Sensei was planning to have a dinner for our shodo class this evening, but due to the coming typhoon which should be arriving in the next few hours, she changed it to lunch. A former HPAC member from the class who moved to Finland with her husband–also an HPAC member who joined the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra last year–were in Japan to visit his family before heading to Korea to visit hers. It was an occasion for Sensei to pull out her incredible culinary skills.
Kizaki-san, one of the members in the class, picked up me and another member at the train station and drove us up the winding hills above Takarazuka to Sensei's house. Along the way we talked about expensive parking in various places and the change in strength of the yen to the dollar during the time I've been in Japan. And when we arrived and Sensei was still finishing up various parts of getting ready, we continue to talk about family, her sister who lives in the States and had her first children, twins, at the age of 46. We talked about how the birthrate in Japan is decreasing because women want to have a career first, how this compared to America, and how it has changed over time. I wish my Japanese was stronger. It would be so interesting to deepen and broaden these conversations.
Once my HPAC friends arrived, there was some translation help, as well as an additional interest in their multicultural existences. The conversations were ones of sharing different cultural experiences, catching up about the everyday, and letting the time pass easily.
The food was incredible and in many different courses. It's so inspiring to see what can be possible in one's home. Soft tofu with roe and sesame oil was set at our places; then we were served a salad of greens, raw salmon, and tomatos; there was pasta that seemed to have a mustard sauce and sausage; tons of vegetable tempura as well as shrimp and fish tempura; eggplant with diced tomatoes and green onions in a ponzu-shiso leaf-sesame oil sauce (an incredible Japanese taste); okawa, a seasoned sticky rice with various vegetables mixed-in and topped with seaweed; watermelon, green tea, and coffee or black tea.
After eating, the group lingered for a long time, even after the guests of honor had to return to Kyoto. I sat there like a child at Thanksgiving while the adults spoke about things I didn't understand, just soaking in the feeling of this group of old friends of many years, just sitting in one another's company, talking about whatever, seemingly not minding the time, picking at the remaining watermelon, drinking another pot of coffee together, eating a sweet cake here and there.
I wondered what their friendship felt like to them. How would such a group friendship feel to me? My friends are all over the place, it feels like years since I've shared such a thing.
It was an afternoon that has inspired me to look into more ways of cooking. And also an afternoon that has inspired me to think about more ways of creating a home to share a space with others.