It's 8AM, Saturday morning. I went to bed three hours ago. I wake up from a most excellent dream to the sound of my alarm screaming. Why, oh why, am I getting up from my warm bed?

Here in Japan, the answer is: to rake the yard and sweep the bike parking area. To clean up all the accumulated junk over the past month with all my neighbors. This, in short, is souji.

I don't know that any of us have figured out why we do this thing - the yard would be much cleaner if we hired someone to come once a month, or even if we had some sort of game plan for who should clean where. But we don't. Instead, each month those of us who can rouse ourselves from our bed (and there are two schools of thought on this one - some of the foreigners in my apartment will never be seen out at 8AM, unless they are coming home from an all-nighter) come outside, grab the first available implement of destruction, be it rake, broom, or the ever popular pruning shears, and begin abusing whichever part of the lawn someone has not already claimed as their own. Then, for approximately forty minutes, we will whack at the lawn like a drunk headsman until it is for the most part decapitated. When this is finished, we gather for the monthly apartment announcements, things like parking and neighborhood events. It all wraps up when one person (this month sprinting from her preparation for some work related event, as she was in a state of fancy half dress) produces some tasty canned coffee and juice, which the children who have been half-helping descend on to claim whatever they consider the choicest beverage. I pick through the dessicated remnants of the plastic bag in order to find the only thing that keeps me going after these events: a can of coffee, this month branded "Heaven". And it's fairly close to heaven, as near as my sleep deprived brain can determine. And I come inside, nursing this coffee and realizing that there is no way I will be returning to sleep for at least a little while. So I sit at the computer, and I share this little slice of Japan with you.

and now, I'm going to bed.

Back to March.
Back to Japan.