Green tea and 'wife-training'

My friends and I have officially begun training to become perfect Japanese housewives.

I may not be able to cook for my future husband, but at least by the end of my "wife-training" I will be able to conduct an elaborate tea ceremony if he asks for green tea and a wafer, and create linear flower arrangements for our home.

I must admit by the end of our first ikebana (flower arranging) lesson, and being treated to half an hour of someone making green tea, my friend posed a very good question - what's the point?

Perhaps it is just that we Kiwis don't value the intricacies of tea ceremonies like the Japanese do. But she has a point. Ikebana and tea ceremony are traditionally the arts women learn on the road to marriage but I can't imagine any man wanting to sit through such a long ceremony just to get a cup of tea and a biscuit.

In saying that, the art of tea ceremony was historically made popular in Japan by the samurai, and men also learn it.

From my understanding, our teacher demonstrates the samurai way of doing tea ceremony, as there were certain times we had to do a specific bow, we were meant to share the same cup of green tea between us which, according to, was part of the samurai way of life to signify close family bonds. At least that's what I understood from another Japanese friend who was telling us about her.

While we were simply guests at this particular tea ceremony, we did create our first flower arrangement.

I'm not sure what I expected from ikebana - perhaps a nice bright floral arrangement to make my home seem a bit warmer during winter, perhaps some instruction on how to arrange the colours in a certain way to achieve the most attractive look.

But it was none of that.

Just like the tea ceremony, ikebana is a highly serious and detailed art form. We were given a bunch of flowers - three black stalk things, some carnations, two irises, two white flowers and some red flowers. The black things formed the base of our arrangement - their placements signifying belief, vice and body. We had to take the first one and stick it in the nail pad at a certain angle. Then the other two had to be two-thirds and one-third the size of the first one.

Without boring you with the details, each flower had a specific place and a specific angle and woe betide if you got it wrong. Apparently we were rather good at ikebana despite having a very limited understanding of what the teacher was telling us. We all now have our own ikebana pot and nail pad to practise with at home.

While we are officially Japanese residents - I have the resident's identification card to prove it - our minds and way of life are not yet Japanese.

We have Japanese lessons, ikebana and tea ceremony filling up our weeks but my friends and I also hope to take up kendo and calligraphy in the new year which begins in April. I'll keep you posted.

The Marlborough Express