Japanese Tea

by: Hoda Joudi Haghighi

As I arrived at the Carbondale train station late at night, exhaustion weighed heavy as I carefully maneuvered my luggage down the stairs and eagerly awaited my friend’s response to my message for a ride home. A petite figure approached in a compact car – my Japanese friend, whom I had befriended since the early days of my studies at Southern Illinois University.

With a warm, friendly smile, she greeted me, effortlessly stowing my belongings in the car trunk. Despite her diminutive stature, she carried the legacy of samurai ancestry, a lineage steeped in the tradition of martial arts passed down through generations of warriors.  

Japanese garden on SIU's campus.
Japanese Garden on campus.

Settled in the Evergreen complex by the lake, her apartment was a serene haven. During one delightful afternoon amidst summer vacation, she extended a gracious invitation for Japanese tea and a movie viewing – an opportunity I eagerly embraced. Stepping inside her house, I was captivated by the unique ambiance she had curated. Adorned with vibrant Japanese wall embroidery in hues of red and gold, the walls exuded an air of cultural richness.

Traditional carpets graced the floors, adding to the inviting atmosphere. In a cozy corner, she had carefully arranged her tea table, where I settled onto a small, cushioned seat while she poured fragrant tea from a porcelain kettle adorned with a graceful swan motif gliding across a tranquil lake. As we indulged in the soothing ritual of tea drinking, she unveiled a documentary chronicling the storied history of her family, tracing their lineage back to a revered Japanese warrior clan. It was a mesmerizing glimpse into her heritage, shared with warmth and pride. 

A cup of Japanese tea.
A cup of Japanese tea.

She sipped from her cup, just a small margin, savoring the subtle nuances of the brewed tea and continued her life experiences. She compared life in Japan to life in America, highlighting the stark differences. In America, everything seems grandiose, with spacious houses and long distances between them.

On the other hand, Japan embraces miniaturization, evident in compact houses and smaller cars. It’s intriguing how upon returning to Japan, she found herself struggling to fit into her once-comfortable abode, almost as if her time in America had physically enlarged her, contrasting sharply with the scaled-down surroundings of Japan. 

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