Helsinki revisited

It has been rather silent over here as I had to leave my computer in Japan. That is the outcome of slowly packing life into cardboard boxes of various sizes (some of which still wait to get shipped home) and a distorted hierarchy of preference. I have been slowly trying to sum up everything that happened during my temporary alienation from the ordinary but well. It is completely pointless to look for a point.

Helsinki has treated me well (excluding the fact that it has been raining almost every single day since I arrived some three months ago). Making tea feels odd but I have missed visiting galleries and having time to see art and read books.

Of the things I have seen during the last three months worth mentioning would be at least the Korean dancers visiting Teatteri Union. To me, even just observing movement and listening to the sound it makes, is a pleasure. All Asian arts seem to have some esoteric level that connects everything that happens now to everything that has happened before. Even simple things carry a weight of past generations. Like in tea it makes light things weigh a ton and the other way round.

Yesterday I visited Kaapelitehdas and the Ärt exhibition by the graduates of Lahti Institute of Fine Arts. Surprisingly classic and subdued works but as such an interesting visit.

Paintings by Lila Vainikka at Kaapeli

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Time really flies when you are taken to a context far from the one you are used to. Our first semester in Kyoto is drawing to an end. Summer is far and it’s hardly possible to go out during the daytime due to humidity and hot air. Even if I enjoy heat, it’s hard to find comfort in constant sauna kind of temperatures.

Nights are nice and warm though and I saw the first fireflies yesterday walking along one of the streams leading to Kamogawa! They are so cool though I was told that they are basically just looking for a partner to mate with. Well, I guess there are worse reasons to look flamboyant enough to be easily eaten by predators. They look very calming. I could have stared at them for hours (that, of course, would not even have been possible because of my home coming time).

Kamogawa today, +28

Kamogawa today, +28

I also made a 4-day trip to Finland of all places (!) to help with the events there. We had series of Japan-related events going on in Helsinki last week. Despite the jetlag and constant tiredness it was really nice to meet friends and to be able to take part in the festivities. And to be reminded that I actually have a life outside of tea, too.

But it was also nice to get back to our usual practice here. I still enjoy our daily keiko, even more so now that we start doing different things every day. I just love studying. And I do feel very lucky to be here.

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Room for repetition

The Golden Week is here and we are enjoying a 4 day vacation (!). Very strange to have so much time for doing what ever we like to do. It has been mainly tea related things though as it is also a good chance to repeat the things we have learned so far.

The iris season is here!

The iris season is here!

On Saturday we climbed Hiei-san, one of the mountains surrounding the city, just to get some exercise and to see things from a different angle.

A view from Mt. Hiei

A view from Mt. Hiei

After weeks of sitting indoors (either on a chair or on tatami) you really start to appreciate fresh air and exercise.



It already doesn’t seem odd to stop by every flower to wonder what kind of flower vase it would suit. Getting an umbrella holder to my bike seems like a reasonable idea. So I guess all of this will soon seem as normal as it gets. One of the nicest things in Kyoto outside of tea life is finding interesting places by accident. They seem to be everywhere!

A nice 2nd hand store in the centre

A nice 2nd hand store in the centre

Being here is a lot about teaching your body new automated movements. It’s such pain to try to alter things once learned and repeated hundreds of times. It’s about centimeters and millimeters and endless repetition (it’s such a blessing to be into repetitive things in general). Good to have things to work on.

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Hmmm, haven’t been too active on this forum. The reason is that I moved to Kyoto in the beginning of the month to study tea and life has been rather hectic ever since.

Mornings are filled with lectures related to tea and after lunch we do the practical side of the study. And then we clean. I have started to appreciate simple things like food and sleep on a totally different level. Also taking a shower or bath feels just fantastic.

In this state of being you just get so sensitive to all things around that attending things like kencha (tea offering) feel as if you would exist in another world. I guess after the whole year you just feel like you have been asleep for a long time and that this world of tea only exists inside your head.

Sometimes I get the feeling that being overloaded with new things is exactly how you get rid of too much of thinking when you do things like tea. It’s like training your auto pilot mode because you are simply too tired to think of anything.

Seeing the mountains around Kyoto every single day just makes me feel happy to exist. Kyoto really hasn’t given me much time to think of things I could possibly miss from my ordinary life. People, I guess, is the only thing I seem to lack.


Hmmm, such a long silence here. Obviously my life has been good.

Yesterday I went to see Trier’s Nymphomaniac. Many parts didn’t differ much from porn. I was slightly annoyed that it made many more or less normal things seem like a part of an obsession. Where do you draw the line in such matters? Part I ends with the main character screaming that she doesn’t feel anything. That’s exactly how you feel after watching two hours of porn in the movies.

What else? We tried out a new yokan recipe, but it didn’t work out. It looks ok in the picture, but the taste was not quite what we were looking for. Well, next version will appear.

The latest yokan

The latest yokan

A friend said it’s the time of the year when there’s a lot of ki in the air. So I can blame the energies for moods. In the tearoom March is a time to use a hanging kettle (tsurigama) that will move a little thus resembling the wind in the spring.

Gallery hopping

Last week we decided to make a spontaneous gallery tour. There are so many exhibitions I have been wanting to see, but for some reason there hasn’t been much time for touring them. So we always end up visiting many on the same day. But well, it works this way as well.

We started from Gallery Heino. They are currently hosting an exhibition by a Finnish photographer Marja Pirilä. It’s quite refreshing to see Finnish photography in such an unconventional form. Very colorful and full of content. It all reminded me of children’s movies and well, the stage of imagination that kids live in. Constantly afraid of things like slightly opened doors. It’s like diving into a dream world where there are no casual things at all. So yes, very much appreciated thought not my thing at all.

Then we moved on to Anhava to see the works of Elina Merenmies. Obviously the critique in the local newspaper had been quite a praising one as over half of the works were already sold. Strange exhibition as if not contemporary at all but from the past.

At Korjaamo there is an exhibition by Markus Henttonen, a Finnish photographer based in Berlin. Silent Night is a set of pictures from L.A. The houses look beautiful but lonely in their Christmas decorations. All the Christmas crap makes the houses somehow sadly similar as if they would lack any identity of their own. I guess that’s not too far from what is happening to people too.

The last stop was Make Your Mark. The exhibition by Jaakko Mattila looks perfect on these walls! Definitely the best looking exhibition at this gallery ever. Quite unfortunate that someone had already bought my favorite. Well, what can you do.

Helsinki today!

Helsinki today!

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Ok, I haven’t been here for a while. The reason is that I have been busy actually doing things. And getting stressed over some changes in my everyday life. But yes, it’s good to move on with things.

What comes to making wagashi, we have been very productive! It’s quite intriguing to try out different kind of sweets.

Only a few of our trials have been completely unsuccessful. Of course, not all of them look as they were supposed to, but it’s surprisingly easy to make stuff that looks quite complicated, like the uiro chimaki that I thought would look totally hideous. But no.

Uiro chimaki

Uiro chimaki

Let’s see what comes next.

My morning set of matcha and a mochi sweet

My morning set of matcha and a mochi sweet