Every visitor got a full package of folders, with maps, hotels, places to go and places to see.
I still haven't completely read mine.
Throughout the hall were displays explaining about things to see, things to do ,things to eat and how to get around and to Tokyo.
Placards with useful information were showing us everything about Tokyo, Japan
There was an anime theater (whee!) , showing all kinds of anime throughout the day.
but I found out it was dubbed in English instead of original Japanese with sub titling, so I only watched one show, ( although I really wanted to see Coluboccoro ( see poster ) but it was programmed at the same time as my reservation for the tea ceremony).
There were several traditional activities you could participate in : old Japanese games , origami ( paper folding ) , shodo (calligraphy) and a tea ceremony (sadō).
"Everybody hold your pen like this. This is the character for tree..."
With so much to do and to see in one day I had to choose : I decided to take part in the tea ceremony, because it's the only thing I couldn't replicate at home.
We had to sit in front of the tea lady , in seiza style. Oh boy ! Although we got a zabuton ( cushion) to put under our knees , after a few minutes most people started feeling THE PAIN and started to try and find easier positions.
This is where I SHINE! I can sit in seiza style effortlessly like forever : seven years of serious bodybuilding and stretching and running has given me legs that are very strong and also very flexible. ( Strength training shortens your muscles : you absolutely need to stretch each trained muscle for 30 seconds each after training to keep them long.) So I was able to sit there , smiling like a Buddha , while around me painful motions and shifts were being performed.
We got a bowl of green matcha tea ,a sweet on a paper and a bamboo whisk , with which we had to stir the tea in a horizontal figure of eight ( a bit more difficult than the vertical figure of eight I'm used to as a cook) and then whisk the top of the tea quickly into a nice froth ( Oh YES! That one I'm good at :I revved up the right wrist and whisked away like an runaway outboard motor , but ever so elegantly mind you : only the hand and wrist moving, while the rest of the body stayed still :).
Then we had to take the wisk out , lightly scraping it at the front, put it to one side, hold the bowl on the right hand and turn the front away from us, drink the tea in three gulps and eat the sweet. The tea wasn't very thick or bitter ( I have matcha at home that is more bitter).
Still, I'd love to get hold of a bamboo whisk and bowl and do it at home. It was a wonderful experience !
I got the chance to talk to the lady after the ceremony. She explained : " I have been studying this style of tea ceremony for seven years. But this style is not so popular in Japan these days." "Ah ? so why do you study this style?" "Because I learned from my grandmother " "Seven years ? I should call you sensei then ?! " " No no, not sensei, I still have to study a few more years before I can teach"
Ah, such modesty !
The ROBOTS are coming, the ROBOTS are coming
This cute little doggy drew a lot of attention : it tapped its right foot to the rhythm of the music
and responded to petting by flashing it's lights and flicking it's ears.
A young Japanese woman standing next to me said : "What is that ?" I said "It plays music.. You can pet it : go ahead. Stroke its nose" She did. The I-dog flicked its ears,flickered its LED lights and made cute little noises. She was enchanted : " Ah, it's so cuuuuute. I mean.... it's so, so, mm.., so.."
I knew just the word she was looking for : " It's .. kawai ?" " Yes, kawaiiiiiiiii !!"
I have a feeling that kawaii means a lot more than just cute.
I think it's cute , cuter, cutest, kawaii.
Oh, she totally wants one of those !
Wheeee! I am I-sobot.Everywhere there were Japanese hostesses in blue (vests ?) to help explain.
Here a British boy is getting vital instructions on the use of THE REMOTE CONTROL.
Look at the gleam in his eyes : I can see him thinking " Just add a jet pack and a plasma beam gun and I'm controlling my very own Gundam." World domination is the next logical step.
One one side , getting very little attention was this techno marvel . It plays music from an inserted MP3 player : I saw it rotate and spin to the rhythm of a pop song it was playing. Impressive. It can't do stairs , but it never rolled of its platform , it's that smart.
I'd love to get one to follow me around the house , but it would probably scare the cat
You could get your digital photograph taken and printed to take home , posing in front of two Tokyo landmarks : a tori
From left to right : April, Priscilla, Mel, Isla, Hong & nihon buyo dancer Chie Nakayama ( from my previous post ) (Disclaimer : this picture is from Shigatsuhana's (April) flickr files )
All in all , it was well worth the trip , the long freezing drive on the motorbike, etc.. but I've already blogged about that.
One day , I'll visit Japan. Till then events like this are a welcome introduction.