Friday, January 10, 2014

Cultural Education Journal Update: Level Up!

Today’s coffee: Tokumitsu New Year Blend, Panama

It’s cold. This year we’ve mostly been going places by car, whereas the last two winters, we walked about 15 minutes to school each way. Sometimes I forget how cold it is.

Our house is warm. On New Year’s Day, we had 14 people in our house for osechi, tea ceremony, and games (karuta and shogi, among others). It got so warm that we had to turn the heat off.

Me with my osechi (fourth time!) and some party guests. :)

The guys played shogi while the girls were upstairs having tea.
In the midst of holiday fun, I had the chance to “level up” in both tea ceremony and kitsuke (kimono-wearing): I had two お茶会 (ochakai: Japanese tea "party") at my house and a I gave a demonstration of kitsuke!

We had 4 weeks in a row of tea ceremony class in November and December, so I was feeling pretty confident. At our last lesson before winter break, we took a lot of pictures.

Noriko prepares tea while Fujiyama sensei watches.
Keith eats his wagashi (Japanese sweet) while waiting for his tea.

Noriko whisks a bowl of tea

Looks so delicious! And it's in a beautiful bowl decorated with snow-covered trees.

Keith nervously waits to see if Fujiyama-sensei liked the tea he prepared.
Cleaning the tools

Before drinking her tea, Noriko "apologizes" to the other guests for going first.

While I prepare the tea, Sensei is looking up the answer to a question Keith asked.
Keith bows to Noriko: "I'm going to share the tea now."
After Christmas, I had my kimono club friends over for Christmas tea party, so after we enjoyed English and Scandinavian style tea and treats, we had Japanese style tea and treats upstairs in the washitsu (Japanese style room with tatami mats on the floor) which we finally managed to get organized after 10 months in our house. My friend, Naoko and I took turns preparing tea in a very simple style—I was somewhat surprised to discover that I knew all the steps and I could talk and laugh with my friends as I prepared the tea.

First is English and Scandinavian style tea party.
Fruit cake, decorated with homemade yuzu marzipan!

I prepare tea for Naoko and Akiyo... right in my own house!
The Christmas tea party was a lot of fun, so I decided to do tea ceremony again with our friends who came over for New Year’s. I prepared tea for about six people while Michiko-san, our friend from church and former Japanese teacher, explained the guest’s role to the other guests.

As I become more and more comfortable with tea ceremony, I become more confident in serving my friends. I can also feel comfortable making my way of tea ceremony personal to me within the acceptable range of possibilities. I hope that continuing to learn tea ceremony will help me as I seek to practice hospitality.

Four years ago, when Keith and I were short termers, we attended the Japanese Culture Day at our language school. One of the events was a demonstration of kitsuke (kimono wearing) by Ritsuko-san, who is now my teacher. This year Ritsuko-san couldn’t come, so she asked me to do the demonstration in her place. Although I’ve somehow managed to put kimono on a couple of people in the past, this time there would be people watching… but Ritsuko-san was convinced that I’d be okay, so I put aside my fears and agreed to do the demonstration. I practiced once on a friend from my kimono club, and it went okay.

Since the demonstration was three days later, I think I managed to remember most of the points my teacher taught me… except for a few things I forgot and had to re-do. Oops. The end result was pretty good. I dressed two new missionaries—Naomi and Iryaku Hyou. I’m hoping kitsuke is another skill that I can continue to put to good use to make friends and show hospitality, both here in Japan, and when we go on home assignment.

Somehow it turned out okay! Iryaku is wearing a casual men's kimono, Naomi is wearing a formal komon and fukuro obi (although a komon can also be worn for casual occasions), and I am wearing a casual Oshima tsumugi with a hakata obi.
I also wrote a bunch of tips for getting started with kitsuke. There’s not a whole lot of basic information in English about kimono on the internet—it’s hard to get kimono outside of Japan, after all.

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