We have had some days off several public holidays on Friday April 29 and May 3-5. Since last I wrote I’ve done quite a lot. Some of us on Saturday, April 30 went to an Art of Zen exhibit at the Kyoto National Art Museum. I learned the story of Daruma (the little red ball guy with scary eyes) is a ball because the real Daruma (important person in Zen history) supposedly sat staring at a wall for nine years until his arms and legs atrophied and fell off. Also he cut off his own eye lids because he was frustrated he kept falling asleep during meditation. Thus, the “scary eyes” on the little dharma dolls. In actuality he was a founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism.
We made the shift to wearing kimono full-time beginning in May. We have only a handful of kimono, so slowly we will begin to acquire more. For those of us who are tall and curvy it is very difficult to find affordable kimono that will fit. Luckily I came with one kimono that fits well enough and there is our scholarship kimono, which will be necessary to keep pristine for special events. Other than that it’s about shopping for things slowly and as the seasons dictate. Wearing the most appropriate seasonal kimono is an art on to itself! Luckily the school doesn’t care if your kimono is not truely 100% in season (i.e. that your obi has specific motifs that are relating to what is blooming in nature, etc.) but as long as you are wearing kimono presentably, you are good.That’s another thing I’m glad I learned before I came here: How to dress myself in kimono in under 30 minutes. It REALLY allows me to sleep longer in the mornings and every minute of sleep counts here.
I also went to a sencha demonstration at Nijo castle. I’ve never seen a sencha tea ceremony a nd it was fascinating. They had two different schools present in two of the famous closed to the public tea rooms at this beautiful shogun castle in the heart of Kyoto. The tea was served in these small sake sized cups and you only sipped about a thimble’s worth of tea. Very interesting but tasty.
Todaiji Temple Kenchashiki
The highlight of this week was absolutely the tea offering made by Daisosho and Urasenke to the Todaiji Temple in Nara. Daisosho is the retired grand tea master and his mission of spreading peace through a bowl of tea is why he created the Midorikai program in the 60s. He is the reason why us foreign students are allowed to be here. Two other students and myself went to the event. We were up at 4:45 am to make it in time to enjoy the first seki (tea gathering). We went to all four tea gatherings, one tenshin meal, and one offering to the temple by Daisosho himself! Our legs were so tired by the end. I can’t explain what a pleasure this day was. The dogu (utensils) were all museum pieces. We are talking pieces from the 1600s up to the present. Perhaps a 1,000 people in kimono!
And the location! Todaiji holds the record as the largest wooden structure in the world! It houses a massive, giant Buddha statue inside. Without the tea event being held there this would be a special place. Also you can feed the wild deer who are the protected spirit animal deities that roam around. Amazingly we had the opportunity to greet Daisosho-sama twice. He is 93 but still as healthy as ever! He came over and greeted us and shook our hands. This is a big deal. It would be like President Obama coming over and shaking your hand – NO JOKE! He is that much of a honored person in this world.
Later on in the day when we were waiting for the second seki to begin, we saw him and his handlers again. He saw us again and called over the official photographer and we had our picture taken with him. He is such a genuinely kind and caring individual. Sort of like the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa…someone who just embodies all that is good and kind in this world. And it wasn’t that he just noticed us or greeted us. It’s the fact that he does this kind of stuff all over the world, to all sorts of people and he genuinely
means it. He isn’t doing it to win elections or make money. He does it because he wants to do it. I can really respect that characteristic, that honesty, in a person.
I’ve been exploring the possibilities of improving my Japanese while I’m here. I took an online lesson through a webhost called iTalki. I had researched that company when I was wanting to improve my Swedish. I found a nice Japanese coach through that site who was really good who I think I will work with occasionally. I also enrolled in a
Conversational course forJapanese residents that is available at the Kyoto Prefectural International Center. The web independent course will be great to have a place to practice specific things I need for my time at Urasenke, whereas the conversational class will give me confidence and experience just conversing (normally) with people.
Hopefully it will help focusing on language growth a few hours a week! I suppose it’s better than nothing, onsidering how much I have to use my VERY limited Japanese here. Both classes assume that I know how to read and write hiragana and katakana, so glad that I worked on learning those alphabets while I was still in the US. Now just to put those letters (pictographs?) together to make words!