Jun 23, 2010
Historical Note: The size of the fukusa was decided by So-on, the wife of Rikyu. Until that time, a small cloth like the kobukusa was used. The story goes that when Rikyu traveled to the battlefield at Odawara his medicine was in a natsume wrapped in a larger cloth by So-on and he felt that this size might be better for tea and he began to use it from that time.
Taming the fukusa is letting the fukusa know what its job is. When it is brand new, it still thinks that it is a doubled piece of cloth. When you first get a fukusa it is folded in fourths and often comes in a box and/or cellophane envelope. This is how you want to store your fukusa after class, not folded in eighths or jammed into your fukusa basami. Clean your fukusa of tea powder before you put it away. You need to have a good relationship with your fukusa, so treat it gently.
To tame your fukusa you need to fold it and put it in your obi properly, take it out of your obi and fold it to purify the natsume, fold it to purify the chashaku, fold it to put it back in your obi and fold it to put in your kaichu (front of kimono) enough times that it won't spring open on you at inappropriate moments. Please ask your teacher to show you how to do this properly. For experienced students, it is always good to review this periodically during warigeiko to correct your form and to review the proper way to do it. At workshops for advanced students and teachers, this is one of the things everybody is required to review no matter how advanced.
I have some students who have trained their fukusa improperly and get confused when folding it because the fukusa is telling them to fold in a certain way that is not right. In that case, you have to re-fold it enough times properly until it (you) understand(s) the correct way to do it.
How many times? That depends on your fukusa and your relationship. For me, it is at least 30 times and I try to do it in front of a mirror so I can see my form as I am doing it. I was at an intensive workshop once and the visiting sensei told me that I had too much of a results oriented relationship with my fukusa. In other words, I was concentrating too hard on getting to the end of the folding procedures and not taking enough time for each step of folding it. My assignment from that workshop was to enjoy the feel of the silk, be present for each step in folding my fukusa and not let my mind and heart skip to the end result of purifying the utensil.