一つ思うことに、この近所も枠外で無いが、日本の特に古い地域にはどんどん空き家が増加している。その背景にあるのは1990年あたりからの人口の高齢化、少子化、その上新築の家を好む若い世代。古い家の改装やリモデルはこれまで人気に欠けていたが、これからどんどん重視し、資金をかけていくべきだと思う。自分の住むこの辺りはビジネス、エンターテイメントの中心地で立地が良く地価は向上する方向にある。ここ10−15年で空き家が増え始めているこのエリアに新しいエネルギーを注いでいけたらと自分にも興味がある。しかしまずはじめはこの地域の住民、そしてカルチャーの観察、経験から始めていきたい。

One thought on “Ancient Neighborhood, Traditional Customs (古代地域と伝統習慣)

  1. It is a wonderful feeling to have neighbors in a neighborhood. Nothing could be better than to have family and the history of the area. You are fortunate 💓

    Like

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