54th Birthday




54th Birthday Party at Tenmangu in Kameoka, with Dance by Hanayagi Michikaoru and calligraphy by Sawada Minoru, 2006 June 17

I used to give these parties regularly, but for the last few years, they were held in Bangkok, not Japan.  This year was a reunion with old friends in the lush green environment of Tenmangu.  It was a rainy evening, the doors were open to the garden, and frogs croaked and chirped an accompaniment.

Nihonbuyo dancer Hanayagi Michikaoru 花柳廸薫 came down from Kyoto and performed traditional Japanese dances in the zashiki (main room) of the house, lit by old-style Japanese candles (wa-rosoku).

Afterwards, Sawada Minoru 沢田実 Sensei and I did, as we've done before at other parties and events, a joint calligraphy on a pair of blank screens.  The question was: what to write this year?  When I turned fifty, we wrote the line from Confucius, "When I was 50, I knew the will of heaven." 「五十以知天命」.  But 54 is a non-descript sort of year, neither here nor there.  Chuto-hanpa, as they say in Japanese. We were going to write on a pair of 2-panel screens, so we needed a phrase with four characters. The result was the word Chuto-hanpa itself:  「中途半端」. As Sawada-sensei pointed out, "Chuto-hanpa implies that you have room to improve," and he added, "Life itself, is after all, chuto-hanpa!"

The most notable present was a chashaku (tea scoop 茶杓) hand-carved by Sawada-sensei. Its mei 銘 (or "name") is "Alex", and at the end of the evening sensei wrote the mei on the bamboo case and signed it.

Guests included Kajiura-san, President of Iori Co, and all the Iori staff, as well as former colleagues from Oomoto Foundation, and other good old friends who came from Kyoto and Nagoya.

Hanayagi Michikaoru dances in the Tenmangu zashiki

Alex and Sawada-sensei write Chuto-hanpa 中途半端 on pair of 2-panel screens

Sawada-sensei writes the name of hand-carved chashaku 茶杓 tea-scoop as birthday gift