On Monday, December 5th, a photo and brief article about my life and activities appeared on the back page of the Tokyo Shimbun. It was written by Kawasaki Kozo san, who was introduced to me by Stephane of Ocharaka. He joined our tea-picking tour in May, and wrote an article about the tour in relation to agrotourism in Japan. We’ve met a few times since to visit the Mingeikan, and participate in a traditional Japanese incense ceremony that I offered as one of my nihonbi “hands on” experiences.
It was quite an interesting experience attempting to summarize what feels like the million of lives I have led and a really good challenge. I think Kawasaki-san did a great job condensing the various stories I told him into a succinct whole. Here is my translation of his article- I’ve tried to translate as literally as possible:
Embodying Japanese Beauty:
To Convey the Spirituality of Japanese Culture to the World
Through her “Nihonbi” activities on Facebook and her blog, Lara Chho, an American living in Musashino-shi, is broadcasting Japanese culture to the world. Through her tours she introduces foreigners living in Japan to various hands-on experiences such as learning about the various tastes of wagashi (traditional sweets), the Japanese incense ceremony, and picking green tea in Shizuoka.
Whilst studying ceramics as a college student in Iowa, USA, she remembers her first encounter with Japanese culture in the form of an Iga-yaki vase that she saw in a magazine. Entranced with the subtle beauty and unique aesthetic embodied in Japanese pottery, she followed a desire to come to Japan to deepen her studies.
Coming Japan in 1998 as an English teacher with the JET program, she spent a year in Shibata, Niigata before moving to Tokyo, where she began her study and practice of traditional Japanese arts. She began to study tea ceremony while her son (now first year of Jr. High School) was two years old, and through her studies of Ikebana (Sogetsu school) she has acheived 4 kyu shihan (first level of teaching certification). Since studying modern dance in college, she has continued her interest in dance through studying Nihon buyo (traditional Japanese dance), and expresses her joy at being able to “express Japanese culture through one’s own body”. Her two daughters (ages 10 and 9) are also studying Japanese dance with her.
Her husband (38) works for an American financial firm in Roppongi, and lends his support her with childcare and her activities with nihonbi.
When asked where she is from she becomes perplexed. Due to her father’s work, she grew up in Niger, Bourkina-Faso and Malawi in Africa, and also lived in Honduras in Central America. “I’ve lived the longest now in Kichijoji”, she replies. “One might describe someone like me as a ‘global nomad'”.