January 13, 2009

Japanese tea ceremony in January

January is a month with various celebratory events for tea people. Since I am not a tea master yet, I had to do some research on dates and related events. Doing this I stumbled into my book collection and came up with the following:

Kashi (菓子) Sweet cakes for January.

Shukou-mochi was favored by the great tea master Murata Jukou (Shukou), hence the naming. During the first days of January it is customary for Japanese to eat mocha (rice cakes). Mochi is made from pounded rice which is then heated on fire and then wrapped in Nori (seaweed) or placed in a stock-soup to make Ozoni. However, Shukou-mochi is made by dipping or soaking the Mochi into hot water to soften it, and then a blend of red and white Miso-paste flavored with sugar is put on top. Shukou-mochi is placed on individual dishes.

Hana (花) Flowers for January.
One of my favorites is the Fukujusou (福寿草) is a small plant which gives golden, yellow flowers. Apparently it is in the in the Buttercup family and its leaves look like those of carrots. They used to grow in the cold mountains but recently they are mostly cultivated. Fukujusou can be arranged in a small vase but it looks very cute when they are planted in a flower pot with a bed of white sand or small light stones. The flower pot can be placed on the floor of the Tokonoma. Fukuju means “happiness and longevity”. This flower is also called Ganjitsusou (元日草) or Gantansou (元旦草) which mean “first day of the year.”

Gyoji (行事) Events for January.

- Starting in the early morning of January first is Oobukucha (大福茶). This is usually Usucha poured over Ko-ume (tiny pickled plums). Water for this first cup of tea is taken from the well at four o’clock and is called Seika-sui (water drawn at four o’clock on Jan. first). For tea-families this event is attended by all family members and tea ceremony is commonly performed by the youngest member.

- San-ga-nichi (三ヶ日) or Gakyaku-mukae (賀客迎). For tea people is customary that friends or other related people come to visit (well-wishers) during these first three days (San-ga-nichi) of January. The Tokonoma alcove becomes a focal point during these days so an appropriate and auspicious scroll should be selected.

- Hatsu-gama (初釜), Tate-zome (点初), Keiko-hajime (稽古始), Hatsu-chanoyu (初茶湯) are all names for the first official tea ceremony practice of the year at the tea master or tea teacher’s house for his or her students. This event is usually a Chaji with a meal. The first tea (Koicha) is often served by the tea master or teacher which is a once-a-year performance. Other students might be asked to prepare Usucha.

There are many more flowers, cakes, and events to write about but that would take too much time and would bore you, the reader, because the post would get too long. If you have any comments or questions just leave a comment.

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