While doing my study routine at the gas station, occasionally customers will see me in there. Since foreigners in those parts are pretty uncommon, and not everyone who passes through understands my teaching arrangement, people may get excited and want to talk to me. Sometimes it’s just chat, but other times it will materialize into opportunities and invitations. Such was the case here. I was asked by an older woman I know named Mrs. Doi to join in at the Shionoe Art Museum to participate in a tea ceremony, which would be followed by an ocarina concert. I had done tea ceremony before, but it’s still good fun. And of course seeing an instrument I’ve never seen played before, on a professional level, intrigued me as well.
This event fell on the same weekend Spencer was here, so we decided to go and explore it together. When we arrived, we were directed towards the tables to receive our tea. This sort of event is generally held on the traditional tatami flooring, but the museum doesn’t have those facilities, and given that most of the attendees were pretty old its a lot to ask them to sit in the traditional way, atop folded legs for such a long time. This wasn’t as serious as some of the other iterations that I had participated in, and gave me a few chances to talk with Mrs. Doi about a some things. The tea is made from teal leaves ground down to something called matcha, and then mixed with hot water. Whisked to a frothy foam, it is enjoyed in consecutive sips. I think that most expressions of Japanese culture are interesting, and this one is no different. After our tea time, we migrated into the main exhibition hall for the performance.
You always examine the bowl, so as to appreciate its craftsmanship.
We were among aged company, and unsurprisingly the only foreigners in the joint. As per usual, this garnered us a little extra attention, and had a number of people asking where we were from. I say America, but always follow it up by saying that I just so happen to be living in this wilderness as well. The concert was pretty nice, though tame. She would put some elevator music on the speakers, and then play the melody over top. It all sounded beautiful, but I was hoping for some sort of jazz, or upbeat tune. Between songs, she would introduce the different sized pieces and the art. At one question, she queried whether this was a first time for anyone there, only me and Spencer raised our hands. Somehow I think it would be the complete opposite back home. At the end of the show, I was approached by the artist and her family, who were in from another prefecture. They chatted about a few things, and they also gave me the chance to try playing one of these ocarinas.
A few clips of the performance.
The one other bonus associated with the venue was that it let us see the current exhibition at no additional cost. They had a a number of old calligraphy paintings hanging on the walls. Since I can’t read and really appreciate their meanings, it took only a moment to glance them over, but it was still nice. I’ve tried to do this sort of writing before, and it is much more difficult than I had initially thought. We left shortly thereafter, feeling satisfied by the last 2 hours of our lives.
Angles make it artsy