I am not able to attend Kimono de Jack in Manchester tomorrow, so I was very excited to find out that there was a Japanese event happening locally in Cambridge the day before, today. Not knowing what to expect, or where it was even located I donned my not-yet-worn spring kimono and off I went.
The event, Japan Day, was hosted by Kaetsu Educational & Cultural Centre in Cambridge. I looked up on google maps where it was located, and it didn't seem like it was too far away from the Grand Arcade mall in Cambridge. I parked my car in Park & Ride and took the bus to Grand Arcade, where I got myself an obligatory Starbucks, checked out some shoe stores (that sell Irregular Choice), pulled out my GPS so conveniently set to pedestrian mode and embarked on the walking adventure. I was right, it wasn't too far... if you're driving that is. The distance was a little over 1 mile, which is not that bad in itself, but I'm not used to walking much anymore.... let alone walking that much in kimono. Although my Ukrainian upbringing didn't let me down, and I didn't even break a sweat or got tired. And I was very happy that I wore western boots instead of zori, because on my way back to the Pa Ride bus stop it was raining...
My GPS led me straight to the Kaetsu Centre without any problems, other than the long walk by myself. There were signs everywhere letting people know that Japan Day was happening, as well as signs letting know where to go for which event. The event was pretty small, I would say the main events that generated the most turn out were the demonstrations in the Theatre area. The only other events that were interactive were brush painting and calligraphy workshops. And the food area, although that doesn't count as an event, was PACKED. I saw the line and didn't even attempt to go there.
I tried my hand at Oriental brush painting, but my hands were literally shaking. Not sure why, maybe from the excess of excitement and adrenaline and shyness? Yes, because I am very very VERY shy around people I don't know, especially when I'm all alone there. I checked out the rest of the displays and set myself down on a nice marble looking bench to wait for Chado demonstration. While waiting a lady sat herself down next to me and commented on my kimono, so we chatted about kimono and KDJ while I went into PR mode explaining what it is :).
I have to confess that the main reason I wanted to go to Japan Day, aside from another reason to wear kimono, was to check out the Chado demonstration. Few days ago I found out that Kaetsu actually holds a beginners Chado class on Saturdays, and I wanted to know more about it to see if we can possibly hiJACK the event ;P I got a reply and was invited to come over to Japan Day and talk with the instructors there, no other information given (more on that later).
I must say that in my hat, bright patterned kimono and western boots I stood out like a sore thumb among the iromuji-clad ladies. And once the demonstration started, I immediately regretted (but was happy in the long run) that I wore western boots instead of zori because they asked for a volunteer from the audience to be a second guest. I wouldn't have been able to remove, or put back on, those boots easily in kimono, nor did I want to blind everyone with my bright striped socks. So I passed and instead settled down to watch.
At the end I ended up looking more at the kimono than paying attention to the actual ceremony itself. Oh I paid attention to the ceremony, don't worry, because we had a lovely lady explaining everything step by step and why so we all knew what was going on. But I couldn't help but glance at kimono. And think that I don't ever want to wear kimono that way, subdued and traditional. Although I don't know all the details about Chado, I did know enough to think that I possibly will not enjoy it or want to actually study it. After attending the demonstration, I KNOW I will not enjoy it nor that I want to study it. The Way of Tea is not for everyone, and I am among those people.
The hostess was a girl around my age, who according to narrator (for the lack of better word to call her) only studied tea for 2 years and started out the same way, as a second guest. She didn't know anything about tea or how to wear kimono, but now she got good enough to host a demonstration. She wore a rather bright orange iromuji, which I thought was a no-no in the Chado world, but I figured it was because she is unmarried. The first guest was a lovely older Japanese man in a kimono.
After the demonstration was done, audience was invited to come forward and try some tea with the traditional sweets. Since I missed out on being the second guest, I wasn't going to miss this chance so I promptly stepped forward. While waiting for my tea I chatted with a narrator lady about kimono and tea, and got an eyebrow rise when I told her that I don't do tea. I might have been having a bad day and feeling cranky, but it offended me for a split second because I felt like I HAD to like Chado since I wear kimono. Kinda like I have to like borsh and vodka since I'm Ukrainian. I have to mention that the comment "You must have an interest in tea since you're here" (or something along those lines) along with the raised eyebrow is what did it to me. Actually no, I don't have an interest in Chado, I only wanted to see what it was about and maybe trying it once or twice.
Aside from my split second mood swing, the lady was very nice and the moment she heard that I wanted to attend the beginners class she called the instructor over (the guy I emailed before) to let him know. Of course I also told her about KDJ events and handed few cards over, and she promised that she will make sure everyone will hear about it. We chatted about kimono and she told me that she is trying to convince one of the Japanese ladies to hold some kisuke classes, because she is rusty in her kimono skills. I'm hoping that the Japanese lady will agree, and that it will be a public event because I would love to attend.
After that I talked to the instructor for a little bit about Chado classes, and this is when my second frustration comes into play. I mentioned already that I emailed him for more info, because the official website has hardly any info on it. I was looking mostly for information such as: Is there a charge? How much? How to sign up? How many people can attend? How far in advance do we need to book? etc. Call me naive, but I believe this is a standard information that should be included for any kind of classes and be freely offered. I am not sure if it's a Japanese thing, a Chado thing, or this particular instructor thing, but I felt like I had to claw the information out of him. Finally I flat out asked him if there was a charge, because I felt that was one of the most important things to know, especially as an organizer (me) of an event that I want to invite other people to. Turns out yes, there is a charge and it is £20/class if you decide to take classes seriously. If you just want to come by to have a cup of tea, you probably would just be asked to cover the cost of stuff. Yes, a group of people can come too, just email in advance to let them know.
I was still not satisfied with the answer, but didn't ask anymore questions at this point. I guess he answered all the important ones anyways. I wish I did ask more questions, but as I said before I am extremely shy and have trouble talking to people I don't know especially when they don't appear to be that interested anyways. Again, I might be overanalizing because everyone there were nothing but nice and polite to me, but my nerves could also have been playing tricks on me (remember, I was literally shaking.... a little).
Overall, tea left a bitter taste in my mouth both literally and figuratively speaking. A taste I like (because I like matcha), but I don't know if I can go through all the trouble of getting it again. I much rather buy me some matcha from JapanCentre and enjoy it at home, than try to hunt down the information on how to attend one of the classes.
One final thing, as you might have already noticed I didn't take any photos. There were several reasons for that. First, there wasn't much to take photos of. Second, although photos were not prohibited and people were taking them during Chado demonstration, their cameras were very quiet and tiny. My camera is big and loud lol, and I felt rather embarrassed to pull it out and start snapping pictures while everyone were being all serene and submerged into the Way of the Tea. Finally, I didn't take any photos when I got home because it was raining :( But what that means is that I should wear the outfit again sometimes soon!
P.S. And then I got home and one of my cats snagged a thread on my kimono while I was getting changed. That was the closest I ever came to hurting my kitty lol. No I didn't hurt her or did anything to her for that matter, because she did it out of excitement of seeing me. And I need to cut her nails, but I can't do it alone. I am rather upset, but I will try to convince myself that a little loopy thread is not visible.