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.