Nov 18, 2010

Issoan Tea Robiraki 2010

Scroll:  Kan za matsu kaze o kiku “Sit and listen to the wind in the pines”

Chatsubo:  Iga with net bag

Flower container:  single cut bamboo with seasonal flowers

Kama: Uba guchi, kashiwa oak leaf ro kama by
 Keitan Takahashi, National Treasure

Ro:  Oki ro made of  kuwa, mulberry wood

Tana: Kokodana: two shelf black lacquer with red edges

Mizusahshi:  Hitoeguchi with persimmon glaze

Mizutsugi:  Yakan with lidded spout

Chaire:  Spring bulb, made in Kyoto by Scott Mortensen
 shifuku: ginran kobotan higashiyama gire

Chashaku:  Kan, by Genko Blackman

Omochawan: Black raku by Kugyo

Futaoki:  Bronze ikkanjin

Chamei – Koicha: Zuisen no shiro, Hounsai Daisosho konomi; Usucha: JoRaku from Nishuraen

Sweets:  Zenzai with mochi

Natsume:  Tofuku natsume, Gengensai konomi by Shuho Kumagai

Chawan:  Tora no kaze by Wako, Minako sensei’s pink Hagi

Higashi:  Hato pigeon and mushroom

Tenshin meal served on chisoku style trays


  1. Dear Margie,

    I have seen somewhere you wrote we should ask questions. I unfortunately have thousands.
    I will start with a few here, in regard to the use of the chatsubo.

    - Except for Kuchikiri and the Robiraki, are there other important time when a chatsubo should be displayed? Is it possible to have one in the tokonoma without any particular reason (except for the main theme or the beauty of the object)?

    - How to display a chatsubo? I have seen there are plenty of accessories or ways: silk mouth covers, silk footcloth(es), display "bag" made of cords, cords around the mouth -with or without tassels-, cords with appropriate knotting,...

    - Is the presence of a Chinese chatsubo (ruzon tsubo) systematically accompanied by the use of a Chinese temmoku bowl with stand + daisu (formal)? Is a chatsubo of Japanese origin linked to something very different?

    - There are many colors for the cords; are these related to tea schools, families, to the occasion, to any other factor? What about the knots and/or the lenght of the cord?

    I have others around this particular chatsubo issue, but I do not want to sound painful or bother you.

    I hope you will be able to give me some info if these questions are too early for me or even inappropriate to be asked.

    Kind regards,


  2. Phillipe,
    Thank you for your questions. I will try to answer them.
    - display of the chatsubo. I have not really seen the chatsubo displayed at other times except around Robiraki. That is not to say it couldn't be done. It would depend on your theme and what you want to accomplish with your toriawase. We have used it for chatsubo kagetsu, a training exercise where lots are drawn to see who makes tea and who drinks. The person who draws the moon gets to tie the knots on the cords before 4 bowls of usucha are made and drank.
    - Display of the chatsubo. I have never seen the chatsubo displayed without the silk top cover. If you are using the net bag, it is tied around the top over the silk cloth with another small cord. If you are going to tie the shin, gyo, and so knots then you will use the red or orange cords.
    -The luzon tsubo is said to keep tea the freshest when stored in it. I think they were originally from Southeast Asia and something about the porousness of the clay allowed the tea to breath without spoiling it. I do not think that the daisu and tenmoku bowl are necessarily linked to the chatsubo. The daisu and tennmoku are usually used for upper temae.
    - I have only seen red or orange for the cords of the chatsubo. There may be differences for schools other than Urasenke, which I study. There are 3 lengths of cords: longest one is used to tie shin or formal knot (as seen on the front of the illustration), middle to tie the gyo knot on the right, and shortest for the so knot on the left. Please ask your teacher to show you how to tie these knots.

    Thank you for your questions.

  3. Dear Margie,

    Many thanks for your kindness. To be honest with you, I wasn't expecting you would answer all these questions. It is much appreciated and valued, thanks again (!!).
    Let me here very briefly comment with what I have learned or seen.

    - Brown cord bag + smaller cord were seen on a picture in what apparently was a Enshuryu room. Other dark colors were also seen, but I could not relate them to any school or occasion. I also have seen a purple cord (with shin knotting) on the cover of a book on famous ruzon tsubo.

    - Luzon (or ruzon 呂宋壷) tsubo were named as such as they apparently did all come from the Luzon Island in the Philippines (and by extention Borneo). Japanese traders had contacts with pre-colonial Philippines and went to Luzon (and Brunei) to trade in Chinese goods and other products from Southeast Asia. Japan brought in luxury items that were highly priced by the lords of Luzon in exchange to other highly-prized materials (including material for war and ..jars) that were brought back. It seems jars have a very long history of sacred and medicinal use in the region of the Philippines. Besides, starting in the early to middle medieval period, imported Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese porcelain, sometimes of very high quality, came to be often seen as well in Luzon as trade seems to have been very important there. I have read some jars and urns (+shards) from all over the region are often found along with native earthernwares in excavated burials from ancient times.
    For the Japanese, the Luzon jars were important because they were the only vessels capable of storing high-quality tea to their liking ("only" refers to the transfer in the Island, not its exact origin). The jars also appeared to have been viewed as having medicinal and spiritual properties and I guess these aspects were what was somehow favored as it is the case with Chinese origin chaire. Quite ironically, the vast majority of the 16 and 17th centuries celebrated ruzon tsubo are indeed of Chinese origin (Song to Yuan dynasties), hence the formulation of my question above. I thus do not know if the clay was the only point for favoring such jars (even if most were Chinese, some were not). I wouldn't be surprised that spiritual and aesthetical aspects were initially the selection criteria. But be sure I do not want to rewrite history with such an assumption.


  4. ...
    Another question: in a wooden-floored tokonoma, the chatsubo may be standing directly on the floor; is there a possibility to display it directly on the floor or on a wooden board if the tokonoma floor is made of tatami matting or is the footcloth mandatory (when the cord bag is not in use)?

    It is my passion for culture through antiques that has brought me to tea. I thus have a strong bias when I speak about objects or tea rooms. This is also one reason why I still am too much focused on chadogu (+temae) rather than the general friendly atmosphere during a gathering. I did write "also", because I am well aware that it is just one aspect and time and experience are others that are obviously more important.

    I by now have no teacher. There is a branch of Urasenke not far form where I live (considering US distances) - 45min to 1h to reach, but the opening hours unfortunately do not match my schedule. For this reason, I have started to learn alone through books and videos. I know this is really poor and I hope to have the chance to ask concrete questions and have visual context soon. For this reason, I only dared to ask you about "theoretical" questions about the display of things, rather than speak about how knots are made or what exact move I should do. I know some tea masters were giving lessons through letters in the Momoyama and early-Edo periods. For this last reason, I thought I would at least ask you a few questions, beside the fact you invited tea persons to feel free to ask some.

    Be honest and tell me if you sincerely feel I can proceed with some such comments/questions, please.

    With renewed thanks and kind regards.

    All my best.


  5. Phillipe,
    Many thanks for the research you have done on the luzon tsubo. Very interesting. You have added to my knowledge with this information about the history of the chatsubo.

    I have not seen the chatsubo displayed with a footcloth. Typically in a wooden floored tokonoma things sit directly on the floor with no footcloth or ita (board for flower vases). The chatsubo whether in the net bag or with the knots have been placed directly on tatami tokonoma.

    Unfortunately people think that they can learn chado without a teacher, from the internet or books. The experience of learning this art as you mentioned in your first post is to engage all of your senses. The problem with books and videos is that your study will only engage your head. It will not train your body or truly touch your heart. This blog originally was written as additional study for my students, though anyone can read it.

    If you are serious about the study of chado, I strongly urge you to make an effort to find a teacher. Please contact the branch near you and see if you can make arrangements to fit your schedule, or if they can refer you to a teacher closer to where you live.

    Please read this post concerning questions:
    Questions, questions

  6. Dear Margie,

    Thank you so much for your answer.

    I was expecting such comments, hence my naively asked last question whether you thought it was suitable for me to "proceed".

    I wanted to make things clear here (telling you I do not have a teacher) and so did you. I think it would be foolish to say I "know" that working with books and a few videos is pointless, but I feel it is. I am probably far too intellectual still in my actions and decisions, a typical Western behaviour.

    Your post was enlightening.

    I will look for a teacher.

    I know that I know nothing.

  7. Phillipe,
    I do hope you will continue to read this blog and comment when you feel appropriate. I suspected you did not have a teacher by the nature of your questions.

    I am glad however that you are very interested in chado, and hope you will find a teacher to begin your studies. Please try to not feel frustrated in the beginning as it is a different learning style. Cultivate a sunao heart (open and receiving without resistance). One of my sensei said that when people ask questions, it is a sign of resistance to the learning. Be patient and quiet and listen to your heart.

    Mori sensei says: You bring to tea everything you need to know. Seeking more knowledge outside of yourself is the wrong place to look for it. All you need to know is inside of yourself if you have the courage to see it.


  8. Thanks, Margie.