on every monday since march (right after the earthquake actually), i have been taking kimono lessons in my neighborhood in tokyo, where i learn how to wear japanese kimono on my own. embarrassingly enough, i don’t know how to put it on by myself despite my cultural background, since someone else always did it for me.
taking the lesson every week, i have realised how mentally exhausting it can be to learn something brand new, especially at this stage of my life where more than a decade has long past after graduating from the university. after each lesson, i come home being literally worn out, overwhelmed with the mixture of familiar/unfamiliar words and rules concerning the japanese tradition and history.
still, acquiring this particular skill is a delight and a great addition to my life, as if this will fill in another missing puzzle of my being. every monday at 2pm, my teacher, a short, charming and cheerful lady presumably in her 60’s, greets me at the entrance door of her home, always in different and unique types of seasonal kimono. each time i open the door with an anticipation of the colour, material, pattern and small trinkets of the kimono she beautifully wears.
during the 2-hour lesson, while i learn the practical side of kimono dressing, my mind often trips back to my childhood memory. a vision of kimono, a smooth & cold texture of silk, a smell of this particular aroma specific for keeping all the garments, a posture of an elegant bow on the floor… all of which remind me so much of the time i spent with my grandmother when she was still alive, who used to teach japanese tea ceremony in her kimono at home. she allowed me to be around when she was teaching, and tried to show me how to do it a few times. but all those attempts always ended up in failure, because i was not so interested and never appreciated the fact that i was so close to it. now that she is gone, i realise the significance of what i missed out. the sense of regret waves into my head, and my heart starts to beat a little faster than normal. but then my mind comes back to the present and the reality of another practice goes on.
at the end of the lesson today, the teacher told me that it was her mission to encourage the young generation of japanese people to wear kimono, in order to preserve and pass on our culture to the future. being married to a non-japanese person, it is quite likely that i may move out of japan with him one day in the future. but even when this happens, i want to take them all with me to wherever we go – the subdued, yet unyielding values this country has taught me.