“Ohayōgozaimasu,” Gede Purwa, our Japanese Sensei greeted the students in my class.
Coming together with our Sensei was a beautiful Japanese lady. She smiled cheerfully.
” Ohayōgozaimasu,” she replied, together with the students.
“Everyone, today we have Miyako, a Japanese teacher who gladly volunteered to share an interesting tradition in the Japanese culture in our class,” our Sensei explained.
Putu Arie and Made Suar, two of my best classmates, looked at me and smiled.
“Wow, this is going to be cool!” Putu Arie, who sat beside me, looked happy.
“Yes, finally we can learn from a native speaker,” Made Suar, who sat behind us, added.
Putu Arie, Made Suar and I often practiced Japanese all these times with ourselves because we hadn’t got many chances to practice with the native speakers of Japanese. Unlike the southern part of Bali, there were not so many Japanese tourists in Lovina. When we went there, we just normally practice our English with the English speaking visitors. I remember, to get to Lovina beach, we had to ride our bicycles for about 20 minutes. Although I had lots of mistakes in those early days, I could cherish those moments today.
Lovina is a tourism area in Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia, comprising calm beaches along the northern shores, surrounded by several other tourist attractions nearby, such as Banjar hot spring, Buddhist Monastery, Sing-sing waterfall, and Gitgit waterfall. The beach is famous for its calm breeze, black sands, and famous dolphin attractions.
I read an information about Lovina in a novel by Sunaryono Basuki – who were once my lecturer, then a colleague, a senior professor (now retired) and an Indonesian writer. Said to be given by the last king of Buleleng, AA Panji Tisna, Lovina is derived from various sources.
Some say it was derived from Lafeina, a small hotel in India where Panji Tisna spent writing his novel “Ni Ketut Widhi.” Some also said that the name was inspired by 2 Santen tress which grew embracing each other. Another source said that it came from Love and Ina (meaning mother in Balinese – love of mother earth). The name was also stated to stand for Love and Ina (a short form of Indonesia – thus, Love Indonesia). Anyway, Panji Tisna himself is famous being one of Indonesian writers. He is one of the king’s sons of Buleleng Kingdom who reigned in the past. I visited his palace in Singaraja and saw some interesting reminiscence there. As Lovina is expected to be a place to show the love for Indonesia, most of the frequent visitors show a great interest in Indonesia and its unique cultures and places.
Knowing that this Miyako lady would interact with the students in our class in another 2 hours made us so happy.
“Alright, now we need to make a bit of space in front'” said our teacher.
We then removed some tables and gathered in front of the class to see how Miyako demonstrated one of the Japanese cultures; tea drinking.
Miyako then spread the small carpet that she brought in front of the class. We gathered around. It felt like watching a circus performance in the market, but this was something much more interesting. We had a native Japanese speaker who was going to demonstrate something important in the Japanese culture. For high school students like us that time, it was something we didn’t get every day.
On the carpet, she then prepared a set of small tea cups, a kettle with green tea, and a box of Japanese candy, named Wagashi.
“Alright, now we’re ready,” Miyako said in Japanese.
We sometimes understood this. Since we were still learning Japanese, at other times, our Sensei had to translate her utterances into Indonesian.
“I’ll explain and show how one of Japanese cultural heritages, that is, tea drinking,” Miyako began. “I need a volunteer, then,” she added.
Quickly, some of us raised our hands, wanted to be the first to try. Karenina, one of our friends was selected as she stood close by.
Nina was then asked to sit on the carpet, facing Miyako who sat on another end of the carpet while being ready to serve the tea.
“So, as the guest, you just sit in Japanese style and wait for the owner of the house to serve you the tea,” Miyako began explaining the tradition.
“I will put the tea cup in front of you and prepare mine. Then, we take our cups and bow to each other,” she added.
Miyako and Nina started to do what had been told earlier. After drinking the tea, I could see Nina’s smile turned into a bitter one. Everyone’s got puzzled.
Then, Miyako told her.
“Now, take the Wagashi, Nina,” Miyako opened the small box and asked her to pick one candy.
“Everyone, Japanese tea is originally coming from the tea leaves only, so the taste will be a bit bitter to your tongue. That’s why we can see Nina’s face turned funny after drinking the tea!” Miyako explained while smiling.
“Sometimes, we also bow once again afterwards,” she added.
Nina did what Miyako told her. After having Wagashi, she smiled sweetly.
We now understood. Each of us tried this. One even acted as the host and the other one was as the guest. Some friends smiled bitterly after having the tea, but it turned into a big grin when a small round piece of chocolate came into their mouth.
Suddenly, in the middle of our practice, Miyako looked confused.
“What happens?” Gede Purwa, our Sensei, asked.
“The Wagashi, it’s gone!” Miyako exclaimed.
Everyone looked at the box she showed. It’s empty! Now we looked at each other. It appeared that someone had silently taken some without being known because Miyako and our sensei were busy explaining.
“Who took this?” our Sensei asked.
All of us were silent. The boys looked each other. One of my friends’ faces looked very red. He admitted that he ate some because they were delicious.
“Sumimasen, Miyako-san,” he felt very guilty. “I’m really sorry for eating the candy.”
“I’m deeply sorry for the students’ behavior Miyako”, Gede Purwa tried to calm her.
Indeed, it was not an acceptable behavior, especially knowing that Miyako had been glad to volunteer teaching this important Japanese tradition to all of us.
By that tradition, we were taught the Japanese tea ceremony or Cha-no-you how to be polite for the sake of showing our great respect to others. That time, I could say we didn’t.
Fortunately, Miyako was not really upset. She understood what teenagers like us could do. She had another box of Wagashi to share!
Still, on behalf of my friends, I want to say, “Sumimasen, Miyako-san and thank you very much for your lesson that day.”
Note: The images of “Japanese Tea Ceremony and Wagashi, including some information about the ceremony were from here.
I am happy to share this. Please feel free to reblog or share the link, all with my accreditation. Thank you.
5 thoughts on “Sumimasen, Miyako-san”
Love your stories about daily experiences. We learn and grow mainly from those experiences! Look forward to the new stories. Best!
Thanks Oanh for reading. You can do it, too!
A Japanese tea tradition was richly depicted by Yasunari Kawabata in Thousand Cranes. It’s an enjoyable read, so you might be interested. 🙂
Ahh, thanks for the suggestion, Mas. It looks interesting from the summary I read. Will look more for it, then. Have a blessed day, my friend 🙂