Christmas Tea Ceremony: クリスマス茶会

茶会 chakai: a tea “gathering,” a more informal tea ceremony.

クリスマス kurisumasu: Christmas

Recently I had the good fortune to attend a chaikai 茶会 here in Okinawa. The location was at Shoufuuen 松風苑 in Haebaru 南風原 (southern part of the island), the birthplace of Ultraman ウルトラマン (hometown of Tetsuo Kinjo, scriptwriter)! The theme of the chakai was Christmas, and of course, with a little Ultraman thrown in the mix.

Anyway, I dressed myself in kimono and met up with some fellow foreigners at the event venue. Of course, as a foreigner who dressed themselves in kimono and speaks some Japanese, many people found their way to talking to me. I don’t think it is so impressive for me to do these things, but Japanese people are often overly kind and complimentary regarding these things. It was a little embarrassing for me as I did not actually have time to do my hair and make-up properly due to oversleeping, so I had rushed to get ready.

The venue consists of some beautiful buildings and gardens set away from the main road; it is one of the few places here in Okinawa where I felt more of the Japanese atmosphere (rather than Ryukyu or Chanpuru cultures).

In general, a chakai is a little less formal than a proper tea gathering ceremony, called a chaji 茶事. This particular event was a 3-part event (lasting a little less than 3 hours total): tea ceremony outside, light meal, and an indoor tea ceremony. For the first tea we were seated at a table outside and served tea with 2 types of wagashi. Afterwards met with a famous potter here in Okinawa; he made the giant shisa that sit on either side of Kokusai-dori area in Naha. He also made the small pottery cups that were used (and we got to take home) during our light meal.

The light meal was held inside the banquet area. It was tatami seating, so properly one should sit seiza 正座, but as a foreigner that is a bit difficult for long periods of time so… I did not, despite the awkwardness of sitting in kimono. The little pottery cup we received as a souvenir has a design for the New Year… the year of the dog! This made me very happy as coming new year, the year of the dog 戌年 (inudoshi) is my zodiac year. The meal was beautifully and carefully prepared, as well as quite filling. I cannot remember everything in it, but the only meat was the chicken (which I did not eat); there was of course fish/seafood, which I ate on this occasion (though admittedly I am not a huge fan of fish in general).

Anyway, next was the last tea ceremony held in one of the more formal tea ceremony rooms. It was beautifully decorated. Again, this time we sat seiza for the whole time and admittedly I need practice as my feet became a bit painful. But overall I enjoyed the entire thing.

After the last ceremony, we found ourselves going up to the small “museum” dedicated to Ultraman. It is only 2 small rooms, but very cute and interesting. When not used as an event space, Shoufuuen is also a restaurant… I definitely recommend trying it sometime for a nice kaiseki (traditional multi-course Japanese/Okinawan meal) experience!

Posted below are a few pictures from the event; I could add so many more, but tried to choose some of the better and more relevant ones. Hopefully everyone who spends time in Okinawa or Japan will take the opportunity to attend a chakai!


Bali Terrace: バリーテラス & Halloween Kimono Party

I first went to Bali Terrace in Urasoe for lunch awhile back. It is a sort of French/Italian kind of restaurant, and for lunch has set menu choices (entree such as pasta, chicken, fish, etc) with a semi-viking salad/drink bar (the cost is reasonable, maybe ~1300yen).

The interior is really interesting and comfortable; the view is quite amazing, as the restaurant is on the second floor of the building, perched atop a hill overlooking the ocean in the distance. They even take advantage of the view by having (indoor) tables that look directly out the windows, sort of like cushy sofa seating with plenty of pillows.

A second-hand kimono shop advertised a Halloween kimono dress-up event to be held here. So, since I knew the food would be decent, I decided to buy a ticket. Plus I could practice wearing kimono. I decided to go as “kitsune” (fox demon). I bought a cheap mask off, and coordinated some fall-woodsy colors with my brown kimono.

The ticket was for tabehoudai/nomihoudai (all you can eat and drink) party plan, so they brought out various foods throughout the night and filled drinks. This type of service is very popular for drinking parties in Japan, so you do not have to think about what to order, they just have various sets that they bring out throughout the night.

There were all sorts of nice foods served; pasta, gnocchi, pizza, salad, fried potatoes, deer carpaccio, sausages, cheeses… a nice place for this sort of event. Everyone had a lot of fun and chatted through the evening. All the kimonos were so cute, too.

address: 沖縄県浦添市仲間1-24-26

A few lunch time pictures:

Bargain Kimono Sale: 着物

I wrote about summer yukata in another post, but recently, I went to a used/bargain kimono and yukata sale… which of course led me to pick out some items for very cheap. While there were some beautiful pieces (even pre-picked out sets) for higher prices, my budget for these types of things is not very high. That being said, I am happy with my purchases.

First, I found a pink rabbit hanhaba obi (with a silvery pattern on the opposite side)… super kawaii. So since it is a casual (half) obi, I decided to look for a yukata that would match it; I ended up with a discounted medium blue yukata with pink and purple sakura-looking flowers on it. While normally I would not choose a flower pattern, this one contrasts and complements the obi so well. I am excited for next festival season already! I will need to alternate between my cats yukata and my bunny/flower yukata set.

The second combination I found was an antique komon 小紋 kimono 着物, which is a semi-formal/informal kimono with a repeating pattern (less rules, more free patterns and variety), and an full-width obi that I thought went well with it. The kimono is yellow-gold with a pattern of colorful omamori (charms, amulet)  お守り; it is rather unique, and maybe a little kitschy, and definitely not your typically flowers or elegance. At first I though the design was pots, like for shoyu or sake (which sounds like an awesome design itself!) until I looked closer. The obi is a dark green with wisps of white and black color on it, so it gives a nice contrast to the bright colors on the kimono. It is not proper for full formal events, but rather better as a more casual piece, while still being acceptable for semi-formal events by dressing it up a bit. This is perfect since I cannot imagine any formal kimono events in my future! I have started to assemble the fiddly bits that I need to be able to wear the full kimono ensemble; just learning to tie this type of obi seems daunting in itself. I am even tempted to hire a kimono dresser at some point so I can get it put together properly! Yukata are quite simple, but kimono add layers upon layers of complication.

Some of the fiddly bits necessary for kimono dressing:

Being a bargain shopper meant going through a large number of fabrics and obi to find the right size (I am a medium height Western female, which means rather on the tall side compared to most Japanese females), quality (some had obvious defects hence the discount), price, and designs. After a good hour of perusing, I settled on these 2 sets after contemplating some other designs. Considering new kimono run to the equivalent of hundreds (or even thousands) of US dollars, paying 2000yen (~$20 USD) for an antique kimono in good condition made me happy. The other pieces were all cheaper (900yen each, except the bunny obi costing me 2200yen, the only item over budget).

In Okinawa, there are a few places you can find secondhand yukata and kimono, mainly “recycle” shops (リサイクル), such as Manga Souko and OFF-house (2 of the bigger chain recycle shops and well known to gaijin, though perhaps you could get lucky with a smaller unknown recycle shop). There are also a few secondhand and antique kimono specialty shops (such as Kimonobana, the shop that held the bargain event). Prices at recycle shops can be as low as 500-1000 yen, but often the quality will be very poor in this price range (unless you are very lucky!). Most prices seem to be a bit higher than this, and I have seen some very beautiful 30,000 yen (or more!) kimono in some of the secondhand shops, you can imagine what the orginal price must have been. Of the 2 larger chains, OFF-house seems to be a better value and selection than Manga Souko in my opinion. I have yet to explore all the secondhand kimono shops, but hopefully I can get around to it before the New Year. Overall, these are still a pretty decent deal compared to paying for new kimono, so if you are in Okinawa and interested in kimono and yukata options, definitely check out some of these places. And of course, keep your eyes out for used Kimono sale events that happen throughout the year.