January 18, 2012

Bamboo and Japanese Tea Ceremony

Bamboo and the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
As most of you tea enthusiast know, the bamboo plays and important role in the tea ceremony and the tea room. Bamboo can be found in many places within the tea room such as the Futaoki (kettle lit rest). The bamboo Futaoki is narrow during the summer season when the Furo hearth is used and wider in winter when the Ro sunken hearth is used because the Hishaku cup is bigger.
The Hanaire (flower vase) in the Tokonoma (alcove) is frequently made from bamboo. A bamboo Hanaire can be hung from the Tokobashira which is the main supporting pillar of the Tokonoma alcove. The alcove is often considered to have the highest status in the Japanese tea ceremony. Another possibility is to place a bamboo vase on the floor in the middle of the alcove, depending on the scroll hanging on the alcove back wall.
The Tabako-bon (smoking ware box) has a bamboo ashtray. A little water is poured into it in order to smoothly extinguish tobacco.
The Hishaku (water ladle) is always made from bamboo. As mentioned previously, sizes vary with the seasons. Also the angle of the tip of the handle is different depending on whether it is used for the Ro or the Furo.
The Chashaku (tea scoop) is mosrtly made from bamboo. In some cases the bamboo maybe lacquered. Depending on the type of Chashaku there could be a node in the middle or no node at all.
The Chasen (tea whisk) is always made from bamboo. A light yellow or whitish bamboo whisk is most common. However, a smoked bamboo which has a darker color could be used for certain occasions.
But also outside the tea room in the garden bamboo can often be found. This year I was asked to make various objects with fresh green bamboo for the Hatsu-gama (first tea ceremony of the year). It is common to use new and fresh objects in order to portray a “fresh start” image. It is common practice for professional tea practitioners to renew all bamboo fencing around the tea room
I renewed the bamboo at the Tsukubai outside so that water flows from a fresh green source. Also I made a flower vase, a Futaoki, and the bamboo ashtray for in the Tabako-bon. My greatest challenge was to get the green bamboo to look clean and green. When I cut them down they looked grayish and had some dirt on them. I found a way to make them shiny green and my tea teacher was very satisfied. Please enjoy the result pictures below.

December 17, 2011

Christmas tea gifts

The Book of Tea, tea set
With its emphasis on ritual and aesthetics, the ceremonial presentation of tea provides a fascinating introduction to many aspects of Japanese culture. In the popular classic The Book of Tea, Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuzo seeks to explain "the way of tea" to westerners, in the hope that they will understand this insightful ritual as far more than the offering of a mere brewed beverage. His profound, poetic work explores the history of tea as well as the subtler Zen spirituality behind the centuries-old ceremony. This beautifully designed kit contains Kakuzo's Book of Tea plus utensils to use in recreating the tea ceremony at home: a traditional bowl and split bamboo whisk. It's a wonderful way to get in touch with life's pure and simple pleasures and to learn to savor a bowl of tea in the most eloquent way.

Rikyu DVD
 Sen-no-Rikyu is the most famous master of sado, and anyone interested in cha-no-yu or late 16th Century Japanese history will enjoy this film. However, be prepared to be hit with many historical one-liners meant to prompt your Japanese historical memory that the viewer is expected to know; maybe this is not a problem with Japanese viewers, but people without a background in the Nobunaga-Hideyoshi-Ieyasu unification of Japan period should have a good Japanese history at their side to understand the historical currents behind the dialog. These would include the conflicts among the above 3, the persecution of religions, the conquering of rival daimyo, and the invasion of Korea. Yamazaki, I thought, did a superb portrayal of Hideyoshi (Nakamura Hiyoshi) of village origins who rose to be "Kwampaku" (imperial representative) of all Japan.

The Tea Ceremony

Written by contemporary tea masters, The Tea Ceremony takes a clear and comprehensive look at the sources and inspiration of this ancient discipline. The authors trace the practice from its earliest origins to the present day, considering in detail the individuals who helped it evolve. They discuss all the elements of the ceremony-including art, architecture, incense, flowers, and the influence of Zen-and show how readily the study of tea can serve as a spiritual path to greater insight and calm.

Originally published in 1973, The Tea Ceremony has been revised extensively. Along with a rewritten and updated text, entirely new photographs and line drawings have been selected. Over 75 step-by-step stills of the tea ritual itself, featuring a number of close-up shots, give the reader a fuller visual understanding of the ceremony. Numerous line drawings illuminating the more important elements of the ceremony have been inserted for the first time, and for those readers wishing to delve further into the subject, bilingual charts of tea terms have been appended.

December 13, 2011

Hope Meeting

Attending the Omotesenke youth meeting last month has bore its fruits. Last week I received a mail from the vice-chairman of the youth section with a lucrative request. He invited me to be part of a Japanese tea ceremony presentation for the 2012 Hope Meeting which is going to be held in March. The meeting is organized by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and will be attended by about 25 Japanese PhD students and 85 selected PhD students from the countries/areas of the Asian region; Australia, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

 My role would be to provide explanations in English and answer questions. Of course I embraced this opportunity and set-aside my public speaking shyness. The vice-chairman told me he was glad to hear I’m on board and will inform me later of a pre-meeting date which will be held in January when he has confirmed the support of fifteen other members of the youth section. 

 I immediately started reviewing some of the books on Japanese tea so that I will be able to answer questions that will be asked. I can’t wait to sit around the table to share thoughts on how to introduce the Japanese tea ceremony. I want to come up with some good ideas on how to leave a good impression on the attendants.

Any suggestions?

December 06, 2011

Omotesenke Ibaraki Youth 表千家茨城県青年部

It’s been a long time since my last entry. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been practicing. This year I’ve been able to attend most of the Okeiko lessons.

Last month on the 26th of November there was a gathering of the Ibaraki prefecture Omotesenke youth section (表千家茨城県青年部). Of all the prefectures here in Japan, (there are 48) Ibaraki prefecture was one of the few which didn’t have youth section of the Omotesenke school of tea. On 11/26 we had the start-off gathering of the Omotesenke youth section. The total number of registered members is over 120 and around one hundred were able to attend the meeting (表千家茨城県青年部発会式).

Among the honorary guests was the Omotesenke Wakasoushou (表千家若宗匠), who is the eldest son of the current Soushou also referred to as the head master of the Omotesenke school of tea. He gave a nice speech on how glad he was that the youth section of Omotesenke in Ibaraki prefecture was finally established and that it weighs on us to continue the tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony which is passed on from generation to generation.

I felt really honored to be able to attend the meeting and think that it is important to carry on this important cultural pastime. Another plus of this youth section is that we can share our experiences with people who are roughly of our age, instead of always being surrounded by the elder teachers. It was a very bubbly, lively lunch where I felt much energy and momentum to continue the tradition of the Omotesenke school of tea.

June 17, 2011

The meaning of a cup of tea

Another successful tea ceremony gathering held with high-profile guests in the Washington DC area. The UPF holds a tea ceremony annually to promote peace and friendly relations.
Lots of smiling people seemingly enjoyed Japanese traditional sweets and green tea prepared and served by women in traditional Kimono dresses.

Here's the original article Tea for peace