The ceremony started with some folks (not sure if it was construction people, or people who will be living in the house) going to each corner of the building and doing a short ceremony. They pour some sake on the ground, throw some salt, bow twice, and then a construction builder does some ceremonial banging with a mallet on the wood. The picture below is from that process (caught in mid-bow).
Then they went to the upper floor and did another ceremony which I couldn't see. Had some bowing and clapping (which are both common in Shinto ceremonies) in front of kami-sama (god), or in this case a statue which represents god.
Then about a half dozen folks who would be living in the house were up on the second floor throwing mochi (rice cakes), bags of snacks, money, and some vegetables (including whole chinese cabbages) down to the people mingling below. This was their way of introducing themselves to the neighbors. It was a feeding frenzy on the ground with all of these Japanese people diving to get goods. The picture below shows a bit of this feeding frenzy.
Prior to the ceremony, a little old lady was handing out plastic bags. It was raining during this ceremony, and with people crowding around the base of the building, most people had put their umbrellas away. I saw people putting the bags on there heads, so figured she was being nice and just trying to keep me dry. Turned out that the people were putting them on their heads as they waited, but the bags were really to store the loot. The last picture is of the goods which my host family and I got - and I don't think we were too aggressive at diving for stuff.
The little white and pink balls are mochi, or rice cakes. These are rather plain tasting, as opposed to some which I have had which are a little sweet. Yoko-san says that they would taste better with soy sauce and nori (dried seaweed).
Quick SARS update. We had new students arrive today. Any students from areas affected with SARS are required to wear a face mask for the first 10 days after arriving at school (school rule, not a country wide rule). The school has also installed alcohol dispensers (no, not booze, but for disinfecting things) by the doors and in the bathrooms. And the one change which I really like is that they have installed paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms! Now I don't have to carry around a handkerchief to dry my hands with...
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