May 12, 2008

Omotesenke doumonkai meeting

Last month the Annual Omotesenke Ibaraki prefecture branch meeting was held in Mito city. Over 200 people dressed in beautiful Kimono attended this annual event. The main speaker and guest of honor was Soushou from Kyoto Omotesenke headquarter. In the first half of the morning, last year’s statistics such as successful events and tea gatherings, income of the Ibaraki branch Omotesenke and the expenses were discussed. Then certificates were presented to the people who supported the Omotesenke Ibaraki branch, and to teachers who attained a high-level teaching degree in the tea ceremony.

During the second half of the morning, the Soushou from Kyoto held a lecture on the family tree of Sen no rikyu, his grandson Sen Soutan and his son Sen Sousa. He tried to explain that in those old times (before the 16th century), women were considered less important and barely any records were kept about them. We can learn from diaries and books written by famous tea masters that women did have a significant supporting role but did not actively participate in the tea ceremony. He went on for some time and tried to make a connection to the present day overwhelming amount of female teachers of the Tea Ceremony in Japan. He was making some funny jokes once-in-a-while and was struggling with his computer because his power-point presentation kept jumping to different pages. Of-course he is a man of tea and does not have much computer skills, so I guess everyone forgave his clumsiness with his laptop.

Most members attending the meeting were of considerable age so; some had a hard time staying focused.
The somewhat younger teachers and students tried to keep notes of his speech. I tried to keep some notes too, but since he went on and on about ancient times and tea masters from long ago, I couldn’t quite follow him the whole time. But luckily this year’s meeting was held at a community center which had chairs and a podium, compared to previous years’ meetings, which were held at Mito Otsukaya where people would sit on Tatami mats in Seiza position the whole day.

After lunch, there was a demonstration of Koicha, Sumidemae, and Usucha. The Soushou from Kyoto gave strict guidance to the students making tea and the guests who received tea. Compared to my tea teacher who is always friendly, he was super precise and was giving strong words of advice when the utensils were just centimeters away from the correct location and was paying close attention to the face of the Chawan and Natsume called Shomen to be in front. The main point of today was that we have to pay attention to the dialog between the Teishu and the Shokyaku. During the Japanese tea ceremony there is only limited exchange of verbal communication. We should use a clear and loud voice when inquiring about the tea utensils and also think about the timing of asking questions about the green tea, the tea bowl, the hanging scroll (Kakejiku) and other equipment used in the tea ceremony.