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Monday, October 9

My Day Long Demonstration Of A Lack Of Poise

One particularly beautiful, sunny day spent in Tokyo and one wish fulfilled. I have made my very first Japanese friend.

We actually met in Ikebana class but that isn’t really an opportunity for good conversation since the task at hand keeps us focused. She invited me to an Ikebana demonstration in central Tokyo on Saturday. Excited for the experience and knowing how very nice the Japanese dress, I pulled out all the stops and ended up looking very downtown classy and ready for my day out.

On the train ride there, I got the opportunity to really talk to my new friend who brought along her daughter that just happens to be my age and shares many of my interests. (Was her mom intervening and placing us in the same place at the same time for a reason? Probably! And I’m thrilled she did! I just hope she thinks I'm cool enough to hang out with.) They didn’t mind me throwing question after question their way about things I have seen and long pondered since moving here. Actually for the entire day, I bombarded them with questions about their life, Japanese customs and traditions. Each question received the same type of careful response and left nothing yet unanswered.

Arriving at the demonstration early, we took the chance to sit down and have tea and dessert and talk in a better atmosphere than bobbing around on the train. Another American friend of theirs met us there. Once it was time for the demonstration, the four of us made our way to upstairs. My friend was very eager to introduce her daughter and myself to everyone in the room and she knew just about everyone there. We personally met the Sensei who was giving the demonstration and her two nephews, as well as the woman responsible for creating the amazing, modern pottery that filled the rooms. Upon introduction, we maintained the appropriate customary bowing. This actually got to be rather humorous to me as the day went on. I have never before encountered a situation where I was so totally immersed in a room of all Japanese and their customs. Saying hello and goodbye and the constant bowing and graciousness… it is a lot of hard work to keep up with!

Once everyone was seated for the demonstration, there were about fifty people in the room with no more than ten men and a total of four Americans… myself, my host’s friend, a stranger and my host’s daughter who is Japanese American. To say we stood out is an understatement. Each time I looked up and around the room (we were once again in the front row), I would find many eyes running across our little ensemble.

During the Ikebana demonstration, the Sensei described her actions as an interpreter dictated them in English. I had a pretty good grasp of Ikebana prior to this event but my understanding is so much stronger now thanks to my host friend and the sensei. My appreciation of the art I am learning grew immensely over that one very special day spent with them.

Sensei completed two arrangements - the first a very traditional hanging style which I fell in love with although it is much harder than it looks and I doubtfully will be trying it anytime soon - and the second a freestyle, more modern arrangement like the style I am learning, she went on to tell us about the Japanese handwriting prints that filled the room. It seems this woman has spent her life developing traditional Japanese arts and has learned how to write all styles of handwriting including those from thousands of years ago which have long since evolved and are all but forgotten. What an amazing path to take in life… preserving these things so that people today and tomorrow can continue to appreciate their exquisite past arts and therefore their remarkable heritage.

Traditional Japanese dance was also presented to us in the course of the demonstration. To explain the dance… it would be what you would expect a Geisha to perform… but Geisha are not the only people who have mastered the traditional dance. This was one of the highlights of my day actually. I wish I could find the words to describe the fluidity and elegance of her polished moves and how it drew you in even if you didn’t understand the words being sung in the background. I felt myself swaying softly with her as she moved across the floor.

With the demonstration complete, we were ushered into another room for tea and cookies. This was definitely a day for a lady who lunches. I think I could fit in nicely if everyone would stop gawking at me for a few minutes. I did find myself talking with my hands and several times reminded myself to place them calmly in my lap and to try to maintain a bit more poise. It’s so very hard for me when I was just fascinated by what I was seeing and wanted to know every little detail of how and why that very same instant.

After we spent another thirty minutes bowing to show our thanks… our goodbyes… and just how damn good our bow was… we made our way back to the train. I don’t think I stopped talking the whole way home. My host friend was fabulous as I hung on to every word and every bit of knowledge she was willing to share, which was a lot. She has made it her purpose in life to help people experience everything they would like to about Japan. I can’t believe my luck that she ended up taking the same Ikebana class that I do and she has been such a wonderful and patient friend to someone so new and overly eager at times.

I could honestly bow to her all day long to show her just how happy I am that we have become friends.

1 comment:

Alex said...

As you can see you are not that bad as once suggested. Keep these postings; they are education for us as well. Good work.