Lindsay Pringle, a senior from Central Michigan University and a student on the 2016 fall semester Language & Culture program, spoke with us about her experiences with study abroad. In this installment, she discusses her thoughts on the various cultural and community activities at JCMU, where she was given the chance to learn the ways of Japanese flower arrangement, participate in a tea ceremony, and more!
Every Friday, JCMU brings in people from Hikone to provide students with hands-on lessons over various activities relating to Japanese culture. I have made a point to participate in all of these events. So far, we have done ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), traditional Japanese tea ceremony, playing the koto (traditional Japanese stringed instrument), how to wear a yukata (traditional Japanese garment), and using the naginata (a blade attached to a long pole used by foot soldiers and Buddhist warrior monks, now used primary by women in a form of martial arts). I think my favorite so far was the naginata activity. It was fun to learn the different attack tactics and kind of funny to see some of the students almost whack each other when they got too into it. Watching the two instructors in combat was also exciting because every movement and counter was very precise.
Each workshop provides new insight into Japanese culture. For example, during our first culture project we had the chance to learn from a woman who has been doing ikebana flower arrangements for around 50 years. Ikebana is a very detailed art form that stems from the respect and appreciation Japanese people have for the beauty of nature. The woman told us that when she was younger, she would climb mountains just to find the most beautiful flowers to use for her arrangements. It was touching to see that this was a very fond memory of hers. Ikebana allows Japanese people to bring nature and harmony into their homes and inspires the notion to live in the moment.
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony was also a very important experience to have while in Japan. The ceremony is very complex and structured like most things in Japanese society. For example, it was important to turn the tea bowl 2 times before drinking, so as not to put your lips on the beautiful artwork. After drinking you should take a moment to inspect and admire the work put into the bowl. The matcha tea was delicious and made with great care. Every movement and gesture in this ceremony has a purpose and was like a dance.
Along with these weekly cultural activities, every other Wednesday, people from throughout the community come to JCMU to participate in a fun activity or play Japanese style games. This is yet another way JCMU allows us to practice Japanese and learn more about Japanese culture.
We would like to thank Lindsay for talking to us about her experiences thus far in Japan, and we hope that her story resonates with many others considering JCMU. In the final installment of this series, which will be posted on December 13th, Lindsay discusses her thoughts on JCMU’s classes and offers advice for any students considering JCMU in the future, so check back then!