Cameron Dion

Cameron Dion, United States of America

Intern #160

Before Obubu

Before Obubu both of my siblings had moved out of the house and become independent, while I stayed with my parents and worked at the family business for five years. I had fallen into a kind of trap where I didn’t like my job, but had developed a kind of routine around it. I would spend my free time distracting myself from the looming anxieties I had about my own future. 

Two years ago my sister discovered Ceremony, a tea and coffee place in Providence with a private tea room. I had picked up tea as a kind of little hobby, and learned gongfu tea from videos online, so she encouraged me to apply for the ‘tea apprenticeship’ position there. Going for an apprenticeship sounded like I would be learning a lot more about tea, but this wasn’t really the case at all, everything I learned about tea was still from my own exploration or trying to pry information from the owner. What Ceremony provided for me was a short, semi-scripted environment where I could have closer interactions with people. Instead of making products in a factory I was explaining and talking to people about something I actually had an interest in.

It was clear that this was a more interesting direction than where I had been going before, so when the owner told me Obubu had some kind of program for people interested in tea, I was interested. I came to Obubu to challenge myself, I needed to take a leap into something far away from what I was used to, to snap out of the routine I had been in for so long. Coming to Japan for the internship was the first time I had traveled alone, and it was a very strange experience to suddenly be able to do whatever I wanted without having to check with anyone else. To be honest I was kind of stunned by the possibilities, in a kind of indifferent way where I almost froze up a bit.

During Obubu

Arriving at Obubu, I of course wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was welcomed with tea by two of the current interns. The very next day we were harvesting tea together. 

It was very surprising to me how I was able to feel accepted pretty quickly in a new environment, this isn’t something that I have really felt before. From the beginning, I resolved to try and put myself out there whenever possible, in terms of being social or volunteering to do extra things. I knew I had limited time, and didn’t want to regret not participating in things people did. 

When I think back to the first half of my internship, I mostly spent it being curious about the other interns, the staff, adjusting to life in a communal setting, and finding out how to best feed and take care of myself. When it comes to learning about tea, it was mostly just learning the Japanese perspective on tea, and Japanese terminology. Coming to Obubu, I mostly knew about tea from a very Chinese point of view, I knew many kinds of Japanese tea, but not very in-depth. My time here absolutely helped clear up some things that I had seen before, but didn’t understand fully. 

Throughout my stay here I have been supported, reassured and encouraged of my abilities, I’ve been presented with a community that only sees and wants success for me.

After Obubu

Unfortunately I have no way of staying in Japan for more than one day after my internship ends, and I’ll have to fly back to the US. 

Obubu has shown me that there is opportunity in the growing interest in tea, and that I may be able to find a place in this industry, working with like-minded people and sharing something that I genuinely enjoy. The path still isn’t completely clear for me, but what I do have is a direction. Living in Japan seems very appealing to me, though I’m sure it will be a bit different outside of Obubu. 

I think I want to dive deeper into learning Japanese, and language learning in general. Maybe I can use my extensive knowledge of tea, and strong multilingual skills to find a place in tea education, tourism, or other internal business positions. So I may be returning to Japan as soon as possible to go to language school, which would mean visiting Obubu again for sure.