One of the best parts about my Japanese lessons in Tokyo are our field trips. Most days we go on mini-field trips in the afternoon: we visit the hyaku (100) yen shoppu (aka the dollar store), department stores, the local jinja (shrine), the post office and wherever else we can walk without melting away in the heat.
But some days are solely dedicated to big field trips.
On our first week, a group of us set off to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The journey began with a very long series of subways, waiting and trains until we finally found this little house out in the suburbs. We were greeted by three older Japanese women dressed in traditional kimonos.
The first step of the tea ceremony is to put on clean white socks (which many of us had purchased the day before from the hyaku yen shoppu). Next, we took turns entering the tea room doing the prescribed motions: kneel, scoot (literally, push forward on your knees) into the room, walk over to the wall, kneel & bow, walk to the corner, walk to the tea, walk somewhere else and, finally, sit along the wall in a kneeled position.
Unfortunately, this position grew extremely painful very quickly. So painful, that one of the students could barely stand, let alone walk across the room, to get her tea. Thankfully, the women let us shift and sit sideways when we weren’t drinking tea.
The actual tea drinking was even more complicated than the walking. We had two types of tea (thin and thick) as well as an assortment of sweets before each tea tasting. With each tea, there was a procedure of bows and bowl turns that had to be done correctly. Overall, the entire experience was very cool. I doubt I will ever again be able to take part in a traditional tea ceremony in Japan…though my thighs will probably thank me for that!
The next week, our group took on Japanese calligraphy. The sensai showed us how to use the brush properly and demonstrated her skills. Unfortunately, those skills didn’t quite transfer to me. I had wanted to write the kanji characters for “adventure” but after another student chose that I settled on “travel”. And we spent the next couple of hours (aka way too long to be attempting calligraphy) working on our pieces. It was fun at first, using the brush and ink and throwing bad attempts onto the ground, but it quickly got old. I don’t think I have much of a future in calligraphy.
Getting a taste of the traditions of Japan during my three weeks in Tokyo – how lucky am I?