Early July update – A Midorikai interlude

I can’t believe it’s been just three and a half months since I’ve arrived here in Kyoto! Our days have been so busy that it feels like both an eternity and a flash when I think over everything I’ve experienced! Thank you for continuing to read my posts/emails. I have been enjoying writing them and hopefully you are getting a glimpse of my life here in Kyoto. My first semester is coming to a close on July 15th and my sempai will be departing for their respective countries to return to their families and their lives. I’m receiving from them a mix of both excitement for being able to return to their families as well as nostalgia that the year has already finished. “The days are long but the years are short.” All three of my wonderful sempai have proven themselves to be patient, wonderful teachers who will inspire me to work hard and always try to be a little bit better each day. I’m sure the rest of my time here I will hear their voices in my head reminding me to do things a certain way. I’m nervous about becoming a sempai myself in September when the new kohai students arrive, but I am excited and hopeful for a harmonious group.

And now, for early July happenings:


June 30: Nagoshi no Harai at Kamigamo Shine

To say farewell to the first half of the year and pray for a great second half of the year, I visited Kamigamo Shrine for the Nagoshi no Harai ceremony. You do this by walking through a large grass ring, called a chinowa. If you want additional protection and to remove the evils that reside in you, you can purchase a piece of paper or a stick of wood that you can write your name and age on and that will be ritually purified by the Shinto priests in either fire (wood) or water (paper). I stayed of the purification process, and was struck by how lovely it was seeing the burning fires and the hundreds of little paper people floating down the stream. Also, since I’m a woman of the age of 32, I am in the midst of my particularly unlucky Yakudoshi year (it’s actually counted as age 33, because the Japanese historical charts began counting with age 1 when you are born). These unlucky numbers were important in the Heian period but still hold significance today and people often wear additional talismans and protection during these years. If you want additional information on Yakudoshi there is some great information on wikipedia. In the mean time, I bought a little talisman for 800Y that you carry around with you that is supposed to offer additional protection. At the end of the year, you return it to the shrine where you purchased it and they ritually dispose/cleanse the item of it’s impurities. I have it on my purse. I don’t know how much I believe in numerology and such things, but I thought it couldn’t hurt. 🙂

Ritual burning

July 5: Seichuki


Every year, the Urasenke family holds a memorial celebration for three deceased grand tea masters: Gengensai, Ennosai and Mugensai (also known as Tantansai). These three masters (11th,13th and 14th generation respectively) all made a profound impact on the survival and development of Urasenke during historically difficult times for Japan. They were very innovative and creative thinkers and were able to include a lot of new codified tea procedure and attract many new types of people to Chado. Now, you may notice that the 12th generation is missing from this list. Usually he isn’t given much credit for maintaining the Urasenke lineage. However, this year was the 100th anniversary of Yumyosai’s passing, so we were treated to many articles of dogu that he favored. I’m always a fan of the underdog, and so it was nice to see poor forgotten #12 be recognized! Everything went smoothly and it was a very nice event. I wasn’t able to take any pictures during this event, but this is a nice one of the group I moved with during the seki. We all look very nice in our summer formal kimono.


July 7: Tanabata

The second year students hosted an event for Tanabata, 7/7. This is based on a Chinese story about a weaver-maiden who fell in love with an ox-herder and who stopped weaving to be with him. The gods grew angry with their laziness, and so they separated them so only on the night of July 7th, if it’s a clear evening, can the two cross over and be with each other just that one night. Very romantic. The students did a lovely job combining modern with traditional. We each wrote a wish and hung it on a bamboo tree that they put in the tokonoma. They also had a beautiful idea of doing a synchronized tea serving, where it was a large seki (40 people spread out over 3 tea rooms) and we were separated by a cloth in the middle. They served two rounds of sweets, two “first bowls” of tea, and had two first guests (one man and one woman). Then when the rest of the tea bowls came out from the back, the host’s side timed themselves to move together to serve us! It was just beautiful. At the end of the event, the host removed the cloth divider and invited us to “cross over” to view the other side’s tokonoma and mingle with each other. It was quite enchanting and gave me a new appreciation for how beautiful paying attention to timing can be. They did a wonderful job. Here is a picture of me standing in front of the tokonoma with all of the guest’s wishes written on it.

Local tanabata event

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