Apr 30, 2010

Kabuki in Portland

The Sardine Seller's Net of Love

PRESENTED BY Center for Japanese Studies www.pdx.edu/cjs

311 East Hall P.O. BOX 751 Portland, OR 97207Phone: 503-725-8577 E-mail: cjs@pdx.edu

Apr 26, 2010

The right way

"One learns by looking and studying.  Without understanding completely, one cannot criticize."  ~ from the 100 poems of Rikyu

We just had an intensive workshop here in Portland with Christy-sensei.  It is always inspiring and somewhat intimidating.   The format is one after another, students make tea for sensei and we often go from the very beginning procedures to the very highest in the space of about 3 days.  Or maybe in the reverse order, depending on the schedule. We all were studying our notes before she arrived, and sitting seiza at night watching TV to build up our strength for those 12 hour days sitting seiza.

We always have warigeiko, that is, back to the basics of folding the fukusa and purifying the utensils.  I always learn so much from this, even though I have been doing tea for many years.  Christy said that when the Gyotei came to San Francisco and he was teaching warigeiko, all he did was talk about posture.  Those finer points, points I knew and have forgotten, or have gotten sloppy at wore gone over and I retrained my body again.  Christy is so very good at giving honest feedback on form. That is also why tea cannot be learned from a book or by yourself with videos.   You need a teacher who can look at you and correct your form, placement, posture, and speed.  You need a teacher who will tell you to stop and take a breath.   A teacher will also tell you straighten your back or keep your focus on your non-working hand.

When I was in Japan, some teachers didn't teach as actively as teachers here in America.  One only watched you as you went through your temae and said not a word.  If you forgot or got lost, he just looked at you and it was up to you to struggle through to the end.  Another one would tell me that I was not doing it right, but did not tell me how to correct it, I had to figure it out. Boy those were some hard lessons, and yes, I do remember them much more vividly than if the teacher had just prompted and corrected me at the time.

I had a teacher who once said that the presence of the teacher is more important than the teaching itself. If  a student really wanted to learn the way of tea, they had to steal the knowledge.  By watching and paying attention was how one learned.

In America, sometimes students will question the teacher, especially if they have had other teachers in how to do a procedure. (or more recently saw something on video or Youtube)  My sempai taught me (rather severely) that whoever is teaching at the time is the right way to do it.   I have note books with notations (Christy sensei teaches this way, but Minako sensei teaches this way).  Even if the same teacher teaches something a little differently at a different time, it is still correct at the time the sensei is teaching.  

This is very hard for some people to grasp.  If there is a right way to do it, they want to know it and they want to know it will always be consistently right.   In Chado there is a right way to do things and we must learn it.  But there will always be some ambiguity in oral teaching and we must make the best of it as we can.  When we have the experience and understanding to judge, we can decide what is right for us.  Until then, the sensei teaching at the time is always right.   Just say "hai."

Apr 21, 2010

The heart of tea

Rikyu says:
The very heart which wants to enter the Way is the best teacher.

Sensei says:
Beginning teachers want to teach the heart of tea and lecture about it.  This is virtually impossible to do.  Don't get trapped into a romantic notion of tea .  You cannot define it for others.  Temae teaches the heart of tea itself. It is in the movement we discover ourselves.  You can't think your way there, you must use your body.

I sometimes have beginning students who are adverse to doing temae over and over again.   They think that if they have seen it a couple of times and done one or two, that they have learned it and want to go on to the next thing.  The thing is that they cannot remember the order of it unless I prompt them.  If they had to do it on their own, they would be lost. 

Recently a few of my students assisted me in a presentation of Chanoyu.  I was doing the explanation and one student was guest and the other host.   It was one of the first times that they both had to do everything on their own, and they learned so much by doing it without me to help them.   One student said it was like doing tea without a net -- scary and exhilarating at the same time. But they both said that they learned so much from just doing it.  

Some people say that tea is moving meditation.  If you can make tea according to the procedures without getting bored or sloppy and still remain aware of your surroundings and your guests, then you will have found the heart of tea.

Apr 20, 2010

The taste of tea shines through

In 1872 the Urasenke 11th generation Grand Tea Master, Gengensai, submitted a formal letter of protest to the Meiji government, the Chado no Gen’i (the  basic idea of the way of tea), objecting to the government’s move to classify chanoyu as a mere “pastime” or “entertainment.”

The original intent of the Way of Tea is to instill loyalty, filial piety, and the Five Constant Virtues (benevolence, sincerity, righteousness, wisdom and trust),  to uphold modesty, propriety and frugality; to encourage the unflagging fulfillment of one’s allotted role in family affairs; to promote service toward peace and well-being of the realm; to have people treat one another with no distinctions of closeness or distance, wealth or poverty; and revere divine providence for the sake of the health and longevity of generations to come.  Because tea is a path with these tenets, strictly and formally regulated, tea gatherings must be recognized as the sincerest form of activity that can be performed without harming the five parts of the body.  The import of all these ideas is present within even the humblest thin-tea service.

Not in clothing, food, or shelter,
Nor in utensils or gardens –
No excess of any kind,
So that by sincere practice
The taste of tea shines through.

This statement won chanoyu official recognition as a true discipline and paved the way for Chado in the modern era.

Apr 16, 2010

Sakura Festival

Sakura Festival on Thursday, April 22 from 1 to 4 p.m. 
Sponsored by the Clark College, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Rotary, the festival is free and open to the public. The celebration will be held under the historic cherry trees near the Clark College music building and the O’Connell Sports Center.

Modeled after the Japanese tradition of picnicking and celebrating the arrival of spring beneath the blossoming cherry trees, the Sakura Festival recognizes the international friendship between the City of Vancouver and its sister city, Joyo, Japan.  Established in 1995, the sister-city relationship between Vancouver and Joyo is marking its 15th anniversary.

Clark College is located at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver. Driving directions and parking maps are available at www.clark.edu/maps.

At 1 p.m., the opening ceremony will feature groundbreaking for another international gift of friendship -- a Japanese garden. The garden is a gift from Chihiro Kanagawa, President & CEO of Shin-Etsu Chemical Company, the parent company of SEH America, to the City of Vancouver. The garden will be located next to the Clark College music building. Based on discussions with the City of Vancouver, construction of the garden will likely begin in the summer of 2011 with dedication of the garden during the 2012 Sakura Festival.  

Apr 8, 2010

After a tea gathering

"After host and guest have expressed their feelings of regret and after the final farewells have been said, the guests depart through the roji (garden).  They do not call out in loud voices, but turn silently for one last look.   The host, moved, watches them until they are gone from sight.  It would not do for him to rush about closing the naka-kuguri, the sarudo, and the other doors, for this would make the day's entertainment meaningless.  Even though it is not possible to see the guests returning to their homes, the host should not put things in order quickly.  Rather, he should return quietly to the setting of the tea gathering and, crawling through the nijiguchi, seat himself before the hearth.  Wishing to speak longer with his guests, he must wonder how far they have gotten on their ways home.  This "one time, one meeting" has come to an end, and the host reflects upon the fact that it can never be repeated.  The highest point of a tea meeting is, in fact, to have a cup of tea alone at this time.  All is quiet, and the host can talk to no one but the kettle.  This is a state in which nothing else exists, a state that cannot be known unless one has attained it oneself."
~ from Chanoyu Ichie Shu by Ii Naosuke

Apr 6, 2010

April Fool's for Tea

I have a tea friend in Seattle who has been collecting whimsical things to use for an April Fool's Day chakai.  I love his sense of humor and creativity in putting together found objects for the utensils for this chakai.

Take a look at some of these:

 Sorry for the cut off image, but if you look closely at this scroll, it is mounted and hanging sideways.

 Dandelions in a pickle jar with a chicken clock for an incense container

Here is a rather formal nagaita (long board) set up with the whimsical utensils. An onion tureen for mizusashi, large cup for kensui, mixer for a whisk, medicine bottle for tea caddy, steel ladle for hishaku and teaspoon for a chashaku.

Peeps for okashi!
 I wonder if it was just as shocking or whimsical in the late 1500s when Rikyu put his flowers in a bamboo vase, and used a teabowl made by a roof tile maker?

Apr 3, 2010

Knowing contentment

The essence of Tea is knowing contentment. The Way of Tea is a means of knowing satisfaction with each and every thing.  If one knows contentment, when making tea, the less things there are, the greater the pleasure.  The more one knows about things and people, the more human one is. With this idea, even having insufficient utensils, one can delight in making tea.  Chanoyu  is the way which teaches contentment. It is just this contentment that is Rikyu's true intent.

~ Matsudaira Fumai (1751-1818) in the Tawagoto written when he was 20 years old.

Apr 2, 2010

Maru joku

The maru joku is a tana or display shelf for the tea room.   As you can see from this photo, it has two round shelves and two legs. Both shelves measure 31.2 cm in diameter, and it is 38.8 com tall. The mizusashi is placed on the bottom shelf and the natsume on the top shelf at the beginning of temae.  This particular style of marujoku is Sotan gonomi, favored by Sotan, the third generation in the Urasenke lineage.  It is finished in Ikkanbari, a sort of papier-mache and  black lacquer.  The thick bottom shelf sits directly on the tatami mat.

Here you can see the marujoku being used in the furo season.   This was the first tana that I used and learned to display items on. It can be used for usucha and koicha.  I think that the black lacquer gives the appearance of formality and shows off utensils so well.

At the end of the usucha temae, the futaoki and hishaku are displayed in a changing scenery for the guests. 

The last thing before leaving the room, the host refills the mizusashi  with the mizutsugi water pitcher.  Because this tana has two legs, the mizusashi stays in place on the tana and the katakuchi style (side handled) water pitcher is used. 

There is also a Rikyu gonomi marujoku.  It is of finished paulownia wood and has three small feet beneath the thinner lower shelf, one of which should be directly front and center when placing tana on the tatami.  One other style of marujoku is Hounsai gonomi, and it has a red brown lacquer.