Perhaps this letter of appreciation is nearly 15 years overdue, but as the saying goes, "better late than never."
If only had I known then what I know now, my outlook on sitting through the lengthy nagauta and tea ceremony performances would have been much different. During my late childhood/early adolescent years, I had a difficult time understanding why my sister and I were required to sit through these slow-paced, lengthy performances. Often, I thought we were watching these performances out of obligation–to be “good and supportive granddaughters.” Of course, we always wanted to be supportive, but at that time I didn't understand why support had to be done at an hour-long nagauta performance.
Looking back, some of my favorite childhood memories include going to your home for our weekly dinners. One night in particular after dinner, you showed us your new kotosuzumi (small drum held on shoulder) and you were so excited to show us. I also distinctly remember looking at my sister and not knowing how to react. At the time, all we saw was another small drum to add to the collection of items used for your hobbies. Little did we know, this beautifully designed kotosuzumi would bring you so much joy as you began your journey in learning the art of nagauta.
It took nearly 15 years for me to realize that watching you perform tea ceremony, nagauta, and teaching us how to do shūji (calligraphy), has been such a privilege in learning about the Japanese culture, and not just an excuse for you and your friends to host a performance.
Whether or not the lessons were intended, here are some things I learned:
- It’s never too late to learn something new. You taught me that no matter how young or old you may be, it’s never too late to learn a new skill or hobby. Even as a ji-chan you took time out of your busy work schedule to learn how to properly perform a tea ceremony and work with your friends to learn nagauta pieces.
- Just because you are physically distant from your home country doesn’t have to mean you have to be disconnected from the culture. Similarly, you taught me that no matter how many generations removed I may be, I am never too distant to learn and appreciate the Japanese culture. The shūji lessons after our weekly dinners were some of my favorite childhood memories. You have always encouraged me to practice speaking and writing Japanese.
- Enjoy life and all of its beauty. You and your friends taught me that it is important to do activities that bring you joy. The hours and dedication you and your friends put towards learning the details and how to perform tea ceremonies and nagauta are inspiring. You all work together to preserve and share these Japanese cultural arts even after living away from Japan for many years.
- Now that I am in my mid-twenties, I can finally appreciate the time and effort you poured into these art forms and the preservation of culture that went along with the performances and lessons. Although there is much more I can thank you for, my hope is that this letter can provide some insight as to the ways in which you have inspired me. I hope that you continue to pursue your hobbies and continue to teach my sister and me the importance of knowing and appreciating our Japanese culture.