March 16, 2009

Kimonos and Tea Ceremony

On Friday, Ilena, Dave, and Heather went to a Kimono-dressing and Tea Ceremony Class (available through CHIC).

The first hour was spent getting dressed in and learning a little bit about wearing a kimono. One of the interesting tidbits they learned was that you can tell if a woman is single or married by how her obi is wrapped. A simple "backpack style" obi indicates a woman is married, while the more elaborate (and very difficult to tie) "bow or butterfly style" obi is saved for the single women, who are needing to look a little flashier when out in public. Ilena and Heather were dressed in full Kimonos with the help of a very sweet Japanese woman. (Note, Heather's obi is wrapped as a married person, and Ilena was volunteered to display the single woman's bow since every woman in the class was married). Dave sat this one out and was the designated photographer, though there are kimonos for men as well.

From what Ilena and Heather said, they gained a new appreciation for how Japanese women walk and are poised the way they are. Wearing a kimono for a few days in a row would do wonders for our posture! And the split toe socks were surprisingly comfortable. Sitting on your knees for an hour, however, proved to be excruciatingly difficult and quite painful. Guess the girls still need some practice in this department.

After donning their kimonos, the group proceeded to the tea ceremony room, a neatly constructed room located in the foreigner's building. While here, they were able to experience the Japanese Tea Ceremony. It was their first tea ceremony and it was quite remarkable. The got to enjoy traditional sweets (mochi) as well as frothy thin green tea. After enjoying the tea, they got a little lesson in the history and culture of the tea ceremony.

First, she really stressed that the ultimate purpose of tea ceremony is to put yourself into a place of complete relaxation, to free your mind of the burdens of daily life, and to breathe deeply. The tradition was started by men thousands of years ago, and while somewhat of a dying art now, is still practiced in many homes. Some women attend tea ceremony schools before marrying so that they will be able to conduct this practice in their own home. Many learn from their parents or grandparents - kimonos as well as tea ceremony accessories/tools are often handed down from generation to generation.

From how you hold the bowl that you are drinking from, to what order the guests are served, tea ceremony is a very "precise" albeit subdued and peaceful occasion.

The Japanese woman who ran the event made quite an impression. Her outlook and approach to life was just terrific. Here is her best nugget on the topic of the tea ceremony (and life):

There are four principles of knowledge about people:

1) There are things you know about yourself that everybody knows about you (name, address, your hair color).
2) There are things you know about yourself, that nobody else knows about you (personal opinions, internal beliefs).
3) There are things you don't know about yourself, that others know about you (like the sound of your footsteps); and
4) There are things that neither you nor others know about you (your future). Through quiet focus and reflection (like during tea ceremony), you can gain insight into this category of knowledge.


Alexis Jacobs said...

I am going to have to sign up for this next time. Sounds very fun and cultural!

Lisa said...

That sounds like it was a very special class! Glad you all got to enjoy it!

Miyako said...

People have been drinking tea for a long time, but Japanese tea ceremony in any form close to what we know is a few hundreds years old, not thousands. It was mostly defined in the 16th century.