On June 15th my Sado sensei (tea ceremony teacher) hosted a farewell tea ceremony in my honor. It was such a kind gesture and I was really touched when she suggested doing it.
She invited other tea ceremony students, many whom I’d met for the new year tea ceremony but of course because of the communication barrier didn’t exactly talk much to. After we were prepared with our necessary items for the evening (fukuda- red square silk cloth; sensu- miniature fan; kaishi- papers used for the sweets, youji- small knife for sweets), we all had some cold somen noodles and makizushi (which was amazing after a very hot and humid day).
Yuki, Tsuki, Hana
As we finished our meal and cleared our trays, sensei explained to us the rules of the game we were to play. She had a small collapsed origami box. Inside were small wooden tiles. The wooden tiles displayed Japanese numbers and the kanji for snow, moon and flower (雪，月、and 花 respectively). The origami box was passed around the group, each person retrieving a tile that was kept face down in front of them. Once everyone had drawn their tile, we flipped them over. If you chose the snow tile, you were the honored guest and would receive tea. If you drew the moon tile, you would get to eat one of the sweet treats that accompany tea ceremonies. If you pulled the flower tile, you had to make the tea. The rest of the numbers determined the order in which we proceeded into the tatami room and seating order.
Let the games begin
For my first tile, I drew the number 4 (四), which put me 6th in line. I was relieved to not have drawn the flower! We lined up and proceeded into the tatami room. Once seated, we placed our sensu behind us to note our original placement. The tea ceremony began, and as the initial tea maker began to prepare everything to make tea, the origami box of tiles was passed around again. I drew another number, and the tea maker declared “switch” (of course in Japanese but I can’t recall the word). Everyone moved to their new positions. The next “hana” continued preparing the tea, the next “yuki” drank and the next “tsuki” ate. And again the box was passed around. Things repeated in this way several times, and eventually I drew the hana tile, though I also had the fortune of drawing the yuki tile a couple times as well. At the end, we looked at the [mini fans] behind us to see who had moved and how far they’d gone. The final “hana” began cleaning up and when finished we all proceeded out.
After the game was over, tea and treats were given to everyone. We then played yet another round, this time shorter since we’d learned how things went. I was grateful to make it through my two turns as “hana” without any major mess ups!
Although it was long (we were there from 5:15pm until about 8:30pm) it was incredibly enjoyable and undoubtedly a once in a lifetime experience. Even my supervisor who joins us in tea ceremony lessons had never before played the game. Of course because this was to be my farewell tea ceremony it also truly kick started my reflection on my time here and how quickly it’s coming to it’s end. Over the past month, I’ve been anxious to come home, frustrated with some aspects of the culture, and just feeling ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. This is an inevitable aspect of my journey- I know this is once in a lifetime and I will cherish these memories and experiences for my entire life. But that doesn’t mean that over the course of a year immersed in a different country and culture that I won’t have moments of being tired of it, of missing familiarity and comforts from home. And I’ve been fairly deep in that lately. But these moments, the experiences, the kick-in-the-butt reminders of how much I’ve been able to experience and learn and “touch Japanese culture”, are worth all the ups and downs of culture shock and the struggle of homesickness. Days like this one remind me how fortunate I am.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Get home safe 😉
**The image used for this post is from a wonderful resource on Japanese Tea Ceremony, japanese-tea-ceremony.net. Click the link for more information on this wonderful practice!