Photo Essay: A Cultural Journey, Awaji-shima, Japan

Ohaka-mairi, or grave visiting plays a large and important part in Japanese culture. During late summer through fall, most Japanese make a point of returning home to visit and maintain family graves.

Both of my host parents are from Awaji Island, an island important to the creation myth of Japan. This small, rural island lies between Honshu and Shikoku. It is connected to both of these islands from each end by the longest suspension bridge in the world, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, also known as Pearl Bridge.

I was fortunate enough to be invited by my host family to make the journey with them and after a weekend away, I left with a better understanding and appreciation for cultural traditions.

Our journey to Awaji-shima…

The Japanese will put a ferris wheel anywhere. Awaji Service Area

After traveling across the famous bridge (excuse the ferris wheel’s eerie glow)

Lover’s Sanctuary

Mascot Wataru

…Upon arriving in Sumoto, we spent the whole first day with my host mom’s side of the family…

This is what everywhere looked like

My host sisters made these for the graves

Trying to pull something out of the ground…

A yam!

Rice

Cleaning the yams

Scrubbing the graves

…Early the next morning, we packed our bags and began the trip to visit my host dad’s side of the family…

Goodbye Miki’s family!

Even more rural

Inside the house my host dad grew up in

Gathering branches to place at the graves

…Next, we went around town helping their family do errands…

Hey You, Pikachu!

What could be inside?

A mini hot bath to rest aching feet!

The world needs more of these

…And after spending the weekend with my host family’s family, seeing 4 generations of family all together is really something, it was time to return home.  

Land and sea

Crossing back over Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

So there you have it, a photo journey through my cultural journey in Awaji-shima, Japan.

Have you had any eye-opening cultural experiences?

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