Yesterday I saw a kumo climbing the wall in my office. I do not like spiders. But I hesitated and could not kill it and let it go on its way. Why? Because it was 10 AM and seeing a kumo in the morning is good luck. And I can’t seem to let go of some of these adages that I learned in Japan. So, beware, spider, if I see you again in the evening!
When I gave birth to my daughter in Tokyo, I was in a byōshitsu with three other mothers. This turned out to be wonderful. Two of them had just given birth to their second babies so they were filled with useful tips and advice. We had a lot of time to chat because back then you stayed in the byōin for seven whole days.
The calmest mama of us all was a day ahead of the rest of us and she fretted out loud a little on exactly when she should check out of the byōin. It would be fortuitous to check out in the morning, because the morning was good luck for checking out of the hospital, she informed us. However, she was going home to her giri okāsan‘s home and if she checked out in the morning, her giri okāsan would feel obligated to prepare lunch for her and she didn’t want to trouble her. I’m pretty sure none of this is a itabasami that an American new mother would have!
Speaking of good things, the expression Zen wa isoge fascinates me because I think I understand it, but I’m not sure I really do. I guess it is a call to action and to not hesitate when one is taking worthy action? Or does it mean that if there is one donut left you’d better grab it quickly? Well, no. But it is an excellent adage to remember when you’re starting to hesitate to do something that you know will help others.
Now, where did that spider go, I wonder?
- kumo – くも spider. It also means cloud, but you can tell from the context, i.e. in this case, would I really have a cloud climbing up my wall and want to kill it? I think not.
- byōshitsu – 病室 hospital room. Byō is illness and shitsu is room, so….
- byōin – 病院 hospital. Byō is illness and the in denotes an institution
- zen wa isoge – 善は急げ “Do good things fast” or “Don’t hesitate to do good”
- giri okāsan – 義理お母さん mother-in-law
- itabasami – 板挟み a dilemma. Literally it means stuck between two boards