Jan 26, 2008

Shokyaku, the guest of honor

I was invited to a formal tea gathering for Hatsugama last night. The host called me a week ago and asked if I would be the shokyaku (the principal or main guest). Being asked to be the shokyaku is a great honor and carries a lot of responsibilities. The first thing I would have to do is get a list of all of the other guests, their contact information, and the order of how our host would like us to sit in the tea room. Much like any dinner party, deciding who sits next to whom is important for maximum harmony, interesting company and mix of experienced guests and those who have never attended a formal tea gathering before.

When I found out that information, my next task was to contact everyone and ensure that they knew the general order of the tea gathering, what to bring, what each of the guest’s roles were going to be, and to come 15 minutes before the start of the event. Some people were going to dress in kimono and I had to tell them the details of where the changing room was going to be and offer assistance in dressing people. I then had to communicate with the host that everyone had been contacted and everyone understood.

On the afternoon of the gathering, I assembled my most formal kimono and duplicate accessories in case anybody forgot or didn’t bring the proper things for the gathering. I also packed a small snack of fruit for the people working behind the scenes to eat. I took extra care with my kimono and headed off the event. When I got there, I noticed everything as I made my way from the foyer to waiting room. The host had put up special decorations and I would ask and comment about them later during the ceremony. As I greeted the guests, I asked them to be indulgent with me and I would try to take good care of them. If they had any questions for the host, they could ask me and I would ask them at the proper time during the ceremony.

We proceeded into the tea room and the garden was particularly beautiful with lanterns provided by our host to light the pathway. My job was now to serve as the example to all of the guests as they would follow my lead throughout the meal. I tried to include everyone in the conversation and bring their attention to something especially thoughtful or interesting provided by the host, like warm water in the hand rinsing basin.

The entire tea gathering was magical and one guest said as we were leaving that she was so sad that it had come to an end. We had just spent 4 hours together and it had seemed like time had sped by so quickly. At the end, all the guests bowed and thanked me formally for being such a good shokyaku. My final responsibility was to write a formal thank you note to our host. I hope everyone had a good time, including our host.


  1. What a lovely story. I'm so pleased the evening went well. I only recently discovered your blog and am finding it fasinating reading. Thank you for sharing all this informaiton with us.

  2. Jane,
    Thank you for coming to read the blog, and taking the time to comment. I have another post about Hatsugama that I will be posting in a moment. I hope you will continue to return and read and comment.