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It's already furo season again.  Somehow sakura season has already come and gone and we are back to May...which means pretty soon I will be enjoying ajisai kinton again.  Excellent.  

I have been meaning to write for months, and between school and lessons and life I keep missing my chances.  This year has been more challenging than I expected, mostly because I feel as though I am at a crossroads where I need to decide what I am going to do with my life.  For years I have balanced different hobbies, interests, careers, etc.  Sometimes when I look back on the last six years I get dizzy thinking about the number of times I moved back and forth and the number of roles I took on.  Through all of this, tea has been a constant, but the role of tea in my life has also shifted and being back in Kyoto it is hard to determine what that role is.  It is a question I continue to explore.  In the meantime, I plan to enjoy life, enjoy tea, and finish this damn grad school business once and for all.  

Yesterday was a milestone for me for a couple of reasons.  First, it was the first time I organized and executed a demonstration on my own.  Second, it represented a merging of my school-life and tea-life.  The Doshisha Business School, like every other business school, has relationships with a number of interested business men and women, particularly those in the immediate area.  One of the benefactors of DBS is Tateishi Nobuo, the former Chairman of the Omron Corporation.  He has also set up a scholarship fund for 1-2 students annually, and yesterday was the presentation ceremony for those scholarship recipients.  Being one of those students, I was asked by the DBS office if I would make tea for Mr. Tateishi, Dr. Oya (Chancellor of Doshisha) and the other guests who would attend.  

So I went to work.  The ceremony was held in a conference room, and DBS did not have any supplies on hand so we had to make due with what we had.  I was very grateful for the experience I had helping at events in Boston and Michigan.  It was ironic that I was only a few blocks from Konnichian, and yet I felt as though I was back in the States.  I only had a couple of days notice before the event, so there wasn't a lot of time to plan, nor did the guests have time for a long temae.  Because of the set-up of the room I did a ryurei style on a table top, and the dogu was a combination of my own and items lent to me by Matsumoto-sensei.  The greatest difficultly was in not having anyone else there who knew tea when serving.  I went very early to set-up and prepare, and that all went fine.  One lady from the office, and one of my classmates came to help serve the sweets and take the tea to the guests.  I am extremely grateful for their help and they both did an excellent job.  However, there were 8 guests and I was the only person who could whisk tea.  Also, I was not confident that my furo (actually a Russian samovar) could hold water for 8 guests.  Given the time constraints of the guests I had the hanto's bring the bowls with hot water and tea from the mizuya and whisked at temaeza.  

All in all it was an interesting first experience.  I enjoyed being able make tea for the gentleman who has allowed me to study at Doshisha, and I hope that he enjoyed the tea.  It was nice to have a chance to show this part of my life to my professors and to the office, because I often feel that I am leading a double-life here where each side doesn't understand what the other half does.  Let's see where this leads.  

So much to write about at the end of the year.  Every year I always think I will have time to get things done, and then December comes and goes so quickly.  2011 is over already.  It's unbelievable.  I started this year looking at fireworks over a snowy landscape in Vaasa, Finland with my Midorikai classmate Mereca.  I will end it here in Kyoto, quietly, reflecting over everything that happened in the last 365 days.  Overall its been a great year, and I am looking forward to seeing what crazy things happen in 2012.  Happy New Years!

To the updates...

2011-12-17 - ICI Keiko Chaji at Shimogamo Saryo

My first chaji experience with ICI, and my third shogo chaji ever.  The chaji was held on a crisp December day, and as we arrived at Shimogamo Saryo and looked out at the mountains in the north we could see they were lightly dusted with snow.  Winter came to Kyoto very suddenly!  Markku and I split the role of shokkyaku and led two different groups.  First in the machiai was a shikishi with a painting of a broom and a poem about sweeping away the dust of the year.  We enjoyed o-sayu before proceeding to the koshikake machiai, and split into two groups on opposite ends of the garden.  The garden was long and narrow, and the location was right along the river so we could hear the water very clearly.  The air was crisp and cool, but it didn't feel cold waiting outside, just very refreshing.  We went into the room and saw the scroll 無事是貴人 which maybe could translate to "He who has nothing, has everything."  First we had introductions, and then shozumi.  I was nervous about speaking properly in Japanese.  I feel like my language ability has gone down lately...if that is even possible.  It's one of those times.  Anyways, I just kept it short and simple.  The shozumi was very nice, the sumi looked beautiful.  The kama was made by Hamana-sensei, and it was really neat to see.  I had no idea he had made a kama!  The kogo was in the shape of a rabbit and impossibly cute.  I couldn't help laughing a bit every time I saw it...it was just...adorable.  I don't even like cute things.  Both of the Sensei in the room with us (Hamana-sensei and Kumada-sensei) are rabbits so it seemed extra appropriate.  

Following shozumi we re-arranged seating for the kaiseki.  Oh the food.  I wish I could eat like that every day.  I wish I was better with food names so that I could write it all down.  The miso shiru was fantastic.  I had almost forgotten how much I love the sweet, creamy texture of shiro miso.  If I had nothing to eat but white miso, rice and pickles forever I would be happy.  I really think so.  The entire kaiseki process was very enjoyable, and I was actually surprised by how much I remembered about how to eat and what to say during the meal.  The one part that I forgot was how to reply to the teishu when they said they would begin eating in the mizuya.  

After a wonderful meal we had omogashi, which were joyo manju.  They had been steamed a bit too long got a bit sticky, but still delicious!  Back outside to the koshikake machiai, and we switched places so each group got to see the opposite side of the garden.  On the far side we could see in the windows to the rest of the building, and it looked like there was a wedding going on.  I wonder if the guests were surprised when they looked outside to see a group of people in kimono sitting on the bench?  

Koicha was prepared next, and it was very delicious.  I am trying to remember the dogu used, but I should have written sooner.  I forgot a lot already.  For usucha there was one very interesting bowl which listed the poetic topic for each year during the Showa period.  Everyone had a lot of fun passing the bowl around to find out what the theme was in the year of their birth.  Mind was "Island" apparently.  Most of us had second bowls of usucha and were very relaxed by the end of the day, although with 15 of us in the room it ended up being a very long chaji.  Well over four hours.  All in all though, it was a wonderful event!  

2011-12-19 - Last keiko at Matsumoto-shachu

As if my legs hadn't hurt enough after the chaji, on the 19th I went to Matsumoto-sensei's place for her last keiko of the year.  It was the first time I got to see this event at Matsumoto-shachu and I was very happy to participate.  I arrived at 1:00 PM, and went inside the chashitsu to find it had been transformed into a Christmas tea paradise!  There were christmas flowers in the tokonoma, candles all around the room, and the miso no dana was set up in the corner with seasonal dogu, including a Russian silver tea set that we used as a furo.  It was like magic.  During the keiko that day sensei asked everyone how their year had been, if it was a good year or not, and why.  It was touching to see everyone come together like a family, talking about their lives and enjoying tea. I got to practice at the miso no dana for the first time in two years, and also hakobi koicha later in the day.  I sat in the room all day and watched the daylight fade away until the only light in the room was the candlelight.  It was incredibly beautiful.  I enjoyed myself so much I ended up staying until 11:00 PM.  My knees were not happy with me the next day.  

2011-12-23 - ICI Christmas Chaji

This was SUCH a fun event.  When I was in Midorikai we had so many amazing experiences and got invited to so many events, but life was so structured that there wasn't a lot of time for us to plan events ourselves.  That is one really great thing about being in ICI, where the students are very enthusiastic about tea, but the atmosphere is more relaxed.  Every year a group of the ICI students plan an informal chaji as a thank you for the Sensei, and this year I got to help out as well.  It was held at the home of one of the students, and everyone really comes together to contribute in their own way.  The guests were Hamana-sensei and Kumada-sensei, as well as one other friend of the group.  First they arrived in the room and we started with an apéritif and champagne.  It had been Hamana-sensei's birthday a few days before, so it seemed appropriate to have a small champagne toast.  This was followed by the meal, which was served bento style.  The meal itself was a collection of Christmas foods from around the world, prepared by the ICI students.  There was turkey and stuffing with gravy, veggies with guacamole, cranberries, and lots more.  Everyone who wasn't involved in serving got to sit in the room and eat together with the Sensei's.  The rest had eaten previously, but were in and out of the room a lot and chatting and listening to the explanations of the food.  The food was served with German hot spiced wine, glühwein, which was very similar to the Swedish glögg that I am used to.  After the meal the group went on a walk while we put up the flowers and prepared for koicha.  

I was given the task of koicha, and we used my Takatori chaire for the occasion.  It was actually the first time I got to properly use it, so I was happy to have this nice memory associated with the item.  As for the koicha, I made one bowl for three and one for five.  I made both bowls with the assumption that people really liked koicha.  Hahaha!  The tea was Chosho no Mukashi from Ryuoen.  I still have this problem when I am making large bowls of koicha that the chasen looks awful afterwards.  I need to work on that.  As long as the tea tastes good though...

Once I finished koicha, another classmate prepared usucha for everyone.  The bowls used for both koicha and usucha were generally ones made by the ICI students at Katsuragama.  The higashi were brought by Hamana-sensei as a gift and were senbei with a Santa design, and little candy canes :)  They were adorable.  Everyone was in very good spirits by the end of usucha, and we sent everyone off with one last glass of glühwein Overall, I think my favorite part of the whole thing was the design in the "tokonoma".  There was a nativity scene display, but through the ingenuity of one of my classmates it was re-purposed as a mini-Rikyu offering tea to baby Jesus.  It was...probably not the most proper thing ever, but it was funny and cute!!  All in all it was a great day.  

After I left I had dinner with a recent friend who I met at the Kokusai chakai and is currently in Kyoto writing her dissertation on Daimyo-cha.  From there I headed to Alcove and met up with Kei-chan and Yu-chan and talked late into the night about all kinds of crazy things.  It was a full day of tea.  

2011-12-24 - Finland Tea

Markku and Mika had organized an event at a tea room in Nara for the Kansai-Finland Association, and I went together with a couple of the Midorikai girls and a lady from Ichinencourse.  Nearly all of the dogu used were made by Markku or other Finnish artists, or made by artists while in Finland.  I was super-excited that the sweets were ginger cookies (which I have loved since I was a kid) and marmalades (which I always associate with Mecca).  The atmosphere was very relaxed, and it was cool to see Markku's work while we were waiting for our seki.  I hadn't had many opportunities to see his work before, so it was fun to go and see in person.  Afterwards I went with Kiki to Sugamachi to get lunch, and then came back to my room to collapse for a bit.  

2011-12-25 - Coneday

Coneday in Kyoto!  The morning was spent running around doing prep, because in the evening I  had a party!  It's rare...but it was a lot of fun.  It was a fascinating mix of people.  It was a nabe party, so not totally traditional Christmas...but there was plenty of wine and Christmas cookies to go around.  It was nice to spend the evening in good company...with lots of food.  :)  We even had Christmas cake!!!  Whee!!!

Since then things have been a little less busy.  I took one Doshisha classmate around the neighborhood to get him the basics, as he will be joining ICI in February.  Lots of cleaning and organizing to get ready for the New Year, and end of year parties.  Hatsugama on the 13th and Matsumoto-shachu Hatsuchakai on the 8th.  Tonight I will celebrate the New Year quietly, at home, thinking about what has been and what will be.   

Happy New Year Everyone!!! 

2011-12-05 - Midorikai Christmas Chakai

The Midorikai Christmas chakai!  It was so great to be able to attend as a guest :)  I have met this year's group several times at events and various gatherings, and it was really special to see the culmination of all of their hard work.  When I walked in I saw two of the girls and Hamana-sensei.  I signed my name and went in to find the rest of the ICI students.  I entered the machiai and saw Gary-sensei!  Hi Gary-sensei!  Also, Andrei, who was doing the explanation of the arrangements in the tokonoma of Houn and Kasho.  In Kasho there was a mobile that had been in Katie's family for many years, featuring Christmas symbols, as well as a menorah placed on a piece of woven fabric from Romania.  In the Houn tokonoma there was a Finnish hanging lantern with a home-made candle inside, as well as an antique book of winter-themed poetry together with a feather fountain pen.  It was a very simple, yet elegant display.  

Once we entered the seki in Shinka, the first thing I noticed was the scroll "Shacha"  (Thankfulness for Tea) and the flowers.  The hanaire was made of wood from the Maldives which was dark at the bottom but lighter at the top, and the flowers were tsubaki and a red leaf branch whose name escapes me.  The hiire was a pewter mug from Alcove, which I thought was charming.  At temaeza, I was struck by the color combination of the kiji marujoku tana with the red mizusashi and the gorgeous blue usuki.  The usuki was a small container from Poland.  The chashaku that was used was carved by Zabosai Iemoto and the name was "Toshin" (Candle Wick).  The moment I heard the name of that chashaku I had a flashback, because it was the same one that our group had used two years ago.  Temae was done by Katie, and Josh was the hanto and both did a lovely job!  The sweets were very interesting, based on a sweet from Sendai, in order to show support for the Tohoku region.  They came in three flavors and I had no problem eating all of them.  None whatsoever.  The tea was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing the bowls that the Midorikai students had made, although I wish that there had been more time to look at all of them and figure out who made which bowl!  

All in all it was a really wonderful experience.  When I think about my own Christmas chakai experience, and then think about the Christmas chakai that I attended this year...it is completely different.  This may seem obvious:  the people are different, the time is different, the dogu is different...but every individual and every group is truly able to leave their mark on every occasion and make it special.  This was a special day and I will remember it for the people who worked so hard to make it happen.  Thank you Midorikai!  

2011-12-10 - ICI Keiko

Keiko this week was preparation for the keiko chaji which will be held this weekend.  This week I was able to arrive early enough to go through preparation in the mizuya on time.  Actually, all this time I had been under the impression that class started at 9:00 and we were always late, which put me in a panic.  Kumada-sensei informed me that class started at 9:30 and suddenly I said "...Oh!"  I still have that habit from Midorikai of wanting to rush around, and am still working on being calm in the mizuya.  The time in the mizuya is still my favorite time of the day though.  The silence, that moment of peace when you are sitting alone in front of that space and thinking about what will be.  It was very cold in the morning, and while I was filling the mizusashi I couldn't feel my hands. For some reason, I didn't mind so much.  Actually, I had been looking forward to colder weather and was enjoying myself despite the cold.  

I got to do shozumi, and this week as well picked up sumi with my right hand using my left to assist.  Sometimes I meet people who are left-handed, but are able to do everything with their right hand so flawlessly that you would never know.  I am in awe of these people.  Right now, I am just trying my best to make the temae look effortless, despite how challenging it still is.  Despite the challenge, or maybe because of it, I love sumidemae.  I love placing the pieces in just the right spot, and feeling the heat from the ro.  Sumidemae is especially fun during ro season because of the shimeshibai.  I don't know what it is about shimeshibai...maybe it just brings back childhood memories of playing in a sandbox...I just love it.  Trying to get just the right angle to pour the hai to get the correct proportion in the right areas is a lot of fun to me.  Maybe I've been doing this too long.  The smell of neriko in the winter is also so appealing, more than anything I think I missed that last year.  

The kama used was an Ashiya-gama with a sho-chiku-bai design.  Tana was kokodana.  Haboki was black tsuru (crane) and kogo was take seiji (celedon in the shape of bamboo).  I keep forgetting to ask beforehand what the ko is...I need to find out where that info is before class.  
2011-11-26 - Chabako

When I went back to the States last year, I didn't have a lot of money or space to bring dogu back with me.  The one thing that I made sure to have was a chabako, with enough dogu to do all of the chabako temae (with the exception of shikishidate).  It was nice to be able to practice temae at home, and while I was in Michigan I had a very nice venue for it.  I was living in an apartment complex in a beautiful, wooded area.  The living room was on the first floor and there were glass sliding doors that looked out onto pine trees and crab apples.  I loved watching the seasons change sitting at the window or just outside.  One of my last memories before I left Michigan was sitting just outside watching the darkness fall, and during that time seeing the fireflies appear, as if by magic, right before my eyes. 

Whenever I was stressed, or wanted to relax, or just wanted to have tea with friends who were visiting, I pulled out the chabako and practiced my temae.  It was the first time that I could practice each of the temae throughout the seasons and got to enjoy each seasonal variation and theme.  Being Michigan, there was plenty of time to practice Yuki and I developed a fondness for it.  Tsuki is still my favorite, but Yuki is a close second. 

Last week at ICI keiko we practiced chabako, and it was my first time practicing chabako since August of 2010 when I was in Boston right after I got back from the States.  After so long doing chabako by myself without an instructor, it was interesting to be taught again.  I did Hana twice, once with haiken and once without.  Normally when I practice I don't do haiken...its just a personal thing but I find the haiken for chabako so fussy.  So, naturally I was a little rough on remembering haiken, and there were one or two small points that needed fixing.  Kumada-sensei was very nice about everything though, the atmosphere in the chashitsu was so pleasant.  Overall, I was very pleased with how well I remembered everything.  I remember clearly the first time I did Hana, Imagawa-sensei was teaching that day, I was first and I could not remember the order of anything.  I have a very clear memory of that being a very frustrating day.  My temae now is far from perfect, but it's always nice to feel like there is improvement.


This week, however, I felt like I stepped back again.  When I walked into Chado Kaikan Okamoto-san ran out from the front garden and asked if the ICI students could only use Kasho that day (we are normally in both Shinka and Kasho) because of a conflict.  After the Sensei's arrived and there was some discussion, we ended up having keiko on the second floor instead.  Going to the second floor is so nostalgic.  Well, everywhere in Chado Kaikan is nostalgic...but on the second floor I remember things like the Entrance Ceremony, receiving tea from temae-za at Seichu Enno Mugenki, and our Graduation.  Many emotions.  

Kumada-sensei and Murata-sensei were teaching this week.  It was actually the first time I have been in the chashitsu with Murata-sensei since I came back to Japan.  I still get very nervous when he is teaching me!  Some things don't change.  Class started with Markku doing Shozumi.  I was first guest and was having trouble asking questions at appropriate times.  I get really nervous about correct timing and saying things properly in Japanese with the result that I end up not saying anything at all.  It's something I still need to work on.  After this rather nerve-wracking experience I did kasane jawan, which I honestly did not remember as well as I hoped.  It was also my first time doing koicha in Ro season, which really shouldn't be an issue at this point but I was so nervous about making a mistake that I kept second guessing everything I was doing.  It didn't help that I Markku was my first guest and asked about every piece of dogu :P  Yes, yes, I know.  I should know how to handle this.  It is part of the training.  I'm working on it. 

As a side-note, the sweets this week were beautiful!  Apparently, when Murata-sensei teaches he always brings sweets from Juko, which is a sweet shop on Omiya very close to me.  I pass it all the time but have never gone in, it is on my To Do List.  This week was kinton!  It was brown with a light white dusting on top, and shiro-an in the middle.  The name was hatsu-yuki.  It was a little ironic since the day was rather warm and we had a beautiful view of the red leaves from the second floor window, but I thought they were beautiful. 

This week is the Midorikai Christmas Chakai and I am super-excited!  I get to be a guest and I cannot wait to see what this year's group has done.  I know it will be wonderful :) 

Final Note:  The incense shop Yamada-Matsu has an amazing English website.  I had no idea.  Check it out:  http://www.yamadamatsu.co.jp/en/index.html
Gion Matsuri - Kikusui Boko Chaseki
Back in Kyoto, I started back to work in tea about a week after I arrived.  I arrived in Kyoto on July 5th with no place to live and no plans, and on the 14th I was helping out at the Kikusui Boko Chaseki with Matsumoto-sensei’s group.  Kyoto in July is brutal.  I arrived to help out at the chaseki in a packed room on a hot july day wearing the requisite yukata and immediately headed to the back to get into the flow of handing out tea.  It was chaotic.  There were lots of “ohisashiburi!”s in the midst of rushing back and forth passing out tea to guests.  Suddenly, and unexpectedly, I was asked to do temae.  It wasn’t planned, but since they asked I did it.  While I was doing temae all I could hear were the “click click click” sounds of a camera shutter, only to find out afterwards there was a photographer from Kyoto Shinbun.  No pictures ended up in the newspaper though...which is probably a good thing since I was probably totally red from the heat! 
That night I remember walking most of the way home (I didn’t want to take a bus or subway because it was so crowded) and remembering how hot Kyoto was even at night.  I do love that feeling after a big tea event though.  Totally exhausted, but satisfied. 
International Chakai
In October I took part in the International Chakai for the second time, and remembered what it was like to be a hanto again (it was in English though, no problem).  The first time I took part in the International Chakai I was a Midorikai student and my role that day was leading guests from the machiai into the tea room.  I remember very clearly that I was happy to be in the Ryurei seki because the mizuya on that side was so much larger and the windows could be opened to let air in.  This year I was not so lucky, being on the Shinka side where the mizuya was small and narrow with so many people inside.  It was great fun that day though, two other former Midorikai graduates were there, as well as Lani, who was my kohai in Midorikai but is now a Gakuen student.  In Shinka I was hanto twice and did temae once.  When it comes to being hanto, sometimes it is easier in Japanese, and sometimes easier in English.  Conversationally English is much easier for me (obviously), but sometimes when it comes to giving explanations about dogu I get tripped up in trying to translate everything. 
Shokubutsuen Daichanoyu
In the beginning of November I was able to work with Midorikai and ICI students once again for the Daichanoyu at the Shokubutsuen.  Unfortunately, even though it was a national holiday, I still had class that day so I could only participate in the morning.  I was first up for hanto duty (Japanese this time) and got very nervous about it!  At the very last minute Hamana-sensei said “should we do it together?” and I was so relieved I almost cried.  Haha!  Ok, that is a little dramatic, but I was extremely relieved.  In the beginning I kind of froze, but Hamana-sensei, being amazing, was very good about turning the event into a casual exchange and started asking questions about Midorikai life, ICI, etc.  I wish I could have stayed longer that day, but as it was I just had time to run back home and change before running off to class.  Such is my strange double-life. 
On November 19th I was lucky enough to attend Sotan-ki for the second time.  The first time I attended as a Midorikai student, but this time I was able to join Glenn-sensei and the Boston group who had come to visit Kyoto for a week.  I was so happy to see Glenn-sensei and the Boston group and be able to share this day with them.  It was so fun!  The Boston group was together with Christy-sensei’s group from San Francisco, and along with Markku we had a fun International bunch.  First, in Totsutotsusai the Sensei’s were able to enter the koicha seki and drink Iemoto-sama’s koicha.  The tea in this seki was from Ippoudou, maybe Unmon no Mukashi?  Afterward we were taken to the Honseki where Makiko-sama did temae.  The scroll in this seki was “Zui-in” signed by Seichu (Gengensai).  In the honseki we got to eat the ginan mochi, which was soft and delicious! 
At the seki in Gakuen I saw Nozomi and afterwards was able to talk to her for a minute.  I am always happy to see friends in the tea room!  The gakuensei were working so hard, they looked wonderful as always.  I felt very bad for the boys though, who were mostly on outside duty, arranging geta and passing out umbrellas and the like.  It was pouring rain all day and even in the morning you could see the bottom of their hakama and their tabi were soaked.  :( 
The last seki was in Chaken, by the Tankokai groups.  The scroll in this seki described the colors of the leaves on the faraway mountain looking like flowers.  It was in this seki that I saw Matsuyama-sensei, Matsomoto-sensei’s older sister, and she was actually the one to serve me tea!  I also ran into Lani at this time and got to sit next to her during this seki, since she was there with the Ichi-nen-course class.  All day I kept thinking about people, people I have met through tea, people I didn’t know, who they are, why we are all dedicated to this life.  We come from all over the world and gathered in that one place on that one day and all had the same purpose.  Fascinating.
After Midorikai ended for me in July 2010, I returned to the states in August, spent some time back in Boston before moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan to start a graduate program in Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan.  I was fortunate enough to find a teacher and a group to practice with in Michigan, taught by Nabeta Soyu-sensei.  Being in her keikoba was a wonderful experience that I did not expect to find after Kyoto.  After Midorikai, suddenly moving to a new area so far from my previous life in Boston was difficult, but I tried to focus on those things I was most interested in:  re-learning Japanese language, beginning Chinese, and researching early tea history.  My time at Michigan was a completely different learning experience all together, as I was returning to school after working for four years plus one year in Midorikai. 
It was hard not to be in a tea room every day.  I missed that.  I realized how much more difficult life is when there is no furo, no ro, when you can’t walk down the street to buy whatever kind of tea or sweets you want.  It also made me appreciate those teachers and students who are living outside Japan; their dedication and creativity are amazing.  Since I was studying Japanese studies, I had lots of opportunities to make tea for classmates who were curious about the tea thing I kept babbling about (I babble about tea a lot).  I have many, many good memories of carrying around my chabako during the last year and making tea for friends.  I think that chabako was the best investment I made during my time in Midorikai, and I had plenty of time to practice temae (especially yuki) while looking out my snowy window in Michigan. 
The other great thing about Michigan was the library.  Michigan has an amazing Asian Studies library, which meant that I generally spent one year curled up in my apartment drinking tea and reading books about tea.  If I hadn’t had to turn in papers and get grades for them, it would have been an amazingly relaxing year :)  After listening to Tanihata-sensei’s lectures on tea history in Midorikai, I knew that I wanted to study more about this topic and used most of my time to do this...probably more time was spent on reading books on tea history than preparing for my actual classes.  But you know, whatever is going to be valuable in the long run, right?  At least I passed those classes!  Needless to say, a good deal of my degree was based on Independent Research, focusing on the tea practiced by Oda Nobunaga, as well as his interest in the collection of meibutsu dogu.  During the summer I was able to continue this research at the Chado Bunko library in Urasenke Center to complete my last credit for Michigan.
Originally I had planned to complete both my MA in Japanese Studies and my MBA at Michigan, but for various reasons realized that I wanted a change.  As of September I switched gears and began life as an MBA student at Doshisha University in Kyoto.  Also in September I began studying with the ICI group (International Chado Institute), which is a group for international students that is taught by Kokusaibu teachers and meets on Saturday. 
Every time I come back to Japan my life is different, and this experience has been no exception.  I am no longer a Midorikai student, which in some ways has been very freeing.  I cannot learn at the same pace, but that is probably good for my stress level right now.  One extremely positive aspect of my life this time is that I have been able to re-connect with Matsumoto-sensei, my very first teacher who instructed me when I was a student in AKP (now 8 years ago).  I have had a few chances to sit in on her classes since I have been back, and getting to connect with her and her students is really wonderful.  Many of them have known me since I first started studying tea when I was 19, couldn’t speak Japanese, and cried when I didn’t understand how to do temae.  It shocks me to think that I have had friends in Japan this long, and that I have had tea friends this long.  Time goes by so quickly. 
Both in the States and in Kyoto I had opportunities to participate in a number of demonstrations.  In the States I helped out both in Michigan and Boston (when I could get back).  Also, this past Christmas I flew to Finland to spend the holidays with Mecca :)  She is still one of my closest friends and we continue to talk on a weekly basis.  I am hoping that she will also come back to Japan soon so we can study together again.  The relationships that were formed in Midorikai are so strong, more than I ever expected.  My “tea family” is still very important to me, and I feel so lucky to have these people in my life.
When I started writing this blog, just a little over two years ago now, I had no idea what I would end up writing about or what purpose it would serve.  I wasn’t particularly writing for anyone else, I mainly wanted a record for myself to remember the amazing year I spent in Midorikai.  Recently I thought it would be nice to continue writing about my experiences with tea, and last weekend several chance encounters with individuals who had never met me but knew my blog made me realize that other people actually have read what I have written. 
Actually, that knowledge scares me a little.  When I wrote my blog, in addition to being able to recording events for the future, it was also a very therapeutic way of dealing with the mental challenges of Midorikai life.  For me, writing down what happened: my progress and my failures, my challenges with classmates and teachers, my health issues, became a way for me to step outside of myself and refocus to look at the bigger picture.  Every day was a new challenge, and I did not always succeed. 
Sometimes when I look back at what I wrote of course I am embarrassed at my behavior in certain situations or towards certain people.  I am also shocked to realize how little I knew when I first entered the program, despite the fact that I thought I was well-prepared when I arrived.  Foolish pride.  It is an excellent reminder that we study chado, The Way of Tea, that this is a path that we always continue to walk on.  Midorikai taught me so much about myself as a person, and I can definitively say that the experience changed me.
So, now you have read about my one year in Midorikai. I have debated about posting everything up until I leave Japan, but I cannot. It took me this long just to write about graduation because it has been such an emotional process, and everything since then has been equally dramatic and emotional and crazy. It is hard to be in this life and suddenly finish, and watch your classmates pick up where you left off with studies and friends and life, and realize that you are not a part of that anymore. I am still here for one more week, and I just need to go. As much as I love chado and as much as I love Kyoto, I just need to go.

I just got back from a lovely trip to Tokyo where I got to meet up with some old friends, hang out with Genzyme people, and take some side trips to Kamakura and Nikko. Nikko is fantastic. I must go there again. During this short time I missed tea terribly, and have just returned home to make a bowl of Koyama-en shincha using Naishi no ki Jinja water and Ben's Ido-gata bowl. It tasted so good.

For the last week I have some errands to take care of, packing to do, and I will spend my last few days in Japan in the care of my host family...sleeping a lot and being fed.

I think I need a quiet room to process everything that happened in the last year. Maybe for a month.
July 6th:

Japanese history in the morning, focusing on Edo culture. Ah Edo culture, one of my favorite topics in Japanese history. We mentioned Ii Naosuke again and once again I wondered if this person should be a topic of further research for me. He seems completely fascinating. I keep telling myself I should focus on Muromachi jidai, but my mind keeps bringing me back to Edo. I love Edo jidai. Gah.

As I was walking to lunch one of the Gakuen sensei complimented my kimono and said that my style was “iki.” Keeping with the Edo theme, this word is an aesthetic concept originated in the Edo time period and it is my favorite word ever. Look, it even has its own wiki page! Finally, I am IKI! YES! Life goal complete.

Temae today was yojohan kagetsu and koichatsukikagetsu. Before class I kept thinking about yojohan kagetsu and how we would move in that space, it was fun.

Generally stand with the right foot, except when standing back into your space at the end
No moving back into position at the end, with the exception of the shokyaku (original tsuki)
If you end up with the wrong sensu, switch in the mizuya afterwards
When hana, three steps in the kayoidatami. R L R L(step over) move up with R
When you finish hana sit as far back as possible to give the next hana space to move

Today was our last class with Imagawa-sensei! Who knew!

I am still stressed and ended up crying on the phone to Yuichi for about an hour tonight. I feel completely drained, physically and emotionally. It is time for a vacation.

July 7th:

Hamana-sensei lecture in the morning, followed by Furiya-sensei, which ended up being a really strange TV show (historical drama type) of tea betting games during Muromachi times. Really odd. For Jitsugi we had shikishidate with haiken, and I was supposed to go third, but couldn’t deal with the stress and various comments from classmates, and ended up switching to be last and subsequently not having time to do temae myself.

Evening toban tatami, we didn’t have to prepare haigata but Talon was there fixing the karakane buro for Friday. I remember Goto-sensei coming in and making sure he wasn’t actually doing haigata in the mizuya and thinking how perfectly like him that was. How perfectly like both of them actually. Haha!

July 8th:

Japanese Art History in the morning with Swanson-sensei covering Kano school paintings, which I thought was a fantastic way to end the semester. Mecca was able to chat with her a bit after class, which was good considering their shared interests :)

No jitsugi in the afternoon, instead we went to Bunkyo High School to help teach about tea to the high school students there, which happens to be Makiko-sama’s alma mater. The high school has a copy of Yuin on the grounds, and after our initial aisatsu we were taken there and served tea by the students. Izumimoto-sensei was there with us, and it was fun to watch him balance making sure everyone was enjoying tea, but teaching them a lesson at the same time.

After we were served tea we were taken into a large lecture hall, and we did our self-introductions and had a Q&A period with the students. I felt like I was in JET again, and it was frightening how quickly I reverted back to the English teacher persona. I suppose it was ingrained in me somewhere, for better or worse.

Once “gaijin show and tell” was over we choose groups to sit with and practice Chitosebon. I picked the trouble making table, naturally. It was a table of three girls, and two of them had said “I like hip-hop” when asked to do their self-introduction. You can imagine how much interest they had in tea ;) Nevertheless, we had fun, and the third girl in the group seemed to be very interested in her temae and made very delicious tea, so we had a good time. There were a lot of the standard questions about “what kind of food do you like?” “why do you like Japan?” and at one point Izumimoto-sensei came over and lectured them about focusing on the temae and how temae can carry over into every aspect of life, and began discussing things like attention to detail. I think the student were a little overwhelmed, and at one point he just stopped and said “it might be a little too difficult for them now hmm?” It was a nice moment, and a good lesson for me as well as them. At the end the standard pictures were taken and then we went to return home.

When we were getting ready to leave I found the two girls chasing after me and saying “What is your name???” and I got to explain the difference between Cone and Corn again. Hahaha! Memories...

Good day.

That night I was scheduled to do Nishi, but asked Mai-chan to take over for me so that I could be at Chado Kaikan with Mecca and Hamana-sensei for practice for Mecca’s chaji. I can’t get over how pleasant the atmosphere in Chado Kaikan is, and how comfortable I feel every time I enter that place. The practice went very smoothly, and it was really fun to see the dogu that Mecca was choosing to use. She is an artist, and she loves colors, and she and good taste. It has been such a pleasure to watch her progress this year. I love it. She is a great friend and I don’t know what I would have done without her this year.

July 9th:

Barely dragged myself out of bed this morning and ended up being late for class because I just could not get ready. I don’t think that has happened all year. I feel terrible. I’ve lost about 5 kilos, my stomach feels like I am getting an ulcer again, I am getting dizzy spells a few times a day, and I start crying every five minutes. It’s as if I have completely lost the ability to control myself, my thoughts or my actions. At this point I realize I need to get out of here, soon. I need a break. I need time to process everything that has been shoved into my brain in the last year.

Gary-sensei lecture in the morning on different fabric types, followed by our final lecture with Tanihata-sensei. Both were interesting, but I could barely keep my head up. My toban was hana, but I ended up asking Jin-chan and Wendy to help me because I lacked the mental capacity to do it myself. At one point I saw Goto-san in the hallway and I must have had a strange look on my face because he asked me if I was tired, I said “chotto” but he patted my arm and laughed and said I looked more than a little tired. That’s probably true. I feel like a zombie.

Temae today was kasane jawan, Murata-sensei was teaching us. Strangely, I feel most comfortable with him at this point out of all of our sensei’s. Funny how things come full circle like that. Don’t get me wrong, I still fight with him all the time, but we seem to have come to some sort of understanding...I should probably keep my mouth shut sometimes though. Ah well. Lately when I am in the chashitsu I am fighting back the urge to run and hide because I just want to get away from some of my classmates, especially when they do things like intentionally sit too close to me because they know it triggers my anxiety. The stress is literally overwhelming. However, it has been a good exercise to practice zazen breathing techniques, which I have been doing a great deal lately.

When it came time for me to do temae I just kept thinking about breathing, and the fact that I have so little time left in the chashitsu here. I was thinking about every piece of dogu as I purified each item, placed it down, prepared tea, re-filled the mizusashi. My temae was good today. It felt good. After class Murata-sensei said “Did something happen to you? Your temae was really good today. That’s rare.” My response was to start yelling and ask why he couldn’t just say something nice?! WHY?! I nearly whacked him with my furoshiki.

After class I ate dinner without speaking, came back to my room and have been sitting in the dark watching TV. I don’t know what else to do at this point. I feel completely and utterly defeated.

July 10th:

Starting from this point, I couldn’t write anymore up until graduation. I have been completely emotionally drained. I hope that I am up to the task now.

Went out with Mecca in the morning, got my last haircut in Japan, and the barber gave me a silk furoshiki as a farewell gift! Wow! I was thinking of going to Shijo with her, but I really needed a haircut. After that I went to make a dentist appointment, and then I stopped by Tankosha and finally got myself a black raku chawan and shin nuri natsume. Critical items. We had asked the kohai to take care of the mizuyamimai, and Sylvain had already purchased the gift, since Mecca was working on the chaji and I was assisting her.

July 11th:

Hamana-sensei’s chaji for graduating students! I can’t believe this day has already arrived. In the morning I wake up and get dressed thinking about the fact that it wasn’t so long ago I went along with my sempai for their farewell chaji. I received a phone call from Hamana-sensei telling up not to arrive as early as we had planned, and so I ran up and down the hall knocking on everyone’s doors once again. I think I put everyone in a panic, but this time I was just telling people they had an extra 20 minutes...that’s a good thing!

The weather was overcast when we left, but it wasn’t raining...until we were about 100 meters from Hamana-sensei’s home. Then all of a sudden it started pouring rain! POURING. Mrs. Hamana came out and hurried us all inside so we didn’t get soaked, it was quite an adventure :) I found myself in the machiai, staring at a mounted fan with writing by Daisosho talking about duration and harmony. We all bustled to get seated, and then Mrs. Hamana came in with the basket of shibori for us to use in place of the tsukubai. We passed it, and moved upstairs, proceeded into the tearoom which had been set up in morokazari. The jiku was also by Daisosho, and the flowers were in a Chinese style basket, Rose of Sharon and sususki at the center and several other flowers surrounding. Mecca and I had a moment looking at this, because he had advised her to use the same type of basket AND the same flowers for her chaji the following day! Oh no!

He began with shozumi, and we could hear the rain pouring down outside the whole time. It was extremely pleasant to be tucked away inside watching the sumidemae while thinking about the gloomy weather outside.

After shozumi he brought in the sweets, which were clamshells! Clamshells! They were brought in an open weave basket lined with leaves, and very artfully arranged. It was very beautiful. Inside the shell was kanten with Daitokuji natto, and we could eat the sweet with the top half of the shell. Everyone enjoyed it very much, and we all love Daitokuji natto, but once again...Mecca and I had a moment. He was using the same sweets! Gah! Ah well...the ones we made would just have to taste better.

The koicha was really excellent, the first bowl was similar to Iraho which I loved! The tea was a tad thick...but Sylvain was the first guest and he likes his koicha thick! Sensei once again used the snow white kobukusa from Glenn-sensei, and Talon and I both smiled when we saw it. At the end of koicha, when Hamana-sensei was bringing out the kensui, I told the kohai the story of Johnny fighting with Glenn-sensei about whether the image on the kobukusa was a goat or a lamb. I love that story :)

For usucha, sensei had brought out different bowls for each of us. A Shonzui for Sylvain, a 16th century (we think?) SE Asian bowl for me, Elena’s Uzbekistan bowl for Anna, an Ed Higa bowl for Talon, and a Fin bowl for the Fin :) The amount of thought that he put into his toriawase was really touching. Hamana-sensei is really a fantastic person. Always.

It was a good day. At by the end we came to the realization that things were coming to an end for us, and when the time for the final aisatsu came we tried to hold back the tears and...it didn’t happen. I can’t help it! I cry! ALL THE TIME! Ugh. Good tears. It was good tears.

After our final farewell and walk back home, Mecca and I had to immediately change, eat food and go out again since we had to go to Chado Kaikan to set up for her chaji! Unfortunately, right as we left with the boxes the rain started coming down again and we were completely soaked by the time we got there. It was especially awesome because there was some kind of barbeque going on and ALL of the mizuya were there. Standing there. Watching us. Dripping wet. Looking like drowned mammals of an unattractive sort. We dropped off the boxes at Kaikan and then went to the Center to meet sensei and pick up the rest of the items. It was fun to sit there in the empty Center dripping wet and wondering how we got into this situations.

We got to talk to Hamana-sensei again while we set up and Mecca did haigata and consulted sensei about flower ideas while I sat in the mizuya and did my organizing thing. We all had a nice time, and Hamana-sensei made some bad comments about Kazuo...and Murata-sensei! BAD HAMANA-SENSEI! *sigh* Such is the world I live in here.

After we left kaikan, we went in search of flowers, Mecca couldn’t find what she was looking for so we gave up and went to have ramen for dinner. After that, we went back to the dorm and started making the sweets. While we waited for them to set we were watching Family Guy and I just about passed out on the bed, while watching Mecca start to poke at the kanten with the natto. It was a funny image, but at the time I was really tired and just wanted to sleep.

July 12th:

Chaji day! Since we had made the sweets the night before we didn’t have to wake up all that early! There were some things to carry over in the morning, and we had to pick up the dogu from Gakuen, so we headed over...and once again...it started POURING RAIN as soon as we left. Oh my god. What the hell. I was carrying the box and Mecca was trying to carry two umbrellas, and we were both desperately trying not to get our obi wet...it was insane. We were half soaked by the time we got to Gakuen and the gakuensei all stared at us like we were demons. It was awesome. Kazuo was chief this week, of course he would be chief on my last week at Urasenke, so we got to deal with him in getting the dogu together. When we got the hiire, it was still filled with hai and we had to ask him to take it out before we could accept it. When he brought it back I slipped into “leader” mode and said thank you it looks good, and he just looked at me. I am so used to having to be the one to talk for people, sometimes I forget that I need to shut up. I looked at Mecca and told her that she needs to be the one to say it, at which point Kazuo said “ah, we had a physic moment!” and I just rolled my eyes. That boy.

So we picked up the Gakuen dogu, and moved along to kaikan. I started unpacking and setting up and Mecca went out in search of flowers. Things moved pretty quickly from that point. Cleaning and setting up mizuya, classmates coming to clean tearoom and garden (the rain stopped at that point...naturally), setting up machiai. After everyone left we started eating lunch, and we ate all of the sandwiches and didn’t leave any for Murachi. Poor Murachi. It’s his fault for being late all the time :) He finally showed up a little after noon and we planned out the schedule for the fire, hiire and mizumaki. Embarrassing to say, but today was my first (and last) time doing mizumaki the entire year. Talon always did it! Always! I’m a terrible person.

So, I suck at hiire, and Murachi gave me a bad time. Who saw that coming? :( Jerk. It’s not my fault! I need to do these things 8,000 times before I have any semblance of competence. Before we knew it, we were finishing mizumaki and everyone was inside, we started the fire and started preparing the kumidashi I didn’t have time to change my tabi! Ah well. I served the kumidashi, went back out, brought the fire into the tearoom, and had a moment where I realized I was feeling very out of sorts. All day I felt really out of sorts. As if I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. It was odd. But sumidemae was prepared, and then we brought back the sweets and started cutting and preparing for the end of koicha. The whole time in the mizuya we were rushing to keep up since Mecca keeps a pretty good pace with her temae. I was in such a rush I kept forgetting things all over the place, and in the end I didn’t make a very good hanto.

When I brought in the third koicha bowl I realized I hadn’t even put in my fukusa! What the hell! I am not sure if anyone noticed though. Things progressed very smoothly, the nakadachi went fast, I cleaned while Mecca and Hamana-sensei worked on flowers, there were no problems. Murata-sensei helped me work on the hiire again before usucha, and I was kind of entranced watching him do it. I wish I could be that good at something. Jerk. Usucha was smooth, there weren’t any major issues with serving the tea until three kohai came back to help serve during the second round. Come on. That is just unnecessary. Get out of the mizuya! GET OUT! Towards the end Murata-sensei and I were sitting in the back cleaning and I had this moment of, oh shit, aren’t I supposed to be doing something!? And I mentioned this to him and we both ran outside to go do mizumaki. While I was outside I could hear everyone doing their final aisatsu and crying, and at that point I was very happy not to be in the chashitsu. I would be crying too. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

It was a good day. Even if I forgot a lot it was a good day. Mecca was wonderful, the guests were happy, I got to fight with Murachi all day...there is no downside here.

July 13th:

In the middle of all of these chaji, we almost forgot that we still had a couple days of school to finish up before the end of the year. Who knew? In the morning we had our final seasonal lecture with Hamana-sensei, which finished up the month of July and went through the highlights of August. These were hands down my favorite lectures of the year. Close second was every lecture by Tanihata-sensei.

After this we headed to the Center to finish the rounds on the Gengensai exhibit, and I was mostly too tired to keep standing the whole time, and kept looking for places to sit down. It isn’t that I don’t like the museum lectures, because I love museums...for whatever reason I cannot stand in one place for extended periods of time. Don’t ask, I don’t know.

For jitsugi I was able to do shozumi for our last class in Gakuen, and I was really happy to be able to do it. In addition, we were using the karakane buro and it was my first time. Words cannot express how much I will miss sumi and all things associated with it. There was time for all of us to do temae, so I was able to do usucha as well. We used a Hounsai konomi tana that was somewhat similar to the tabidansu, but smaller. I already packed all of my books or I would write down the name of it. As I picked up every piece of dogu I just kept thinking how familiar all of the pieces in Gakuen had become to us, and how sad that we won’t be seeing them again. We were in 1 and 2 no ma, and I stayed behind for the check at the end of the day. Kazuo was chief and might have been trying to talk to me, knowing it was the last time I would talk to him. He kept asking about the tana we had used and things like that. I don’t know, its not the first time I have gotten these questions from the Chiefs. Strangely, I think I will miss Kazuo. Even after the check was over I just kept staring at the mizuya for a long time, and Nozomi came in and I mentioned it was our last class in Gakuen and told her that I think I like the mizuya even more than the chashitsu. I think that’s true, and that’s probably a very strange thing to say. Everything is just so perfectly organized.

Mai-chan and I went to put everything away on the second floor, only to realize that we had class in Chaken the next day, and it made more sense to bring everything with us. Figures :P

July 14th:

The day did not start well. It was our last jitsugi, and I was really hoping that everything would go smoothly. Preferably, the sempai would be able to sit back and let the kohai take over since they will now be transitioning into the sempai role. Unfortunately, all of our kohai were nearly an hour late, and arrived downstairs roughly 30 minutes before class...which is less time than they would give if we were at Gakuen where everything is already prepared, let alone Chaken where things tend to be a little messy. Between this and there being confusion over the reservation and Ueda-san refusing to speak to us until I had Kokusaibu call her, I was FURIOUS by the time they came downstairs. I yelled. The really unfortunate thing is that one of them started yelling back...and another gave the excuse that they had been up all night drinking. A sense of personal responsibility is seriously lacking here, and it was so frustrating. All I could think is “what did I do wrong? how could I have taught them better?” and ended up crying in a corner for a while before class started.

Talon and Mereca were also late (both overslept), which did not help matters at all. Talon was also completely dripping wet when he arrived and had to change into a kimono from dogubeya that barely reached his knees. So many things went wrong that morning it was almost comical. Class started with the three students from Vietnam receiving their kyojo, and that is always nice to watch.

Afterwards our class went up to the yojohan and Hamana-sensei had us put screens around the room to give us privacy. Mereca was up first with koicha, and I was her guest and had a hard time holding back tears when the tea bowl was put out. The koicha was fantastic. Anna did usucha, Sylvain did gozumi, I did koicha for Mereca, and finally Talon made usucha that I got to drink. It was a very emotional class, and at the end when Hamana-sensei was talking to us we all broke down. I’m not sure if I broke down because I was so sad that it was all over, relief that it was all over, exhaustion, or all of the above. Probably all of the above.

We cleaned up after class and the kohai left early, which did not endear them to be after being late in the morning. Seriously people. Sense of responsibility. Working in a group. Thinking about your classmates who are emotionally vulnerable and leaving. It was very disappointing. I feel that I have failed in teaching these lessons.

Osoji in the afternoon, same as always. Mecca and I got to be floor buddies for the last time and ran down the hallways with the big brooms. I had to remind the kohai to take everything out of the cupboards and refrigerator and let them know that I would not be responsible for it. Officially retired.

We finished cleaning, changed quickly and then had rehersal for the graduation ceremony the following day. Pretty standard, practiced bowing a lot. It was funny to think that we would be sitting in the front row. Weeeeiiird. Following this I went out for a dentist appointment, because who doesn’t like clean white teeth? I like clean white teeth. Evening in my room, and I talked to Mecca for a while and we decided to go to school early the next day.

July 15th:

Woke up early and donned the kimono for the last time. Mecca and I left early by ourselves to enjoy the walk down Ogawa for the last time. We were a bit earlier than we needed to be, and so we stopped at the temple to look at the ajisai before we went to Chado Kaikan. As we walked in we noticed Kei walking down the path. Perfect. Oh Kei, what would this year have been without him? As we were sitting there talking something fluttered to the ground. I stopped to pick it up, and Kei asked me to stick it back on. When I looked at it closely, I realized it was a mon. The kid was wearing a stick-on mon. Oh good lord, Kei is never boring. I will miss him.

We walked over to Chado Kaikan, and I went to take my seat. The Ichinen Course girls were already there, and I sat for a long time talking to Wada-san. I haven’t had too many chances to talk to her this semester, but it has been nice having another Boston person here and I was really happy to get to know her. As we were sitting there we realized that everyone filing in was sitting around the edges of the room and it made us feel a little awkward. Why are people so afraid of the middle? I eventually walked over to Hamana-sensei and asked him what was up, only to be told to go to my seat about 2 minutes later. That sounds about right.

The ceremony itself was as you would expect. Short, formal, lots of bowing. Since us and the Kenkyuka students were the only ones graduating, there were no formalities when we left. At the end of the ceremony all of the other students filed out without a word. It was at that point that I started crying. I just looked back and saw all of the Gakuensei leaving and realized I would never speak to or see most of them again, and it was very sad. We immediately took pictures with Iemoto-sama and Oku-sama, while trying not to cry, and then we headed downstairs to Shinka to have a teicha done by one of the Gyotei sensei. Since we had just been in Shinka for Mecca’s chaji a few days ago, the memories were still fresh in our mind and we were all still emotional as we entered the chashitsu. Actually, I couldn’t stop crying for a long time, but kept thinking this was my last tea in Chado Kaikan and I damn well better enjoy it!

Following tea, we walked around to aisatsu at the standard locations. When we went to Gakuen some of the Gakuensei were there waiting to aisatsu as well, and I just remember Ihara-san smacking Kei for waving at Wendy, and me telling Wendy to stop waving at Kei because she was getting him in trouble. I’m going to miss Kei and his full-body wave. I hope the Gakuensei ease off of him a little, he is truly a nice person. We went all over to aisatsu, and then finally to the Rikyu Onsodo to pay our respects to Rikyu and let him know that we had completed our one year of training.

Finally, we had a little time. I went back and took off my kimono, changed and headed to Shokudo for my last meal, as it were. It was udon day too! I even started crying in Shokudo, that’s how bad I was that day. I mean really. Nozomi, Mari and Shiori came in and we ate with all of them as well and everyone started talking about their summer vacation plans. It was just starting to hit me that it was really all over.

We took a little break in the afternoon and had some naptime before getting ready for dinner. Once again, I was a little frustrated that the kohai hadn’t taken the initiative and made taxi reservations since it was raining and I had no intention of walking around looking for a cab in heels and a silk skirt. Also frustrated because none of them had spoken to me since the incident the previous morning. Very disappointing.

At this point I felt completely exhausted, physically, emotionally, and everything else. Then we walked into dinner and I found out that I was seated between three men from the office, Poland and France. I almost cried. I really almost cried. For a while I kind of sat there in a daze not sure of what to do and not having the energy to make small talk with people I didn’t really know. One of the men asked me if I spoke Japanese and half of the table immediately spoke up and told them that I speak a lot of Japanese, so that was nice. Once I had a little bit of food (and drink) I started to talk a bit more and things moved along fine. They were all calling me “ne-chan” by the end of the night ;) (they saw the picture of me wearing kimono with sunglasses)

Wendy presented the sempai with scrapbooks that she and the girls had made with messages from our teachers and all of the kohai and the gakuensei that we were close to, which was extremely sweet. It is a treasure. When she talked at the dinner and mentioned how I made tea when she first arrived in the dorm I was touched. It was one of my favorite memories too, I won’t forget that. When the time came for me to speak I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t know if anything I said was heard, or anything I did for them mattered and that hurts a lot. I worked hard this semester, and I did thinking how to make their lives easier when they become sempai. I yelled a lot, and I get frustrated, and emotional, and angry, but this is me. I can’t apologize for that. I hope at some point they understand that I do care about all of them, and I really have been working for them. That’s all I can do.

Otherwise the dinner was very nice. I ate a lot of steak, complained to Murata-sensei a lot, which ended with him getting me gin even though it wasn’t on the menu (isn’t he sweet? ;) had some Hamananana chatting time with Mecca, and talked to Mittwer-sensei about my interest in translating. At the end were the required 10,000 pictures, and I avoided as many of them as I could.

When we got home, Mecca, Wendy, Mai-chan and I went back to my room for a last round of drinks and chatting. It was pretty sedate compared to the drinking we have done the rest of the year, but that night it was perfect. Exactly the people I wanted to spend that evening with. At some point early in the evening we all went to sleep because there was simply nothing left to say.
Seichu Enno Mugenki. My last memorial event of the year! This one is to memorialize three previous Urasenke Iemoto: Ennosai, Gengensai and Tantansai. The weather was clear and very hot, but I honestly didn’t notice the heat so much during the day. We started the day as usual, changing our zori and leaving our bags at Urasenke Center, and then he headed straight for Chado Kaikan. We were in the waiting room downstairs for a while, and probably from lack of sleep (or food) I wasn’t feeling too well. I kept thinking I would feel better after I drank some tea.

When we went upstairs I was thinking about the faces of the Gyotei sensei, recognizing the ones who have taught our classes, the ones who I have seen in books, the ones who we have worked with at various events, and reflecting back on all of these things. Midorikai was split into two groups and I ended up sitting at the very end, which was the closest seat to the temaeza! Lucky! The okashi for this seki was himuro, and I almost got in trouble from laughing when I saw them, and looked up and saw Mecca with the same look on her face. If you are not familiar with this sweet, it is made of kuzu, an opaque gelatin-like substance, in a rounded shape and it has a pink spot on top. I have a terrible mind.

I remembered Oku-sama telling us at our last meeting that Makiko-sama would be doing temae on this day and I was really looking forward to seeing it. It felt very important to see the next generation offering tea to everyone. Throughout the temae you could almost feel her concentration, and Oku-sama as a hanto watching over her...a family moment. I was watching the temae so intently that I missed a lot of the explaination of the dogu, and was surprised to see Oku-sama walking toward me all of a sudden with a bowl of tea! Makiko-sama made three bowls of tea, two for the first two guests and one for the guest in the closest seat...which was me! And Oku-sama served it to me! I had the biggest grin on my face when the bowl was placed before me, I just looked up at Oku-sama and smiled because I was so happy. The tea was excellent, I wish I knew what tea they used in that seki because it was really very good. What an amazing experience :)

For the dogu, I don’t remember much, and as always the dogu they talked about was not the dogu that was used. The mizusashi was “diamente,” cut glass in a rectangular shape with a lid made by Tantansai. The furo was the type where the bottom had fallen out and a new on put on the bottom, and I can’t remember the name of that. The hanaire was a large gorgeous piece of bamboo that I believe had been made by Nintokusai.

I don’t remember much of the display dogu, there were three chawan. The first was a huge hira chawan where the glaze looked like it had been painted on in opposite directions. The second was a black raku, and the third a small red hand shaped bowl by Gengensai.

After the main seki I was on cloud nine thinking about the temae and the tea that I drank, and we made our way over to Konnichian. We didn’t have to wait very long, and once again we got amazing seats in the front row right behind the participants of the shaza-like temae! Lucky again! I spent a lot of time staring at the flowers on display: On the tokobashira there was an ichijugire named “mamoribukusa” by Tantansai that had a himeyuri inside it. I like this flower, and I always associate it with Mecca, probably because of the bright orange color. Next was the waniguchi, with a purple flower I didn’t know the name of. Then the sutra zutsu, with a flower I didn’t know, and a seiji on the other side of the stand with a Rose of Sharon, and one more hanaire that I didn’t catch the name of that had hangesho (half-painted) and miyakowasure (forgetting the capital). The shishi made by the third generation Raku was also on display, which was neat to see.

It was great to be able to watch the temae from such a perfect viewpoint. It was very similar to Shaza, but it started with hanayose (each guest doing a flower arrangement on the screen next to temaeza), then the teishu did oko, there was no sumi demae so next was koicha, and then usucha was kagetsu. In the end an ink tray was brought for each guest and everyone wrote a poem about the flower that was selected for their particular flower arrangement, and then each were read aloud. The whole procedure was beautiful to watch, and Oiemoto-sama seemed to enjoy himself a lot :) My favorite part was when Daisosho walked in after the temae had started. His presence is amazing. He just slipped into his place, seemingly from out of nowhere, and when I looked around the room everyone just started smiling. He has that effect on people, you really can’t help but smile when Daisosho is in the room.

When the temae was over we were able to speak with Daisosho briefly and for our class we said our final aisatsu to him, since he would be leaving for Hawaii within the next few days and we won’t see him again before graduation. I’ve been so lucky to have so many opportunities to see him this year, and I will miss his presence greatly. He is truly an inspiring person.

There was no opportunity for us to see the dogu in Konnichian, and from here we took the bus to Kenshu Kaikan. The sweets here were brought out in cut glass containers very similar to the mizusashi in the honseki, and I didn’t hear the name but I believe they were from Tsuruya. The tea was Chukyu no Shiro from Tsujiri. The mizusahi was a tsurube, but ameyu, and gold lacquered on the inside. It was huge and kind of amazing. It looked massive next to the furo, which was a six-sided little thing. I didn’t get a close look at the haiken dogu in this seki because there were simply too many people. Some people get really scary about crowding around the dogu, and while I find myself wanting to see it, I just can’t make myself appreciate things in that environment. I’m stubborn.

Tenshin was somen and inarizushi, the first thing I ate all day. Although it was only about noon at this point, I was very tired!

Finally, we headed back to gakuen for the last seki. I always like to walk into Gakuen and see everything transformed. Nagayama-san brought sweets in our section, and she hesitated for a moment trying to figure out the number of guests and how far down she should place the bowl. I ALWAYS have that problem! The sweet was another kuzu, which was slightly blue, and resembled a big piece of ice. The mizusashi was red, and the furokama was arare in a natsume shape, in a doburo with no mentori. Take hanaire with a natsutsubaki hana, and the jiku was Wa Kei Sei Jaku by Ennosai that had several stamps imprinted at the bottom.

Mostly in this temae I remember watching people’s faces. Goto-san, Kitazume-san, Nagayama-san, Muranaka-san, Shiokawa-san, Nozomi and a couple of first year students were working the hakobi and I was mostly watching them move and thinking about how I will miss seeing all of them on a daily basis. I’m already getting too nostalgic about this.

So, that was the day! It was a fantastic day! Since then I have been tired and crawling around trying to be productive and mostly failing. I need to iron and then I will pass out, and hopefully I will actually sleep tonight.