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July 12-17

July 12

In the morning we 1As met with Hamana-sensei to talk about the Christmas Chakai we'll be hosting in earlier December for the head family of Urasenke, the other students, and assorted staff members, a total of about 200 expected guests IIRC. Traditionally we Midorikai students give the guests handmade favors in addition to making the sweets served in the tea room. The machiai tends to be decked out with Christmas-y decorations while the tea room itself isn't so much. We 1A students have already started talking amongst ourselves about possible themes and our own preferences, the latter mostly being NO TACKY CHRISTMAS CRAP. I'm told we'll see tea utensil shops selling stuff like natsume with Santa Claus on it, and we pretty much agree that's not the direction we want to go with our Christmas Chakai.

Following that talk we gathered at the Urasenke Center's gallery for our third tour of the current exhibition. The curators made some tweaks to the exhibit at the beginning of this month, but most of that appears to have been shuffling items around. Among the newly-added pieces, my favorites were a lacquer-edged boat-shaped hanging bamboo flower vase named Araiso 荒磯 (windswept and wave-beaten shore) and a three-legged lid rest with one leg each of pine, bamboo, and ume woods, an auspicious combination called shō-chiku-bai 松竹梅.

Afternoon jitsugi, in an end-of-semester review of the basics, was tana usucha and koicha. We were in roku-no-ma, where the air conditioning doesn't seem to work very well, and we tried out a kan'un joku, which is unique for having no bottom board, so the temae with it are a hybrid between hakobi and tana temae. Ro-sensei was not pleased with our choice, but we had no way of knowing beforehand either (a) that he didn't like it or (b) that he'd be our jitsugi teacher that day. The day's sweet was this lovely little number, and I was lucky enough to score two of the extras to bring home with me.

July 13

On Wednesday morning we started with a Hamana-sensei lecture about toriawase (the coordination of utensils) and review of architectural points in a tea room. Next Swanson-sensei, our Japanese art history teacher, gave us a lecture on Yamato-e, with a focus on illustrations of Genji Monogatari including the Genji Monogatari Emaki. I'm just now starting to read the Royall Tyler translation of Genji Monogatari along with some friends back in the States.

Afternoon jitsugi was more tana usucha and koicha. We were in roku-no-ma again, unfortunately for those of us less comfortable in the heat. Hamana-sensei taught us, and we chose a tabidansu, a portable chest that can theoretically be used to transport utensils as well as display them while making tea. The day's sweet was a kuzuyaki similar to this one from the previous week.

July 14

On Thursday morning we had jitsugi in chado kaikan. Two visiting Finns—at least one of whom was a Midorikai graduate—sat in on the 1Bs' class. We did hakobi usucha under Ro-sensei's supervision. For the 1B students, this was their last Midorikai jitsugi ever, so we 1As tried to be quiet as we cleaned up after finishing earlier than them. Stefen made koicha for their last temae, and the atmosphere was heavy with not-quite-shed tears. Even though I was outside of their practice room, it was really touching to be close to such an intense act of fellowship among people who had just spent the last year together.

Over lunch, I bought a charming gosho kago (a special wicker basket of a type formerly used in the Imperial Palace and now used for shikishidate temae) from Stefen, who needed to shed some items from the haul he was packing to send home. Mind you, I haven't yet learned shikishidate temae, so I hope I don't dislike it.

After lunch, we changed into samue and reported to Gakuen for end-of-semester ōsōji 大掃除 (lit. "big cleaning"). We've all settled into the routine of it, and it went smoothly. Then while the 1Bs went to a graduation ceremony rehearsal we 1As headed over to the men's dorm to get a head start on cleaning and organizing the Midorikai dōgubeya, or utensil storage room. The first order of business was removing books that had nothing to do with chado but which had been left by previous generations of Midorikai students. Then we removed empty boxes and sorted the remaining ones by type of utensil. Mika (another 1A) is planning to create an inventory of these utensils over the summer break.

That night I stayed up late writing thank you/farewell letters to each of the departing Midorikai students and some of our teachers. To the envelopes I added little knotwork dragonflies that I'd tied myself following these video instructions from TyingItAllTogether.

July 15

Friday morning was the spring semester closing ceremony and graduation for our senpai and for a handful of Japanese students who were in a few-months-long program here. Unlike the semester's opening ceremony, this one was conducted in a tatami mat room, so we sat seiza the whole time, and when it came time to stand afterward, whoa, that was a doozy. I think I'm actually gaining more endurance at seiza, but between the length of this ceremony and the combination of solemn tone and elbow-to-elbow seating that kept me from shifting around, this one was tough.

Following the ceremony we 1Bs and 1As went around in two separate groups to greet and thank various parties including the cafeteria staff, the school staff, and the department that deals with international students and groups. After a sparsely-attended udon lunch in the cafeteria—why does udon day always happen to fall on a day when we're wearing our best kimono?!—I returned to the dorm and took a nap to catch up on sleep I hadn't gotten the night before.

That evening we Midorikai students and teachers had a farewell dinner at the Hotel Okura's penthouse restaurant Orizzonte. There was a fairly lavish buffet, an incredible view of the city, a champagne toast, speeches. Time flew by, and before we knew it we were wrapping up with a group photograph. I distributed my thank-you letters. A few of us retired to Alcove for some (premium, as it turns out) ginger ale before curfew.

July 16

Saturday was Yoiyama, a sort of Gion Matsuri Eve full of revelry and yukata-clad crowds wandering the streets of Kyoto. Anna and I joined them, first checking out a gagaku/bugaku performance that included her ryūteki teacher. We traversed the grounds of Yasaka-jinja, ate ice-cream-filled crepes, got dangle-y hair ornaments to go with our yukata, and later had a more sensible dinner of tonkatsu (her) and chilled simmered summer vegetables (me). And then! Karaoke! We got an all-night karaoke box at Super Jankara and proceeded to spend eight hours, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., drinking and singing and carrying on. It was a great time. The karaoke systems here are pretty sophisticated; you can adjust the tempo and pitch of songs on the fly. With the exception of "Dragostea din tei" and the Azumanga Daioh theme song, I stuck to English-language songs. A few of them played with their official music videos, but many of them were set to hilariously cheesy generic music videos.

July 17

At 6 a.m. we joined the youthful throng stumbling out of the Super Jankara building and into the daylight. In just a few hours the streets and sidewalks would be jammed with people attending Gion Matsuri, but at this hour they were nearly empty. It was a little eerie. We headed down to Kyoto Station to partake of the sentō under Kyoto Tower. This was the smallest sentō of the few I've been to, but washing up revivified us, and afterward we ate breakfast at a nearby bakery.

It was approaching the time that the Gion Matsuri processions would be getting underway, but fighting the crowds and lack of sleep to stand in the sweltering heat and dazzling sunlight didn't sound appealing, even though it meant I'd miss the chance to see some of my classmates pulling one of the hoko (and probably suffering even more for it!). We headed back to our respective abodes for some rest. I did make it to an afterparty at the men's dorm later that afternoon, and at Alcove we met up with some other gaijin who were in town, including Cone, the Midorikai graduate whose blog probably had a big influence on my coming here and who's now a grad student at Doshisha.

As a reminder, here's our academic year calendar.

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/18309.html.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2011 09:24 am (UTC)
Sounds like a very busy week. I always enjoy reading about your exploits, keep it up! Did you have any particular travel (or other) plans for the summer break over the next month?
Jul. 21st, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
It's always gratifying to know someone is reading these ramblings. :)

At the moment my brother and sister-in-law (whom you may remember from lunch this past winter in the Strip District) are here visiting, so we're sightseeing around Kyoto.

I have vague plans to go visit JAXA's Tanegashima Space Center sometime next month, but I've been feeling a bit hesitant after learning that they don't have any English language tours, because my Japanese listening/reading comprehension is not very good. I think I'll probably go anyway, though.

Other than that, I expect I'll mostly be sticking around Kyoto and carousing with Anna. :)
Aug. 1st, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
Hopefully it will be possible to learn something about the space center before you go, so that you can get as much as possible out of it? Do any of your colleagues know anyone there who might be able to translate for you? I could ask dancinglights... I know her space colleagues are a highly international bunch, so it's entirely possible! Or darkdreamer75, who gave me my tour of Goddard.
Aug. 1st, 2011 07:28 am (UTC)
Ha, to NO TACKY CHRISTMAS CRAP. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! I've left the DC Tankokai Urasenke and am joining the Seattle one... even though I only went to a few meetings, it was still kind of sad and they sent me a very nice goodbye letter.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say about the illustrations!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )