May 8, 2009

A Tea Ceremony for Today

I found an article that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal on Tea Ceremony. Sen So-Oku, heir to the Mushakojisenke school of tea was introduced to the U.S. and will be teaching at Columbia University for a year.

He has designed a tea room at the Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts Gallery on Manhattan's Upper East Side, with a sunken foot well similar to the foot wells in American Japanese tatami restaurants. They refer to it as a “tea bleacher,” though that sounds so much like tea as a spectator sport. Please go read the article.

The point Mr. Sen wants to make is one that I have been teaching my students, that tea is a living tradition. Things change in tea not only to accommodate foreign influences, but also to the ages in which it is practiced. In Urasenke, we have table style tea ceremonies, new configurations of tea rooms, and modern tea utensils using 21st century materials.

And yet at its essence is the human relationship of host and guest. The sharing of food and drink and harmony among the participants as well as the awareness of the seasons that make us part of the whole universe. Simple, and yet at the same time very much needed in our modern world.

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