Last week, I was happy to participate at my first tea ceremony. I got to have a better idea of what it consists and understand how well it molds together with other Japanese traditions. I had matcha (fine powder green tea) before, but never sat through a tea ceremony.
During the approximately 2 hours “class”, I was simply mesmerised about the whole event. It’s an event! It’s rigorous and complex, but oh so beautiful. Every move is done with grace, every sound has a meaning and everything has a timing.
One must know that it take about 25 years to become a licensed tea ceremony sensei. So, that in itself should tell you that one does not only have to learn a set of rules and principles, he has to perfect them. The job is not done there, as you practice performing the tea ceremony, the purpose is for you to become a better person. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
So, what does it consist of? Please note that this is not a minute description of the tea ceremony. It’s a description of my own experience during the class, but should give you an idea of what’s all about.
1) For the participant it’s fairly easy. You sit down on the floor (tatami) and just watch, eat and drink what’s given to you.
First, you are served the sweets that go with the matcha. As the mtacha is bitter, the sweets will generally will be (very) sweet to balance it.
When the sweets are given to you, both of you will bow upon receiving them. You will be encouraged to say a few sentences, like sorry for eating first, thank you, etc.
Then, you get a beautiful bowl of matcha. Before you drink, you have to turn it twice. Generally, you’re supposed to finish your matcha with 2-3 sips. But it’s not compulsory. If your stomach cannot take it, then it’s no offense to leave it. For some foreigners it’s too bitter.
After you finish, you put the bowl in front of you and with the elbows on top of your upper thighs, you turn the bowl with your hands and admire the design before you give it back to the tea maker.
When you return it, you pick up the bowl and place it as far as your arm can reach. Then, you slide your body close to it. You may do this once or twice in order to reach the tea maker in order to return the bowl. Finally, you slide backwards to your place.
2) For the tea maker, it’s a different story. Every move, every object and sound have a purpose and carefully follow the rules.
Everything takes place very slowly and with calculated movements. I find it so fascinating that it looks so simple, yet it take one practising for years to master the tea ceremony.
I urge you to go enjoy this exquisite part of Japanese tradition. It’s peaceful, engaging and relaxing, unless you’re counting sitting Japanese style. That will wear the untrained 🙂
Yesterday, I got to take part to a pretty cool event – MOCHINAGE (rice cake throwing) in Nagoya.
What happens? The supporters (A.K.A donors) of the Shiroyama Shrine we were at get to throw the rice cakes from the top of a scaffolding type of structure. The rice cakes come in white and pink, wrapped in plastic.
On the ground, there are a lot of people waiting to catch as many rice cakes as possible. It is believed that the more you catch the more luck you will have.
Here’s a video that shows better what’s all about.
I must say it’s the first time I’ve seen Japanese so frantic about something. But also so much fun to see them out of their usual well-behaved way 🙂
Last, this is me with my “luck”, that was donated to me 😀
It’s been just 4 years, but I feel like it’s been 10. It has been so eventful!! We have had and have a lot of happy moments and times when some effort is needed to get over a fight. We don’t really have serious fights, since we cannot really stay mad at each other for more than a day…aham…I mean me 😀 as Fernando is always more forgiving and nicer than I am. He is a blessing to me and I’m thankful to God for bringing us together!
Now, let’s get back to the practical items. These are a few things I have learnt this past year:
- constantly fall in love and remind yourself and your partner why you love them and what you admire about them.
- always keep in mind that you are in “this” together.
- make plans together, not separately.
- having the same principles will make your life together so much easier and smoother!
- if you fail or succeed as a couple it’s something you both to share the blame for.
- your happinness is not your partner’s responsability and vice versa.
- communication and trust are vital!!!
- it’s not just mine, or just his, it’s ours.
- you will change with time and as long as you change together and walk in the same direction, that’s great!
- make sure you share your thoughts, feelings, dreams and disappointments with your partner first, not with someone else, whoever that might be.
- make your partner your priority; not your friends, your hobby or your career! Because you share your life with a person, not an activity or a job.
- go for walks and reminisce on the good and hard times and be happy on how far you’ve got 🙂
- understand and accept that you have lows and highs and it’s important you treat them accordingly; don’t ponder too much on the lows and enjoy at most the highs.
- make sure you share a common activity, but don’t forget that you are your own person and you don’t have to do everything together.
- having alone time is needed and healthy and it’s not a sign that you love your partner less.
- love is expressed In different ways; learn which is the one your partner uses and appreciate it and encourage it. Is it words, is it acts of kindness, is it physical, etc.
I could go on for hours, but one thing that is for sure is that your relationship is a journey, not a destination!
Last, it’s something that I say every year, but I am certain we’re a match made in heaven.
Love you, baby and I’m loving our journey together!
Truth be told, this must be the worst hot weather most of us foreigners have ever experienced. The summers in Japan are very hot, and that would not be so overwhelming if it weren’t for the humidity that can reach levels of up 90% and even 100%. In order to understand this, just imagine walking through a Turkish hammam, all day long. This means that you sweat even inside the house without doing anything. You end up taking showers various times a day, because you’re sticky from sweating like 100 times a day.
It’s end of July and from what I’ve been told it’s only going to get worse. So, here’s some observations of what the Japanese do to protect themselves during this period and some tips. Some are popular only in Japan and I haven’t seen them anywhere else. So, here goes:
- Ride a bike rather than walking. The heat is more bearable with the sort of breeze you get when you ride. If you are in Tokyo, riding a bike is not the best, but the rest of Japan is fine.
- Bike sleeves. These are some sort of covers added to the bike handles to protect your hands from the sun. Thy can also be use for the rain. I’ve seen then in white (lace looking material) and black.
- Put on sunblock daily!! Although recently I read an article that apparently this is worse than going out without any, due to the chemicals in the sunblock, but I’m not buying it.
- Stay hydrated!!! With the vending machines everywhere, you have access to cold water all the time, so there’s no excuse. Or you can just carry your own bottle/thermos.
- There are toilets everywhere, so that makes it easier to hydrate. But with the amount you sweat, this barely comes in handy 🙂
- Sun hats or caps, preferably those that can be folded so it’s easier to store and carry.
- Sun glasses, need no explanation. Funny enough, Japanese don’t really wear them. It’s mostly the foreigners.
- Wear white and loose clothes or at least the top part. Most Japanese women wear wavy tops. The idea is that you don’t want anything tight on your body. I started wearing 2 layers; one to sweat and one on top to look decent.
- Japanese sun caps! These I decided to split in 2: the dog cone type and the Darth Vader type. Below you have the Darth Vader type 🙂 I must admit that the first time I saw them on a person I startled.
- Sun gloves, which is something I’ve only seen in Japan. I was kind of shocked at first, but I understand now. The sun here is out of control. Sunblock is not enough!! I never had a tan in my life, but I do now.
- Sun umbrellas. You can use any umbrella you have, but here there are special ones for the sun with UV protection. These type of umbrellas are grey on the inside. I saw a lot of people put a support on their bike that holds their sun umbrellas.
- Summer scarves to protect your neck from the sun or simply just t wipe your sweat.
- Japanese use handkerchiefs or little towels to wipe their sweat (which you will do profusely).
- Pretty fans (flamenco style) to use if you are in a place with no AC. You can get them anywhere here, in any color and size. I saw even men use it. So, it’s pretty common to have one.
- An AC in your apartment is a must, it will make your days more bearable. If you don’t, then get fans to be able to survive.
For now, I’m just bracing for impact, although it already hit me 🙂 That being said, I’m quite happy to trade the grey Belgian skies for this super sunny weather. But keep in mind, if you want to visit Japan try to avoid the period between June and August when there’s this burning furnace.