by Florentyna Leow, Malaysian student in Kyoto

That’s a nice haori you’re wearing. Are you on an errand now? Taking photos? Come in. I’ll make you some matcha. I’m all alone anyway.

Well, come on in. Sit here.

I’m 104 years old, you know. 104. The doctor paid me a visit, right before you passed by. Gave me a clean bill of health. I’m old but my mind’s still working. Not gone senile yet. No one believes it, but I’m 104. Everyone says I look like I’m 80. Next month I turn 105.

Here’s a sweet. You have to eat the sweet before the matcha. But for sencha you eat it after. Sweet before matcha and after sencha.

Hai, dozo.

Mou… Didn’t you learn how to do this in school? Bow first. Pick up the bowl – not like that. One hand. Like this, and the other hand comes below. You turn it twice – no, not like that. You lift it up. Yes. Now drink. You need practice.

I used to teach tea. Omotesenke.

You’re not Japanese? You look Japanese. Your parents? No?

I had a sister. She’s gone now, though.

The haori really suits you. I’m not just saying it. In September you should wear it over a kimono.

Write your name here. What’s this? Katakana? You have a strange name. Ah, you can pass for a Japanese. You came over here, you should just live as a Japanese. Let’s call you Akiko. Ii yo ne? Akiko.

It’s fate that we met.

You go straight home, you hear me?

Make sure you don’t slip. It’s easy to slip and fall.

It’s not safe out there. Back then Kyoto wasn’t so bad, but these days, there’s all kinds of folks out there. It’s getting dark. You take care. And come by again for a cup of tea.



matcha is whipped green tea, and sencha is ordinary green tea.

Hai dozo = Here you are / please begin

Omotosenke is one of the three main schools of tea in Kyoto.

haori = long jacket usually worn over kimono

Katakana = one of the three styles of writing in Japan, usually used for foreign words

Ii yo ne – That’s good, isn’t it?