It's been a good week of Japanese culture once again! I went to two different Japanese homes this week. The first was to the home of the woman who taught us Shodo for our Japanese culture aspect of orientation classes. Shodo is Japanese calligraphy. It is so lovely! I love painting kanji. Since we liked shodo so much when we did it in class, we were invited to go learn some more. Sarah and I arrived at her house about an hour late since we'd been hopelessly lost (not even in the right direction), but we had a really great time after that.
We spent maybe the first hour at her house just chatting. Their wall was covered with bookshelves that were filled with records and trinkets from various travels. She showed us some of her scrapbooking of a trip to Disneyland. Finally, she asked if we still wanted to write tonight, which we were thrilled to do. When we did shodo in class, everyone learned how to write the kanji for "peace" together, and the kanji I had chosen to do individually was "joy", so I decided to continue in that theme and do "patience". Shodo is simultaneously tremendously fun and tremendously challenging. One second I'd have a beautiful stroke where I'd pulled the brush off the paper just slow enough to create a perfect tapering of the line. The next stroke I'd manage to make the entire line way too thick. The basic rule of shodo seems to be that any given kanji will be messed up on at least one stroke. But I really like it, and have been told I'm good at it. Though you have to knock any Japanese complement down at least a couple steps to get reality, the first day we did it the teacher asked me if I was a shodo expert. Definitely a question I responded to with a much confused *blink blink*.
We ended up staying so late doing shodo that we were invited for dinner (both of us really hoping that we hadn't overstayed our welcome...it can be hard to tell). Dinner was yummy yakisoba (fried noodles). The only downside was that, even after responding to the first offer of beer with "biru wa chotto..." (beer is a little...) [a.k.a. I hate beer] I had a can of beer plunked down in front of me. I managed to choke down about a third of it.
In the end, we stayed at their house until a little after ten. But it was a good night.
The second cultural activity of the week was an invitation to our Japanese teacher's home to have tea ceremony with her and get dressed up in kimonos. The tea ceremony was really lovely. We even got to take turns being the one who prepared the tea, a procedure that must be done exactly right. Which hand you use and where you place all the different utensils is very important. The hot water came from a pot that was set into the tatami floor and was heated on coals, so the room was reserved only for performing tea ceremony. On a random interesting side note, during the period of really intense Christian persecution in Japan, the Japanese Christians used the tea ceremony to secretly distribute communion.
After doing tea ceremony, we took turns in groups of three getting dressed up in kimonos. It was just like being in SCA again except significantly more Japanese! ;) It's been a long time since I've worn something that took more than twenty minutes to get into and that someone else had to do the majority of the dressing work. But it was really lovely. I also knew I was an SCA nerd when I started analyzing how kimonos worked for "support" in comparison to some of the medieval things I've worn. My final assessment is that, even in medieval times, European women needed more support than Asian women did. However, the middle part of the kimono is really nice for posture support. I found it very comfortable. I love how putting on a special outfit has the ability to completely change the way I walk, sit, and present myself to the world in general. I get much more proper. At any rate, it was really fun to get all dressed up, and it has me wanting to have more opportunities to do it. Kimonos are really cool. There will be pictures to evidence this sometime soon, I hope. :)