To Whomever Would Like To Know,
These past three days have been insane. Friggen insane, I’m wakeing up at werid hours, my bed is a semi-futon on a western bed thingy with springs, and I really just want to freak out for a moment so deal! Don’t get me wrong I tots love what I’m doing but I need a place and a moment to go WTF so this is where its at- don’t like it? Well then stop reading!
I honestly do get that what I am currently expirenceing is a wonderful opportunity and is probably something I will never get to do again (hurrah thousands of dollars of debt and college life), but at the moment I’m ready for things to start settling down. Below is an explaination, dozo.
DAY ONE- DOES THIS REALLY COUNT AS A DAY?
Three days ago I arrived in Japan and ate the best malboro tuna I have ever eaten in my life. Seriously, hole-in-the-wall places, while a little werid are great! Really fantastic. You can get a feel for the culture and eat well, though I would suggest going with an actual nihonjin (japanese person), especially if you speak limited to no japanese. That way you can be understood if you want to speak or have to answer questions, but there’s no obligation to make conversation with the cook. You can sit an enjoy the meal without worry.
I will admit it was lovely to sit down an eat after travelling for the entire day to get to where I’m living for the next few months, though I would not suggest immediatly diving into raw Japanese food the way I do if you are prone to Traveller’s Stomach or have other post-travelling dietary issues. It makes the following hours slightly less than comfortable.
DAY TWO- FIRST FULL DAY, AINT GOT NO TIME FER SHIT
As stated above, clearly had some restroom related issues that woke me up at the ungodly hour of 3 am, after going to bed at Mid-night. Need I say I was thrilled? Yes, I am being sarcastic.
I spent the rest of the early morning, between bathroom visitations, watch Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. Seriously, the best version EVER.
At a reasonable hour of the morning (8 am) I joined the normal human world where my hostess mentioned that not only would I be studying Tea Ceremony, Japanese, and Naginata, but I would also begin a study in Bonsai! You all can imagine my surprise when I was told that I was to have the rather dubious privelge of trimming and caring for tiny trees that are older than I am.
However, that day (June 7) was a day of tea ceremony. From 10 am to about 7 on, I learned the first thirty seconds of tea ceremony (serious it’s hard), attempted to sit in seiza the entire time (you try it, getting up and down serveal times throughout- turst me it hurts!), and watched all of Master’s (my hostess) students perform. It was more tireing than I expected, but of course the day did not end there.
After things got cleaned up my hostess, some of her students, and I went to a kimono shop where the owner’s daughter was performing a…well I’m not entirely certain what it was- only that there was story telling (I think) and her acting was quite intense. After she finished we all ate together and then my hostess left to get a massage leaving me with her students.
At this point I feel obliged to note that when I mention her students these are men and women who are all over the age of 40, save two who are in their late twenties I believe. So there I was sitting in a room with about 10 people where I understood maybe every third-sixth word of a conversation. It was great, especially to my tired brain which had yet to recouperate from my flight (i had taken Air Canada) Mentally I was therfore translating everything I heard into english, french, and trying to get that to work with my basic understanding of the japanese language.
The store owner (who was the mother of the story telling actress person) then offered us a look at her wares and so at 11:30 at night I accompanied the group and looked at kimono, obi, abd yukata fabrics. Needless to say I tried to avoid looking too much since I knew that there was no chance in hell that I would have to $ to support a desire of having one. Once again hurrah debt and being a poor college student.
Later I found out that my hostess fell asleep during her massage, which was the reason why I and about 5 others remained at the store until after midnight. A few of the ladies and one of the gentlemen ordered kimonos/hakama for themselves, until (at last) my hostess returned. The rest of the party broke up and with full intent to return home Sudo-san and I got into the car. About a handful of minuets later I found myself trapped in the back of said car when the driver mentioned some ramen place we passed by that my hostess HAD to eat at. I swear on the gods I nearly proved to the world my fluency in Bad-English.
After figuring out how to escape from the car (a.k.a climbing over the seat because the key was gone so the buttons didn’t work) I managed to scrambble from the car and follow my hostess and her work partner who was also the driver. I still don’t know how I managed to not face plant into the bowl of ramen that was ordered for me, but I must say I am proud of myself for remaining aware enough after having woken up at that ungodly hour of the morning. At somepoint we made it back to the house and I crashed, telling my hostess that I would bathe in the morning.
My thoughts were almost zombie like, sluggish and single minded, as I miraculously managed to climb the flight of stairs that leads to my bedroom and crashed.
I highly recommed that, if you can, do not plan a busy day for yourself for the first full day that you are in another country. It’s friggen tireing and more often than not doesn’t help with the time change.
DAY THREE- IN WHICH THERE IS MUCH TEA. SO WOW
June 8th, began in a much more promising manner at 6:30 in the morning. Even as I type this I thinking holy crap what is my life.
Rather cheerfully I woke up and watched a bit of Pride and Prejudice, while I waited for it to be a more reasonable hour to shower. After quitting that lovely spray of water I dressed and faced the world of working with people older than me and speaking in a language I have a basic grasp on.
Also to save typeing time my hostess is now Mrs. S and her husband is Mr. S。
Mrs. S’s husband taught me how to pay my respects to his ancesters (there’s a family shrine in the house) and re-taught me how to pay my respects to the Kami, apprently the way I attempted to do it was wrong- I forgot one bow (again another shrine is in the house).
It was at the time that I was duly informed that as I was offically living with them instead of staying with them (there’s a rather large difference and it coincieds with speaking patterns and body language, etc) it was strongly recommended that I pay these respects everyday during my stay. Of course in a very Japanese way the ‘every day’ part and the ‘strongly recomended part’ came in the incredibly polite form of ‘please do so’. What made this particular request so string was the fact that Mr. S’s English is not as good as Mrs. S’s English, which is currently around what a 5 year old can speak. Thus you can infer that if the person you are talking to know that you speak Japanese and they are trying to say something in eglished there are a few options.
1- what they are trying to say is important
2- they dont think you will understand it if in Japanese
3- they really want to practice their English
4- Any combination of the above three
In that Mr. S’s English is not so good I ruled out the last and assumes it was a mix of one and two.
I helped Mrs.S make breakfast and then put on my practice uniform for tea ceremony (yes that’s actually a thing- think yukata sans sleeves) and participated in/helped/watched two forms of tea ceremony. Did anyone know that there are multiple forms of tea ceremony in the Jpanese tradition? I mean I have seen different tea ceremonies from China, Vietnam, and Korea so I know that there is variation between countries, but I feel rather stupid now for thinking that there was only one form of tea ceremony in the Japanese tradition.
The first couple were ones that I had seen before and of the form that likely many people have seen; the last four were of an older and more formal style, which I gathered from my horrible attempta in broken Japanese, that it dated back to before Sen no Rikyu, one of the most influential people in the world of Japanese Tea Ceremony. That form was about twice as long, with a formal aproach towards the tea making area (think Iaido walking/moving in a seiza-esque crouch if you’re fortunate enough to be wearing hakama- if your in kimono it’s more like an inchworm wiggle), treatment of the customers or the people being served, formation of speaking, and the method and footwork of a person’s entry and leaving. I honestly wish I could describe it better, but I know little of the Art of Tea yet so for now that will have to do. That took up most of the day and was incredibly interesting. Mrs.S went out with the students that are sensei but not (?? idk the situation but they performed the ceremonies for customers) and I helped make dinner for her husband. Going to bed around 8:30 was a relief.
Overall thoughts- tea ceremony is sincerely intersting and I look forward to learning more, though my feet and legs are so not looking forwards to sitting in seiza.
P.S Please excuse spelling errors- I’m using a japanese keyboard, which is differently situated than US ones.