It’s my birthday today!!! I woke up at 6 am though, which meant that it wasn’t actually my birthday in England (oh well…). We had breakfast and went on the train with everyone to central Tokyo (we left our suitcases at the station) to attend the much anticipated tea ceremony. We met with Yukiko-san and Hiroshi-san. Both were really nice and funny! They even proposed to one of us if one of us wanted to wear a kimono and since we all did we settled it with Janken (rock paper scissors) and Tom won… (; – 😉
That lady was one of the students who was going to execute the ceremony for us. We started by introducing ourselves in the waiting room and had a cup of hot water while we waited. Then, we went inside the tea room for the charcoal ceremony. Even the act of entering the tea room must be perfectly executed. It all starts when the tea ceremony teacher rings a bell 5 times. On the 5th chime, we all stay quiet and leave the waiting room one by one and put on sandals. We then leave go outside and follow a cobblestone path but before that we purify ourselves in the same manner as in To-Dai-Ji temple. We rinse our left then right hand with water, then our mouth and let the remaining water pour down the bamboo cup we used. When that is done, we make our way down to the room and enter one at a time through a very narrow opening, leaving our shoes outside. There is a reason the opening is so narrow. Whoever wants to attend the ceremony must feel humble and as such, must crouch down to enter. And so, rich or poor, everyone inside the room is on the same level. The room itself is very small, poorly lit and very humbly decorated. This is so that we concentrate only on the ceremony and appreciate it more. Once everyone had come in, upon hearing the sound of the hatch closing, one of the students entered through another door to begin the charcoal ceremony. It’s a sort of preliminary to the real ceremony and consists in checking if the water is boiling, and when we “find out” it’s not, add another charcoal to the fire. Once it finished, we all left the room to wait for the water to boil and went back to the house. Apparently, it is customary for the host to prepare lunch while the guests wait. And so Yukiko-san prepared a delicious meal for us. Each dish was beautifully presented. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of all of them…
When we finished, we ate a sweet so as to sweeten our palette before drinking the bitter tea, and repeated the steps to enter the room.
The ceremony was extremely calming and interesting and I loved every step of it (there are too many for me to list them all) like the appreciation of a piece of art the student brings, or the actual drinking of the tea, or the naming of the bamboo spoon (I think it was called “kokoro”=”the mind” today). It was really cool, exactly like what they describe in Shogun. Except they don’t tell you about the excruciating pain of kneeling for 40 minutes. I couldn’t feel my feet after about 10 minutes and when it was finished, standing up was so painful it was hard to stand. But overall it was a great experience!
After saying goodbye, we then went to LumiAmore, which I think was a really nice hotel, and ate dinner with Suematsu-san and Kumamoto-san.
It was really nice (Thank you again for the kind gesture) and in the middle of the meal, we listened to a duo singing and playing the piano (it was interesting).
At about 18:50, the Fire Festival set off their first fireworks and we went to the plaza to watch them. The fireworks were nothing I had ever seen before. You couldn’t even compare them with the ones in England. The display went on for about an hour and a half and the fireworks (hanabi) ranged from giant spheres of different colours to really cool sparkly ones that separated like fireflies. Some even exploded into shapes like hearts, pikachu or naruto which was amazing!
When the show ended, we said goodbye to Suematsu-san and Kumamoto-san and left to collect our baggage back from the station. Then we went to collect our baggage. I had lost my baggage receipt unfortunately but it only took a couple minutes for a member of staff to come and unlock the locker for me. We went back to a nice hotel. I got a room all to myself so I could call my parents. After a while they got Skype to work and I spoke with them for about an hour. Went to bed really late but in a happy mood.