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Two For Joy

It might not have been a Monday, but it felt like one. There were several students missing from the class. At least one of them had gone home for good (he'd been part of a different program, and had been here before I arrived) but I think others just weren't there. The students who were left were kind of dragging.

Today mostly consisted of learning how to say things probabilistically. It was both really simple, and I'd learned it last years, which means I wasn't paying as much attention during the examples as I should have. I did the written exercises and partner activities, but didn't volunteer much in class.

After that, the activity was to go paint either an Edo Lantern or an Edo fan. I'd previously selected the lantern, so when I arrived there was a place set out.

One side of the lantern already had kanji and an image (of Tokyo Skytree) on it. The other side was left blank for us to decorate, beginning with a kanji of our own.

Very brief summary (they give us a more thorough history there): the calligraphy used for lanterns and fans was developed to envelop as big a space as possible. So, when we were decorating our own, we were supposed to make really big characters. Guess who had a problem with that?

It was comforting to know I wasn't alone in that. I was sitting by two people who had a very good grasp of kanji, but didn't like their handwriting. They spent ages deciding what character they wanted to paint, and then, (partially because they'd chosen really complicated characters) had a hard time drawing them on their lanterns.

On the plus side, I now know what the perfect character would be if I have the chance to do it in the future. A combination of regrets, and then further discussion, concluded that it would be impossible to go wrong with a character that means 'complete success.' If the lantern turned out well, you'd have a pretty lantern you could be proud of and would mean good things. If it turned out horribly, it would at least be ironic.

I finished writing/shading in the two characters, then decided I needed to use some kind of color, and the stamps they had there. So I went over and got red paint, selected four stickers, and started painting. I'd barely touched the brush to the lantern when one of the instructors came by and showed me that I should use a sponge instead. So I started doing that.

She came back a little later with three different sponge brushes, and showed me how I should dip those in the paint and then press it against the lantern. So I started doing that. And then she came back with a pot of orange paint and a pot of yellow paint. Then she saw that I'd finished one side, so she took the lantern off to be dried (they were using driers to speed up the process.)

After she came back with my dry lantern,s he dipped one of the other brushes into the yellow paint and described how I could use multiple colors. (Or something like that.) Then I felt guilty, so I did use yellow for the sticker stamps on the other side. And then I dried it again and, just so that I didn't feel like I was a disappointment to her, made the inside circles of the flowers and stars be orange.

The lantern is currently in a box which is going to get stuck in a suitcase until it's emptied and put with all of the other fliers I've accumulated as priceless memories that I have no idea what to do with. If it's very lucky, the lantern will at some point get taken out of the box.

Apparently some of my classmates are artists, though. When one of them finished her fan, the teachers held it up and most of the rest of the classroom gasped in awe and envy. The kanji was the character for spring, and the picture was a cherry tree. I think there were multiple shades of pink, and it looked, if not realistic, at least artistic. A girl who was sitting by me was still working when I left, but her lantern had the kanji for bird, and she'd drawn a telephone wire with two crows on it.

Posted by Soseki 04:46

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