Finally, the moment has arrived when I can start to pen down my thoughts of the 6 weeks I spent at Kitagama Kasen studio learning ceramics in Seto. I always end up overestimating the amount of things I can do when I’m ‘on holiday’ or ‘traveling’. ^^; I think if anyone saw the number of books I brought along with me this time to Seto (thinking I would have lots of time at night to read through books on ceramics, ikebana, Zen…and the like), their jaws would drop in an instant to the ground. I only realized how heavy it was when I was carrying it after alighting at Narita airport on arrival. But I always assumed my luggage would get lighter after giving away things like souvenirs…or possibly throwing some old clothing away? Nope and nope. It only got heavier especially since I ended up squishing in some ceramics to take back with me in my check in luggage as well. But that’s always been the case for me I suppose. Overly optimistic (and D would be quick to add, unrealistic) about things. The same way I thought I would be able to keep up an updated journal of my day to day shenanigans while at staying at the studio’s dormitory. Instead, most nights I was simply dead tired , unable to do much more than cook a quick and easy aglio olio style pasta (and my next door roommate M would always be like, Garlic? AGAIN??) and veg out in front of the laptop watching some J-drama. But it was really one of the best experiences I’ve had ever. And since coming back to Berlin I’ve been getting things out of the way (massive laundry piles, tidying up of spaces, accompanying visiting friend out for things etc) in order to finally settle down to this moment, when I can start recapturing those moments. I managed to jot down a few lines every night of the key happenings that day which I would eventually turn into proper journal entries so I’m still referencing those notes for these entries now. I’m mainly using photos taken on my film camera so that it’s different from the photos taken with my phone that I’m posting on Instagram. But eventually, I might add in some photos from my phone to these posts. Perhaps when I’m done with it. I feel more the urge to pen down thoughts and reflections of so much that has happened.
Took the Shinkansen from Okayama to Nagoya and changed to the local Meitetsu Line headed for Owari-Seto, the very last stop on the line. I had felt nothing but excitement in the months leading up to this ceramics course but I remember distinctly being overcome by a sudden fear somewhere along the local line as it chugged slowly along. Why so many random anxious thoughts suddenly came to mind still remains a huge unanswered question to me. But it was strange, suddenly thinking to myself, just what have I gotten myself into? What am I headed straight towards? So many questions stemming from fear of the relative unknown. What if…my Sensei turned out to be really strict and scolded me every day? What if… my fellow coursemates were all really strange and I couldn’t get along with them? Nothing that would be life-threatening of course but could it happen that I would end up miserable every day and my love for ceramics might die along with that? The main consolation I had was that there had been so many positive reviews from past students who had taken this course that it was impossible for my Sensei to be a nasty person. As those thoughts of wow, what have I gotten myself into, streamed through my head, I remembered what my dear friend T-san ( my former neighbour back in SG, who is an amazing mum/wife/carer of her most adorable dog Atlas plus among many things also a licensed aromatherapist) who I had stayed with in Osaka, had taught me during a trial aromatherapy course. That one thing I could try was using essential oils and doing deep breathing exercises. So I did. With the tea tree oil I had gotten from her, I tried what she had taught me – taking in deep breaths, inhaling the piquant tangy scent of tea tree, sending positive thoughts to the people I cared for (いいエネルギーを送ります）and reassuring myself with positive thoughts （幸せになりますように〜), thoughts of love and support for myself… and lo and behold, those feelings of anxiety dissipated. To this day, I’m ever grateful for those life skills that T-San taught me in a short span of 2 hours. It’s something that I know I will continue to turn back to to keep practising and refining and hopefully teach others one day as well.
Reached the station and the minute I met Sensei, I knew that all my fears were completed unfounded. He was friendly and welcoming right from the start. First order of the day was to go to the local supermarket to stock up on 3-4 days worth of groceries since it wasn’t particularly near the studio. Some ingredients that I relied on heavily this time – vacuum packed dried mushrooms (the BEST for pretty much everything), olive oil (many many bottles), and yoghurt. On the way to the studio, met fellow classmate F who also happened to be from Singapore! It’s indeed a small world and funnily enough Sensei mentioned that the majority of students who have been through his course happen to be from SG. ^^ Not surprising at all.
Arrived at the studio and met the other students, V from Canada who had arrived the day before, K from Scotland, and M-san, the apprentice. Since it was already sometime around 4pm or so I decided I would take it easy for the day and start learning proper the next day. Settled into my room, explored the studio, decided to take a stroll around the neighborhood which apparently was pretty small and would be quick to get around. The other students recommended Pupu Cafe, saying it was extremely easy to find; all I had to do was cross over a bridge somewhere… Obviously I ended up getting lost. ^^; I did find the cafe eventually unfortunately it was closed on Sunday which everyone seemed to have forgotten.
As luck would have it, F had plans to visit a local porcelain artist at his studio because she had seen some of his items in a store at the shopping street. He happened to be present at the store and invited her over to visit his studio. M-san gave us a ride over (thankfully, because it was in the next town and would have taken quite a long time to walk from the station) and I managed to have a first look at a studio of a Taruta-san/a>, local porcelain artist in Seto. His stuff was incredibly beautiful. But I had to control myself lest I end up buying things on the very first day of arrival.
We ended up walking back towards the station. It was a nice stroll, with slightly chilly evening weather. It felt nice to talk so easily with F who was very easy-going and friendly. She explained so much to me about the day to day routine at the studio, what to expect and what the entire learning process would likely be like. Looking back, those explanations were so helpful in my adjusting to life at the studio.
Since we had missed our bus back to the studio and the next one would only come in an hour, she brought me to the local Soba restaurant near the station. Incredibly, we bumped into Sensei and his wife at the counter who were having dinner. Dinner for us was the delicious tempura – all made in house by the chef and his wife. There was Sakura-ebi tempura which was their specialty plus, incredible Soba ice cream. A first for me and just enough to fill my dessert belly.
Took the bus back together and F explained to me how the bus timings worked and the route back from the bus stop to the studio. All her advice really was indispensable. ❤