Saturday, February 14, 2009

Kimono and Tea

It's been such a whirlwind of festivals and guests and parties the past couple of weeks that when Steph and I were invited over to our friend, Rie's, family's house last week for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, I more than jumped at the chance for something a little more relaxed and, well, traditional.

Besides that, it was the perfect excuse to try on my kimono and obi (wide kimono belt) that I bought at a second-hand shop a few months ago.  The kimono itself seemed to be a bit of an outcast in that it was significantly more plain then the rest of its vividly printed counterparts...I think that's what drew me to it, along with the ¥800 (about $9.50) price tag!  Considering that these things start in the hundreds and go into the thousands of dollars, it was an excellent purchase.  The obi cost a little more, about $40, but it's funky and different and adds some pizzaz to the ensemble.

Rie's mother is an expert kimono dresser and master tea ceremony artist, making the experience that more exciting.  Unfortunately, I was missing the nagajuban, or under-garment section of the kimono, so the top part looks a little bare.  Back to the second-hand store for me I suppose!  In the words of Rie's mother, though, I had perfected the "sexy gaijin kimono" look without it:

Through wanting to be discreet, I opted not to bring my camera, but instead packed along my little point-in-shoot...did the job of recording the story, but man did I regret it later!

Seriously, how COOL is my obi!?

Rie's kimono is the one her mother wore back in the 1940s when she had her coming of age (which is 20 in Japan):

When Rie's family built their house back in 1994, her mother insisted on and designed a traditional tatami room in the house specifically for holding tea ceremonies and playing the koto (Japanese harp).  It is an incredibly peaceful part of the house and so nice to see how important tradition and heritage are to them:

The essence of the Japanese tea ceremony is harmony.  Everything has its place, function, and meaning, and it can take years (which usually begins through a high school club) to perfect the tea ceremony in its entirety.  There is a certain way to prepare the tea and snacks, to serve, to consume, to clean the utensils, to admire the ceramics and wall hangings, to enter, to exit...the tea ceremony is not for the weak of routine!

You didn't think I'd gone "all-out Japanese" did you?

Besides letting Steph and I take pictures and ask questions concerning every aspect of the tea ceremony, these lovely ladies also showed me the proper way of folding and storing the kimono!  It was really special and just gives me such an appreciation for the art and form of these certain Japanese traditions.  

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