Today I went to the “Let’s learn and play in Japanese” event organized by the Tsukuba International Association. The event was held in the Tsukuba Science Information Center. There was a discussion group in the 1st floor for adults and some games and Japanese style activities in the second floor – I guess mostly for kids. The person at the reception suggested me the discussion group but I preferred to go to the activity section. He handed me then the ‘Guidelines for Tsukuba City to be a Cross-Cultural Society’, which was apparently the subject of the discussion group, the program and a stamp card. The program of the event can be found here, it is funnily not to be found on the website of the Association itself.

A large room in the second floor was dedicated to the activities, such as origami, face painting, calligraphy and dancing. I first navigated between the tables where the different activities were offered in order to get an overview. There were many kids, teenagers and some adults. I got soon dragged into the first activity: traditional dance. The volunteer gave me a fan into my hands and hushed me to the teachers at the end of the room. Dancing in a room full of strangers is not among my favourite activities, but I played along and tried the best I can to follow the movements of our two kimono clad teachers. It was very hot in the room, but I could use the fan to wave some air into my face, when there was a short pause for explanations. After we learned a few movements, the volunteer switched on some music and we danced all we learned today.The teachers dancing was very elegant, they swung gently the fan and walking graciously in the beautiful kimonos. I tried the best I could to imitiate them.

I asked one of the teachers the name of the dance, and she explained that it was called “tsukuba koikodou”, apparently based on or the tale of a love story. She gave me the text of the song and a summary of the movements. It is the picture on the top of the article. It is actually as complicated as it looks…

Then I headed towards the activity for which I came to the “Fun and Games” event: Kimono fitting. When else do you have the opportunity to wear a real kimono? And to have someone help you put it on? I don’t know any free possibility elsewhere, so if you would like to experience kimono in Tsukuba, go to the annual “Fun and Games” event!

Entering the separate room for the kimono fitting, I was greeted friendly by  several elderly women, who were responsible to put on kimono for girls and also traditional clothing for men. They choose a beautiful adult kimono for me and went immediatly to work: first tabi, underkimono, kimono and then several bands to keep the obi in place. The obi for kimono is 3m long, so no wonder it is difficult to put on.

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I could take some pictures and then went together with other girls in kimono to a separate room to see the tea ceremony. We got some sweets – a senbei and a sugar candy – and then a bowl of green tea. I was happy to learn the way of receiving the bowl: the left hand is horizontally, the right hand holds gently the bowl, fingers around the curvature. Then you turn the bowl clockwise, two times, maybe 30 degree every time. You drink the tea, turn the bowl again – this time counterclockwise – to its initial position and hand it over to the assistant who collects the empty bowls. Interestingly, there is a “shomen” on the bowl. The assistants could see it easily, as if there was a line marking the shomen, but for me this side did not have anything special compared to the other part of the bowl.

After the tea, I went to the other room to take off the kimono and joined then the origami folding. I made a kimono card and a doll card. Then the time of the “Fun and Games” afternoon was already over. The time went by so quickly!

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All in all it is a very nice event for foreigners who want to experience some typical Japanese activities. It is once a year in mid-March. I did not find the information on the webiste of the association, but maybe they announce it elsewhere (I got info about it through an announcement email at work).

Have you heard about the event or have you been there? Had you have opportunity to wear kimono? Do you like origami?

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