[ Podcast ] an old Japanese custom

 
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 There’s an old Japanese custom called ‘Age of Thirteen Visit’. A child who reaches thirteen years old by the traditional system of age reckoning visits a specific local shrine to receive wisdom. The important event has one critical rule. The thirteen-year-old visitor should never look back until they pass through the shrine’s gate after the visit. If it happens, wisdom they’ve just gotten is returned. Every time a topic of the visit was brought up by some chance in my childhood, my mother would strictly instruct me not to look back when my visit came. It had become a repeated threat for me. After those years, I reached eleven years old, which is thirteen by the traditional system, and the day for the visit arrived. I was so tensed and nervous because of years of my mother’s threat. I got dressed up with kimono and my mother put a wig on my hair to make me look grown-up. While I was greedy enough to look forward to getting wisdom, I was anxious about looking back as much. From the moment we left home, my mother kept reminding me not to look back at the shrine. As the pressure had accumulated, a sense of panic had been built inside me. By the time we prayed at the altar in the shrine and started leaving, I was panicky. On the spot about only several yards to the exit gate, I couldn’t stop myself and looked over my shoulder. I blundered away my once-in-a-lifetime visit. My mother made sure I didn’t look back when we passed the gate. I lied and said no. On our way home, we dropped by my aunt’s house. She noticed that I was wearing a wig. But when she pointed it out, my mother instantly denied it. I didn’t understand why she had to lie about such a small thing like a wig, but she just insisted it was my real hair. My aunt slipped beside me when we were about to leave and asked me if it was a wig. Although I said yes indifferently, she triumphantly uttered, “I knew it!” She sounded as if she had beaten me and I felt annoyed. I hated my mother’s totally unnecessary lie. And as for me, I went through a terrible teenage life with my own trifling lies. I believe that was because I had returned wisdom at the shrine on my Age of Thirteen Visit…

very nervous, so lonely and extremely hungry

As my condition got better in the hospital, I went through a thorough examination to be determined whether I could be released from the hospital. For the examination, I was required not to eat anything but water for 24 hours. As a child, I had hardly skipped a meal before and I felt dizzy from hunger less than six hours into a fast. A girl whose bed was next to mine had put up a drawing above her bed. There was a shining sun in it, and it looked a sunny-side up egg to me. Because it was a full examination, it was going to take long in several different rooms. Although I asked my mother to accompany me during the whole process, she didn’t make it, again, as usual. I gave up after waiting for her as long as a nurse let me, and went for the examination with the nurse. The building where it took place was far from my hospital room and I needed to be in a wheelchair because my illness had required me to be inactive and quiet. All those things made me very nervous, so lonely and extremely hungry. The result was good and finally, my hospital life in the summer at the age of nine ended after one month. I survived nephritis but almost died from hunger on the day of the examination…