Dec 15, 2014

New Introduction to Chado Class forming for January

A new Introduction to Chado class is forming, starting on January 14, 2015, from 7:00-8:30 and runs for 10 weeks. The class will be held in my tatami mat room at Issoan Tea School, 17761 NW Marylhurst Ct. Portland, OR 97229.  That is 4 blocks South of Rock Creek PCC.

Students will learn the etiquette of how to be a guest at a tea ceremony, the basic order of the tea ceremony and how to whisk green powdered ceremonial tea. Students will also participate in at least 6 Japanese tea ceremonies. An overview of Japanese aesthetics and how tea has influenced Japanese culture will be presented. Students will also be introduced to tea ceramics, calligraphy, kimono dressing, and incense ceremony, flower arranging, and Japanese gardens. They will also be introduced to zazen meditation and discuss how to put tea practice into every day life.

If you have questions, you can email me, margie at, or call 503-645-7058.

The class fee is $250 and that includes all tea and sweets, materials, handouts, guest kit to borrow. Enrollment is limited to 5 students. You can pre-register to reserve your spot by sending deposit of $50.00.  Just click on the button in the left hand column to send your deposit via Paypal.

Dec 14, 2014

Kids and the way of tea

I recently presented chanoyu to a group of third graders, that is 8 and 9 year olds at their classroom in Portland.  I had them pretend that they were Japanese students and they all stood up and said "Ohaiyo gozimasu, sensei" to their teacher, and they were very attentive and nearly silent during the 30 minute presentation.  We talked about wa, kei, sei and jaku: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquilty.  These kids got it:  Being nice to each other and getting along; please and thank you, wash your hands before you eat, and quiet time. 

They all waited with their sweet in front of them until I invited them to go ahead and eat your sweet.  And I passed a teabowl around the class and they were so careful in handling it, looking at the "face" of the bowl.  And what I loved was the questions, about Japan, Japanese students, my kimono, what the red cloth meant.  I really enjoyed myself.

The students got to taste mugi cha, since there isn't caffeine, but they got to see their teacher be a guest and drink the matcha, while they were silent "ghosts" just watching and observing. 

The best part of all, I received a packet of thank you notes, see a sample of them below:

Dec 8, 2014

All in

All in is used in poker (Mr. Sweetpersimmon is a poker dealer) to bet everything you have.  There is nothing in reserve, you either win it or you are out.  How does this relate to chado?  When people say that they want to be present in the tea room ... it has to be all in.  Either you are present or you are not. You have to be all in.

A lot of the ritual of chado is help the guest (and the host too) become present.  As we enter each doorway or gate, we leave something of the world outside.  The traffic, school work, your mother-in-law, each and every time you step through a doorway you become less and less burdened. As you put on your white socks, you put on your being present cloak, as you rinse your hands at basin, you wash more of your cares away.  As you come up the steps to the tea room you are elevating yourself from the dust of everyday life, so that by the time you enter the tea room, you can be present -- nothing matters so much as what is happening at this very moment -- you are all in.

Sometimes, especially at night after work, we do about 10 minutes of zazen before we start class.  This also helps us become quiet, slow our breathing, and ready for class.  Just 10 minutes where your breath is the only thing that matters. 

Maybe it is possible to become present any night of the week.  As you leave work, you pass through doorways, you can leave work at work. As you drive home in traffic it can become your zazen.  When you finally open the door and enter your home you can be all in, fully present.

Nov 24, 2014

You have just two hands

All those rows of tools
For cutting and chopping wood
You have just two hands

My husband is a woodworker and he has an impressive amount of tools in the shop for cutting and chopping wood.  From large table saws with impressive blades to tiny knives and files.  Yet he can only use his two hands cut wood at any one time.

Likewise, I have an impressive amount of tea utensils for making tea.  Yet, I can only  use my two hands to make tea.

When we are doing temae, we should be concentrating on one thing at a time.  Literally temae means the point in front of you.   Handling the utensils should take all of our attention.

There is a proper way to pick up, carry, and put down each utensil.  Each hand has its job to do and when it is not working, it has a proper place to be. Part of this is the mindfulness of keeping track of what we are doing.  Another part is that using the proper hand to do something sets you up for something after.  For example, if you pick up the bowl with your right hand you can immediately put it on your left palm. This also shows respect for the utensils and for the artists who created them.

If you are using two hands to handle or carry something, there is a greater attention to what you are handling.  When my children were small and I asked them to use two hands, they paid much more attention what they were doing (less spilled milk).  Likewise in the tea room, if you use two hands to handle something you are paying more attention to what you are doing. 

Even in the mizuya, it is no place to let our attention lapse.  Handle things with two hands. Pick them up and put them down properly.  Don't hand something directly to someone in the mizuya.  Put it down in front of them, and let them pick it up.  It is safer, and more attention is paid to what you are handling on both sides.

Last night, my husband asked me to hand him the TV remote.  I remember picking it up with my right hand, transferring it to my left hand, turning it around like a chashaku with my right hand and placing it directly in front of him.  He laughed, and told me only a tea person would have done that!

Nov 19, 2014

Robiraki 2014

Marujoku Tana
On November 9, 2014 Issoan Tea School celebrated the opening of the winter hearth with Robiraki. There were 3 seki of 4 people each.  A real charcoal fire was laid to heat the water.  Because charcoal is so hard to import from Japan, and is so very expensive, we seldom get to see the fire laid.

Everyone got a chance to come close to see how the fire was built
Cold wet kettle is put on when the guests arrive
Shitabi the starter charcoals

First Seki

Second Seki
Third Seki

And then a light meal was served.
After the meal, the traditional sweet, zenzai (bean soup) was served.  Guests then took a break before koicha and usucha were served. 

Meal Preparation

Kan ryu seki jo isshu no matsu

Chatsubo and Sumitori display

Seasonal flowers in a ceramic bamboo vase

Nicely burning fire

Robiraki 2014 Kaiki

Aki tatsu ya kawase ni majiru kaze no oto
Autumn has begun;
the sound of the wind
mingles with the river shallows

kan ryu seki jo isshu no matsu
Chill flowing water, above the rock a single pine stands, by Harada Shodo Roshi
Tana: Marujoku, Sotan konomi
Sumitori: Gourd and pine needle by local Seattle artist
Haboki: Black crane feathers
Kan: Iron
Haiki: Unge by Kyoto artist
Hibashi: Kuwa (mulberry)
Kama: Kashiwa (oak leaf) uba guchi (hag mouth) by Keitan Takahashi
Kogo: Hakuji, white celadon, Kotaro Ono
Ko: Umegaka by Shoyeido

Kaiseki: Seasonal foods
Sweets: Zenzai with mochi

Chaire: Daikai, with Rikyubai kando shoha donsu
Chashaku: Gift from Minako Sensei, gomei “michi” the way
Chawan: Black Raku. Sasaki Shoraku, gomei “issei” one voice
Mizusashi- Korean Celadon, by Renkyu Ri
Kensui: Bronze efugo, hawk feeding bag
Futaoki: Bridge to four directions, by Richard Milgrim
Tea: Matsukaze no mukashi from Kambayashi
Natsume: Black Hakeme (brush stroke) lacquer with red maple leaves, by Nakamura Shokka
Omojawan: Red raku, “Kengyo” utsushi, copy of Chojiro's referring to high ranking blind priest
Kaejawan: Shino clay with rice straw glaze from the Imperial Palace grounds, by Tacy Apostolik, gomei “Aibukai” the caressing sea.
Tea: Hana no shiro from Kambayashi
Sweets tray: by Zohiko, gift from Mori sensei
Higashi: Oike Senbei, gift from Sean Toyooka