Aug 21, 2009

Japanese words as prizes

I have finally decided what I will be offering for prizes for the contest in honor of the 250th blog post at SweetPersimmon. Thank you all to the regular readers, all of my sensei and sempai, students of Chado and those who have only a passing interest. You have made this blog experience rewarding.

Prize number 1 will be a CD of Japanese for the tea room. It features an explanation in English the basics of Japanese pronunciation and very basic Japanese grammar. It also has the dialog for usucha, usucha haiken, koicha, and koicha haiken. The dialog includes the English translation and then the Japanese slowly twice, then again at normal speed. The final part is the dialog for aisatsu before and after study.

Prize number 2 will be a copy of Michael Soei Birch's120 page manuscript, "An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu. This is a workbook, compiled by Michael Birch and written in English and romanji. It is filled with all kinds of information and it is a good source for seasonal gomei, or poetic names. The manuscript is divided into the four seasons -- Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter with information about each. It is further divided into each month that includes information about the month, perhaps haiku, appropriate scrolls, seasonal words and suggested gomei. It is illustrated throughout with Michael's calligraphy so you can see the kanji for each word, scroll, phrase or haiku.
Here are a few sample pages:The contest eligibility and the rules
Okay, to be eligible for the prizes (there will be two winners, one prize each) there are a few things you have to do. First, if you have a blog, please link it to this blog. I will also link to your blog in return. Second, you need to post a comment to this post. Not just any comment, but you need to answer two questions.

First question: How did you learn about chado and why are you studying? If you are not studying, what do you find interesting about the SweetPersimmmon blog?

Second question: How much of the traditional Japanese teaching methods do you think need to be incorporated in learning Chado outside of Japan? For those not studying, what do you think the best way would be to learn something like the Japanese tea ceremony?

I do ship internationally so everyone can participate. Please leave me a way to contact you to inform you if you have won.

The contest remains open until midnight PDT August 31st 2009. That's 10 days folks, to get your answers together and compose your answers. Winners will be chosen randomly. All decisions final. Prizes will ship by September 2. Good luck!


  1. First question: How did you learn about chado and why are you studying?
    Answer: When I lived in Kirkland, WA I came across a tea store in a Bellevue mall that had beautiful tea pots. I was a drinker of loose leaf teas, so I went in to examine them. I saw a shelf that had a green "Tea Ceremony" book for kids. At the time I was always looking for new things to do, as I was depressed and unhappy with my life. So I admired the book and the bamboo wisk and iron kettle displayed and I moved on. It wasn't until I moved back to Portland and saw a tea demonstration in the Japanese Gardens that I was like "I could learn how to do that?" How awesome. And that's when I began my journey as a student.

    Second question: How much of the traditional Japanese teaching methods do you think need to be incorporated in learning Chado outside of Japan?
    Answer: I think there need to be many of the traditional teaching methods involved. Since I am new to learning tea (I've only been studying for 7 months), I don't really know what "traditional teaching methods" would entail. In some ways, I wish I could learn chado from a book ... but the more I study the more I see that's impossible. You can learn the "moves" but not the thought, emotions and intent BEHIND the moves. It's almost like singing, acting or dancing ... none of those you can learn from a book. But at the same time, if it had never been adapted then it would never been opened up to foreigners in the first place, and I am thankful for that too.

    (Note: If I am selected could we speak of an appropriate alternative? ty)

  2. I had been aware of tea ceremony in an abstract way for some years, but was introduced to it by third, and current, teacher. It wasn't until I went to live in Japan that I started studying, though. When I returned from Japan, I found a teacher and continued studying for a while. I stopped taking classes with that teacher because I found the differences in teaching style between my new and old teacher so great, and I couldn't get used to the new teacher's way of teaching. After taking about a year off, I started classes with my current teacher, the person who first introduced me to the art, so I've come full circle.

    In the 6 or so years I've been doing tea, it's become a firmly entrenched part of my life. I study calligraphy, cooking, kimono making and wearing, Japanese language and art, and various other traditional and related arts. Tea is a discipline much like a martial art, which is something non-Japanese often have difficulty understanding: it's not only a never-ending process of with no clearly defined end point at which one can say "I have finished learning," but also encompasses all aspects of a practitioner's life.

    I discovered Sweet Persimmon because I was looking for a seiza stool when I first returned to tea, to ease my transition back into sitting seiza for long periods.

    Regarding traditional teaching methods for tea outside Japan, it has been my experience that much depends on the teacher. Japanese people tend to be deadly serious about things such as tea, which are regarded as a "dou," or way. Since it's a part of the culture, Japanese students of these arts come to them with an understanding that the pursuit is to be taken seriously; non-Japanese students do not usually have the same understanding, so I think it's important that teachers take the kind of approach my best teachers have: what we are doing has a long history and deep cultural roots, and is to be taken seriously (but we can also have fun).

    Having said that, I'm not a believer in some of the traditional Japanese methods -- I had a calligraphy teacher who regularly used to make students cry, for instance. On the other hand, in my experience tea teachers do not tend to use harsh methods like these, although they can be demanding.

    Teaching tea to non-Japanese students outside Japan means teaching more than tea--such as giving students an understanding of Japanese culture, etiquette and interpersonal relations, things that teachers teaching Japanese students within Japan would not expect to have to do--so the approaches will necessarily be at least a little different. But adhering to traditional ways of teaching and learning tea, such as learning by doing and observing rather than asking questions and taking notes, and teaching by making small corrections, means continuing an enduring tradition of tea.

  3. Karla, thank you for your comments, and it is a pleasure to have you in class and I look forward to seeing you every week. Yes, if you are selected, we will think of some alternative.

    Nick, thank you for your comments your journey with tea, and your insight into learning tea. I do hope you have fun, and it seems like you do take tea seriously. I hope you will continue to read and comment on this blog.


  4. How I did learn about Chado and why I am studying?

    Back then I had and I still have strong interest to Asian cinema. I was not into any knowledge about Japanese culture or any kind of Do practicing at all, but once I found the boy with wich I was in love reading Okakura's Book of Tea. So I decide to read that book too. I don't think I understand much of it, but I thought something touch me.
    At the same time I was looking for a subject for a short documentary project for my school.
    And then I found that there is Urasenke Tankokai in Bulgaria!
    I started to attend the classes.
    A few months after I did made short film, but it was not a documentary, it was more like impression clip, part of spring Chaji that the group did. It was not easy for me to understand what was happening there, you know, but truly felt I want to. And decide to continue to attend the classes.
    That was 6 years ago.
    I like to remember how I felt about tatami at first. I'm like that. When I find a scene with eating from some movie lovely, I like to eat the same menu, or almost, like the characters from the scene.
    The love for the taste of tea and for practicing itself came later on for me. And naturally I'm still continue to experiencing the understanding how much I need that.

    How much of the traditional Japanese teaching methods I think need to be incorporated in learning Chado outside of Japan?

    That is a too difficult question for me.
    I'm happy that I had the chance to have okeiko with a few different teachers and sempais till now.
    Japanese and non-japanese. Professional and not.
    I guess it depends on teachers manners and their understanding of Chado and how they feel the students.
    I adore the way of our teacher. And I guess it is really very traditional and still I feel it so modern and flexible.

    Margie-sensei, in honor of your 250th blog post I would like to send you a flowers from my heart and maybe little bit an autumn cicada singing if you like that sound!
    Thank you so much for writing it! I love you blog, you know. And I do have your link on my blog for a years, but please do not do more for mine, I write there with a worry that I don't have enough understanding to do it. Like with my English.
    So, Thank you for reading this!
    I will keep reading you!
    Warmth regards to the other readers too,

  5. Zlati, Thank you for your comments and your story of how you came to tea. And thank you for the flowers and the cicada singing in the autumn. I can hear them now. I know you have been reading and commenting on this blog for a long time and that you linked here very early. Good luck on the contest.

    P.S. Later I will write and answer my own questions with my own opinions.
    Thank you.


  6. 1- I heard about Chado while attending a birthday party. I had mentioned my interest in learning Japanese culture and that I had been taking a Japanese language class at college. My sister was at the party and had heard me and told me about how she had been to a tea ceremony and asked if I would like to go to one. I was invited to attend a chakai and found it very unique and of a different pace than I am used to. I eventually signed up for the ten week class. The art of making tea is just that, an art. I have not yet signed up for “part two” of the classes and plan to do so. Sometimes when I make tea, very few bowls are actually good. Many others are imperfect, either not enough foam, the temperature is off, the taste is weak or too strong, and each of these experiences motivate me to do better on my next bowl. Once in a while I do get it right and it’s a special moment. I like Chado because of the many connections it has to our own lives, while being a separate occupation on its own.

    The SweetPersimmon blog has many practical notes where I read them and think, “hey, I know what she’s talking about!” Often this is because I have experienced them in person and the detail is very particular. I like the many observations that Margie makes about the world around her. Sights and sounds that we don’t think about like the wind, moon, kettle songs (the shape of the kettle really does affect its sound), things like that have made me be more aware of my own world.

    2- The process of learning seems to be emphasized when studying Chado. There are many steps to the tea ceremony, most of them simple yet delicate. I think some people focus too much on the end product, making the best bowl of tea. In a way, this is correct, yes you do have to make a good bowl of tea but I think it also matters in how you make it, as well as presentation.
    For beginners, I think that explaining the steps of making tea is appropriate, because in this Western culture, we have a “need to know everything” mindset which makes it more difficult to learn by powers of observation alone. In an intermediate setting, I would think students at that level have acquired the ability to be able to learn without having to be explained every step. Many of us learn best by doing, and so through practice of making tea, we know what is needed for each bowl to be perfect in the eyes of the tea drinker.

    Thank you Margie, your tea lessons have been a special gift to me.

  7. First question: How did you learn about chado and why are you studying? If
    you are not studying, what do you find interesting about the SweetPersimmmon

    Well, I'm not really studying chado. But I first learned of chado by way of
    my wife's sisters mother about 15 years ago. She ambushed me with a bowl of
    a warm bright green liquid I could not identify at the time and went on
    about something in Japanese, which I could not understand. My wife, who's
    English at the time was about as good as my Japanese, tried to explain to me
    that something very special was going on.

    Fast forward a few years and I began an intensive study of Zen Buddhism and
    one piece of knowledge that had came up is that along with Zen, one of the
    things the teacher Eisai brought to Japan from China was the way of tea. I
    suppose this made me look at tea in a totally different way than I had upon
    on my initial experience.

    Later I met Margie at the Portland Japanese Garden through my wife's
    interest in her Kimono. I remember her trying to talk to Margie in
    Japanese! Ah nostalgia!

    Maybe a year later (I'm horrible with time) I met Margie’s blog online while I was searching on some Zen related stuff and I was enthralled by her blog posts. They had the essence of Zen in them without mentioning much about Zen at all. Through our conversations I managed to get invited to visit one of her tea classes to enjoy a cup with her students and talk a little (too much) about Zen. What a wonderful experience!

    Second question: How much of the traditional Japanese teaching methods do
    you think need to be incorporated in learning Chado outside of Japan? For
    those not studying, what do you think the best way would be to learn
    something like the Japanese tea ceremony?

    Well, the best way to learn the Japanese tea ceremony would certainly be the
    traditional way. However, we should keep in mind the Japanese tea ceremony
    is an evolution of the Chinese tea ceremony. I wonder if there may ever be
    an American tea ceremony. What would that look like?
    Can we keep the essence without transmitting the culture and language?
    The nature of things is that they do not stay the same. Even if we try to
    preserve the past our perception is flawed and we can not keep that moment.
    Just like the Tea was transmitted from India to china, changed and adapted from Indian and Chinese culture and so on to Japan, and now is slowly adapting again for the west, I think that if the tea ceremony becomes popular in this country, and I hope it does, that in about 500 years or so we will probably have an American tea ceremony. No rush.

  8. Thank you Chris and Jordan for your thoughtful answers to my question. I really appreciate your participation. Please stay tuned. Who knows, there may be more contests in the future.