August 26, 2010

Haiken of Utensils

This time at the tea ceremony lesson there were only the three of us. One more student, my teacher, and me. The first student practiced to make Koicha which took a long time. Together with the teacher she carefully added some hot water little by little. This resulted in a nearly perfect bowl of Koicha. This is the reason I love the Japanese tea ceremony. It’s the moment that the mildly bitter Matcha meets the pallet of my tongue after it had been sweetened by some sweet stuff in this case Omogashi.

I practiced Obon-temae. A simplified form of the tea ceremony where the Kama is replace by a kettle or any other item to hold the hot water. The bowls we use in mid-summer time are very wide and the bottom is almost flat in stead of rounding up. So I find it often very difficult to know whether I’ve put in enough or too much hot water. It is also more challenging to whisk the Matcha into a nice brew without leaving some of the Matcha un solved.

The most valuable lesson I learned today is about doing the Haiken or viewing of objects. As a guest we always admire the tea bowl after drinking from it. After the tea ceremony is finished we can ask for Haiken of the Natsume and the Chashaku. When making of Koicha is finished we can ask Go Sanki no Haiken, meaning to observe the three objects namely; Chaire, Shifuku, and the Chashaku. Once we have an item in front of us we place our hands next to the item and view it from the right, then the left, and then once more from the right before lifting it up a little to admire the utensil even closer. Today my teacher taught me that in case the Tokonoma is on the left side instead of the right, the viewing of the utensils starts by looking at it from the left, then from the right, and once more from the left. So depending on which side the Tokonoma is on, that is the side you view the utensils first.

I wonder if other students of the Japanese tea ceremony have ever heard of this or if the customs at different schools of tea are different…

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