Sep 7, 2014

Study in Japan

Fully Funded Japanese Government Scholarships for Foreign Undergraduate Students

Deadline: November 30, 2014

Applications are open for Japanese Government Scholarships available for international students to pursue undergraduate studies in Social Sciences and Humanities and Natural Sciences at Japanese universities. Scholarship awards will be tenable for five years from April 2015 to March 2020, including one-year preparatory education in the Japanese language and other subjects due to be provided upon arrival in Japan. For scholarship grantees majoring in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or a six-year course in pharmacy, the term of scholarship will be seven years until March 2022.

Click for more information.

Sep 6, 2014

My First Chakai

I'd like to introduce to you a guest blogger, Stephanie.  She is a student and has been studying for more than 2 1/2 years.  Earlier this year, she put on her first chakai:

Earlier this year I hosted my first chakai (tea gathering) for a fellow student who was returning to Japan. It was fitting that she be shokyakyu (first guest) and I teishu (host) since we had studied together for several months. My senpai (senior students) helped me plan and even agreed to be hanto (serving the tea in the tea room) and mizuya-cho (preparing everything outside of the tea room). One of my senpai painted the artistic work on the front of the invitation! I am so fortunate that Margie sensei encourages us to host chakai and for generous senpai!
Margie Sensei and Honored Guest
One of the best things about planning a chakai is that it's an integrative learning experience. It allowed me to take the individual learnings from my lessons and bring them together in a whole. Part of the learning, for me, was figuring out what needed to be done and when. For example, I needed to decide upon the guest list; select a theme; make and send the invitations; purchase fresh tea, whisk and chakin (linen cloth for purification); select the utensils and appropriate poetic names; write up the kaiki (a list of the utensils with names); decide upon and make/procure sweets and much more.
Tea Bowl Name: Haru Gasumi, Spring Mist, named by First Guest
I also wanted to honor my friend and teachers by doing my best at making tea and so I practiced the temae (tea procedure) many times at home, until I could more or less complete it without egregious error. I aspired to a place of familiarity so that I could also speak during the tea-making. This can be a challenge, but an important one as much of the theme is revealed through the stories told. I believe that practice is always a worthy path and it has paid off for me in multiples, as my comfort with the basic procedure has grown tremendously through the experience.

The day of the chakai, my senpai and I arrived early. They were so wonderful, I can't say thanks enough! They helped me clean, wipe the tatami, hang the scroll, arrange the flowers, set up the utensils, etc. We even had time for a dry run which helped me feel much more at ease. One of my senpai dressed me in kimono (so that it would go faster than my 2.5 hour process!), and then the guests arrived. 
Stephanie (host, center) and Senpai
From this point onward, things unfolded in their natural order and I believe the experience was meaningful to everyone involved. My hands shook visibly as I placed the chashaku (tea scoop) onto the natsume (tea container) and I forgot to open the lid to the mizusashi (cold water jar) at the right time, among numerous other minor blunders. Margie sensei had trained me well to make my mistakes as beautifully as possible and carry on. My heart was filled with warmth to honor my friend and the other guests. The tea was made and served, the stories were told and the conversations were lovely, making for a once-in-a-lifetime tea gathering.

Aug 27, 2014

Summer chakai

The students from Issoan Tea put on their summer chakai last weekend.  I am going to post photos and kaiki.  It was a playful twist to the theme.

Here is a photo of the invitation:

"Stretches for light years,
Satellites transmitting
A mass of pitch black."
by James, published by NASA's Going to Mars Campaign 2013,
collected for the MAVEN Spacecraft launch
Front artwork by Michelle Kottwitz

To celebrate friendship and a sci-fi classic, please join us for a light snack, usucha and sweets
Issoan Tea school
Sunday, August 24th
RSVP to Karla Tomanka or Margie Yap
Kimono not required. Being a trekkie not required.










Edited to add sweets, Tribbles made of an, communicators made of yokan

Star Trek Chakai 2014 Kaiki

Osayu:  Earl Grey tea, hot
Meal:  Three dish rice, miso and raw dish
Scroll: Shikishi "Engage" by Margie Yap
Hana: Seasonal
Hanaire: Bizen hyotan hanging vase
Temae: Arai jakin
Mizusashi:  Found object, metal box
Chashaku: "Live long and prosper"  carved metal family heirloom by George Takei, named by Leonard Nimoy
Futaoki: Cactus skeleton, by Randy Burks
Kensui: Hammered copper
Chamei: "Far point"  local blend
Sweets: Tribbles made of an, communicators made of yokan
Natsume: Black lacquer Rikyu-gata, medium size with stars
Chawan: Glass bowl "Amanogawa" (The Milky Way) by Kunihiko Hirohata
Kaejawan: Gold leaf bowl "Snow storm" by Hirota
Gift: Fish tile

Aug 14, 2014

Travel Matcha

photo courtesy of Masaye Nakagawa

For those who can't go anywhere without their matcha.

Jul 14, 2014

Bamboo Shikainami Basket

We are fortunate to have here in the Pacific NW of the U.S. abundant bamboo growing in yards, in farms, and in nurseries.  One of largest bamboo nurseries in Oregon is Bamboo Garden. They have more than 100 varieties of bamboo and have a well established grove of giant timber bamboo.  The Garden is just up the road from Issoan Tea School and we have taken field trips and learned about the life cycle of bamboo as well as taken a tour of the grounds to look at all kinds of bamboo.

This past weekend, they offered a bamboo basket making workshop taught by Stephen Jensen, who studied basket making at the Oita Prefectural Bamboo Craft and Training Support Center located in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, Japan.

Stephen prepared the bamboo strips (it took him a couple of weeks to prepare them for our class), and in a couple of hours, Stephen led us through the steps to make a beautiful Shikainami basket.  It means four ocean wave basket.

The beautiful undulating top and open weave may look simple, but it took us a couple
of hours to finish.   He also provided a demonstration of preparing the materials and some examples of his more intricate work.   I am coveting his sumi kago or charcoal basket among others.

Below are some photos of the process of making this beautiful, simple basket.

 As I said the strips were prepared by Stephen and he had them soaking in a tub of water
to keep them flexible.  We started by laying out the 8 vertical strips
Then weaving the horizontal strips into a grid
checking to make sure the nodes were placed on top of the crossing strips
Then we squished them together to get the correct size of grid
Then we put little keeper strips to hold the grid in place
Then came the hard part of knotting the strips at the top of the basket

All four sides knotted
Here is my attempt after knotting
Then we tucked in every other corner
And wove in the strips of the other corners
Took out the keeper strips and finished our basket

I learned that you have to pay attention to place the strips in the correct order, and in the right holes as you are weaving.  I made mistakes and had to take them out and start again, going in the correct order and placement. Thank you Stephen for a great class.  I hope you will teach more classes.