Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving in Japan

     Just a short post about Thanksgiving. They say the hardest time being away from your home country is during the holiday season, especially if the country you live in doesn't celebrate said holiday. It is also one of the things I get asked about the most "What do you do for holidays?!?!" I'll be the first to admit I love food--all of it, in every form, at any time and any holiday that is celebrated purely by eating is alright in my book. First off the idea of stretchy, eating pants does not exist in Japan. They eat to nourish themselves here, not to gorge themselves on 18,000 calories in one sitting. I knew sitting at home not celebrating just wouldn't do. I remembered the teachers from Iowa that I had met at County Fair so I messaged one, Bethany, and she invited me to spend the Saturday after Thanksgiving with her and some other teachers that were celebrating. I couldn't get off work for Thursday, but it was the next best thing.

     Have you ever tried to go shopping for specific ingredients when you can't read the language. I feel like this is now something I should be able to put on a resume. I wanted to contribute something to the meal since everyone was nice enough to take pity on me. After a trip to the grocery store, where I took a wild guess that the vinegar I chose from the twelve different varieties was the correct one, and a trip to the foreign import store on a hunt for nuts and cheese, I had a three different dishes to make. The broccoli salad went off without a hitch. The cranberry, feta, walnut salad needed to be improvised. Soo--walnuts pretty much don't exist in this country and the only feta cheese I found was in a snack pack with olives and swimming in olive oil. I figured it just added to the flavor profile, right? Alas, the Japanese pumpkin, or kabocha aka one of my favorite Japanese veggies, dish I wanted to make did not come to fruition. Who would have thought that you might need to make sure something is ripe before you buy it? Such a crazy idea.

All in all it was a great night with new friends and lots of wine and Uno. Now everyone can rest assured I am taken care of during the holidays!

Home cooked American meal--chicken, mashed potatoes and corn courtesy of KFC.

Teachers in Kofu--all from Iowa, so it was just like being at home in the Midwest. 
First holiday away from America. 
Until next time, 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My First Experience in Kimono

     As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Seisen-Ryo sets up a traditional tea ceremony in the lobby for guests about once a month. I have participated a few times, but mostly as just a guest enjoying the traditional green tea, never one serving. Well this time I was told I needed to get the FULL experience and be on the other side of the tea--in full kimono. The ladies from the office that put this on brought so many kimonos for me to choose from. I of course chose the pink because obviously it was the girliest. I also learned that the darker kimonos are meant for the older ladies and it would be inappropriate for me to wear anything but a bright color because I am so young and single, which was represented by the sleeve length of the kimono. The longer sleeve shows that you are married, while the shorter sleeve means you're single and ready to mingle.
Shameless selfie!

They said I was really good at the "kimono shuffle".
     Dressing in kimono is no easy feat. It is not some sundress you throw on and run out the door. This is about a ten step process. Now I am by no means the average size of a Japanese woman, I am closer in relation to Godzilla than these women that were dressing me. The first step is to put on the little white slip part to act as the undergarments of the kimono. Next comes the really fun part! The look you are working towards in a kimono is pretty much a rectangle. A kimono is absolutely not meant to give you feminine curves, so you start building this box around your waist. There were probably five different layers wrapped around my waist. Lest we not forget the rope that goes around your thighs to keep the kimono folded over and from dragging on the floor. Between my height and very much western hour glass shape--these poor women had their work cut out for them dressing me. The were impressed I fit in the tiny shoes though. I'm guessing they probably thought my feet were going to be massive, too.
Finished product--only just a smidge short in every possible way.
     I only spent two hours in kimono serving tea and while, yes you feel pretty glamorous in it, finally getting to take it off and unwrap all the layers can only be explained as feeling like taking off those high heels at the end of the night and finally getting to put your feet up, everything having felt squished and now it's all free!  
The decoration for fall with coordinating poem.
That little grey pocket square there in my kimono is like a little napkin to serve with. If you want to learn more about the process, or get a refresher, here's the link to an older post where I first learned about how to make traditional green tea.
All of my tea master teachers on the right (notice their darker kimonos?) and then Sandi, a board member of the American Committee for KEEP, next to me and Jennifer with the American Committee for KEEP office next to her.
Tea Master Charlotte.

     Komatsu-san, in the reddish kimono in the group photo, was generous enough to give me my own kimono! She says it used to one of her daughters. I'm now official! It's a beautiful orange ombre that I can't wait to wear for the next tea ceremony when I get back--hopefully my ribs will be back in place by then. I highly recommend trying out true, traditional kimono if you ever are in Japan and get the chance!

                Until next time,