OCTOBER 27, 2007 Less than two weeks after our visit to the pear farm in Kamo, there was another trip for the foreign student in my kosen - a Japanese Culture Workshop in Niigata, about one hour drive from my place, Nagaoka. It was at a culture exchange centre called Crosspal Niigata.
There were five types of different things were we were let to experience, namely 茶道 (tea ceremony), 書道 (calligraphy), ゆかた着付け (wearing yukata), ちぎり絵 (paper courage) and 華道 (flower arranging). We were left to choose where we wanted to start off and me, along with two others, opted for yukata first. Yukata is actually the summer garment for the Japanese which you can see very often during the annual Bon Odori festivals in Shah Alam or Penang.
I am not taking a picture of myself.
Obviously, while waiting for my turn to get the yukata worn, I was asking for that lady whether there is any
bigger longer one for me. Unfortunately, it seemed that all of them have similar sizes.
Left without any options, I still carry ahead although it looked way off shorter than how it should be. In fact, it was my first time wearing a yukata.
Worse still, there weren't any sizes available for the traditional white socks and sandals to go with my yukata. Nevertheless, it was a wise decision to start off with wearing yukata first as it set the perfect way for the next four activities. I mean, it will certainly look better to be in a tea ceremony wearing a yukata than wearing a T-shirt and a jeans, no?
The next one was the tea ceremony. Again, it was the same three of us.
Before they started the ceremony, we were treated to some momiji which was like mooncakes but had a softer skin texture.
It was shaped like a maple leave with red bean paste inside.
Then the tea was served.
First was to stir the green tea swiftly using the steel stirrer which looks like a brush. Here is how is was done.
Before taking a sip on the tea, they show us the way to do it - which is to hold the bottom of the cup with the left palm, and place the right palm at the side of it. Then turn the cup twice until it moves 90 degree from its initial position and the tea is ready. But after finishing up the tea, they do not just put it down and leave. Instead, you got to turn the cup backwards to its initial position. Similar to when you insert something into somewhere, you got to take it out eventually.
Next was flower arranging, where we did the rising form type of arrangement. The paper with the instructions given to us was so specific that they even put down the angle of how the stalk of flowers should be positioned.
The flower used was tiger lily, some asparagus fern and some yellow flower called kangaroo bou-something. Apparently, the shape looks like a kangaroo feet.
That lady showed us how to place the first two stalk of the flower. Later, it was up to us on how we wanted the flowers look like for the rest of the arrangement.
To be honest, I made a minor mistake but over-cutting the first stalk of the kangaroo flower, which should be longer. Anyway, the final result wasn't far from the model they showed, no?
The next one was called paper courage. For this one, if you do not dare to be ready to deal with Japanese paper called 和紙 (washi), then you will not be able to try it. Nah, I was just crapping. It has nothing to do with courage or bravery. We were just doing some paper craft on some postcards. There were few designs to choose from - namely grapes, Christmas tree, and a row of trees. I chose the third one.
Just like what Joann mentioned, in all five activities, the people was just telling us "It's okay", "Nice, nice" and stuff like that when we asked if our artwork was okay. That applied to every single of us. But that is just the Japanese way of life, which sometimes I'm not sure whether if they really mean about what they said. I doubt that though.
The last activity of the day was calligraphy. The fact that I do not come from a Chinese school did not do me any favours.
It was my first time trying myself on calligraphy and it was not a surprise to see how I fared in my first try.
No prize for guessing which is mine.
I tried making fun of someone when she was doing on hers, telling her that she was doing it way slower than how it should be; and also how 'impaired' her writing was. But when I did it myself, what I can say is it was not as simple as it looked.
Which made the lady gave me panda*.
Not one, but two pandas.
But in the end, after practicing for more than 20 times using 5 pieces of papers, I wrote the word 幸 (happiness) on three postcards. This was the best, according to the lady.
It was time to head back but before we took off our yukata, some camwhoring first.
We actually got to take back the whole set of yukata home.
So, don't be surprise if the next time you see me, I will be in yukata.
Anyway, before we left, there was on interview team from some university trying to interview some foreigners there. I was
tricked made by someone into being interview by them. It seemed that that recording will be put up on the internet.
We shall see when will that happen.
Panda*: only ex-PPKTJians will understand what it means. Basically, we will be given a panda everytime we fail our panda test. Some of them got it so many times that they can almost open a zoo with only pandas. I did not get any panda during my two years in PPKTJ, but yet, I got two in a row in one day.