The thing that shocked me first about my embroidery classes was the schedule. We met six times in the term, but the dates were spread out erratically throughout the season on seemingly random Wednesdays. Of course, that was far from the only thing that wound up shocking me. Honestly, I hadn’t expected the class to have nearly as many students as it did. I had expected at first that it would be closer to the knitting and sewing classes targeted at older ladies I had seen in the back of local yarn shops, no more than ten or so beginner students and a teacher sitting around a single table. The embroidery class easily had more than twice that many students and was set up over an area roughly equivalent to the entire aforementioned yarn shop. A brief glance over some of the other student’s work quickly told me why: the class was in no way exclusive to new learners and many—if not most—of the other students were quite experienced already.
I gradually came to understand not only how to embroider maple leaves, cherry blossoms and camellias, but also about the way in which the other students use the class as an opportunity to meet with one another and discuss everything from their plans for their embroidery to family to young people who don’t know how to use keigo. Even through the age barrier, I have been able to have conversations with and learn from the people around me and wound up understanding far more about both embroidery and their lives and observations about society than I otherwise could have.