“I never teach them in a cursory style just because they are non-Japanese or they are staying here a very short time. I think teaching Japanese culture has nothing to do with the nationality or duration of stay …” Ms. Kato began talking to the audience.
There was an interesting event named “Ajisai Tea Ceremony” in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta(-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. Some foreigners who love the Japanese tea ceremony made tea for Japanese people following the oficial protocol, some non-Japanese ladies appeared in yukata, a kind of kimono, which had been made by themselves, and talked about their favorite points of Japanese culture, and several Japanese volunteer guides showed some of us around the garden with English commentary.
I took part in the English guided tour and the talk show. (About Shirotori Garden and the English guided tour is HERE.) The tour finished around 11:20. I arrived in time the talk show which was supposed to start at 11:30, but the room was already packed and I had to stand. I saw many people in yukata or kimono among the audience because the people who were wearing traditional Japanese attire were able to enter the garden for free that day. (The regular entrance fee is 300 yen.) In addition, those people were not all Japanese.
Ms. Kato is the teacher who taught the performers of the talk show how to make yukata. Actually, she teaches not only making kimonos but also about Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and traditional practices. Moreover, she is a pioneer among licensed interpreter-guides in Nagoya.
“…I knew they had sewn by hand with effort, but I sometimes drew the thread out when I thought the seams were rough. I’m sure they had a tough time. But I believe they should do good finishing jobs. Besides I didn’t want people to think, “Because they’re not Japanese,” if they found my students’ clumsy sewing. But it might have been my fault that they couldn’t sew well. I’m sorry…” said Ms. Kato, and some performers melted in tears.
It took most of the foreign ladies more than one year to complete their yukata. One of them said, “I was very surprised when I knew I had to make yukata without patterns or a sewing machine.” Her words helped me to recall the differences between European and Japanese clothes. When you make Western clothes, you take the person’s size and make the pattern from the measurement. And you cut the materials with the pattern, and then you seam each part to fit together 3-demensionally. On the other hand, kimono is made by sewing rectangler pieces of materials and use sash belts to fit to your body. If the kimono gets too old to wear, you just draw the threads out and take it back to the rectangler pieces. You can make cushion covers or something with them. Then finally the materials finish their life as dusters. It is one of the innovative Japanese ideas to recycle kimono materials.
“I like a sense of tension and concentration when I write Japanese characters in calligraphy.”
“I think each stroke in calligraphy has its own beauty.”
“There’s beauty in the unique forms in Japanese flower arrangement.”
“When I started making yukata, I just thought it would be a good souvenir to my return. But I was able to get something more than that. I learned many things. Japanese materials are good quality and their designs have both boldness and sensibility, and are very beautiful. I was able to learn about Japanese people’s diligence and patience through sewing my yukata by hand.”
All of the performers looked very nice and proud in their original yukata. You can never find another like it. They did not just sew the materials, write letters with a brush, or put flowers in the vase. They have received Ms. Kato’s spirit and have been learning Japanese culture in earnest. “I’m really happy that I came to Japan.” Some of them were in tears. Those ladies’ words were impressive and their works, such as yukata, calligraphies, ceramics, and arranged flowers, were wonderful. The talk show brought the Japanese audience the rediscovery of the brilliance of their own culture, and non-Japanese people the motivation for taking an interest in Japanese culture. I was glad I joined the meeting.