Tonight I had my first class (a 10 week course) for learning Japanese Culture. There were about 25 Japanese citizens (mostly from Olympus Company - cameras/optical) and about 25 Americans that were broken into 3 groups. I knew 2 other ladies in the class (which always makes things more fun :-) and we all ended up in Group 1. Everyone went around the table (Japanese folks first) and introduced ourselves and stated our hobbies. It was fun to watch and hear the Japanese speak in all English. Some were very good while others were just learning - but still very understandable. Some of them made handouts with their pictures (to help us remember them) with info about themselves. The guy next to me was an engineer in the microscope department as well as a virtual reality techy. He wrote "I wonder being friendly with you" - meaning he wants to become friends with us. A girl near us wrote "My smile is my charm point. I love watching the movie which title is 'Fast and Furious'". It was too cute!!!
After the introductions, one of the elder ladies performed a traditional tea ceremony. They taught us that it originated in China but was brought to Japan in the 16th century because it incorporated many zen customs. We learned how to look for signals from the host before we eat/drink. We learned how to place the tea bowl, rotate it before sipping, taking a 3.5 small sips and then giving feedback. The last sip should be a slurp to remove any remaining tea. Then we wiped the area where we sipped from.
Of course, I did not bring my camera (grrrr....) but I will try to find someone who did take pics so I can post some. Next week we are learning about calligraphy, then cooking Japanese Food, then origami, then out to karaoke, visiting Tokyo and finally a graduation ceremony! How fun does all that sound!!!???
The course is the most sought-after activity on base and you are actually only allowed to participate ONE time during your tour here. I am so glad I was signed up early :-)
I also signed up for another culture course with some friends. There will be 6 of us, and 6 Japanese women. We will rotate months (Oct will be on base...teaching them American culture, Nov will be off base...learning Japanese culture). So in Oct we will make a pumpkin craft, make caramel apples, eat chili and soup in breadbowls, and make some apple cider. Very American! We met today to create the schedule and activities for our months. I can't wait - as it seems like a truly intimate experience in Japan. We will be in their houses, their restaurants, etc and they will be in ours. So fun!
I am starting to get more involved with lots of things (Mah Jongg, golf, Bunco, PTO, etc) which is good. I love getting involved and feeling part of the community!