Aug 9, 2007

Sensei says...

My first sensei’s English was not all that good but she had many words of wisdom to impart to her students. One of the things that she told us over and over again, “In class you can do nothing right, in chaji you can do nothing wrong.”

Boy, that was the truth. She was a strict teacher that didn’t let me get away with much. She paid the most minute attention when I was making tea. She watched how I walked, and my posture. She scolded if I put something down and it was a centimeter off in the wrong place. She noticed bent wrists, short cuts, and sloppy habits. She commented on how well I prepared my utensils and how thorough I was in cleaning.

But when it came to chaji (a formal tea gathering) she never scolded anyone. It was all about solving the problem, getting things done, and making it a wonderful experience for the guests. Each chaji is unique and a once in a lifetime experience and sensei told us that things unfold there as they should be. Even if there were mistakes, they were just part of the experience.

After I reached a certain level, my sensei required all of her students to do at least one chaji a year. She would supervise us and we would put on tea gatherings for each other. It was like putting together a major event, from invitations and theme selection to menu planning and cooking to proper selection of utensils. The chaji tea gathering consists of a formal seven course meal, 3 servings of sake, two layings of charcoal, a break and two types of tea. It is supposed to last about 3 ½ to four hours.

She wanted us to put all of our training to use in planning and holding these formal tea gatherings. In the weeks before the chaji, she would become even more strict in her teachings, and sometimes she would throw unexpected things at us in class. Of course, if we were unprepared or didn’t deal well with the changes she would ask us how we were to handle the unexpected at chaji if we didn’t prepare to handle it in class. It was good training for us and we always did what sensei said.


  1. “In class you can do nothing right, in chaji you can do nothing wrong.” How wonderful! Your sensei was very wise--this really sums up the spirit of tea and the essence of the life-long learning process that is chado. I am enjoying your blog so much--thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  2. Catherine,
    Thank you for reading the blog and taking the time to comment. I have other sayings by sensei that I will be putting up soon. Do you study tea?

  3. i too enjoy your blogs very much. very inspiring!

  4. Merkaba,
    Thank you for stopping by, reading the blogs and for the comment. I hope you will continue to read and comment occasionally.