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

June 01, 2011

Tea Ceremony FORUM

There is a new forum for everyone to join and discuss about the Japanese tea ceremony. The forum is still young and is looking for improvements and suggestions from its users.

I am confident that this will become a successful tea ceremony forum for having various discussions on tea and sharing of experiences, ideas, visions, goals, pictures, event dates, etc.

If you have a blog or homepage it would be appreciated if you can share a link to spread the word. Just copy/ paste the following line into the html code of your blog or homepage.

Japanese tea ceremony Forum

See you on the forum :)

April 27, 2011

Tsurigama hanging kettle

Continued from the previous post, I'd like to write a few thing about the Tsurigama.

The Tsurigama or hanging kettle is a rare item usually used just before the Ro sunken hearth is closed to welcome the Furo for the summer season. 

The Tsurigama is a slightly narrower kettle which is hung from a chain exactly above the Ro charcoal pit. The Kan rings are different from those used when removing a normal Kama from the fire. The chain, the rings, and the handle are available fro reasonable prizes to extremely expensive sets with a name made by famous smiths and come in their own box.

 Using it during Temae is not very different from a normal Kama except when the charcoal is changed. Then we need a few extra movements to be able to remove hanging kettle from the chain and place the Kama on the Kamashiki.

Tabidansu Portable utensil box

Our second Keiko in April came with a very pleasant surprise. Upon entering the tea room to pay a visit to the Tokonoma and the hanging scroll, there was a brand new Tabidansu in the Temae corner. Even while observing the hanging scroll and seasonal flowers, I couldn’t help peeking at the Tabidansu. Moving on to view the Kama, I realized it was a Tsurigama (hanging Kama) and the two fairly rare utensils got me really excited. My Sensei could see the excitement in my eyes and explained how she obtained the Tabidansu and that we could use it to perform various variations of the tea ceremony.

The Tabidansu is a portable or travelling box used to store the basic tea utensils when planning a tea gathering outside or in location other than your own home or regular tea room. The Tabidansu has room for a Mizusashi, Hishaku, Futa-oki, Chawan, Natsume, Chasen, various linen cloths, a Chashaku, and a Kensui.
 The first shelf from below can be removed to place the Natsume and Chasen when performing outside in nature where the surface is not flat.
At the beginning of a tea ceremony with a Tabidansu, the front is closed and will be removed after the ceremony has started and is placed on the left side. 

January 02, 2011

Happy 2011 with lot's of Tea

This year I'm looking to intensify my tea ceremony studies. Last year was so hectic with work and busy private schedules that I often couldn't attend Keiko tea classes. My teacher never complained and is always understanding to my situation and simply looks forward to the next time I CAN come to study tea. Talking about studying tea, I've updated the tea ceremony classes page with new contact information. For all you tea-lovers out there, see if there is someone near you teaching tea or organizing tea gatherings.

 The ritual in Japan is to take it easy at home for the first three days of the new year eating Osechi and soup with rice cake called Ozoni. So finally an opportunity to update some pages on my site. Updated so far are:

Hopefully tea enthusiasts all over the world will enjoy reading and the new pictures.