Monday, November 5, 2007


So, as you all know, my camera is broken. This really sucks, because I can't take pictures of anything thats going on (and a lot has been going on lately). Thanks to my dear supervisor Iyobe san, I have a couple of pictures of myself in a fall kimono taken this last Saturday. Iyobe came to my house around 9AM that day (not too pleased about that, but I got to wear a kimono, so I got over it quickly) and dressed me in one of her kimonos. Japanese women have different kimonos for summer and for winter, and as its getting chilly here now, the weather and the season calls for winter wear. She dressed me head to toe (which takes a while -- about 20 minutes). I got to wear the special shoes this time too, which I didn't get to do when I wore the wedding kimono in Kyoto (see picture to right). They were her own shoes though, and as 90% of women here have child-sized feet, I looked rather ridiculous cramming my honkers into them. It worked out though.

In a slightly related note, while bowling last week I discovered I have the same size feet as my MALE friend Kazuya. This makes me sad.

Here I am, looking lovely and ready for fall:

Full-length. Notice how my two smallest toes hang off the side of the shoes. It was just as bad in back...

After Iyobe san had dressed me in my finery, we went to a park in Murakami (I can't remember the name) that has a few old samurai houses inside. In one of the houses, a tea ceremony event was being held, meaning that at various times throughout the day, people could come take part in a tea ceremony in the house. It was really interesting and many ladies were there in kimono.

I'll give you all the quick and dirty on Japanese tea ceremony. So, it is a practice that originally came from taoism, and basically it is supposed to relax you. Guests sit around the perimeter of the room, seiza-style (this means on your knees. It really hurts after a while). The guest of honor enters first, and is in one corner, next to where the tea will be made. The host sits on the other side of where the tea will be made -- so in the opposite corner as the guest of honor. The honored guest chats with the host, and always asks where the tea comes from and who prepared it. A different person altogether prepares the tea. The tea preparation is a very precise process. It is like a dance, you basically memorize the steps, and do it the exact same way every time. While the tea is being prepared, other servers bring out okashii, or sweets, to the guests. What sweets are served depends on the season, so for fall we had beautiful deep-purple colored sweets made of azuki, which are sweet red beans. Each person in attendance has these tissue-paper like sheets that they place their sweet on (there is a whole ritual to receiving the okashii and eating it properly). After eating the sweets, the tea (ohcha, or green tea) is served, and again, theres a whole ritual to properly receiving and drinking the tea. One of the parts of the ritual is after you lift your cup, you have to turn it three times to the right using your right hand. I'm not sure why this is the case, but its how you do it. For those of you who haven't had Japanese green tea before, it has a very distinct, strong taste. And the flavor goes perfectly with the sweets. Anyhow, thats the gist of it. Theres more ritual and chatter at the finish of the ceremony, and then everyone files out.

As annoyed as I was at having to get up early, I really enjoyed the experience. I love old Japanese ladies, they're all so sweet. They were all amazed that I came in kimono and sat seiza-style for a full half hour! Eventually (once my Japanese improves a bit more) I might like to take tea ceremony lessons. I'd like to really floor the old ladies when I actually make or serve them their tea.