With the completion of Awa Odori at hand, we American-Japanese dancers asked Sumie-san if we could continue our Japanese cultural training by taking tea ceremony lessons from her. Tea ceremony is serious business, and Sumie-san is a certified tea ceremony master! Wow! Lucky for us, she said yes. But first she laughed. “Japanese dance? Tea ceremony? What—are you going through Japanese finishing school??” When Sumie-san herself became a young woman her mother told her to pick a field of recreational study: dance, music (the koto, I think), or tea ceremony. Sumie considered, then chose tea ceremony so she could enjoy the sweets served alongside the matcha. An excellent reason. Today was our first lesson. We learned how to bow correctly (“Why that is a perfect bow…for a pig farmer. Don’t drop your head, fingertips together, elbows in, no weight on the hands.” ~Memoirs of a Geisha), how to fold our silk ceremonial napkins, and how to purify the tea utensils. Then we nibbled sweets: dry and not-dry (these seasonal sweets came in the shape of the autumn’s bunny moon). My favorite scene in Memoirs of a Geisha describes Chiyo blooming from servant girl to geisha: “We have no time to lose. We must transform you. And what takes years, you must learn in months….We create another secret world, a place only of beauty. Agony and beauty, for us, live side by side….Rise. Not like a horse. Slide your foot forward. That’s it. Now walk. You are a magnificent geisha.” That pretty much summarizes the allure of Japanese Finishing School. After tea ceremony lessons, Rebekah and I went directly to ikebana lessons with Suzuki-Sensei. She had us study some ikebana theory first: “When flowers stir you and you sense something from that, they become flowers that strike the heart. Refine your sensitivity through exposure to not only flowers, but to all forms of expression—music, art, fashion, ceramics, furniture.” Then we created these little beauties. Finishing School continues in two weeks! In the meantime, we have plenty to practice.