Dec 30, 2009

Invitation to a tea gathering

Like any formal invitation,  an invitation to a tea gathering will have a time, date and place.   But look closer at the invitation.  The host of the tea gathering has included a seasonal poem, reference, greeting or saying that tells you about the occasion for  the gathering.  It may even hint at the theme for the gathering.

In a cold, cold dawn
the golden fragment of a
waning moon -- how bright!

The wording of the invitation will be humble, something like --  "The end of the year approaches and the remaining days are getting shorter.  Let's not put off meeting again so please come to share a simple meal and a bowl of tea."

You will also notice that the invitation is hand written.  In Japan, these invitations were callgraphied in your best brush writing on beautiful paper and hand delivered.  Today in America, hand written invitations with appropriate illustrations sent through the mail is appropriate. No flyers, cutesy printed invitations or emails for tea gatherings.

Then the time, the date and the place.  An RSVP such as "Please let me know by Dec. 31 if you will attend"

Sometimes there will be a list of the other guests, especially the Shokyaku or first guest.

When you receive an invitation to a tea gathering, etiquette demands that you RSVP as soon as you can. Do not wait until the deadline or make the host call you and ask if you are attending or not.

If you are the shokyaku, the host will provide you with a list of the other guests who have confirmed attending.  It is the shokayku's responsibility to call each of the other guests and tell them the order of seating, what to bring to the gathering, the format of the gathering and answer any questions they may have. Also the shokyaku will either call or visit the host (zenrei) to bring a gift and ask the host if there is anything that they can do before the gathering.  A polite guest other than the shokayku should call or write a note to the host a couple of days before to express thank you for the invitation. (This is in ADDITION to the RSVP).

As a guest, you are expected to bring your fukusa basami with fan, fukusa, kaishi, sweets pick, plastic bag and handkerchief.  As shokyaku, I always bring an extra set of fukusa, fan, papers, plastic bags and handkerchief just in case anyone forgets to bring them.

As a guest, please arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of the gathering to take care of hanging up your coat, putting on your tabi (or removing tabi covers), and stowing your belongings.  Sometimes the host will make a changing room available for those wearing or putting on kimono.  Please arrive in time to be dressed and ready 10-15 minutes ahead of time, and try not to disturb your host with requests such as helping you put on your kimono or tie your obi.

Next:  Anatomy of a tea gathering

Dec 16, 2009

New Introduction to Chanoyu Class

Well gee, I just learned how to put some things into the left hand column.   You will see two new things today: an announcement of the new introduction class, and an Issoan tea school calendar. On the calendar, all classes will be listed as well as events, workshops, cultural activities in Portland and other things as I think of them.  Any suggestions for the calendar welcome.

Issoan will be starting 2 new Introduction to Chanoyu classes in January 2010. The classes are filling up fast, so if you'd like to take the class, please contact me soon.  As soon as the class fills up, I will close the registration and put people on a waiting list.

Tuesday evenings 7:00 - 8:30 pm for 10 weeks starting January 12
Issoan Tea School:
17761 NW Marylhurst Ct.
Portland, OR 97229.  
Two places left.

Friday evenings 6:00 - 7:30 pm for 10 weeks, starting January 15
Ryokusuido Tea Room:
3826 NE Glisan St.,
Portland, OR 97232.  
One place left.

Dec 14, 2009

Before Rikyu

Before Sen Rikyu there was tea and before Bach there was music.
~Hisashi Yamada

Dec 9, 2009

Anagama kiln and preivew of the Holiday Sale

Despite bitter cold and a horrendous East wind blowing last Sunday, my husband and I were invited to the opening of the anagama firing by Richard Brandt and crew.  I have attended a firing before, but I had to leave before the kiln was opened.  This time though, the previous week the kiln was fired for 5 days -- that is they fed it more than four cords of wood, then sealed it up to cool and Sunday was the opening.  This was very exciting as the fire is unpredictable and what went into the kiln may or may not resemble what comes out, depending on the fire, the flames and the placement in the kiln.  That is the magic of an anagama firing.

 Last Sunday we unloaded the anagama kiln and I must say that it's the best firing I've ever taken part in. The frozen wind and numb hands were not even a bother because the work was so fantastic. The colors are outstanding. The carnage low. Plenty of startling surprises. Everything seemed to fall into place. A labor of love it remains. I am very excited to share this work with you.  ~ Richard Brandt

We got there as they were taking the bricks down from the front of the kiln.  I was surprised at how orderly it was and the crew was very careful to stack each brick as it came from the door in order for the next people to seal up the front more easily.  Then the ash was swept away from the firebox and everything cleaned out before any pieces were taken out.    One of the first pieces to be taken out was a little figurine.It was found standing among the ashes in the firebox. It was on the lower front shelf and it had fallen off but remained standing as if it had jumped into the fire.

Here are a couple of photos as the first pieces were unloaded from the kiln:

While everything looks monochrome in these photos, there was plenty of drama and color when the pieces were unloaded.  There were so many spectacular vases, bowls, tea pots and sculptures:

I just wanted to preview a few pieces that Richard will be showing at the sale and (modestly) show some of the handbags I made from kimono material that will also be featured at the show.

Nishiura Ryokusuido
3826 NE Glisan St.
Portland Oregon 97229
Friday evening opening reception 7-9 pm

Saturday and Sunday 12-5 pm

I hope you will come out to see Richard's work.  Here's a few handbags made from kimono and obi that will be featured.


Dec 4, 2009

First Annual Ryokusuido
Holiday Show and Sale 2009

Please come to our Holiday Show of Japanese
Antiques, Kimono, and Obi, featuring wood fired
tea utensils by Richard Brandt, and Handbags and
Fashions by SweetPersimmon at

Nishiura Ryokusuido
Japanese Arts and Antiques
3826 NE Glisan, Portland, OR 97232

(503) 236-8005 or (503) 262-8369

Friday Dec. 11 7-9 pm
Saturday and Sunday
Dec. 12-13   12-5 pm

Please join us Friday evening for drink and refreshment
Tea will be served in a traditional tea ceremony room
on Saturday and Sunday

Dec 1, 2009

Senke Jusshoku, ten craft families

For generations, the Urasenke, Omotesenke and Mushakojisenke schools have been supported by ten craft families who have supplied them with tea utensils.  Each family has its own specialties that are passed down to the next generation just as the grand tea mastership is passed down in the Senke families.

The ten craft families number of generations serving and their specialties are:

  1. Raku Kichizaemon 15th generation -  chawan shi, teabowls, mizusashi, flower vases, incense containers
  2. Eiraku Zengoro 16th generation  - doburo yakimono shi, ceramics, including mizusashi, futaoki, ceramic furo, flower containers, tea bowls, incense containers, and futaoki
  3. Onishi Seimon 16th generation- kamashi, kettles, gotoku (iron trivet), kensui, and other cast iron works
  4. Nakagawa Joeki 11th generation - kanmono shi, bronze vases, kettles, ash spoons, trays, kensui, kan and hibashi
  5. Nakamura Sotetsu 12th generation- nu shi, lacquer, especially gold painted design, natsume, trays, incense containers, bowls and sake cups
  6. Hiki Ikkan 15th generation - ikkanbarisaiku shi, paper mache and lacquer over paper, for example inside of charcoal baskets, sweets trays, also feather work for haboki
  7.  Kuroda Shogen 13th generation - takezaiku hishaku shi, bamboo anything, including hishaku, chashaku blanks, tana made of bamboo
  8. Tsuchida Yuko 12th generation - fukuro shi, fabric for fukusa, kobukusa, and shifuku pouches
  9. Komazawa Risai 15th generation -sashimono shi, wood worker for tana (display shelves), bentwood containers, hearth frames, screens, tabakobon
  10. Okumura Kichibei 12th generation - hyogu shi, scroll mounting, fusuma (paper doors), furosaki byobu (screens), paper goods such as kettle hotpads, paper tobacco pouches
As we get further along in haiken, it is good to know these families and their specialties, in case your teacher in class or shokyaku should ask "who made it?"