Friday, August 30, 2013

Cultural Education Journal Update

Today’s coffee: whatever they are serving at Kirakuya Kimono Café. It’s always good. It’s a shame, but I’m not wearing a kimono…

Lovely cake set at Kirakuya!
…but I did just get a few things to go with my summer kimono so that I can wear it while playing cello and viola da gamba! Back in May, I got to talking about kimono with my viola da gamba teacher, who said that she would love to wear kimono with hakama for her concerts, but not everyone in her ensemble knows kitsuke (kimono dressing), so it’s impossible. Someday I’d love to see her in a kimono! :)

This is a kimono worn with a hakama; I was playing for our farewell at our previous church (February 2013).
I guess it’s time to update my Japanese Cultural Education Journal. I’m still working towards my 3 goals: singing while playing shamisen, wearing a kimono by myself, and learning tea ceremony.

Shamisen was the first task I started on, but right now I’m taking a break. My teacher was ill for a while and wasn’t teaching, so with no one to teach me songs (there’s notation for the shamisen part, but not for the vocal part), it’s been hard to continue on my own. Last time we talked, she seemed quite well, and mentioned that she’s thinking of teaching again soon, motivated in part by the eagerness of her students. :)

I continue to meet with my kimono club as much as possible, but there are often church events on Saturdays, so sometimes it is difficult to attend. In September, we will meet at my house, so I’m looking forward to that. The club is full of fun, interesting people, and lately we’ve been able to talk about all kinds of subjects… such as mountain climbing!

I have gotten to the point where I can easily put on yukata and kimono and tie 3 different types of obi; the never-ending study is which items go together and which do not, for what sort occasion is each kimono appropriate, and which kimono and accessories may be worn in each season. Sometimes I think wearing different kimono for each season and type of occasion is fun; other times I think it is a ploy to sell more kimono and accessories. Today I think it is fun. I confess that although my favourite season in Seattle is spring, in Hokkaido my favourite season is fall. I’m looking forward to wearing my leaf-patterned kimono and obi… but according to the rules, I can’t wear them until October. :)

Last week added a new skill to my repertoire. I recently received a yukata which was much too small for me. I liked it a lot, though, so I decided to give Japanese sewing a try: I let out the side seams to widen the body and lengthen the sleeves. The main seams I did by machine, and the finishing work I did by hand. It’s still too short, but that’s okay for a yukata. I might try a hitoe (unlined summer kimono) next!

New-to-me yukata, after I altered it. This yukata was a present from our landlady.
We started tea ceremony classes in March. It’s hard, but it’s really fun. I also have an excuse to wear a kimono at least once a week… and I get to spend time with people I like and eat and drink nice things. We’ve been having summer break this month, but classes start again next week. I wonder if I will remember anything. At this point Keith and I are both fairly confident in the role of “guest,” but the head guest’s role, and of course the role of the host, would be a stretch if our teacher were not there coaching us. I think we could study tea ceremony for many years and not run out of new things to learn.

Feeling a little nervous as my teacher drinks tea that I prepared for the first time!
Rules for kimono worn for tea ceremony are stricter than for other occasions; for lessons I can wear whatever I want, but when we go to a “real” tea ceremony, I have to make sure to choose a not-too-bright kimono with a neutral pattern, or one which reflects the season which is about to start. Once a given flower starts blooming, I can’t wear a kimono patterned with that flower.

Sometimes I worry that I am entering a world that is designed to exclude people who have not devoted many years to studying these arts; there are many rules to follow, and it is easy to make mistakes. But on the other hand, I feel very welcome. I have gained many Japanese mothers; many women worry that Japan’s traditional arts will die out as their daughters lose interest. When a young woman makes an effort to learn, she is encouraged. Most of my kimono have been gifts from women from all 3 of the churches we have attended here in Hokkaido; it’s an honour to have been entrusted with the task of carrying on these traditions.

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