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July 1st:

Walked to Daitokuji to see the copy of Taian in the morning. We got to be in Western clothes in the morning, which was nice, but I did feel a little our of place without my kimono. The Osho of the subtemple was a very interesting man, who said nothing in this world belongs to you except your spirit. You are always dependant on other people throughout your life, even your body is not your own. Take care. He also lectured us in breathing techniques and advised us to “breathe the free air.” I enjoyed his lecture and the opportunity to practice zazen there. We were also served tea and sweets made with Daitokuji natto before going to zee the copy of Taian. I think I almost like it better with the black walls.

Once we returned we changed into kimono, ate lunch, and prepared for temae (daisu). I did shozumi and usucha, and kind of got in a fight with Murata-sensei because I get confused about how to hold the hibashi. After class I saw Ihara-san taking our furo from the 3rd floor and scared him by talking in English and telling him to leave our furo alone. Poor boy. Finished my last money toban and got my last scholarship. When that was finished I went to the office and gave Murachi the money and apologized for not behaving in class. Then went home, changed, sat at dinner for a long time and got berated by Mai-chan for not calling her a “lamb,” and then talked to Kazuo for a while about why he is strange. After haigata and shower, went for drinks at Alcove with Yuichi, Mecca and Wendy where we started making bad jokes about hard kompeito and soft wet omogashi. Wendy didn’t get it. Adorable.

July 2nd:

Zen in the morning, our last class with Matsunami-sensei. I practiced my breathing quite a bit more than usual today. Zazen is one of those things I need more practice with, it is so difficult to stop the thinking process. It is one of the things I want to get better at, hopefully I will continue to practice when I return home.

Class ended early as usual, and I went to the library to read until lunch. I was enjoying wearing my black striped ro kimono, which reminds me of wearing a pinstripe suit in kimono form. Haha! All day long I was thinking about summer weight kimono and how interesting they are. Basically, I am still wearing three layers of clothing, but they are three transparent layers so everything is visible at all times. It’s light, but I am still wearing three layers of clothes. I’ve gotten used to wearing kimono at this point, sometimes I feel more comfortable all wrapped up. How interesting.

Third floor in the afternoon, 1B class doing Konarai D temae (nagao, tsutsumibukusa and otsubukuro). Mecca practiced shozumi as well to get extra review before her chaji. Imagawa-sensei had been showing the class how to hold the fukusa and fold it properly when you remove it from the natsume, and as usual I had trouble. It made me a little frustrated, and it showed when I was doing my otsubukuro temae. Sometimes my mind just goes blank and I cannot remember what to do, and I wonder why I don’t know things already. At this point it should not be so difficult for me. After my temae I spent a bit of extra time in the mizuya re-practicing the handling of the otsubukuro and the fukusa for tsutsumibukusa until I was satisfied. I am a very stubborn person, but I did feel better once I felt that i grasped what sensei had been teaching.

After class shower and dinner, and then watching soccer in the evening. 11 PM Brazil v. Netherlands (shocking!) then I went to sleep for a bit, woke up at 3:30 AM, and went back to Jin’s room to watch Uruguay v. Ghana. The other girls had stayed in the room the whole time talking, and for a while I was tired and cranky. The game ended just after 6 AM, and Jin and Stella had to be up early to help with Talon’s chaji, so they ended up not sleeping at all. I went to sleep after the game. Sleepy Cone.

July 3rd:

Woke up at 9 AM, so I slept about 3 hours Felt terrible all day, and ended up in zombie mode for a long time. Eventually did a lot of laundry, cleaned, and then went with Wendy to the soba place for lunch. Oborosoba is really tasty :) It was hot soba with this very soft konbu, and I added lots of shichimi to it too. It was pouring rain, and the doors in the store were open so the atmosphere in the restaurant was really nice. Open windows, cold sobacha, listening to the rain, and the store was nearly empty so we had plenty of space to sit and chat. Very pleasant.

After lunch we headed downtown and Wendy helped me shopping at Nishiki. Lately I have been thinking a lot about the difficultly of finding ingredients to cook with when I go back home so I want to practice more cooking while I am here. I thought it would be nice to fix some food for the kohai when they got back from helping Talon with his chaji, so we picked up various things, and ate some snacks along the way :) When I got home I tried to nap, failed, and then prepared some food. Awase miso (mostly red miso) with goma fu (black sesame wheat gluten), chinese vegetables, and japanese mustard, rice, dashimaki (rolled omelette), and kabocha (pumpkin) and cucumber tsukemono (pickles). The miso wasn’t the best I have ever made, but I was pleased overall. Everyone was really tired by the time they came back and seemed really pleased to have food waiting for them. I enjoy having people in my room, even when I am tired.

In the evening, Mari and Nozomi came over for tea, so we all ended up drinking tea together; first gyokuro from Ippoudou and then the Taiwanese Oolong tea from Stefen. We had kuzu manju, and yuzu mochi and a few other sweets around, so all in all it was a really nice evening :)

At 11 we gathered in Jin’s room to watch the Argentina/Germany game, but Stella and I were half asleep by that point. What disappointing match :(

July 4th:

I slept last night! OH MY GOD I FINALLY SLEPT!!! 7 hours of sleep! It was amazing. I have been lazy today, more laundry, trying to sort out plans to return home, Skype time with Ben, and watching movies. Not too much to report, but I am getting nervous about finalizing plans to leave. I have so much to do in the next two months, sometimes I am overwhelmed thinking about how to get it all done. I’ll
June 8th:

In the morning, the class visited the Nakajima Seikodo mounting studio and we learned about how scrolls are mounted and repaired. We were split into two groups for the demonstrations (Japanese speakers and English speakers) and somehow I ended up with the Japanese speakers. Figures. There are so many brushes and glue types, and we each got to try adding a backing on a sheet. You wouldn’t think these things are so difficult, but then you try it and it is very tricky. It was interesting, but I had problems standing up again...as usual.

Temae: daime shozumi, usucha and koicha. I had forgotten that when our sempai did this they used the special tana for practicing daime so we weren’t sure how to prepare for class. Daime was fun, I like small spaces, I did usucha this day.

Tatami cleaning in the evening.

June 9th:

Omi Jingu kencha and Sagawa museum. The weather was beautiful on the day of the Kencha, and once again we were able to see Daisosho doing temae. As with Kenninji he did the temae in the ryurei style, which was interesting. After the offering we went to the honseki, followed by a really delicious bento lunch, and then the second seki which was ryurei style and we were all seated. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear much about the dogu in either of the seki because of the number of people. I always have this problem in large tea gatherings. Too much to see, too many people, not enough time to actually look at anything.

After the kencha we went to the Sagawa museum, and I was so happy to finally be able to go. Unfortunately, my anxiety was getting the better of me, and the combination of large crowds and everyone constantly taking pictures had made me a bit stressed. WE had a tour of the tea room designed by Raku Kichizaemon, and it is a truly inspiring place. When we entered the museum part I had to sit and have a moment to myself to hide from everyone’s cameras and random chatter. Unfortunately, I discovered later that Hamana-sensei was standing behind me the entire time taking pictures of me. Later, when I recieved his pictures from this event, there are about ten pictures of me from behind where I was trying to remember how to breathe. Honestly. Can’t they just put the cameras away once in a while?!

All in all it was a really nice day, and we were really tired by the time we came home, but the kohai had a kagetsu practice with Anna...poor kids. They were barely standing when they got back and then to try to learn kagetsu on top of it. I don’t think I could handle it! After dinner I went to school to help the kids who were cleaning tatami and I we ended up sitting on the tatami not moving for a long time. Goto-sensei (chief this week) came up and started laughing at us when he saw all of us lying there. I asked him how to proceed with preparations for the next day, since we had chabako in Chaken in the morning. Unfortunately, since we were gone all day I didn’t have a chance to ask him earlier and it was really too late to ask to borrow dogu from Gakuen. I didn’t want to cause any problems for him so I just said that we would use our own dogu from the dorm.

June 10th:

Jitsugi in the morning in Chaken, tsuki chabako. I like tsuki, much better than hana. For some reason it seems more logical to me. It was a nice class, although it was tricky to prep everything when we were all using our own dogu! Thankfully there are a lot of chabako fans in Midorikai.

In the afternoon we changed and went to Oimatsu for a sweets class! Wheee! Today we made three different types of higashi, and it was my first time seeing higashi being made. I really enjoyed using the molds, personally. Also, I was in a group with Mereca and Wendy who both like really bright colors so we ended up with some interesting higashi.

Haigata in the evening, and I spoke with Goto-sensei about preparations for chatsubo kazari the following day, as Hamana-sensei wanted to practice tying the knots in the morning.

June 11th:

So...today was probably the worst day I have had all year. One of the most panic inducing days of my life actually. I went to class in the morning, and realized that the chatsubo hadn’t been put out in the kitchen, only the strings. I knew that Hamana-sensei would be upset, but class had already started by this point and the chatsubo were kept in storage in a closet in rokunoma, so we couldn’t do anything. As predicted, Hamana-sensei was angry when he came in, and class did not start out on a good note. It doesn’t help that I have a very difficult time learning how to tie knots. Really. Sometimes I wonder if I have a learning disorder, this is how bad I am at picking up things. Anyways, sensei starts teaching us, I almost immediately have difficultly keeping up, which makes Hamana-sensei even more angry, and within 5 minutes he says “if you don’t want to be here you should just go home.” There isn’t much I can do at that point, but I tried to say that I was just having trouble understanding, which received a “i’m already explaining this very slowly, and no one else is having trouble” response. So I excused myself for slowing the class down and left.

I spent the rest of the day in my room crying. All day. Without stop.

I was supposed to have Mari and Nozomi over that evening, but obviously wasn’t in the mood to be social at that point and texted them to let them know what happened. However, in the evening I realized I needed someone to talk to, and I really didn’t want to interact with anyone in Midorikai that day. I texted Mari to ask if I could talk to her and her and Nozomi ended up coming over and listening to me be sad. They are such nice people, I am really happy I have gotten to know them this year. They agreed that it would be good to spend some time away from Midorikai for a bit, and suggested that I go to the Hotaru Chakai with some of the Gakuensei.

I suspect that one of them talked to Yuichi, because he called that night and asked if I wanted to go with him and some of the Ichinen course girls to the chakai the next day. Although it was a terrible day, I was really happy to receive so much support from my friends.

June 12th:

Morning: Made a cup of tea, gave higashi to Mari and Noh as a thank you for the night before, went to the bakery for coffee and breakfast, picked up my new hitoe kimono, picked up an obi from the dry cleaners, went to Zuiun to look at dogu, bought chabako dogu so that I could practice tsuki chabako more.

Afternoon: Firefly chakai with Yuichi, Kei, Wendy and Ichinen course girls. We had a lot of fun! Midorikai people were the only ones in kimono, but that was ok :) There were too many people there to actually see many fireflies, so afterwards we wandered around looking for fireflies at the same place Wendy and I had gone to before. I spend a lot of time talking to Shiori while Yuichi was “teaching Wendy Japanese.” There were so many fireflies at the river! Wendy and I kept running up and down the road and actually crawled over the fence to get a better view (for which we were scolded by the old ladies). Afterwards we got drinks at Alcove, then back to the dorm for curfiew. Wendy and Mai-chan came over and we ended up talking in my room until 2 AM.

June 13th:

Shijo/Nishiki in the morning, cooking practice (which went much better than the first time), dinner with Wada-san at the brown rice restaurant, and then Mecca and I put the dogu together for shoza keiko.

Sunday night I also got to talk to Glenn-sensei and apologize for causing so much trouble and talk to him a bit, which was good.

June 14th:

Quiz in the morning in the library, and I knew I had to apologize to Hamana-sensei but I was honestly afraid. After I finished my quiz I sat quietly, avoiding eye contact with anyone. Hamana-sensei came up and asked if he could speak to me outside and I almost fell over, but we ended up having a nice talk and I was able to apologize for not having prepared for class properly. I felt better after that. I have so much respect for Hamana-sensei, I really do not want to leave this year with any bad feelings. I am sad that I still haven’t learned chatsubo kazari though.

Also from this day we have a new person in our class! Emelia, a research student from Finland, came to join us to...well...study our lives I suppose. She is fun to be around, and Mecca enjoys having another Fin here. It’s been nice to have her around.

After the quiz we watched the video on the kaiseki portion of the chaji, which was useful since we had shoza keiko in Chaken in the afternoon. Shoza keiko went smoothly, and we all enjoyed watching the kohai learning how to take the kaiseki meal.

More tatami cleaning in the evening, followed by World Cup watching in Jin-chan’s room (Netherlands v. Denmark and Japan v. Cameroon).

June 15th:

Gary-sensei lecture on Rikyu-konomi mono in the morning. Toban: hana, Lani helped me by doing rokunoma. Daime temae again, and I did koicha this time. The kohai had been having issues with the use of tea, and I was really irritated by their not using the older tea despite telling them to do so many, many times. I am a pretty harsh critic in the mizuya. Tensions are running high in my mind because starting from next week the 1A class are taking over as cho and will need to be thinking of these things themselves.

Ivory Coast v. Portugal.

June 16th:

Murata-sensei and Imagawa-sensei lectures. I realized too late that I should have been translating more since Emelia was there, but ah well. Welcome to Midorikai?

Toban: cho. 3rd floor. Temae: Gyakudatte, and Murata-sensei gave me a bad time about being bad at this temae. Thanks Murata-sensei :P During the check Kazuo (chief this week) talked for a long time about things neither Stella or I understood. After the check I went to take the cho bag and found Mai-chan being upset while waiting for her interview, and had to do some DC. Ended up staying around and doing and interview myself before dinner.

Got home, quick shower, and then Wendy, Mai-chan and I went to Yuichi’s room to finally see who would win the bed. Background: Wendy and Mecca want me to go to purikura, I won’t, Wendy keeps challenging me to card games and losing. Somehow this ended up with me Yuichi and Wendy making a bet to a card game. If I lose, I had to wear Sailor fuku, if Yuichi lost, he had to shave his head like Kei-chan, and if Wendy lost she had to cook terrible food and spoonfeed it to all of the boys that like her and watch their reactions. Yuichi had been talking big and making a lot of comments about how I was going to lost, but it wasn’t going to happen. He even filled his room with banana’s to try to throw me off my game. (and made delicious banana smoothies!)

Naturally, I won the bet. :) Never bet against me at cards. Yuichi had already bought clippers, and Wendy ended up cutting Yu-chan’s hair. Good night :)

June 17th:

Daitokuji visit with Swanson-sensei in the morning, and I got to see Daisen-in again! We were in kimono and it was super hot. I got a kimono burn on the back of my neck, its kind of embarrassing. On the way home I stole Wendy’s parasol. We cooled off in Stella’s room for a bit before lunch, and then had fun showing off Yuichi’s hair to everyone :) He wouldn’t tell people it was because he lost a bet though, so that was kind of sad.

Nagaita temae today, and I took a step back from doing a lot of mizuya preparation so that the kohai can get adjusted. We spend some time lying on the 3rd floor trying not to die of heat before class. Kazuo was around and at one point told me I should be a maiko. What a strange boy.

In the evening I had haigata, and Kazuo was hanging around and Wendy ended up locking me in the mizuya with him. He looked at me and said “dangerous!” and I rolled me eyes, walked out, and smacked Wendy on the arm. Damnit! After haigata I went back to the dorm to help Sylvain and Anna do their first test of the sweets for their chaji using kuzu. Kuzu is still fun and tricky to play with.

Argentina v. Korea (sorry Jin-chan!). I started practicing temae at about 11:30.

June 18th:

Gary-sensei and Tanihata-sensei lectures. Jin-chan woke up late from staying up too late to watch soccer. Jitsuji: tsuki chabako with haiken. Mecca had a beautiful temae today and it was really inspiring to watch her. I think back and see how far she has come and I am really proud of her. After school I was exhausted and Wendy dragged me to dinner. Kazuo sat with us, and then ran, but Goto-san, Ihara-san and Yamada-san ate with us and Ihara-san spent most of his time teaching Wendy bad slang Japanese. Very entertaining. That night Mecca, Wendy and I watched Saw, and then we headed to Jin-chan’s room to watch US/Slovenia....BUT IT WASN’T ON TV!!! We + Stella stayed up till about 2 AM chatting and periodically checking the scores of the game.

June 19th:

Sahori was in Kyoto! I got to spent the day with her and we wandered all over the city and I got to show her the many places in my life here. At this point, we have met in Boston, Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto...I wonder where is next? She has seen many different aspects of my life and I find it very easy to talk to her. It was nice to have a day outside of Midorikai.

I was so exhausted by the time I got home I couldn’t move, and wasn’t feeling very well.

June 20th:

I couldn’t sleep at night or wake up in the morning, and ended up getting out of a non-sleep at about 11 AM. I ended up missing the kaiseki practice as a result, and sitting in my room all day. Sometimes I forget the limitations of my body. Also, I seem to have lost more weight recently and that combined with the lack of sleep has left me pretty weak in general.

June 21st:

Toinseki visit in the morning, and Talon, Mecca and I spent a lot of time talking about our strategy for cooking and set up.

Afternoon: toban: cha. Temae: nagashidate and irekodate. Everyone did nagashidate first and then we did irekodate with the time that was left over. I ended up staying for the check, and Ihara-san was chief this week.

June 22nd:

Mittwer-sensei lecture in the morning, followed by Hamana-sensei lecture on July. I hope we have time to have August lectures before we leave! Afternoon, waributa mizusashi and araijakin. I do like the water related temae in the summer. I stayed for the check again, and Ihara-san seems a lot more talkative lately. He was asking about the atsukae for one of the mizusahi. I find it difficult to talk to him since he is kind of an awkward person. It is nice that he is talking more and asking questions to help everyone learn though.

In the evening we put together all of the dogu in dogubeya to take over to Toinseki, there is so much stuff!

June 23rd:

Chaji preparation at Toinseki. First there was a meeting in the morning, and then Talon, Mecca and I went to Nishiki to buy ingredients for the kaiseki meal. After we returned home we finished packing everything, loaded the car and headed over. It didn’t take too long for us to set everything up. The three of us tend to be pretty organized people as far as that goes.

I had planned to watch the US Algeria game in the evening, but it wasn’t on! They plated England Slovenia instead. FIGURES. Why won’t they let me watch the US play???

June 24th:

Toinseki. The day. Woke up, coffee, samuei, and we are off. Mecca and I took a cab with Emelia and Hamananana at 7:00 AM. During the day the tension in the kitchen was kind of rough. I had a fit in the morning when Murachi wouldn’t trust me on the dashi and took over. Don’t mess with my damn dashi! It turned out fine in the end though. I got over it, Mecca worked like a champ, Talon did his fish thing, and we served lovely food. Unfortunately, Lani wasn’t able to come to the chaji because she was still sick, so we were down to six guests. Also, at one point after the yakimono was served I saw an unconscious Mai-chan being carried through the tea room. Apparently her obi had been tied too tight and she couldn’t breathe. It was terrifying for a minute. She sat out the rest of the kaiseki portion and then returned for shozumi. I am impressed by her fortitude. It was the most eventful chaji I have been to!

At the end of the day we got to enjoy some tea and sweets and I was surprised to see that Sylvain used the exact same flower that I have used at my chaji in May (a lavender colored tessen). It’s a beautiful flower.

After we cleaned and dropped things off in the dorm we had time for a quick shower before going out again for DRINKING TIME! It was the first time for the kohai to drink with sensei, and we had a good time of it. As usual, I sat next to Murachi, who continued his habit of saying obscene things, and for a while I tried to keep up with him drinking. It’s impossible. I think I was at least three behind by the end of the night...but I did consume a large amount of gin that evening. I’m sure there will be pictures on facebook, since my kohai are all camera happy, and I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

June 25th:

Not as hungover as I expected, which was good. The amount of gin I can consume in an evening is impressive to me, although I can’t catch up to Murachi. In the morning we got to see the exhibition on Ennosai (13th, early Meiji) at the Center, and as usual I had a hard time standing up for a long time. The exhibition was really interesting though, I hope I get a chance to go back and look around some more on my own time.

Right after class I had to run around and grab the towels since everything had been in the laundry from the chaji. Toban: cho. My very last time being cho. I was thinking about this all week, and how much I will miss it. More than anything this year, I have come to appreciate the amount of work it takes to organize a mizuya, and I love doing it. Ihara-san was chief this week and he inspects the dogu very closely during the check, which always makes me a little nervous. I don’t want to mess up.

Of course on Friday, the day after Toinseki and our party, we have Sumitsuki and Koichatsuki kagetsu. It went pretty well, although I find myself not wanting to drink koicha so much during the heat of the summer. The check went fine, although he did pick at the chasen a bit. He asked about the type of shifuku that was used on the nagao chaire. I immediately replied “sasazuru donsu”. He said “sasuga,” but really I was just lucky that they had a shifuku out with one of my favorite patterns. I appreciate that he has started asking us these questions, and I hope that all of the chiefs will continue to do this. Good training :)

That night we watched soccer in Jin’s room (Brazil Portugal) and then stayed up talking until about 4 AM. How did that happen? I wasn’t even drunk! Interestingly, I feel like the World Cup has brought my closer together with my kohai. Anything that works, right?

June 26th:

Since I stayed up until 4 AM, I slept later than I expected and ended up being late to let Talon into the dorm and drop by my kimono teacher’s place to make a drop. It all worked out though, and I went to Mecca and Wendy to Kyoto station (Subway and Lush) and then up to Shijo to look around the washi store for inspiration for the invitations for Mecca’s chaji. I love that place, and wish I could buy everything in it. All I bought was some summer stationary! That’s it! Through the afternoon I was feeling pretty exhausted, and after a brief stop at Starbucks I went home and attempted to rest.

I’m not sure why, but I cannot sleep during the day. The concept of the “afternoon nap” has always eluded me. I try, and then think about things I should be doing, and end up cleaning or organizing something. It’s a problem. In the evening I recreated the miso shiru from the kaiseki, made some rice and got the extra konomono and was planning to give some to Lani since she wasn’t able to come, but she and some of the girls had to go out. In the end Wendy, Mecca and I ended up eating it all while watching Daria and the Simpsons...Wendy made us tea and Mecca brought Finnish chocolate...so it was a good night.

June 27th:

Couldn’t sleep last night, and finally took a pill at 3 and woke up at 10. I feel exhausted, and more and more I start looking forward to going home, not because I want to leave this place, but because I am so tired and I need to rest. While I am here I feel like I need to keep working, and keep going out to do things because my time is so short. Sometimes I forget that I have limits, especially when it comes to my physical well-being.

I spend the afternoon resting, doing laundry, and continuing to pack boxes which I will hopefully ship this week. Hopefully this week I will also get my plane tickets and finalize my plans to return to the States. At this point I still don’t know where I am returning to, which doesn’t motivate me too much.

Wendy was kind enough to make me okayu and chawanmushi for lunch, and then Stella made fried rice and dinner for all of the girls, so I didn’t even have to feed myself today! Nice :) In the evening I led kagetsu practice with the kohai, since it is their first time doing it tomorrow. Based on my reaction to my first experience with kagetsu, I thought I would be the last person to teach it to my kohai. I have come to enjoy it, but I still never would have taught it except that all of the girls asked me to practice with them. Teaching is a powerful learning tool...almost powerful enough to make me want to teach. Almost.

Since I came back I have been going through pictures and reflecting back on everything that has happened this year. It is astounding to me how many places I have been, things I have seen, friends I have made, skills I have acquired during this year. I am so thankful to have this experience, even if I can’t sleep at night :P

June 28th:

Vice-principal meeting in the morning, our last meeting with Okusama! (I will be saying “my last” statements a lot from this point on) We spent a lot of time talking about the World Cup, so that was fun. Afterwards we had a lecture with Gary-sensei on Senke Jushoku, and I spent some time asking him about water sources in the city. I always wonder about different wells.

Afternoon, habuta and meisuidate. I have done habuta (leaf lid on a hoso mizusashi) before, so I opted for meisuidate. The kohai did their kagetsu and performed very well, so I was pleased. Good kohai! Haigata in the evening, done in the binkake and tricky because I didn’t have any of the small haisaji with me. Ah well. Still can’t sleep.

June 29th:

Ishikawa-sensei lecture on haigata in the morning, he is really fun teacher. Haigata is something I want to become good at, and I feel like I will never have enough practice for that. *sigh* Sometimes I wish I had more time here, and sometimes I can’t wait for everything to end. I am feeling very bipolar about leaving here. After Ishikawa-sensei’s lecture, we had a lecture by Hamana-sensei on Taian, since we would visit the next day.

Toban: hi. Before class we were deciding the order and the nishi bag hadn’t been brought upstairs and we realized that Anna was nishi and downstairs sifting tea. I went downstairs to get the bag so that we could put out the books and this led to a hysterical crying fit that lasted through the entire prep time. This would be one of those times when I can’t wait for everything to end. Temae was shikishidate. I like chabako in general, but this one is a little fussy. :(

June 30th:

In the morning we took a trip to the outskirts of Kyoto to visit Taian, the National Treasure tearoom and only extant tearoom attributed to Rikyu. We were not allowed in the room, but we could only view it from the outside. It was still very interesting though, and having had Hamana-sensei’s lecture on the details of the history and structure of the place it made it that much more meaningful.

We had some time when we got back so Emelia, Wendy and I had some tea before lunch.

Temae in the afternoon: SHAZA. Mecca wasn’t feeling well so we were only four people, which meant we were able to do additional roles. We did three rounds and I did every just except hana (Talon did all of the hana since he will be doing it during the summer seminar in Hawaii). I always get worried about Shaza, but it never ends up being as bad as I think it is going to be.

I was supposed to clean tatami in the evening, but I took over Mecca’s haigata instead and Talon cleaned the tatami. It was a pretty bad haigata, but I like every bit of extra practice I can get.
May 24th:

Despite taking medicine the night before to try to sleep, I wasn’t able to sleep until about 1:30, and had to wake up at 6:30 for school. Waking up was unpleasant, and I wasn’t totally excited to go back to seeing everyone again. Jitsugi was in the dorm in the morning, but I was cha and we hadn’t remembered to bring everything to the dorm last week. So I went to Gakuen at 7:30 to go sift all of the tea, and it was fun to be there early before everyone else got there. I enjoyed having a moment of peace before the day started. It was also cool to be there to be able to help Talon pick things up, and we arrived before the omogashi had even been put into the boxes, so Yamada-san let me do it myself. Fun! AJISAI KINTON! BEST SWEET EVER!!!

Jitsugi was bonkogo and chawan/chashaku kazari. Murata-sensei was teaching us and he was giving Mecca and I a hard time today. Bad Murachi! Class was fine, but I forgot just about every main point while I was doing chawan kazari...I think my mind was still fuzzy.

After class we changed into Western clothes and had kaiseki class. Kaiseki class is amazing. In addition to being informative and delicious, Yamamoto-sensei is hysterical and does not make any attempt to censor his opinions when he lectures us. I enjoy these classes very much and I was sad that it was the last one.

After class I went with Wendy to a kimono shop to talk about getting another hitoe kimono, and then we went to Tsuruya to buy more AJISAI KINTON because they were that delicious. Following sweets purchase I did haigata in gakuen, went to McD’s to get food with Talon, and then went back to the dorm and made koicha and ate sweets with
Wendy and Mecca. After everyone left I practiced haigata again...and now I sleep.

May 25th:

Morning: Vice-principal meeting. It was the first one for the kohai, and we encouraged them to talk a lot. As usual...I talked a lot. *sigh* Why am I the one who is always talking?

Afterwards we had a lecture by Gary-sensei on Sen Sotan. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties and we weren’t able to see his presentation...the lecture ended up getting cut a bit short.

Jitsugi: toban: hi. Temae: bonkogo, nagao. Ah, nagao. Damn knots. I can finally tie this knot, and whenever I practice it in the mizuya it comes out correctly...but once I get into the tearoom I mess it up. Actually, I have come to like nagao chaire a lot. I am not sure why, but something about the shape of the chaire is really fun to me. Who knew that would happen?

May 26th:

Quiz in the morning on kagetsu. Eh. Whatever. This is generally how I feel about the quizzes. I understand the reason for having them, but I have absolutely no intention of studying for them, comparing answers with classmates afterwards, or otherwise stressing out about my scores on them. I think it is kind of ridiculous actually.

Tachibana-sensei lecture on chaire afterwards, which was cool for some of the examples that she brought. One chaire was stored in a box that was larger than a furo. It was amazing. It included two different lids, five shifuku, and boxes upon boxes to store everything in. Don’t ask me why I love something this illogical, but I do.

Toban: cho. Temae: Hana chabako with haiken. Ihara was chief this week and he was in our mizuya when I was preparing and overheard me talking about how I enjoy chabako temae. He was surprised to hear this, because most people think chabako is a pain in the ass, but made a comment about how smart people like chabako. I said “that is not me at all.”

As usual, with chabako I am put on the chopping block to go first. WHATEVER. Unfortunately, I think the lack of sleep was getting to me or something, and I was completely unable to remember the order of how things went. Imagawa-sensei would not correct me. He let me make mistakes that just confused me more, because I couldn’t proceed in proper order when something was out of place. I ended up getting so frustrated I could barely get through the temae, and spent a good deal of class in the mizuya. At the end of class when we had the check, I had a strange conversation with Ihara:

Ihara: *as he is checking furidashi* what do you put into the furidashi?
Cone: konpeito
Ihara: do you know ___ store?
Cone: nope
Ihara: it’s supposed to be a really famous place that makes konpeito.
Cone: oh really? where is it?
Ihara: i don’t know...
Cone: *wtf face*

So confused by people sometimes. So confused. Keep in mind this is the same kid who has never spoken to me except to say I have nice legs.

May 27th:

Morning art history class with Swanson-sensei. I was super excited that we talked about Sesshu Toyo for a while, since he is probably my favorite Japanese artist of all time. Class ended early and we had some time before lunch and I ended up going on a walk with Sylvain to chat about life, the universe and everything. It’s pretty rare that the two of us sit down and talk, but it was good.

Jitsugi: toban: haigata in the evening. temae: sumishomo, otsubukuro and tsutsumibukusa. I was able to lay the sumi for sumishomo while Talon was host. Hamana-sensei had been teaching us, but had to leave early for seminar prep, so we had Tomoko-sensei after the first temae. I did tsutsumibukusa, and it had been a while. I have some issues with my hands when I remove the fukusa from the natsume, but other than that the temae is pretty smooth.

That night I did haigata. There was an interesting event. I finished and stayed with Jin-chan while she finished up. Talon, Stella, and some of the gakuensei were also there working when Kazuo came by. I had been avoiding him since the last sumi incident and wasn’t really in the mood to talk. He and Talon were joking around and he started pretending to cry.

Cone: why are you crying Kazuo?
Kazuo: I’m crying for you Cone! Do you know Ihara?
*Ihara walks by*
Cone: the kid that just walked by? yes, of course.
Kazuo: Ihara says that you are really cold, and that it is because you are sad because you are single.
Cone: ...
*Kazuo runs away*

I thought I had misheard him, because I couldn’t believe he would actually say that out loud in front of everyone, and I had Jin translate it for me again. Wow. Also, WHAT THE FUCK?! It made me really upset actually, and I lost any willpower I had left for the week.

May 28th:

Could not deal with going to school and seeing people, especially did not want to see Kazuo or Ihara. I suppose the continuous insomnia isn’t helping here. I spent the entire day cleaning both the hall and my room, and separating the items that I would be shipping home before I left. If I wasn’t in class at least I could be productive...or something. When classes were ending I realized that I really couldn’t handle seeing anyone, so I left and walked down to Shijo. I bought some miso kashiwa mochi, since Wendy had been asking about it, and then went to my Italian restaurant for a nice meal. I spend a lot of time there reading my book and chatting with the owners and enjoying a comfortable feeling for the first time in a while. The owner gave me some banana bread that she had baked as a present for breakfast the next day. I left a very happy Cone :) When I got back home I still didn’t want to face anyone, so I sat in the park across the street and talked to Hanna-chan on the phone until I had to go inside for curfiew. I am sure it looked bad to be home sick during the day and then out until late at night...but sometimes you just need time for yourself. Today was one of those days.

May 29th:

In the morning I had Mecca and Wendy over for tea and kashiwa mochi. Well, Mecca came first, still in her PJ’s, and then Wendy came just as I was headed out the door to run some errands. I went to get a haircut and drop off an obi at the cleaners, and then I came back, picked up the girls and we headed downtown to a kimono sale at Takashimaya. I was looking for a jime and age to match one of my summer obi, and I thought I had succeeded. Sadly, when I went to visit Kikuko later that day to pick up another obi and get her approval...she did not approve. Ah well. I am so happy with my summer obi and kimono, I can’t even describe it.

From Kikuko’s I walked to Kitano Hakubaicho and took the train back home, where I had dinner with my family for the first time in ages. It was so good. I had a terrible headache all day, and being able to go home and have a warm meal and sit on the couch and relax in front of the TV was great. This was the weekend for doing things that make Cone feel better.

May 30th:

Went back to Takashimaya to switch the jime and age, and found another set that I am not totally in love with...but will do. Walked around downtown for a bit, and then came back and made shiru and shared it with Talon and Mecca, along with a bottle of sake that I received from otoosan. Talon had a rough weekend, so we thought the sake was a good idea, and it was pretty excellent stuff too. We ate and drank while watching one of my favorite movies ever, A League of Their Own. Love love love.

In the evening I took Wendy to meet Kikuko for the first time, and we had fun chatting about many, many things. Overall, I hoped that the weekend helped me recuperate enough to get me through the next few weeks, which will be stressful.

May 31st:

Last day of awase! Woo hoo! Quiz in the morning on sumishomo and bonkogo, followed by a Tanihata-sensei lecture on the Warring States period. Sweet. Or rather, it would have been sweet if I hadn’t gotten a call from Murata-sensei at 9:10 saying that Hamana-sensei wanted to change the schedule to start at 9:15 and add another lecture in. I had just gotten out of the shower and had to run up and down the hall telling all of the girls to get dressed as fast as possible and go to school immediately. Needless to say, no one was any more prepared than I was and we ended up not getting there much earlier than usual. Ah well. Good way to start the week :P

Jitsugi: toban: tatami. Temae: nagaita. I still have issues with the handling of the hibashi, but you know. Too many hands confuse me. I saw Ihara when I was walking back home to change for cleaning and had no idea what to do. I nodded when he said “otsukaresamadesu” but I didn’t say anything. I hate people.

That night we all helped out in tatami cleaning. I really enjoy my black samuei.

June 1st:

Since we didn’t get anything done early the day before, Hamana-sensei changed the lecture to 9:15 and lectured on June seasonal topics until noon. I love the seasonal lectures, but three hours straight was a little intense. After lunch we headed to Konnichian for scholarship. All day long I kept thinking how much lighter I felt wearing hitoe kimono and summer obi. It was my first time ever wearing hitoe, and it was like a miracle for me. Yes, I am still wearing three layers of clothing and a heavy obi, but they are so much lighter and more breathable!

Jitsugi: toban: nishi. Temae: sumishomo and kazarimono. Damn kazarimono. Too much kazari, not enough chabako! I AM PISSED THAT WE ARE NOT DOING YUKI. PISSED!!!!! Ah well.

Toilet cleaning in the evening, and then I helped everyone finish tatami. It’s a good way to work off stress.

June 2nd:

Principal lecture in the morning, which may be our last. When I realized that I was almost in tears. Actually, there were several moments during his lecture today where I was almost crying thinking about having to leave this place. I still have almost two months left, I can’t get emotional yet. If I am doing this now, what am I going to do when I actually have to go?!

In a perfect example of how completely bipolar I am here...we had gyakudatte in the afternoon. Temae where everything is backwards. I was up first with shozumi and it wasn’t terrible, but Hamana-sensei has a tendency to get really easily frustrated with me, especially when I do sumidemae. Couple this with one of my classmates intentionally sitting too close to me during class because it makes me anxious, and then almost sitting on me when she went to serve tea to sensei and I pretty much lost it. It is really difficult to be in a very small room every day with someone you don’t like, especially when that person has no sense of personal space. None, at all. Then, it’s not just that you are in a small room with that person, you live with them, eat all of your meals with them, and have to manage them at the same time and have them resent you for it...and you have instant Cone in the mizuya time. The entire class I just kept thinking about how the only place I wanted to be was in the tearoom and learning this temae, but how if I had to spend one more minute enduring rude behavior I was going to lose my mind.

Hamana-sensei lectured me after class for leaving the classroom without excusing myself, and I apologized but didn’t explain why I left. It didn’t matter really.

June 3rd:

I went for a very short run in the morning, and even a short run helped. Gary-sensei lecture on the Raku generations in the morning. It was interesting with the visuals, but I wish we had been able to see the images in order to get a better idea of the progression of the Raku style.

Tsuzukiusucha in the afternoon. We were on the third floor and in the beginning of class a thunderstorm hit. I haven’t heard thunder in so long, and it was really lovely storm, good rain and wind. We had the windows open for a lot of it and there is almost nothing I enjoy more than a good thunderstorm. Being able to drink tea during a thunderstorm might have just been the best experience I have ever had. It was cool and refreshing and beautiful...and there was tea.

After class I went to change and then went back to school and joined in Talon’s meeting with Murata-sensei about the menu for the kaiseki for the Toinseki Chaji on the 24th. While we were waiting we chatted with Kazuo (my initial reaction when he started talking to me was “don’t talk to me Kazuo,” but I ended up talking anyways) and Ogasawara-san. Kazuo strangely started asking me questions about my background, and I told him a bit about my work and school life before I came here. I don’t talk about it much because I think it just confuses people more than anything.

Afterwards haigata, and the rain had stopped by that point. Wendy was with me, and I had some issues with it and thought I was going to have to give up at one point but kept going and finished. I really hate the mayuburo. Hate hate hate. Hate tetsuburo. Want doburo. Please.

June 4th:

Matsunami-sensei’s Zen class was held at Daitokuji in the morning, and he took us through the main buildings, Juko-in and his own temple. He wasn’t feeling well that day and I told him to please speak Japanese if it was easier. I felt badly because his leg was causing him pain and I wanted to do something to help but I didn’t know what to do. The weather was really nice again, we have been blessed lately, and despite his pain sensei was really kind in all of his explanations of buildings and history. At Juko-in we ran into Nishijima-san, I often wonder what his life is like there. We ended the class with zazen at sensei’s temple, which was all open to the outside. There is no better way to spend a morning.

In the afternoon, sumishomo and koicha tsuki kagestu. Why do they keep doing this on FRIDAY?! Nah, it was fine. That night I felt like being social for the first time in a while, but it wasn’t meant to be. I have been dwelling all week on the comments from Ihara and Kazuo, which is dumb really. I ended up going for a long walk along the Kamogawa and having an early night.

June 5th:

Kencha at Kenninji in Gion. Everyone was super excited to see a kencha done by Daisosho, which was a first for us. We met at 8:45 AM and were off in taxi’s (I almost died when Jin-chan said “Mama!” and followed after me to get into a taxi. So cute.), got to the temple, gathered ourselves and went to go find out seats. I always get a little embarrassed when we are seated in front of all of our sempai, which happened again today. The ichinen course, kenkyuka and sannensei were all attending today. However, when we walked in to sit down I heard someone call out “Cone-chan!” and I looked over to see Matsumoto-sensei! I haven’t seen her since I brought Glenn-sensei to meet her after Rikyu-ki, there has just been too much going on and I haven’t had time to go visit lately. I was able to sit next to her during the kencha and while we were waiting for it to start we caught up on life, and my plans for when I go back and long term goals with tea, etc. She is really fantastic, and she invited me to a chaji at the end of the month, so it’s one more thing to look forward to :)

I wasn’t able to see much of the kencha itself because my view was poor, but it was interesting in that Daisosho used a ryurei style instead of a shin daisu. Whoa. I wish I had been able to see more of the temae itself to see how he had done everything, but you know, it happens. After the tea had been offered to the spirit of Eisai, the monks of the temple began to chant sutras while walking in a snake-like pattern around the room...it went on FOREVER. I thought I was going to pass out. Normally I find the sound of chanting very soothing, but this was so jarring, I don’t even know how to explain it. Between the loud noises and the drum beat and the heat and being in the middle of a large group of people I was feeling a little exhausted and dizzy by the end.

Afterwards everyone split up to go off to the different tea seatings, and I lost sight of Matsumoto-sensei for the day. Midorikai first went to the fukuseki where we met up with some of the sannensei, and we were happy to be served kuzu minazuki sweets there. It is our first time seeing them, but I have a feeling they will show up in class once or twice before the end of the month. The hanaire was a karamono kago, and it started a trend as there seemed to be a lot of Chinese and Korean items being used throughout this and the honseki. The second chawan was a Korean hirachawan and it was huge. During this seki I remember thinking that I liked the color contrast between the dark red of the mizutsugi and the seiji mizusashi.

Following the fukuseki we gained an additional Midorikai member in the form of Kei, who somehow lost his classmates. Poor Kei. We told people he was from Mongolia for the rest of the day. We took our foundling and all went to the tenshin. Tenshin food is always awesome, and this one was particularly good. I don’t know if it was as delicious as Tenryuji in the fall, but it is certainly a close second. All vegetarian with some miso shiru on the side, I was really pleased...especially with the tofu...oh man. So good. Melts in your mouth good. When people finished with lunch they went out to take a stroll around the gardens, and I spent a while sitting in front of the one of the karesansui gardens thinking about how nice it was to be able to enjoy so many days like this and have time to stare at zen gardens and simply enjoy their existence. As frustrated as I get with life here, I am going to be horribly depressed when I go home.

Finally, we arrived at the honseki, and we were nearly the last guests there so we were the only guests in our seki. As a result, it was somewhat informal and we were able to take our time and ask questions and look around at the dogu. The chashaku was carved by Zabosai Iemoto and made of a really beautiful looking piece of bamboo that faded from dark to light from the fushi. For the two chawan, one korean and one kutsugata. The tana and tabakobon were both kiji, and I kept thinking about the lighter feeling of the dogu in summer. It doesnt seem like so long ago that we were enveloped in all of the layers of winter, and now we are already in midsummer.

All in all it was a lovely day, much tea was enjoyed, many pictures were taken, and as usual I can’t remember as much of the dogu as I would like. My mind seems to be elsewhere these days. Once we left we all decided to take a trip to the Tsujirien sweet shop and eat delicious parfaits. I have been trying to get in here since I was on AKP, but there is almost always a 2 hour + wait, so I have never been. Due to some miracle, we were able to get in with almost no line (all 13 of us!) and we enjoyed sweets and lots of laughter. Hamana-sensei kindly treated us with my money, he is nice like that ;)

When we got home I cleaned and ironed a lot, had some downtime, got my money back from Hamana-sensei (who is adorable on his scooter), went to dinner at McD’s, and in the evening enjoyed drinks at Alcove with Mecca, Wendy, Stella and Yuichi. Yuichi tried to explain to Wendy the alternate meaning of walking up to a guy and asking “ogenki desu ka?” and she didn’t get it. As usual. When this happens his usual response is “no, it’s nothing! don’t worry! we are in a disney movie! everything is great!” Which is true.

I tried to tell him about my non-interaction with Ihara, and he told me to get over it.

Yuichi: You wore that short skirt. He wanted something sweet, and you didn’t give him anything.
Cone: did you just say that out loud?
Mecca: He’s trying to say that he wanted you to put out but you wouldn’t.
Cone: i got that. thanks :P

Apparently, wearing a skirt and not immediately jumping into bed with someone makes me a frigid bitch. I can probably live with that.

Awesome day.

June 6th:

In the morning I had a Skype date with Ben! I miss him so much! I miss all of my sempai :( It was great to talk to him though, hear his updates, bitch about Midorikai life, talk about how much I love Midorikai life...the usual. I can’t wait to go visit him when I am back in the States.

Afterwards, Wendy, Stella and I went to the Kongo-ryu Noh Gakudo to see Yuichi’s first performance on a Noh stage. His group was having practice performances all that day and he invited us to go watch him on stage. It was my first time watching any Noh in a while and I was really glad I went. Many Urasenke sensei and students were there, including some of the recent graduates, so it was nice to see everyone outside of the school environment. Before Yuichi we saw Kazuo’s performance. He walked onto the stage and immediately spotted us, and then had trouble keeping his composure...causing Stella to start laughing uncontrollably. She was laughing so hard (silently) that she had tears coming out of her eyes!!!! Wendy and I on either side of her stared very hard at Kazuo’s feet throughout his performance in order to avoid the same fate. I shot Stella a look of death once it was over. Oh man, I thought I was going to lose it. Interestingly, when Yuichi came on stage, no one laughed. That boy is so composed in whatever he does. It is extremely impressive. I wish I could learn that kind of emotional control. His performance was really, really strong. He has a good voice and excellent stage presence...unlike Kazuo. Poor Kazuo. Tomoko-sensei also performed and was lovely as always.

Afterwards we got to sit down and have tea with everyone, and Kazuo made his usual tasteless remarks to me, and as usual I promised to kill him. One of his friends was visiting from Tokyo and he introduced all of us, it was cute. Nice morning :)

When I got back to the dorm I had a cooking practice with Mecca and Talon until about 4 PM. We made rice, shiru and mukozuke (sashimi)...it was fun, if disorganized, but at the end I found myself completely exhausted. I spent the rest of the afternoon not moving, but did go out in the evening with Wendy to go look for hotaru (fireflies). I confess that I do not understand the Japanese obsession with hunting and searching to find a single firefly in the weeds. Maybe its because I come from a country full of fireflies. Still, it was fun to find them and it was a nice reminder of home and childhood.

June 7th:

Another restless night, but I still woke up at 7 and decided to go for a run. It is hard to start running as soon as I wake up, especially with a lack of sleep, but nothing beats that feeling when I finish a good morning workout. It always puts me in a good mood too, which is a good day to start the week. Mereca told me when I go for a run in the morning I act like I “just got laid” so she is really curious to see how happy I would be if I was actually sleeping with someone. Ha. I wish.

This morning’s quiz was on gyakudatte, which I probably did poorly on considering I was in the mizuya for most of the keiko that day. Such is life. I got some good reading done afterwards, and I am almost finished re-reading “The Prince.” Gary-sensei did a lecture on the disciples of Sotan including some images of dogu they had created.

Afternoon jitsugi: toban: hi. Wendy came to help me out with the water preparation and told me how Yuichi had asked her “ogenki desuka” again and she informed him that she now knew what that meant. I was not meant to live with Disney characters. Mai-chan came to be my helper, usurping Mecca’s position, because she wanted more practice with fire. We have enthusiastic little lambs here. For jitsugi we did daisu shozumi, usucha and koicha, and it was my first time at the daisu. I did koicha and it went fairly smoothly. At the beginning of class I was so sleepy I could barely keep my eyes open, but I was alright by the end. It’s really amazing to think that I am doing a daisu temae. I keep wondering what will happen when I go home. I am taking the evening off tonight to get some errands done at home, including updating with my writing...it will take a while.
May 19th:

Probably as a result of drinking Mountain Dew, I got approximately no sleep...and I really needed sleep. Also, in the spirit of no rest for the weary I was cho so I had a lot of work to do right away! In the morning we had a lecture by Hamana-sensei on chashitsu followed by a lecture by Mittwer-sensei. I was asking her about the lack of English language publications on tea and the reasons behind it. She gave some interesting information and I continue to mull over translation ideas in my head. You know, in all my spare time, when I get good at Japanese, one day.

In the afternoon I had an interesting experience with our friend Kazuo. He came into the mizuya before class and I told him thank you for his help with getting the dogu for my chaji. He said (in English) “your welcome” and then “ah, chagao” (oh, thats wrong) and I replied “no, thats right.” He paused for a minute and said “I love you.” before turning and walking out of the mizuya. I just stood there with a completely shocked look on my face while everyone else started laughing. Then I started laughing. Oh man. That kid is insane.

Jitsugi was bonkogo and chaire kazari. I like the kazari’s because it is like having a vacation. There aren’t a whole lot of different points about them so I feel like I can relax a bit. After class, when Kazuo came back to do the check, he asked Mai-chan and I if we liked sumi kiri. We said yes, and he asked if he could show us the sumi he cut that day. We said sure, and he proceeded to pull out some very phallic looking pieces of sumi, and one that had a hole in the middle. Yeah. He asked if we wanted them and we said NO. Gross Kazuo. Gross.

After the sumi incident, and lack of sleep, and getting through the chaji, and my damn awase kimono sticking to me in high 20 degree heat, I was feeling kind of exhausted. It was raining and that night I ended up talking a two hour walk along the river in the rain. I came home at 9:30 dripping wet and found a really lovely letter from Johnny clipped to me door. I spent the remainder of the evening writing a response and reading.

May 20th:

Woke up at about 1 AM and didn’t get back to sleep until about 4 AM. I want to sleep like a normal person. If anyone can tell me how to do this it would be great. As a result, I slept through my alarm and woke up at about 8:30, when I had to leave for class at 9. Miraculously, I still had time to shower, put on kimono, and be on time for class. The weather was still rainy, and warmer than yesterday and very, very humid. The lack of sleep/food/humidity/lined kimono wasn’t a good combination for me. First lecture was Imagawa-sensei who talked about different types of furo.

Second lecture we went to the Eizenbu, the group that builds and repairs chashitsu (tea rooms) for Urasenke. It was really fascinating to be in a workshop again and see the different materials and tools used and how things were actually put together, but I was too overwhelmed by standing in one place in an awase kimono in a room with zero air circulation. I had another one of those moments where I fall over from being dizzy. I still have no idea what that is, but it is frustrating and it gives me nasty headaches.

After class I ran back to the dorm to grab koicha and drink a lot of water, eat lunch, and then help Wendy with hi (fire). It was the first time we allowed one of the kohai to do fire, because they start sumidemae today. Kazuo didn’t try to talk to me today. Smart boy. For jitsugi we had bonkogo again and chawan kazari, it went pretty well...except for feeling shitty all day in the heat. When I get home in the afternoon I am literally soaked. It’s nasty. Why can’t we change to HITOE?! WHY?!!?!

After jitsugi I ran home, changed into samuei, grabbed Mecca for dinner, ate, and then went to do haigata. It was pretty bad. I thought I was going to try to go to volleyball tonight, so I rushed home to change...but I ended up not going. I don’t want to go by myself, the thought is panic inducing. I ended up ironing for an hour instead. Whee.

I still have so many things to catch up on since the chaji. Bah.

May 21st:

Gary-sensei lecture in the morning, with more information about chaji types, followed by a visit to the Japanese sweets museum. More standing in one place for long periods of time, although it was air conditioned this time. It did not put me in a good mood. I hate being surrounded by people, I just want space.

Afternoon jitsugi sumitsuki and koichatsuki kagetsu by Kato-sensei, who I believe is one of the upper level mizuya or a gyotei sensei...not sure which. I was a little nervous to do kagetsu with an outside teacher, especially on Friday when I was tired, but it went fine and he was very patient with us.

That night Yuichi had an okonomiyaki party in his room, and as much as I wanted to I just couldn’t bring myself to go. I just need space. I am tired of the crowds, tired of people, tired of everyone talking all the time, I am just tired. I want silence and space. It didn’t help that everyone kept slamming doors all night until past 1 AM and knocking on my door. Even after taking drugs I was up past 1 listening to it. I will look forward to living on my own again.

May 22nd:

Continuing the theme of last night, I wanted space. I didn’t answer my door, or my phone and people don’t take hints apparently because my phone rang several times and I lost count of people knocking on my door after the 10th time. Seriously. Why can’t I have one day to myself? I watched a lot of Lost and took drugs again to get to sleep.

May 23rd:

Still not answering my door or the phone, people have only knocked on my door a few times today. Before I could just stay in Johnny’s room when I needed to get away, and now I have no where to go and it is making me panicky. The girls decided to have a gathering at lunchtime and leave the door open so I actually had to go and ask them to close the damn door. Really? Why do I have to do this? Why can’t people learn to respect each others space? Why is that not common sense?

I started trying to write and my post about my chaji got deleted halfway through writing it, so now I will start over again. Ahhh. I don’t want to go back to class tomorrow. I don’t want to be surrounded by people anymore.
My day started at 5:30 when I woke up to make the omogashi. I woke up, made some coffee, put on the Daily Show and started making sweets. The omogashi was a kuzu (kudzu) shibori: a ball of shiroan dyed purple on the inside and a layer of kuzu on the outside. Kuzu is somewhat clear once it has been heated so the effect is like looking through an opaque window. The difficultly in making the sweet that the kuzu needs to be heated to a fairly high temperature and then shaped while it is still hot. I made a chakin shibori using saran wrap, and it was difficult to ensure that the an ball was completely wrapped in kuzu and the seran wrap “shibori” finished while the temperature was up. I was having some trouble doing all of this at once, and ended up grabbing Mecca to help me wrap them up in the end. Once we were finished (about 7:00 AM) I showered and got dressed. Then Mecca and I gathered everything that was left in the dorm (tea, flowers, omogashi) together and headed to Chado Kaikan. The weather was beautiful, warm and breezy. I was happy the weather agreed with the day.

Murata-sensei wasn’t there when we arrived so Mecca and I started getting the mizuya set up, filling mizusashi, sifting tea, checking the height of the jiku, etc. While I was checking the jiku the kohai surprised me by coming in with the mizuyamimai! My reaction was to say “Ah! You’re early! Get out!” Not very tealike! I put away the jiku and went out the thank them for bringing mizuyamimai and found all of the girls standing outside. I told them to come in, and everyone came to sit in Shinka. Hamana-sensei wasn’t there to begin the cleaning so we all sat around chatting, talking about different chaji experiences, and enjoying the surroundings. It was a nice beginning to the day.

Once Hamana-sensei arrived and cleaning started it seemed like everything went really quickly. Murata-sensei arrived around this time as well, and when he showed up he was surprised that he had so little to do. Go team awesome! While everyone was cleaning inside Murata-sensei taught us how to sculpt the ash in the hiire and laughed at my pathetic attempts. He talked about how he was tired since he had been out drinking late with Masuda-san the night before and I asked him if he was late because he was hungover. His reply? “Ah sumimasen,” Cone retort “Bad sensei!” Mecca comment “Are you scolding the sensei?” Cone reply “Yes.” I am a bad Cone :)

Once everyone was outside we started to set up the honseki and put out the tabakobon in the machiai. It seemed like we had a lot of time and I kept looking for things to do because if I sat still too long I would get nervous. Strangely, I wasn’t too nervous during this day. This is my big problem, I made myself sick with worry for weeks and when it comes time to actually do the chaji I don’t have a problem. Go figure. After everyone left we had plenty of time to eat! But before that, Hamana-sensei told us that Daisosho was in the office and wanted us to aisatsu! How lucky to see him one the day of my chaji! Murata-sensei took us to aisatsu him and explained that we were there for a keiko chakai, and he said that if we had any questions we should ask him. Daisosho is always so generous, I am always amazed by him.

We sat in the kitchen to eat a delicious lunch made by our kohai, and Daisosho walked by again and commented that the sandwiches looked delicious :) Awesome. While we ate we talked about the timing for the sumi, and the hiire and mizumaki. Mecca was responsible for many of these things and I kept thinking how lucky I was to have her as my hanto. During all of the preparations and all through this day she was so supportive and great, I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Once we finished eating I was taught how to wipe the furo with my fukusa, which I had to do at the end of shozumi, and then we practiced ringing the gong for the first time. That thing is heavy! I had no idea! I was holding it when Murata-sensei rang it so that I could listen to the sound, and I could barely keep it steady!

Pretty soon it was time for everyone to arrive and all of a sudden we were starting! Mecca, Murata-sensei and I were in the kitchen preparing the kumidashi and I watched as Mecca went to bring it in. Then I went to sit outside to listen and wait for them all to finish in the machiai and go into the koshikake. Once everyone moved to the koshikake it was time for me to start. I have a hard time describing my feeling at that moment. I was both relaxed and on a complete adrenaline rush at the same time. Is that possible? I took the teoke and walked to the tsukubai, and started. I emptied out the tsukubai halfway, and each time I removed a scoop of water I was actually rating myself “oh that one had a nice sound” “that fell flat” “I put water in that spot too many times” I have problem! Once it was halfway emptied I purified myself and them emptied the bucket, standing up as I poured. All in all, it wasn’t bad for a first attempt. I walked back to the tearoom, put the bucket down, and then walked back in front of the koshikake and bowed to the guests. I am not sure if I am supposed to smile or not, but I couldn’t help but smile when I looked at everyone standing there. How could I not? I was serving everyone tea! I turned and walked back and remembered what Hamana-sensei told me about having to lift the gate to put it on a rock in order to hold it closed. What i didn’t realize was if I lifted it at all the entire gate would come off. All of a sudden, there I was standing there with the gate in my hands! It was surprisingly light! I tried to put it back on as gracefully as I could (I managed about halfway) and walked back to the tearoom. What a great way to start :P

I went back to the tearoom, made sure everything was ready for sumi, and waited behind the door for the guests to come in and seat themselves. I heard Hamana-sensei tell Talon to fix the lid on the kama. Damnit! I ALWAYS forget that! Finally it was time for me to go in. I paused for a minute outside of the door. It was the second time I paused outside of Shinka, the first time being Oiemoto-sama’s seki at the Christmas chakai. This time I was teishu. So, I entered the tearoom. I bowed, Anna asked me to come in, and we began the greetings. Some in English, some in Japanese, some formal, some informal, all wonderful.

Afterwards I began the explanation of the machiai, starting with the tokonoma. There was a waka which read “さみだれのふるやかにはの利休梅いろかをりもなつかしかな” which was about the color and fragrance of the rikyubai in the garden after the rain in May being very nostalgic. The background of the scroll was a fresh green color, which was echoed throughout the toriawase. The kumidashibon was nawanuri, and the kumidashiwan were hagi. The soft color seemed very appropriate to my theme. The water itself was from Goryo Jinja, since today was the same day as the Goryo matsuri and corresponded to my theme. The tabakobon in the machiai was Gengensai konomi kozama sukashi (the same that was used in the Christmas chakai) and the hiire was oribe. In the koshikake, the tabakobon was handled kiji, icho sukashi with a seiji hiire.

Finally, we arrived in the honseki where Anna asked about the jiku “Kunpuu Minami Kara Kitari” (The Fragrant Wind Naturally Blows from the South). The edges of the scroll were a vibrant blue, which enhanced the sometsuke mizusashi. The tana was a simple Sotan konomi marujoku, and the hakucho (swan) haboki and eboshi (courtiers hat) kogo sat on top. Once the explanations were complete I excused myself back to the mizuya and got ready to start sumi. I entered the room and started the sumidemae. During the temae itself I kept forgetting the different feather strokes, but I just kept going. In the end, I put in the sumi with my left hand. I have tried and tried to use my right hand but during the chaji I just did not want to worry about it. So, I did it with my left hand and that was that.

Sumi went by very quickly (my favorite part was explaining the swan feather...once again, BAD CONE), and all of a sudden I was back in the mizuya waiting for the haiken to start. I could hear everyone being very curious about the kogo, and I was laughing a little on the inside. When I went back in and explained the eboshi shape I could see that some people got it and some didn’t. It was kind of a fun game to me.

I left the room and served the sweets. How scary to carry a stack of fuchidaka five layers tall! I managed to not knock them over. I was really happy about that. I really wanted to hear comments about the sweets, especially because I wasn’t totally pleased about how the turned out, but there wasn’t time. I went back into the mizuya to prepare for koicha and add the tea I needed in the third bowl. It was a lot of tea. I was going to have three bowls of koicha (first two for 3 guests, third for 5 guests) so there was a ton of tea in the third bowl.

Once all of the guests had left Shinka Mecca and I ran in, took down the scroll, swept and cleaned Shinka, and put up the flowers. The flowers were probably my favorite part of the day. The hanaire was based on a Gengensai konomi mikizutsuhanaire, the shape is for sake being offered to the gods, and this particular one was made by Talon. It was beautiful. I used a single tessen flower, lavender so pale it was almost white, and full of leaves and tendrils. It looked like it was growing out of the hanaire. I was so pleased, that is the one thing I wish I had a picture of...and I really hate taking pictures in the tea room. Everything was quickly cleaned and prepared, and Murata-sensei came to get me to ring the gong. I was nervous since I got a lot of criticism when was practicing, but Murata-sensei was really supportive when I was actually doing it. Every time I rang the gong he was saying “kanpeki!” and telling me I was doing well. He can be an ass, but during this time he was really kind. It was appreciated.

Everyone re-entered the tearoom and I started koicha. My first bowl was a black raku, which I thought felt really nice in my hands, and the wavy rim felt reminiscent of water which gave it a lighter feeling. When I started to do yohosabaki I realized that my fukusa had been folded in my obi incorrectly! AHHH! This is the problem with a new fukusa, the lines aren’t there! I folded it backwards, and so I got confused when I was turning the fukusa and ended up doing it improperly. Ah well. Other than that the temae went smoothly. The first bowl was fine, but when I poured in the tea for the second bowl I realized that I had A LOT of tea in the chaire. A LOT. It ended up being a huge bowl of tea, and when I took out the chasen a drop of koicha landed on my finger. Gah! I pulled out the first kobukusa trying not to get koicha all over it, while trying to make it look like I wasn’t trying to not get koicha all over it. (Confused? So am I.) For koicha I had used kashin no mukashi from Kanbayashi, as it was one of the shops we had visited in Uji the week before. The second bowl was a smooth karatsu, and the kobukusa was green with a shishi (guardian lion) design. I forgot to ask “ofukukagen wa?” for the second bowl because I was distracted by the koicha on my hand.

In the end I tried to discreetly take out a kaishi and wipe it off. I’m not sure how discreet it was, but it had to be done. Mecca brought in the third bowl, which was a large Iraho, and when I started whisking it I quickly realized I put too much tea in the bowl. If I thought I put too much tea in the second bowl, the third one was MASSIVE. I used two full scoops from the hishaku to finish it! The kobukusa was a red-violet kachomondonsu (bird and flower design) that both Hamana-sensei and Mai-chan really lliked.

After the koicha had been made I continued with tsuzukiusucha. I ran back to the mizuya with the first koicha bowl and told Murata-sensei and Mecca that I had made so many mistakes! Hahaha! Things seemed to be proceeding smoothly. I brought in the tabakobon (forgot to bow, someone was talking), and then the higashi. The higashi were aokaede (green maple) jellies and blue mizu (water) wasambo. They were on a square black higashi bon and the colors really stood out against the plain black tray.

I came in with the usucha bowl, which was the white (green and rust colored) raku-type bowl that I had received from my host family as a birthday present. Lani was the second guest and received this bowl, and Mecca came in with the second bowl. The second bowl was the white Ido-shaped bowl that I received from Ben before he left, and Anna was happy to get to drink from this bowl. The usucha was seijin no shiro from Fukujuen, which is her favorite store. From the third guest, half of the tea was served from them mizuya and half was made by me, in order to save time. The kazuchawan were u no hana kyoyaki from Akanegama. There were a lot of really light colored items in my toriawase, and I was a little worried that it was too much, but in the end it seemed to work out ok. During the usucha temae people were getting a little warm, so we opened some of the fusuma and for me I was really happy to feel the warm breeze coming through the tea room and see the sunlight playing on the tessen flower.

I was pleased that I was able to make all of the usucha (two rounds) with my right hand. I never had to switch hands and I felt fine. Woo! At this point the mood was very light and I was so happy to see that everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. That is most important to me. So often I will be hard on myself about things like sumi, or haigata, and I keep asking myself why I continue to study tea when I am so bad at so many things. However, in the end, the feeling that I get from days like today are most important to me. I love the feeling of serving tea for people I care about and being able to communicate with them through my temae, rather than through words.

All too soon the usucha was complete and it was time for haiken. The chaire was large, takatori mimitsuki with a white and gold futaezuru botan karakusa shifuku. The chashaku was carved by Zabosai Oiemoto and the name was Kagura (music of the gods), and finally, the natsume was a black hiranatsume with a soft red phoenix across the lid. I finished my haiken, placed the natsume on the tana, picked up the remaining items and walked out.

It was a good feeling.

I opened the door again, and finished the ending greetings. Wendy totally picked up on my matsuri theme and it made me so happy, and I was hugely amused by Stella’s “I am...satisfied” comment.

I left the tea room, waited for everyone to finish their last look around the room, and then opened the door to the roji to see everyone off. I finished! I did it! :) :) :)

Once they left I went back, made some tea for Murata-sensei and Mecca, and then Hamana-sensei scolded us for wasting too much time while everyone was waiting. We went to the ryurei room and it was time for COMMENTS. I was completely expecting Hamana-sensei to talk about all of the mistakes I made during temae, but he he made some very nice comments about our organization and timing and how the flow went very well. He mentioned how everyone had pieces of the toriawase that they liked and how the most important aspect of the chaji was the atmosphere and making the guest feel comfortable. Murata-sensei was also very kind and said that we were so well prepared there was nothing for him to do and we would have been fine on our own. I couldn’t have been happier. My guests were happy, I made a lot of mistakes, but everyone enjoyed themselves and if the tea is good and everyone is happy that is all I need.

Cleaning went by super fast, and before I knew it Mecca, Talon and I were unpacking everything in dogubeya again. We unpacked everything, set it out to dry, and I took a shower and made myself my first bowl of tea that day before going out to get dinner with my two hantos. While Mecca Talon and I were walking we came upon the Goryo Matsuri and got to see the oxcarts and the mikoshi, and it was just a perfect end to the day. I felt like I was dreaming all day. We had dinner at Subway, I got a can of Mountain Dew at the import store to celebrate, and then we stopped by Lush where I treated myself a bit. I think I deserve it. All in all, I am very happy about today. Very, very happy.
May 10:

Toban:  Cho.  Got there early to make sure all preparations were ready.  Unfortunately, my shokyaku was not in class today, so I couldn't give out my invitations.  Sad!  Japanese history in the morning, still a fun class for me.  

Gozumi, kinindate usucha and koicha in the afternoon.  I did kinindate usucha.  

May 11: 

Tea picking in Uji!  The weather wasn't great, it was a little rainy...but somehow it added to the atmosphere in Uji.  I always picture it as kind of a wild place.  The river was wide and the rapids were so fast compared to the shallow slow moving Kamogawa I am used to.  When we first arrived we went to Marukyu Koyamaen and got to witness tea picking (and pick tea ourselves) and then watch tea processing in its various stages.  Raw tea leaves don't taste nearly as good as processed tea, just for the record.  We were able to drink several bowls of new tea at Koyamaen, and I was shocked at how different the flavor was from the standard matcha that we drink.  People often refer to matcha, and many green teas as having a very "green" or "herbal" flavor, but this was a completely different experience for me.  I can't even think of an accurate way to describe it, except that it was extremely potent, strong, bitter, and completely intoxicating.  

After Koyamaen we went to Kambayashi, and met the current head of the family, who had been founded as the providers of tea for the Shogun during the Tokugawa era.  We were able to walk through their museum and see relics of the tea processions from Uji to Edo and letters from more famous people than I could count :)  The modern manufacturing methods at Koyamaen provided a sharp contrast for the images and antiques of matcha production.  Thinking about all tea being picked and processed by hand in and of itself is an overwhelming thought to me.  

Our final destination was Fukujuen, where we tried our hand at grinding tea using a granite grinding mill.  These are still used for all matcha production today, but at places like Koyamaen they are mechanized so that people are not actually turning the mill by hand.  It's hard!  I ground about 3 grams of tea and it took at least 10 minutes.  That's insane.  We drank the tea that we ground, which was not as fine as the store bought matcha we were used to, and found out that it was much more difficult to whisk since it had only been done once.  At the Fukujuen store, I covertly had Talon purchase some Usucha for me, since I had been informed that Anna preferred Fukujuen usucha.  

Asahi, the ceramic family, is coincidentally right next door to Fukujuen, so we were lucky enough to stop in there as well and talk to the mother of the current head of the family.  There is a large variation in the type of works produced at their kiln, and I had a hard time deciding if I was more attracted to the bright solid color pieces or the softer spotted works that looked like hagi.  Mrs. Asahi also served us sencha from their family harvest which was amazing.  We were very well caffienated by the end of the day.  

After several train trips we finally arrived home, and in the train station before we left I was able to give out my invitations and let Anna know that she would be my shokyaku.  

May 12:

In the morning we had jitsugi in Cha Ken, which was a first for the kohai.  It was also the first time for our class to be sitting up in the yojohan, which is slightly raised above the rest of the tatami.  It didn't take long to figure out that this meant we had a good view of what the kohai were doing in class...and I wonder now how much our sempai were watching us.  Hahaha!

Class was gozumi and kininkyotsugu usucha.  Once again, we only had four in class so we were all able to do temae, which was nice, especially since it was kininkyotsugu which is a longer temae.  

After class we cleaned up, went to lunch, and had a bit of time before the Welcome Chakai hosted by the gakuensei.  Mereca and I took this opportunity to go to Tokusai to purchase new fukusa and kobukusa.  Tokusai is located off of Horikawa (main street) around the corner from the boys dorm.  For us girls, during the day we only walk up and down Ogawa (small street were Gakuen and Konnichian are located) so there isn't a whole lot of opportunity to be stared at because we are foreigners in kimono.  Because of this, I sometimes forget that it is strange for me (170 cm blonde American) to be walking around in kimono.  Right now is tourist season in Kyoto, which includes a lot of tourist busses.  On the way to Tokusai we passed a bus full of people, all of whom were STARING.  I pointed this out to Mereca and we decided the best way to deal with the situation was to wave at them.  So we did.  And they waved back, and started applauding us and taking pictures.  Honestly.  This happened again on the way back, along with a kid on a bike who turned around, looked at Mereca and called out "beautiful!" as he passed us.  Good times in Kyoto.  We got required fukusa and kobukusa (Tokusai is always a dangerous store) and headed back to school to meet up with everyone for the chakai.  

In the machiai there were two scrolls on opposite ends, one describing a carp turning into a dragon with an image of the carp leaping upwards into the waterfall, and another of a chick turning into a crane.  Parallel structures of real/mythological male/female animals overcoming struggles and working towards a final objective.  A fitting image for the incoming students.  

In the honseki, the theme included a lot of Rikyu konomi items as the students wanted to present the incoming members with a sense of Rikyu's tea, which they are now studying.  The natsume was a Rikyu konomi oonatsume, and it seemed so large to me, I honestly think it was because there was no decoration.  The blackness of it sucked me in.  The jiku described polishing the white jewel, representing the need for continuous hard work and practice.  The hanaire was a tsurukubi with a kumagaiso (lady slipper).  The flower was completely beautiful to me, and I actually wasn't aware that it was native to Japan.  The symmetry and balance with the hanaire were really special.  

The kotobukidana was used, with a setto hitoeguchi mizusahi.  The haigata in the furo was toyama, done by Okamoto-san and very beautiful.  I am jealous of anyone with haigata skills.  The chashaku was called "tachi tsuru" standing crane, and the tea also recalled a crane, so there were three total in the honseki.  The furosaki byobu had been a gift from the recently graduated class, kiji.  I thought it was a nice touch to use a gift from the graduates in the Welcome Chakai to the new students, it seemed to show the continuing cycle in this "tea family."  The sweets were made by the students to represent fuyaki senbei, it was actually like a small crepe with miso filling.  It was extremely delicious.  

Afterwards, when we were haikening the dogu, Talon asked Okamoto-san (who had been hanto again) who made the haigata.  Okamoto said that he had made it and Talon exclaimed "I knew it!" Okamoto told Talon to speak to him in English because he wanted to learn English "especially from you!" he directed to me.  I was completely taken aback by this, since this is the same kid who I didn't know spoke any English until about two months ago!  I probably just looked at him in shock and said "why me???" before I was hustled out of the room for the next seki.  

The food provided was excellent, and Ihara-san (of the legs comment) was the hanto.  He was a good hanto, but you can tell he gets a little nervous about public speaking.  Who doesn't?!  Besides Okamoto, who never seems nervous about anything.  It was a fun little meal though, and Kei kept making a beeline for Mereca to try to serve her sake and food.  We laughed a lot, and I think it got him in trouble later.  Poor Kei-kun.

That night I had haigata, and had asked Talon to help me.  I had to kick out all of the kohai who kept wanting to crowd around me and stare, which drives me absolutely INSANE.  There are at least 50 times in any given day where I just want to scream out GO AWAY.  I was having a difficult time, and Yuichi was on the other side of the hallway helping out one of the ichinen course girls.  Eventually he came over to chat while Talone finished his cleaning and I told him his job was to keep talking and distract me so I wouldn't think about haigata anymore.  At some point Kei-kun came in too, and he was tired and just wanted to sit down for a while, so it ended up being me, Talon, Yuichi and Kei all sitting around while I struggled through haigata.  Goto-san came up at one point to politely tell me to hurry the fuck up, and I apologized for keeping him so late.  Yuichi offered to lend me his furo so I could practice, which was really kind of him, and I kind of thought he was joking.  

May 13:

Hamana-sensei lecture about May seasonal topics.  He went over so many things that I was planning to use in my chaji that I was worried that nothing would be interesting!  Hahaha!  I think it was probably good for everyone to see it though, and it was nice for me to see everything May related and get inspired about my chaji again.  

Afternoon:  I helped Jin-chan with fire, and did gozumi, and then the second half of kininkyotsugu koicha since we still only had four people in class.  I was supposed to meet with Hamana-sensei in the evening to finalize my dogu list so that we could send the request to borrow items from gakuen, but I wasn't aware that he didn't have much time.  Since my list was at home and I had to do haigata afterwards, I ended up running home from class, ripping off my kimono, putting on samuei, and running to the office with my computer.  In the end the time was ok, we went through Gakuen and made some final decisions, I got my swan feather, choose a hanaire, got the mizusashi and the higashibon, and we are all set with dogu.  Yay!  

I did Sylvain's haigata that evening so that I could get more practice, and at some point Yuichi asked me to call him so I did and he asked when he could bring over his furo for me.  He was serious!  He actually brought me a furo, and a book on haigata.  He really is the nicest person.  In the evening I had some relaxing time and went to get ice cream with Mereca and Talon, it was nice...I need more relax time.  

May 14:

Gary-sensei lecture on chaji types in the morning, followed by chado history with Tanihata-sensei.  I was really happy to get the lecture on different chaji types, I feel like I had been waiting for information about that all year.  Tanihata-sensei was lecturing about tea games and vendors during the Muromachi/early Edo period that are not directly linked to chado.  Although there is no direct relation to this kind of tea drinking, I find the reasons and methods for why people choose to drink tea very interesting.  

Jitsugi:  gozumi, tsuzuki usucha.  We were up on the third floor for the first time this semester, and I kept having this nostalgic feeling.  I am not sure why, but I have really pleasant memories in that large space.  I did tsuzuki usucha to practice for the chaji, and still made a lot of mistakes!  Eeep!  My toban was floors, but I did cha was well because Mai-chan was out sick.  

After class I had dinner, and then ran home again because I had the girls over for our long awaited Monopoly party!  Nozomi and Mari came, plus Mecca, Mai-chan, Wendy and Jin.  Wada-san was supposed to come as well, but ended up having a meeting run late so she didn't get a chance to come over.  The Monopoly game never finished, but there was a lot of laughter, people bending in strange ways, and Wendy foolishly betting me to a card game.  Egyptian Ratscrew.  Three times.  As a result, she was required to flirt with Kazuo for a week in the hopes that he would leave me and Mai-chan alone.  

May 15:

Aoi-matsuri in the morning.  It was my first time being able to see it, and we watched from the forest at Kamigamo-jinja.  The weather was lovely and me, Mecca, Wendy and Mai-chan went together and saw all of the Heian period procession, which was marred only by the pushy people in front of us who kept standing every time something passed by so they could get a picture.  Honestly.  :P  I came back to relax a bit in the afternoon, before Mecca and I went to Chado Kaikan to meet Hamana-sensei and practice temae for my chaji.  My nerves have been a bit on edge and I was a little emotional to start out with, but once I started in on the temae things proceeded more smoothly.  I am so terrified of letting people down.  I just want everyone to be happy.  

Mecca and I had delicious ramen/gyoza/beer dinner that night.  It was excellent.  Yuichi popped in to say hi in the middle of dinner because he had seen us from outside.  He had been on his way back from Zen training at Daitoku-ji...I need more Zen in my life.  

May 16:

Phone call from Hamana-sensei in the morning, and was able to do haigata at Chado Kaikan that afternoon.  I had hoped to practice in my room one more time before I went, but wasn't able to and it made me nervous.  It was a little painful for me, and I ended up making Hamana-sensei upset, which made me more upset...etc. etc.  I hate being a disappointment.  

Spent the rest of the evening trying to get organized and trying not to exist.  Those things are difficult to accomplish simultaneously.  

May 17:

Monday morning.  It is the day before my chaji.  Is everything ready?!?!  AHHH!!  Despite my frequent emotional breakdowns I have been trying to keep it together in front of the kohai as much as possible.  They are my guests after all.  My toban was tables, so I wasn't stressed with anything in the morning.  Plus, I had Wendy flirting with Kazuo all day to be me amused...so really I had to be happy.  

Quiz in the morning followed by Yamamoto-gyotei-sensei lecture on different aspects of a chaji, like conversation, mizuya preparation, etc.  How fitting!  

Afternoon jitsugi was bonkogo, kasanejawan and irekodate.  I wanted to do bonkogo to practice my sumidemae again before the chaji, and Talon told me he would give up his lesson to let me do kasanejawan as well.  He is too good.  Thankfully, we ended up having enough time so he was able to do irekodate as well so I did both and everyone was still able to do temae.  I wouldn't feel right about taking his practice time.  

After class I asked if Mai-chan could do my tatami for that day, and then Mecca and I RAN out of class to get everything done.  First stop:  Tawaraya to pick up higashi, then back to the dorms, change into samuei, pick up Talon, run to flower store, buy flowers, stop back at dorm to drop off flowers and pick up water bottles, walk to Goryo Jinja to fill water bottles, and momentarily got caught up in the festival!  I bought Mecca a taiyaki (her favorite) and we ate them quickly as the three of us made our way back towards the dorm.  Talon and I went straight to Chado Kaikan to drop off the water and then went back to meet Mecca in the dorm, where she was gathering the things we needed from dogubeya.  We got all of the boxes and furoshiki and dogu together and made our way back down Ogawa-dori.  I stopped off at Gakuen to pick up the items that I was borrowing, I must have looked tired because Kazuo dropped his joking persona for a moment to ask if I was ok.  Talon came and helped me carry the gong and other items to kaikan.  From there we started to clean up and set up the mizuya, and Hamana-sensei met us there and directed us on how to set up properly.  We ended up being there until nearly 8:30 and I was feeling exhausted.  Mecca, Talon and I went for ramen dinner afterwards...dinner of champions!  That night I was too tired and drained to even think about practicing.  I read over my dogu list and fell asleep, but not before receving a text from Wada-san wishing me good luck.  It was a good way to end the evening.  
May 1st:

Received a reply from the friend that called today, it was completely innocuous. I have no idea why he called and I am still feeling a bit mixed up about it. I had a nice long morning of listening to music, making gyokuro and reading before I organized myself to head out and do some preparation for my chaji, which is about 2.5 weeks away. I started at Goryo Jinja, which will be the theme and inspiration for my event. Goryo Jinja is the protective shrine for the city of Kyoto, and their annual matsuri is on the 18th (same day as my chaji). Very fortuitous :) Between this and the beginning of summer and opening of the furo I have a lot of celebratory and happy things to choose from for toriawase. The first thing I saw when I walked into the shrine was all of the irises blooming, and there was a profusion of purple and green, it seemed like a good sign :) The mikoshi was already out on display and there were so many symbols and images, it was difficult not to get inspired. I checked out the water situation too, to see if it would be possible to use water from the Shrine for my chaji. It would be nice!

Afterwards I headed downtown to start on my quest, and got shomohin (hishaku, chasen, etc.) at Zuiun, and then invitation paper, and then searched all over Nishiki and Takashimaya for beniimo for my omogashi. No luck. Returned home a little sad, but went out again to Oimatsu and Tsuruya to check out the higashi situation. I knew what kind of higashi I wanted but I wanted to look over a few different places before I made my selection.

MY overall strategy for chaji prep is to get a lot of the basics done over break and get most of my toriawase (what utensils and theme I will use) finalized so that when school starts again I can focus on practicing my temae. We will see how it works out. Returned home at about 5 PM, made dinner and am enjoying a glass of wine while contemplating a few ideas about toriawase. It’s not bad, I think I might be enjoying myself so far. The omogashi might be an issue, but I hope to resolve it shortly.

Tonight we gathered in Wendy's room for tea and sweets.  The girl really likes buying sweets.  Her enthusiasm scares me sometimes, in a good way.  I certainly don't mind when someone wants to serve me tea and sweets :)  It was fun, Mai-chan and Wendy had an arm wrestling contest, and then Wendy and Talon kept telling really bad jokes.  Fun evening.  Now I have finally caught up again, and we will see if I can maintain this journal somehow through this month.  Wish me luck.

May 2nd:

Woke up to a phone call from Hamana-sensei at about 8:45. I had slept too late anyways. Because I was still a little groggy, I forgot to ask him about where I could find beniimo and ended up sending him an email. I am starting to think this is a hopeless cause. FINALLY went out for a run at about 9:15, then came back, shower, bowl of tea, and off with Mecca to visit Goryo Jinja. We got to pray together for chaji success and then steal water for testing. Afterwards we went to Tawaraya to look at sweets, then get lunch, and then go to Vivre to see if they had beniimo. No luck. Starbucks on the way home to make myself feel better.

Mecca hasn’t been feeling well so I left her back at the dorm and went out in search of higashi at a few places, finally made my decision and placed an order, and then headed to Shijo to try to find beniimo at Daimaru and Meijiya. No and No. The crowds on Shijo were driving me mad. MAD. I went to Starbucks again, and then to the bookstore for a while to try to calm down. Finally wandered home around 6:30 and then got dinner for me and Mecca. After this I washed the sumi, and now if I have any energy left I will write the text for invitations. I feel like I should have accomplished more today. Grr...

I really don’t want to have to come up with a whole new concept for the sweets.

May 3rd:

Despite my desire to sit in bed all morning and be lazy, I went out to run again this morning. I can’t get over how beautiful it has been outside the last two days. All of a sudden it turned into summer. I even have a sunburn from walking around outside all day yesterday! The run felt good, and after the stress of the last two days I ended up taking the afternoon off, cooking food, watching TV and then cleaning my room for a long time. Yuichi was having a sweets night, but initially I decided not to go because I was feeling a bit down. I sat around reading for a bit, and then talked to Glenn-sensei online, thought about alternative sweets concepts, and then decided to force myself to be social and go after all.

I was glad that I went, it was a lot of fun :) Shiori, Maiko and Goto-san were there too and I hung out for a bit, ate some sweets, drank a bit of whiskey and sat with my favorite banana friend. Oh the banana. It was a good night.

May 4th:

Woke up early and went for a run about 8:30 AM, but it was already hot and humid! Whoa! Where did summer come from? When I came back I was debating whether or not to take a trip to Uji to see the fuji growing at Byodo-in (which I have still not been to) or to keep doing prep work for the chaji at home. I was feeling really tired, and the heat probably didn’t help, and in the end I decided to stay at home. I really want to see the fuji at Byodo-in, but I really couldn’t deal with the crowds and enjoy it while I was thinking about the things I should be doing here. Bah.

I ended up trying a kuzu shibori, which required cooking kuzu starch and sugar and mixing in shiroan and making a chakin shibori out of it. My initial attempt was not great...not terrible, but I have some adjustments to make. However, kuzu is really fun to play with! Mecca helped me out, and also cut the paper for my invitations, since I am completely inept at using a razor. What would I do without her??? ;) We went to get bento, and then I came back to go over some toriawase ideas, fold invitation paper, go over sweets ideas to practice the following day, and try to relax.

Unfortunately, I think I am going to be doing this for the next two weeks. Every time someone knocked on my door last night I just kept wishing that I could have one day completely to myself. I started thinking about traveling again, its been almost five months since I was in Thailand, and I’m starting to get the urge to just go somewhere again. This kind of thinking is dangerous, and I still haven’t figured out what I am going to do during the time between when the program ends in July in when I start grad school in September. We shall see.

May 5th:

Instead of going for a run, I took a morning to sit in bed and enjoy the summer breezes coming through the windows. Breakfast was slow and leisurely with a good cup of coffee and I sat with one of my favorite books for a long time. It was extremely nice. I received some feedback from Glenn-sensei about the sweets I was making, and decided to go back for a second try. The second time around I tried making a shiro an ball inside of a layer of kuzu on the outside, and it turned out really great! I was so pleased! I immediately called Mecca over to come and taste it and we agreed it was a great improvement. I HAVE MY SWEET. HAHAHAHA!

Somehow that had become a big worry for me, so having the omogashi figured out made me feel a lot better. I spent the rest of the afternoon studying, reading up on temae and seasonal things and trying to work out my toriawase a bit more.

Wendy came by at about 4 in the afternoon to say that she had bought kashiwa mochi and her chinese tea set had arrived, so we all spent the remainder of the afternoon in my room drinking tea and eating sweets. The breeze was so nice, and the tea and sweets were really lovely, and I was so happy that the omogashi came out well...when I have those moments sometimes I think I could just sit and drink tea forever.

After everyone left I cooked myself some dinner (more practice making dashi) and texted Mari and Nozomi to see if they would come and try my sweets, because I couldn’t eat them all myself! They came by and I gave them sweets and tea and we chatted for a bit about the holiday and what everyone was up to. Those two are really fun :) We set up the 14th as Monopoly part time, I am excited! Yay Monopoly party!

Now I will watch Glee and go to bed, and hope that the next two weeks go smoothly. I *heart* Glee.

May 6th:

Back to school! I got up early and went to the office to give Hamana-sensei my omogashi to have him try it. He was alright with the concept (it’s too early for kuzu), but wanted me to change the color if I kept the name I had chosen. Nothing is ever good enough :) I am violently opposed to changing the color, but I didn’t express that opinion at the time.

Went to school after my discussion with him, and we had a Principal’s meeting with Oiemoto-sama in the morning, which was the first for the kohai. Immediately before the meeting we received our scholarship, and had to walk into the classroom later than the rest of the Gakuensei, which was a little awkward. Ah well.

Mecca still wasn’t feeling well, so we sent her home after the morning lecture, and I missed her all day! My toban was just tatami today, but I helped out with hi (fire) as well. All was chaos in the chashitsu before class since the 1A’s were doing hishaku warigeiko and we needed to set up 8 furokama in the chashitsu. Okamoto-san had also informed us that morning that our room was changed so we had to put them all in room 6, instead of up on the 3rd floor. We were all running around like crazy trying to get everything set up properly. Madness.

It was the first day back in furo and everything felt so strange! I was up first with shozumi, and despite the fact that I reviewed the temae multiple times I couldn’t remember anything! It didn’t help that it was so hot, and wearing awase kimono all day was making me feel a bit ill. It was like my first couple of weeks all over again. I quite literally felt sick and dizzy all day and kept leaving the room between temae to go get water. Everything was sticking to me. Gross. I was able to do usucha as well, which was good. It was a reminder of how much I will need to practice temae before I have my chaji. AHHH!

Following jitsugi I immediately ran and stripped off my kimono, changed into samuei, and went to meet with Hamana-sensei to talk about chaji progress and my toriawase. I really suck at toriawase. I feel terrible for not having better planning skills for this chaji. I just want to make tea. That’s all. Sometimes I couldn’t care less about the dogu. There. I said it.

The meeting with Hamana-sensei was alright, but I usually feel like everything I say is wrong so I just don’t say what I am thinking. It’s probably not the best way to go about things, but whatever. As long as the work gets done.

Tatami cleaning after that, and then I went home and made food since I was too late for dinner in the shokudo. Mai-chan stopped by while I was finishing a glass of wine (I had pasta!) and started questioning my drinking habits. Yes. I do drink a lot here. I appreciate her concern, but it’s not necessary...yet. ;) We ended up having a nice chat. She is really very sweet. Now is is sleep time.

May 7th:

Zen in the morning after a night of restless sleep. I kept waking up and thinking of mukade, not a good sign. Zen was fine, and as usual I am not able to turn off my brain. The difference is I actually tried this time.

Jitsugi: gozumi, tana usucha and koicha. Toban: Nishi and hi (fire). I wasn’t actually hi, but I was helping out Khai today. Since I was trying to balance both jobs I was scrambling a bit more than usual, plus trying to make sure the junbi (preparations) were ready since I was going to do first temae as well. It wasn’t as warm today as the day before, but I was still feeling uncomfortable in awase kimono, especially after hi, so I was feeling a bit on edge by the time class started.

SURPRISE! Nakajima GYOTEI sensei walked in to teach our class. It was our first time having a Gyotei sensei teach us, and you could feel the tension in the room rising. Lucky me being the first temae. I have to say, I have never done a temae so poorly in my life. Seriously. I dropped the damn chashaku three times. Figures. It was a really excellent experience though, and he had a lot of good advice for everyone (me specifically: posture, handling of chawan, handling of hishaku). Mecca had gone home sick so I was able to do usucha at the end of class as well. It went a bit more smoothly, but I was thinking so much about not making mistakes that of course I made many mistakes. Such is life.

After class I ran off, checked on Mecca and the girls all went to dinner together. We were a bit more rowdy tonight than usual, it was fun :) Since then I have taken the evening off, watching TV and trying not to stress about chaji planning without much success. Tomorrow I will go to Osaka to meet up with some friends so that should help me to unwind a bit. I’m looking forward to it :)

May 8th:

Woke up, cleaned a bit, made myself pretty and headed down to Osaka. The weather was beautiful and I was listening to fun music and reading The Prince, so I was in a very good mood! It was great to see Sahori and Yas again! We hung out and ate okonomiyaki for lunch, walked through a rose garden, had afternoon tea (amazing scones with clotted cream. seriously. amazing.), and then took a boat ride down to Osaka-jo. All in all it was a perfectly lovely day!

By the time I got home at around 7 PM I was pretty tired and ended up chilling out for the evening, I was happy to take some time for myself.

May 9th:

Had a late morning, but ended up going running at about 10:30. It was hot, but it was a good run. Once I got home I ran into Mai-chan who offered to make me Vietnamese noodles for lunch! How can I say no to that? She is wonderful and adorable! We ended up eating together in my room and chatting about cooking and various things.

I set up a mini-chashitsu in my room to start practicing temae for the chaji, and then hung out in my room for a while making my invitations while watching TV. Still seriously addicted to Lost, now halfway through season 5. Once the invitations were finished I did another sweets test; I tried a new technique recommended by Glenn-sensei...sadly I do not have the skills to pull it off. Ah well.

In the evening I met up with my kimono sensei for a bit and then reviewed sumi demae for the chaji with Mecca. Toriawase is still not done, but I am feeling a little better about it. I will hand out the invitations tomorrow! Eeeee!
April 26:

Woke up 7:30 and decided to take too much time in both the shower and eating breakfast...and ended up having about 13 minutes to get dressed this morning. As a result, my obi was a little off all day today, and it was an unpleasant feeling. Ah well. Lectures today by Imagawa-sensei and Gary-sensei on haigata and Senke generations respectively. I didn’t translate for Imagawa-sensei’s lecture because I am trying to encourage the kohai to take more responsibility to translate, but there continues to be some reluctance to do so. I’ll keep working on it.

My toban today was chalk/tatami, but I also helped Jin with fire since we don’t want the kohai doing fire by themselves yet. I was the teishu for sumi shomo today and got to practice the atsukai for the tsukigigama for the first time, and last time. It was our last scheduled sumi demae this month, so it is our last ro sumi and everyone was feeling a little depressed about it. I felt happy about my sumi demae for the first time ever, as far as my part went. It was a good way to end my ro sumi experience in Midorikai. From now I have to practice furo sumi since I don’t have a lot of time before my chaji! Ahh!

Today was tana usucha and koicha, and when everyone had finished temae we still had some time left over so we did one round of hira kagetsu as well. After class I chatted with Hamana-sensei for a while about some dorm maintenance and ended up getting to dinner later than I hoped. Rushed through dinner and went to clean tatami, and then watched the haigata done by Jin, with Talon’s help. I will need to practice haigata a lot more in the next month. Afterwards I went to Talon’s room and chatted for a bit, finished some errands in the dorm, and the next thing I knew it was 9:30. I am tired.

April 27th:

I had meant to wake up early in the morning and totally failed. *sigh* One of these days I will be able to run again. Gary-sensei lecture in the morning on kyojo, and I learned a bit more information on some of the upper temae. Sometimes I think about these things, and progress with temae, and when I will reach what level and all of that, and most of the time I just don’t care. I am interested in learning new temae, but I have to confess that I have a certain aversion to the kyojo system.

Our last jitsugi and we did shozumi, usucha and koicha. I did hakobi usucha for the first time in I don’t know how long, and I found myself hesitating once or twice because some things had started to feel unfamiliar to me because we are always using a tana. Also, we are normally making koicha so I am always getting mixed up :) After class I went to change, then dinner, then bathroom cleaning, then organizing my room and preparation for sumikiri, then buying snacks for the class for the following day, and then I stopped by my kimono-sensei’s place to pick up my new awesome samuei and make some decisions about summer purchases. I am going to look so damn good the last 6 weeks I am here. It’s not even funny.

April 28th:

Sumikiri! I was super happy to be wearing my new black samuei, which are huge and awesome and I am calling them my “gangster samuei.” We worked together with the 2nd year class, and it was cool to have that interaction with the gakuensei. I sat next to Yu-chan for a while and joked with him about how me and Mecca were going to get ice cream afterwards, and it was too bad that he was on mizuya toban and couldn’t come. He told me he hated me until I said I wouldn’t buy him ice cream if he talked that way, at which point he told me me loved me. What a nice boy. Hahaha! I was pleased to find that we had a break during lunch because it meant that I was able to get some errands done (getting new bills for monthly dues and making taxi reservations).

After sumikiri I showered and went back to school to aisatsu with Kitazume-san, and when we saw Yu-chan at school he just said “ice cream” under his breath which caused me to laugh a lot and everyone around me to ask what was wrong since no one else heard it. Following aisatsu I had dinner, and Mecca and I decided that we would get ice cream, and we would buy ice cream for everyone in the mizuya toban group because they all looked so damn tired. So we did, and they probably think we are crazy, but it was fun :)

In the evening I had Mari and Nozomi over to my room for tea, and Wendy and Mecca came over as well. It was fun to be able to hang out with them, since they are both really nice and I have been trying to find time for them to come over for a while! We chatted about school and tea things and I served them the Oolong tea I got from Stefen, and Wendy brought a ton of sweets and we had a nice time :)

April 29th:

Tetsudai at Hoshoan, the tearoom at Kokusaikaikan. We were there together with several of the Gakuensei, mostly the 2-3rd year girls as well as a few boys. Luckily, we got to work together with Mari-san, and I unofficially became her assistant for the day. We had 16 seki total and there were 570 guests. The room was split between people who were sitting on tatami and people who were seated on chairs behind, so Midorikai (+Mari) were responsible for the people on the chairs side. All day long in the mizuya preparing sweets and carrying tea bowls back and forth. The windows and doors were all open because it was such a beautiful day, and I could see the green maple leaves at the door outside the mizuya. Despite being so busy, with the weather and getting to work with Mari it was a really pleasant day.

We returned home at about 5, and I was so tired I didn’t move for the rest of the day and ended up falling asleep around 9:30.

April 30th:

Woke up at 12:30 AM because my cell phone was ringing, I answered and it was a friend from Boston who I haven’t been in touch with in a few months. At first (either from my half-awake state or from the time since I heard his voice) I didn’t recognize him and it took me a while to figure out who was calling. Honestly, it was a little alarming that he called. I have been so wrapped up in this little tea world that sometimes I forget that I will have to go back to reality in a few short months. Sometimes I wish I could stay here forever, but I am sure that is my escapist personality talking. The conversation was very short and the ending was abrupt, as it tends to be with this person, so the conversation ended with me feeling a little on edge.

Woke up again in the morning after a long sleep, which felt good after all of the work from the previous day. I sent a short email to my friend to thank him for the phone call, because I wasn’t sure what else to do. All during the day I kept thinking about that phone call, and wishing I didn’t have to be distracted by it. Morning was the continuation of the May seasonal lecture by Hamana-sensei, and then osoji in the afternoon for ro/furo irekae (changing from ro to furo). I can’t believe ro season is already over. I will miss ro sumi terribly.

Following cleaning I went to the office to meet with Hamana-sensei to begin to talk about my chaji. My arrival happened to coincide with the office having tea time (coincidence, I swear!) so I was lucky enough to have tea at the office. Lucky!!! The meeting went alright, although I wasn’t as prepared as I had hoped to be at that point. Hamana-sensei had a lot of good input and got me headed in a good direction.

The evening consisted of dinner in the Shokudo, organizing the second floor, washing a lot of towels, awesome conversation with Glenn-sensei, and trying to get my head organized for chaji planning.
April 16:

Chado history in the morning with Tanihata-sensei. He started from the beginning, so I think that we will hear everything over again from this point. That is kind of a drag, but I never get tired of his lectures ever. Toban: Floor and Hi.

Afternoon jitsugi SHAZA. AHHH!!!! Did not study. Well, I read through the pdf’s, but I hardly processed any of the information. Shaza is one of the shichijishiki where every member plays a different role (incense, flowers, sumi, usucha, koicha). I ended up being the ko (incense) person first and had a lot of fun with it. There are a lot of similarities between how it is done in shaza and kodo (incense ceremony). I have had a few opportunities to see incense ceremony and always wanted to learn more about it, so it was fun to learn how to do it myself. During the break I even got to prepare the koro and tried my hand at sculpting the ash. Not terrible, not great. Meh.

Second round I did sumi, without actually laying sumi since it was already in there. Since I was just mimicking you would think that I would be ok. I wasn’t ok. Apparently the stress got to me and I snapped in a big way. I surprised myself today. While I messed up the haboki for the 50,000th time and Hamana-sensei got frustrated with me for the 50,000th time I actually yelled “I can’t do sumi I can’t do sumi I can’t do sumi!!!!” in the middle of the temae. It was such a surreal moment. I looked up in shock to see if I actually said that out loud, Hamana-sensei’s similar look of shock confirmed that I had, in fact, made my crazy public. He just said “you aren’t allowed to have outbursts like that in the tearoom.” And then I kept going. I seem to have more of a mental block with sumi demae than I thought. Other than that shaza wasn’t terrible.

April 17th:

Went out with my kimono-sensei in the morning to go look at different summer items and wander around. In the afternoon I met up with Mecca, Wendy and Kai and we went to try to see Alice in Wonderland, but failed. I was supposed to try to make reservations for Miyako Odori, but I had forgotten the tickets at home so I had to go back to the dorm, and then back to Shijo area a second time. When I got to the Gion Kaburenjo they told me that I can only make reservations one week in advance and I would have to come back the following day. *sigh* I wasn’t a terribly happy Cone at that point. I was pretty cranky.

That evening I had dinner with Wada-san, which was fun. She is the daughter of one of the teachers in Boston, and it’s fun to have another Boston person around to talk to who understands when I talk about East Coasty things :) When we discussed mizuya toban and she told me Ihara was her chief I told her the legs story and she was amused. What was even more funny was when we left the restaurant and he was standing there in the road (he had just exited a place across the street). He rode off on his bike and I walked Wada-san back to her dorm, and on the way we saw Ihara AGAIN, this time reading comic books in Lawson’s. CREEPY.

April 18th:

Hokoku Jinja Kencha. Hokoku Jinja is the shrine that diefies Hideyoshi, and I couldn’t get over the irony of Rikyu’s descendants performing a memorial service to honor Hideyoshi’s spirit. Ah well. We had excellent seats in the front row and could see Oiemoto-sama do temae perfectly. The kaigu set was green kochi with an uzu design. Watching him do temae was so inspiring. Every movement was so incredibly graceful and beautiful. There was no wasted movement, everything had a purpose, everything was precise and extremely elegant. I felt like I could get lost watching him do temae.

After the kencha we were able to go to the gakuen seki, which was a bonryaku nodate seki. It was outside and perfect weather! At first I saw Nozomi doing temae from a distance, and then when we sat down Shiori did temae for us. It was a lot of fun to watch our classmates! The sweet was a very sticky (yet delicious) dango. I remember that the gotoku in the binkake were ceramic and made to look like warabi, very cute.

For the main seki, which was held at Toin, we were all afraid that it would be held in the koma, but that was not the case. Too many guests! The seki was really beautiful though, the jiku was a poem about hana by Nintokusai and the hanaire was an ichijugire by Gengensai (one generation apart), the name of the hanaire was tateeboshi and the flower was white yamabuki. The natsume was wood from the sakura tree in Maruyama koen, and the robuchi was kiku kiri makie made from wood from Katsura Rikyu. The tana was black with a red outline, and the mizusashi was kosometsuke so the color combination was very subdued but pleasant. The kogo was akaraku, and the futaoki had a tsubo design and was made by Higaki-sensei’s mother. The first chawan was a Meiji-jidai raku with an uzumon design. With the bowls, there were two bowls made by two consecutive Raku potters, similar to the setup in the tokonoma. Clever :) I loved hearing about these family connections, as well as seeing the different wood styles used, and the overall subdued color scheme that went on in this seki. The sweet was also beautiful but not overly so; the name was wakakusa from Oimatsu. The tea was Kan no Shiro from Ippoudou.

After we returned home and changed, Talon Wendy and I went back down to Shijo to make the reservations for Miyako Odori. Once the work part was done we wandered around Gion for a while, ate some sweets, hit up the bookstore, and then Talon kindly treated us to dinner in Pontocho. It was a fun evening and a good way to unwind. The bookstore is always a dangerous place for me.

April 19th:

Murata-sensei lecture in the morning, and I am back to translating. He lectured about kama preparation in furo period and took us down to the kitchen to see what the Gakuensei had been doing to prepare the kama for May. I keep trying to get the kohai to help with translation and they keep refusing. I’m just going to stop talking soon. Following this we had a lecture with Gary-sensei on the senke jishhoku, which I found useful since our class hasn’t really had much background in this area yet.

Toban: cho and tables. Jitsugi: sumishomo, kasanejawan, irekodate. Like usual, I am being stubborn about sumi and decided to do the shokyaku portion of sumishomo (the person who lays the sumi). I felt like it wasn’t terrible, and I was pleased about that. For temae I had kasanejawan and it was so-so.

After jitsugi I had my monthly interview with Hamana-sensei and apologized to him for my crazy on Friday. His response was “what? you don’t have to apologize for that. i’m used to it. i’m still going to push you though.” I’m not sure if that is a good thing or not, I would rather not have the crazy at all, but I appreciate his endless patience with me. We had a good discussion about that actually, I always like interview time with sensei. Unfortunately I spent a little too much time talking and poor Mai-chan was waiting out in the hall for almost an hour!!! I felt so bad :( I tried to send her home and let her off from tatami cleaning but she insisted on coming with to clean. She is wonderful.

That night after we got back Mecca, Wendy and I were hanging out in my room and found the super balls that I had bought at Halloween time. We started bouncing them around in the hall generally causing a ruckus and Anna came out and asked us to be quiet. I don’t blame her, especially with her chaji coming up it was a really dumb thing to do. Ah well, we are all children sometimes. Unfortunately some other discussions were brought up at that time and stress levels that were already high escalated beyond what was necessary. I lost my temper in the process, which caused problems for some other people.

April 20th:

Zen class with Matsunami-sensei! It’s been a while! I had a lot to contemplate, and I have a lot of trouble during zazen trying to let all of my thoughts go. Do you know how hard it is to turn off your brain? Who can turn off their brain? I can’t. It’s a problem.

Toban: Nishi/Restrooms. Jitsugi: Sumishomo, otsubukuro, tsutsumibukusa. I did otsubukuro and can finally tie it properly, but still can’t remember the handling when picking up and putting down. Complicated hand motions make my brain explode. Bathroom cleaning that evening with my two lambs went very quickly. It’s a pretty easy job with three people!

April 21st:

May seasonal lecture with Hamana-sensei, followed by a jiku lecture with Tachibana-sensei. I wasn’t feeling too well and tried to avoid talking or existing as much as possible in the morning. Lots of stress makes for an unhappy kimono Cone.

Toban: Hana and chalk. Jitsugi: Tsuzukiusucha. I went second and was able to do the whole temae. It was alright, but I had a hard time focusing enough to get through everything. Too much on my mind at any given time to concentrate on temae. Hamana-sensei made arrangements for me to go to the doctor the following morning to get a refill on a medicine perscription.

April 22nd:

Rain. Pouring gross rain. I woke up feeling terrible and having not slept well in days. I had to bike to the doctor’s office and was completely soaked by the time I got there. The appointment it self was short and easy and quick, but the rain plus my general demeanor at the time were terrible. I got home and dried off and changed into kimono and ran out again. Just walking from the dorm to school my tabi got completely soaked. I got there for the second half of Swanson-sensei’s Art History lecture, and realized that I needed to go home. I was exhausted.

After the lecture I went home, crawled into bed, and slept for the rest of the day. That night I took anxiety medication and slept even more, and apparently I needed it.

April 23rd:

Anna’s chaji. The second member in our class to have a chaji and the first time our kohai got to see a chaji while in Midorikai. Cleaning in the morning as usual, until I remembered that this would be my last time cleaning at Chado Kaikan. Since I will be host in May and hanto in July, I won’t have another opportunity to clean together with everyone again. I can’t believe it!

It was maybe the first time I wasn’t involved in the making of the mizuyamimai, and that felt a little strange too. But everything went smoothly in the morning and we had lunch and then proceeded to the chaji. When we were in the machiai and I saw the scroll for “sen nen no midori” I thought it was very appropriate, especially for the new students. Since I hadn’t seen any invitation I didn’t know anything about what the theme might be before I went in, so the machiai was my first clue. The kumidashiwan were the “kon nichi” that we usually use, and the kumidashibon was ikkanbari from Hamana-sensei. The scroll in the honseki was “kotobuki” by Daisosho” and the temae was a nagaita with a chosen karatsu mizusashi, and a Chinese three colored shakutate. The sweet was “yamabuki” kinton made by Talon and Anna. I’m always happy to see kinton. Chaire korean with a strange shape, first chawan nezumi shino (Anna’s favorite) followed by one that was really large, and I can’t remember the third. Many items were Chinese, Korean or Polish to be welcoming for the incoming class.

What I remember most about this day is the number of times that Wendy looked over at me to tell me that she couldn’t keep sitting seiza because her legs hurt, and then Mai-chan on the other side of her giving me the thumbs up to let me know that she was ok :) I also remember Kai drinking all of the koicha in the bowl, because he wasn’t aware that other people were drinking after him. It was a lot of fun to watch Hamana-sensei teaching to kohai how to behave, and it really seems like just yesterday when we entered Chado Kaikan for the first time for our own first chaji...I can’t believe how quickly time passes here.

That night Mecca, Wendy and I went to dinner at McDonalds and then the whole group came to my room for drinking and celebration. It was a good night, lots of laughter, the way it should be.

April 24th:

Ironed and organized in the morning, and then left to go stand in line for nearly an hour to get tickets for Alice in Wonderland. After I procured the tickets I went to the bookstore and sat there for a hour reading, and it reminded me of back home when I would spend entire weekends just going through bookstores and drinking coffee. I wish I could have that more here.

Talon, Yuichi, Mecca, Wendy and I all saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D and I was SO HAPPY to FINALLY see this movie. FINALLY. I loved it. I want to watch it again immediately. :) After the movie I took them all to my italian restaurant for dinner, and Yuichi pretended that he couldn’t speak Japanese and that he was foreign. When the owner found out he was lying she smacked him with a menu and I found this extremely amusing. It’s been too long since I have had awesome lasagna, and it was great to share that place with everyone. Good night :)

April 25th:

It was a beautiful day! I wore a skirt! With Adidas shoes! Perfect combination! Everyone met at 11 to go to see the Richard Milgram exhibition at Takashimaya, since we had kindly received tickets from him for the chaseki the week before. The exhibit was very nice, and I find it impressive that he can work in that many styles and medium. It was fun to see. I also finally properly introduced myself to both him and his wife, Mari-sensei. Since they are both Boston people it kind of makes sense. Right? Right.

Afterwards everyone split up for lunch and then met back at the Gion Kaburenjo to see Miyako Odori! We had an extra ticket and none of our backups could come so I invited Yuichi at the last minute so the ticket wouldn’t go to waste. He ended up being late and came in halfway through the opening scene, but it was all good! It was my third time at Miyako Odori! I am starting a meimeizara collection! Woo! Something about the dances, I am always entranced by them. I love it. Love love love. I am hoping to see the Kamogawa Odori this year as well. We shall see.

It’s really interesting to see the group dynamic in action. So many times I have walked out of a building to find a group of people staring at me waiting for someone to tell them where to go or what to do. I find it disturbing, and in general I would rather not be the one talking, but at the same time I can’t stand people who just sit there being in the way waiting for someone to tell them what to do. So I tell them what to do. Sometimes too literally. When we left the Odori I found that everyone was standing in a group outside. Just standing there. I said “DISPERSE!” and everyone just kept on walking in a group. Antisocial being that I am, I ran away from the group and took a few of them with me. We ended up going to the Starbucks on Sanjo and sitting by the river chatting for a while about many things. We kept walking and ended up walking back home, and then heading up to Kitaoji to get sushi dinner. Once again, it was Talon, Yuichi, Mecca, Wendy and myself. We had a good time, and all in all it was a fun weekend :)
April 13th:

I went to the haigata practice in the morning that was primarily for the 1A's, but the 1B's had the option of going to for additional practice.  I know that I need haigata practice, so I went along for a refresher.  Since we arrived in September and had warigeiko in the beginning, we only had half of September and October to practice haigata...and coming back to it now in April is quite a challenge!  I sucked :)  Murata-sensei kept making jokes asking if I was a new student and saying I was hopeless...I think he was getting me back for our unruly behavior during kagetsu on Monday :(  Anyways, his humor ended up pushing me over the edge and I ended up stressing myself out over it and having a moment.  Honestly, over haigata.  I need to know how to not let myself get emotional over these things.  If anyone knows how to turn off that button let me know.  That would be great.  

After haigata I ran back and changed into kimono, and Mecca and I went to lunch.  I have officially made it a habit to sit at the other table away from the rest of the Midorikai students, because it is quieter.  I am an anti-social person.  My toban was Nishi, so I didn't have to rush through lunch like usual, but I still find myself waiting for my kohai every day.  It's not terrible, but every day in the last week we have been working to prepare the chashitsu up until the moment when sensei arrives and I find this very frustrating.  For jitsugi we practiced bonkogo (Sylvain) and tsuzukiusucha.  We ran out of time before I could do temae, so I was a guest today.  Sometimes that is ok too.  I think the stress from the last two weeks has been catching up to me, and the haigata incident didn't help.  

In the evening after dinner I took Jin and Mai Trang with me to learn how to clean the toilets.  That job is pretty quick in general, but it was really fast with two people helping me!  I still hate cleaning the urinal.  After this year, I hope to never have to clean another urinal again in my life.  I think that is a good life goal.  Afterwards I still ran out to finish some errands in the neighborhood and ended up going to my kimono sensei's to talk shop for a bit.  When I returned home and looked around my room somehow it was already 10 PM.  I don't know where the time goes.  

April 14th:

Early morning.  Gary-sensei lecture in the morning, which was the first for all of us since he had been on break since before we arrived.  He went over the different temae in the konarai, and I kept thinking that I wished we had that lecture when we first arrived here.  Ah well.  I know them now!  Following this was a lecture by Fujita Gyotei-sensei on different kinds of tea, history, mechanisms of production, etc.  We had this lecture back in the fall but he presented some different information this time.  During the lecture as I was struggling to write all of my notes in Japanese I kept thinking about what kind of task I am going to have organizing all of my notes when I return to the States.  I am hoping to type them all up and catagorize them, but we will see what kind of time I have to do that.  I will definitely prioritize the Chado History lectures though, Hamana-sensei's lectures are awesome as well, but when I think about the pages and pages of notes I have from his classes I cringe a little bit.  

Toban:  hana.  We had a really small selection of hana today, and for some reason we seem to be getting a lot of furo-type flowers.  I was explaining to Jin and Mai Trang about the different hanaire types and ita used for each and let them help pick out hanaire and practice a bit.  We had a good time :)  For temae today we did hana chabako for the first time (how fitting!).  I asked my classmates before class what order they wanted to do temae in:  

Talon: 3!
Mereca: 2
Anna: 4
Sylvain: 5
Cone:  Assholes!!!

So yeah, I went first.  Also, I should stop swearing so much in the chashitsu...or in general.  Whatever.  I really do like chabako temae a lot, but I hadn't really had time to go over the pdf so I was a little screwed.  Murata-sensei was very patient today, which was nice.  I tried my best, and I will leave it at that.  

We all had to rush off after class to get ready, because we had been invited to the opening ceremony for the Russian Cultural Festival.  I am still not sure why we got to go...but hey, free dinner.  There were a lot of long speeches in the beginning and it was a standing event.  Probably due to some combination of sleep-deprivation, dehydration, lack of food, stress, low blood pressure, and the glass of red wine on an empty stomach, I had one of my dizzy spells and almost fell over.  I had to get out of the room and sit down.  Mecca very kindly came with me and sat with me while I recovered myself (somehow when I am writing this I feel like I am some Victorian drama queen).  Actually, Murata-sensei was surprisingly kind and concerned when he came to check on me.  He never ceases to amuse me in that way.  After that incident we enjoyed a lot of good food and a few drinks and Hamana-sensei getting down on his knees and making impressions of Kei-kun staring at Mecca.  Hee hee hee :)  Gooood times.  Mecca made me go to bed when we went home, but I watched Glee first.  GLEE IS THE MOST AMAZING SHOW EVER.  

April 15th:

Slept in.  Amazing.  I made myself sakuracha and matcha before leaving my room and enjoyed my ajisai and therefore started the morning in a very good mood.  Toban:  cha.  I brought my two kohai and we sifted tea before class, which was a lecture by Mittwer-sensei on Urasenke structure.  I really want someone to write a book about "the business of tea" or better yet, "the politics of tea."  I think this would be fascinating.  

Jitsugi nagaita soukazari shozumi, usucha, koicha.  Goto-san (Gakuen cho this week) has been super nice and helpful with getting all of our things ready for class.  He is awesome.  Ihara-san still seems to not look at me, but this could be a coincidence.  Time will tell!  Anyways, I did koicha today.  I think I did nagaita once before?  I don't really remember well though.  Anyways, my points to remember:  Always hands down when taking the hishaku and hibashi.  Koicha and usucha differences:  usucha has kibishaku, kama no futa, koicha does not.  When you bring the kensui in at the end of the temae, you bring after the mizutsugi for koicha, close door, and then re-open for haiken.  For usucha, bring in at the start of haiken and move to kyakutsuki.  

I was tired at dinner and didn't talk much, there are so many things about the mizuya to teach to the kohai and it is hard to remember everything at once.  Basically I remember I need to tell them things when I see something being done incorrectly.  That makes sense right?  I LIKE THINGS TO BE NEAT!  DAMNIT!  

At dinner Kazuo walked in as I was leaving.  I was walking out and he turned around and said "Ah!  Cone-san, konbanwa!" and I turned and tried to smack him with my furoshiki.  I am sure that the new ichinensei that were sitting at the table nearby were very confused, but if that boy keeps talking to me I will hurt him!  Once we got back to the dorm I practiced obi with Mai  Trang a little more, and have been doing chores (laundry, cleaning, etc) since then.  It is 8 PM and I still have at least three more things to do before bed.  However, I am currently drinking some excellent Oolong tea from Taiwan that was a very kind gift from a new friend and this makes me a happier Cone.