Since around December I’ve been learning traditional forms of the Japanese tea ceremony (sado). It’s a very intricate process; every motion is perfectly choreographed, every item has its place and order of use, every utensil used is held, folded, stirred in a specific fashion. So, needless to say, this is another area of my Japanese life where I feel like a giant fumbling klutz. And of course I’d want to increase the number of people who get to witness it by inviting my parents to a tea ceremony lesson!
My friend Cadan, who practices tea ceremony with me (and actually got me into it as she started back in September shortly after our arrival) coincidentally also had her parents in town, so our regular Wednesday night turned into quite the affair. Our sensei, as well as our supervisor who attends lessons with us, dressed up in proper kimono for the evening. Delicious treats were spread out for everyone to enjoy in what I felt was one of the more uniquely “Japan” experiences that I was able to share with my parents.
Surprisingly, when it was my turn to perform the ceremonious matcha-making, I actually did ok! Of course I still made some missteps, literally- there are a certain number of steps you take and specific positioning of your feet when you bring the tea set in and out of the room- and figuratively. All in all I remember more than I anticipated I would which was an exciting accomplishment. In spite of months of practice, it has felt nearly impossible to get it all right. Then of course there is always the time after everything has been done when it’s time to leave the room. To date I have only been able to get up immediately twice. After sitting on your knees and feet for extended periods of time your legs do go numb, and though I’ve definitely built up my tolerance and stamina in the traditional Japanese sit, I have a long way to go from being immune to numb legs.
All in all, I think my parents really enjoyed the experience and it was nice to share part of my daily life here with them.
Since this particular lesson, with the changing of the seasons there is a new kind of tea ceremony we perform. When I came to the lesson, my heart dropped, knowing that in spite of some consistencies in the methods, a new ceremony was a total game changer and any prior progress I thought I had made was down the drain. Much to my delight (and surprise!) I somehow picked up on this spring ceremony miraculously fast! I definitely still mess up here and there or mix up the order of this or that, but overall I’ve done pretty decently and I’m really excited to finally feel at least a little bit confident at this art form! I’m going to miss these lessons when I leave Japan but am excited to try to keep practicing on my own. And until then, I hope to make even more progress. Every lesson is a reminder of what a unique opportunity I have here.