My first Japanese tea ceremony

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 🙂

 

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MOCHINAGE (rice cake throwing) in Nagoya

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 😀

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A few things I miss about Europe here in Japan

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It’s been about 3 months since I moved to Japan and my brain is understating that we’re here to stay for a while, this is not a drill!! I have mixed feelings about this.

On the one hand, I’m very excited and enjoy this new life, this new world opening up in front of us. It’s an amazing opportunity to live in Asia, get to see this part of the world, learn about the different cultures and people.  The more I learn, the more ignorant I feel 😀

On the other hand, I do miss Europe. It’s normal to miss things about your home (wherever that might be) when you’re away. So here’s my list:

  • My family and friends! This one is tougher than I thought. I used to be able to see my family every couple of months. And I could hang out with my friends anytime or at least just be able to give them a call.
  • Being in the same time zone with my dear ones. It’s somewhat frustrating that conversations now have to scheduled.
  • COFFEE!! Oh man, I miss having good coffee. Not to mention the Italian cappuccinos☺️ I found out that the coffee in Japan is only roasted once, whereas in Europe they go for 2 rounds, which makes it tastier.
  • Cheap good beer and wine!
  • Being able to talk to people! My Japanese is still limited and the Japanese have a limited English. So, not an ideal combination.
  • The international diversity you get in Brussels is unique.
  • My favorite cupcakes from Lilicup, Brussels! Haven’t had any in 3 months.
  • A simple and delicious croissant.
  • The varied choice of delicious European food 😊 that doesn’t come at a premium price.
  • The architecture!!
  • Cheap traveling to so many locations!!

These are just a few of the perks that I’d have living in Europe. But, to be honest I’m so excited and happy about our new life in Japan!

20 random things I’ve noticed in my first month in Nagoya/Japan

 

1. It’s very clean and neat. Haven’t seen one graffiti.
2. Everything has explanations with illustrations.
3. Almost no stray animals.
4. It’s all about safety!
5. No trash bins. You carry your garbage with you till you get home or to a convenience store.
6. Everyone bows and you start bowing too (for so many reasons).
7. Convenience stores every other block and vending machines like there’s no tomorrow.
8. Extremely polite people! And best customer service I’ve ever experienced.
9. You are not allowed to speak on your phone on the metro or train.
10. It’s bikeland but bike lanes are not clear.
11. People are not concerned about having their belongings stolen.
12. You get free water in restaurants.
13. You get chopsticks by default. You can get cutlery if you ask for it.
14. Public toilets range from the famous Toto toilets to the holes in the ground where you have to squat.
15. Many people go on metros and trains without holding on and not falling down.
16. The ground floor is counted as first floor.
17. Shorts skirts and shorts everywhere! No cleavage shown tough.
18. You don’t blow your nose, you hold it in 😦 or go to the toilet.
19. There are metro carts reserved only for women.
20. 24/7 Karaoke bars.

Japan putting things into perspective

You and I are the best are complaining and with such a conviction that we have the right to do so, that we convince everyone else around us. Why? Cause we give us the right to be self-absorbed and preoccupied with all meaningless details in our lives.

So, when an event like the earthquake in Japan takes place, you’re either blind or stupid if it has no effect on you. In case you still have some senses left, then a picture like this gets to you. Suddenly, you realise how small you are and insignificant your small car is or your underpaid salary. You understand that your skin problem is not the end of the world or the shoes that you want aren’t actually going to save your life and you are thankful your are ALIVE!

So, go out there and appreciate live, ENJOY LIFE!!

My heart and prayer are with Japan in a time like this!