Being relocated to a new country can be an amazing experience, though one not without its difficulties. One of the greatest of problems, particularly for the spouses or partners of those being relocated, is making friends in a new place where perhaps we do not know the language.
One great way of dealing with this is to join classes. In and around Tokyo there are plenty of classes at which you can meet new people. The below are just a few that focus particularly on enjoying Japanese culture.
Ohara School of Ikebana provide lessons in English for all levels, from beginners to masters. Lessons allow students to go at their own pace and once levels are completed, certification is awarded. The school supplies all equipment, meaning beginners can just pick up and start. If you just want to check it out, you can observe a lesson (for a 1,000 JPY fee).
For something a little less costly, the Meguro International Friends Association run a fun Ikebana class. Its focus may not be quite so much on the proficiency levels aimed for by Ohara School, but instead it looks at social interaction and friendship across different nationalities. One on one lessons are available.
Mizuki Toaka has been dancing the Nihonbuyo since she was six years old, and has since developed a class just for foreigners. In the two hour lesson she will show you how to put on a kimono and from there you take your first steps as a dancer. The lessons are aimed primarily at tourists, but anyone is free to join in.
Another school focusing on Nihon Buyo, the Fujima Kanrei School in Omori concentrates on the Soke-Fujima Ryu style, which started around the end of 18th century and can be seen in performances of both”Kabuki” and “Noh” theatre. Fujima sensei has been practicing Nihon Buyo for over 50 years and in 1981 received a masters degree in Soke-Fujima Ryu. The school also has a Kimono dressing class and is open for all generations. A basic Japanese understanding is required.
If you’re after something a bit homely, then what’s better then learning to cook directly in someone’s home? Mari is a soon-to-be published cookbook author, and lives a mere five minutes from the world famous Tsukiji fish market – 15-20 minutes from Shinjuku, Ginza and Shibuya stations – and she invites you into her life. Having lived and worked in the US her English is fluent and she is genuinely warm and open to students from all cultures. Class sizes are intimate (limited to 6) and there are various courses to choose from including vegetarian. Mari also claims to be the only cooking instructor to offer a course on making authentic Japanese sweets. A quick look on her website and the Tokyo community’s various online message boards shows her to be one of the most popular cookery classes for international visitors.
Delicious Tokyo is another popular cookery school set in a private home. Instructor Hiroko Kobayashi has descended from an illustrious Edo period family and has inherited a strong interest in Japanese culture including tea ceremony and, most importantly, Japanese cooking. She has taught cooking and Japanese manners to over 1,000 people a year, including in Thailand where she worked with celebrity chef Phol Tantasathien to develop Thailand’s first Japanese home-cooking book. Her classes focus on simple, but delicious home cooking, including tempura, donburi (rice bowls) and tonkatsu (breaded, deep fried pork cutlet), as well as perfect presentation. Kobayashi accepts groups of up to six, and even does one-on-one classes.
Have you ever wanted to learn how to throw a pot or hand build your own creation? Shirogane Ceramic Art School pride themselves on being a flexible ceramic school, providing hands on demonstrations. With courses for beginners, intermediate and advanced levels you should be able to find a class that suits you, no matter your level of experience. Most courses focus on more modern style, but as you improve you can adopt different aesthetics. Children’s’ courses also available, as are classes taught in English.
The Japanese kimono is one of the most elegant forms of dress, and no stay in Japan can be complete until you have bought your own. The only problem is how to put it on properly. Yes, there are YouTube videos, but to truly get to understand the intricacies of the Japanese traditional dress, you have to be taught. Inspire Space in Hiroo can teach you how to wear the many different styles of kimono. Should you take lessons in a group, you can learn how to dress each other, giving you a greater overall knowledge of the intricacies of wearing kimono.
Photo: flickr.com "DSC02208 European Floristry Class" by dutchbaby (CC BY-SA 2.0) -Modified