Last Sunday Sarah and I went over to our neighbors house for a tea party. I was proud of myself, because I was responsible for responding to her invitation and sent a beautifully Japanese letter to her. Not that I wrote it in Japanese, but I was culturally on top of things! It went something like this: We'd love to come...yadda yadda. However, 14:30 is a little difficult for us. My church is in Hachioji, so I often do not make it home until 14:30 or 15:00. Translation: There's no way we could possibly make it to your house at 2:30. I think I conveyed that successfully, because she responded by saying that she understood my schedule and that we could have the party at 15:30.
It was a really nice little party. Her English is not spectacular, but she invited her children and grandchildren over, so two of them had really nice English. Sarah and I arrived at separate times, both of us with some nice bread as a gift to our hostess. The tea ceremony was carried out by our neighbor's oldest granddaughter, who is 16 and is in the tea ceremony club at school. The tea is served in a bowl. You sit with your feet under you, bow before picking up the bowl, turn the bowl two times, and drink. Once you have finished you turn it another two times and set it down. Our hosts were very gracious about showing us what to do.
Afterwards we had a lot of great cultural sharing. Her junior high age grandson played some folk songs on a Japanese flute. Her elementary school age grandson showed us a traditional Japanese toy. It was a wooden handle with two ends, one wider than the other, and a wooden ball hung off on a string. The goal is to flip the wooden ball up and get it to land on one of the ends. He also showed us the Japanese version of Cat's Cradle, which was similar to the American version but with some different ways of passing the string. It was really interesting! I'd see one and think, "Oh! I know how to solve that one!" and then they would take it in a completely different way. I'd like to learn how they did it.
The only awkward part was towards the end when it was becoming obvious that it was time for us to leave, but we weren't sure who was supposed to initiate our leaving. Finally, our neighbor said the equivalent of "Oh, look at the time..." and we did our thanks saying and bow thing all the way to the door. I'm not sure how many times we said goodbye and bowed in between her house and ours, but it was a lot. It really was a good time, though.