In Japan, New Year celebrations last for three days, during which time you are supposed to get yourself to a shrine to ensure good luck for the forthcoming year. So we went one morning at 7 am when the shrine was just opening. All the way there my husband drilled my sons on the proper etiquette of the shrine--we are not true believers and, like many Japanese, go only for the tradition of starting the new year properly; thus we go rarely and are not well-schooled in how many times to clap, where to stand, etc., and have to be reminded each time. It's especially important this year that my younger son do everything right, as he has his entrance exam in two weeks and needs all the good luck he can get.
So there we were on our way and my husband asks my sons what the first thing they should do when praying is (after the hand-washing, bell-ringing, bowing, and clapping, that is). They get the answer wrong. "You have to start out your prayer by telling the gods your name and address," my husband corrects them.
"What?!" I say. "The gods don't know our names and address?" What kind of gods are these anyway, I'm thinking.
"Everybody is coming to the shrine these days. It gets confusing. You have to remind them," says my husband.
I am incredulous. "You have to remind the gods of your address and phone number? Really?"
"Not your phone number," says my husband. "That would be silly."