Aug 31, 2012

Chado: The Way of Tea in Oregon

Tim McRobert produced a half hour documentary about Chado: The Way of Tea in Oregon. It will be broadcast on Oregon Public Broadcasting cable this Sunday. It was shot at the Portland Japanese Garden and various tea rooms around the Portland area.

Issoan Tea School is one of the groups featured in the film.You will see students making tea, kimono dressing and ceramics discussion on the film. I hope you enjoy it.

It airs Sunday, September 2 at 8:30 on OPB plus.  For those of you on FIOS Frontier it's channel 470 and those on Comcast I think  it is on 310.  Check your local listings. 

Workshops for Tea Ceremony

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 6:00pm :
Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons - Nature, Literature, and the Arts, (click link for more information)
Portland State University
We plan to dress in kimono, attend the lecture and have a snack afterwards.  Please join us.

Saturday October 6th, 10 am to 2 pm 
Kimono alterations class 
Issoan Tea Room
Kimono too short?  Not wide enough?  Kate has been successful in altering kimono to fit differnt body shapes. Bring your kimono to work on.  She will teach us how to measure for kimono, where to add length, how to widen side seams and much more.   We  will also learn proper fitting and kimono dressing.  Please join us.  Call Margie to register 503-645-7058

Saturday October 13, 10 am - 2 pm 
Field trip to the Bamboo Gardens
North Plains
We will meet at Issoan Tea School and carpool to Bamboo Gardens where we will tour the garden, learn about bamboo cultivation, and how to work the bamboo for crafts.  This will be  good in preparation for chashaku carving and flower vase making workshop later this year..  For reservations and carpool information, call Margie 503-645-7058

Sunday October 14th, 10 am
Completion of Kimono alterations class
Kate 's house 
After homework assignment, we will complete our kimono alterations. (bring sewing machine if you have one).  If there is interest, we may have ongoing sewing workshops including sewing a kimono from scratch, shifuku making workshop and making bags for chabako.  Please call Margie to register.  503-645-7058

More workshops to come

Aug 30, 2012

O-Tsukimi at the Portland Japanese Garden

The Autumn Moonviewing Festival, O-Tsukimi, will be held at the Portland Japanese Garden September 28, 29, 30th from 6- 8:30 pm.

On a quiet autumn evening more than 200 years ago, a retired imperial prince sat patiently on the polished bamboo floor of the veranda waiting for the moon’s reflection to shimmer across the pond of one of the world’s most exquisite gardens at Katsura Imperial Villa in western Kyoto. As it rose in the sky, he lifted his sake cup to catch its reflection and bring him good luck in love—something even emperors need.
Here in Portland, we have a place patterned after just such a garden, where people gather to sit and wait for that very same moon to raise high in the evening sky in autumn.

There is no better place in Portland to share the romance and mystery of the full moon in autumn than from the eastern courtyard of the Portland Japanese Garden Pavilion, with cup of sake in hand, gazing at the harvest moon as it rises above the city.
Moonviewing, or O-Tsukimi, is a traditional Japanese festival which honors the full moon in autumn. On the evenings of September 28, 29, and 30, guests enjoy a quiet evening in the Garden, observe a candle-lit tea ceremony in the Kashintei Tea House and listen to the elegant live music.

Poetry reading and writing have been part of traditional moonviewing events in Japan for centuries. Guests are invited to write their own poetry in honor of the autumn moon and listen to poetry readings in the Garden Pavilion. Sip sake or tea, enjoy a light sampling of seasonal Japanese foods, and experience a rare walk through the lantern-lit Garden during moonlit hours.

Issoan Tea will be presenting Tea Ceremony at Kashintei Tea House on Saturday, September 29.

September 28, 29, and 30, 2012
6:00-8:30 p.m., rain or shine
$25 members / $35 non-members
Reservations required; Space is limited

Reserve online or call (503) 542-0280

Aug 29, 2012

Kobukusa Magic

We had a kobukusa making workshop a couple of weeks ago, and I promised that I'd post pictures from the workshop.  We had 4 participants, and Kate was our teacher.  She supplied silk fabric, silk thread, needles, patterns, instructions and sewing advice and help.

Everyone who had brought their sewing kits, supplies and eagerness to learn.

We started with the fabric, pattern and instructions:

Measured and pinned:



Turned with a little bit of kobukusa magic we had a finished product.

Aug 13, 2012

Working together

I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge one of my huge supporters, Barbara Walker.  Barbara and I have shared our love for the way of tea  for more than 30 years. She and I studied with Minako sensei for 20 years, before she passed away. We help each other with Chado presentations, classes and she is my substitute teacher when I am out of town. And she is an excellent Shokyaku. 

Working with Barbara is like having someone who can read my mind.  I'll tell you a story:   We put on a chakai for Minako-sensei's seven year memorial.   The first seki was supposed to be at 10:00. We were going to meet at 8:00 am to prepare the tea house.  Barbara was bringing most of the special utensils we had picked for the occasion.  She also was bringing the sweets.

I arrived at the Japanese Garden tea house a little after 8:00 am and started cleaning.  I put on the hot water, swept, mopped and wiped down the mats. 8:30 no Barbara.   I hung the scroll and arranged the flowers.  I put out the tsukubai and watered the garden.  9:00, still no Barbara.  I unpacked the furo, and filled the kettle with hot water, 9:15 and no Barbara.  I wiped down the koshikake machiai.  Guests were due to arrive in 20 minutes.

Finally at 9:30 Barbara arrived with the utensils and the sweets.  The two of us got to work unpacking, arranging, filling,  preparing and had everything else ready for the chakai in time to greet our first guests.  Not a word was spoken  between the time she arrived and the final "Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu"  before she opened the door to the tea house and stepped into the garden.

This wonderful lady with a true tea heart, donated to Issoan Tea School kaiseki dogu that had previously  belonged to Minako-sensei.   She wanted my students to be able to use these things and pass on to them some part of Minako-sensei.   Thank you Barbara, we all appreciate everything you do.  We will use these things and think of both you and Minako-sensei.  She would be proud to know how well we work together and support each other.

Yuto and ladle for the burnt rice course

Two black lacquer serving trays

Cedar hassun tray for serving food from the mountain and food from the sea.

Unlacquered hana ita, flower board for unglazed vases in the tokonoma.

Aug 11, 2012

The ash is important to the charcoal

This summer we have been fortunate to be able to burn charcoal and do sumidemae.  We can't make tea if the charcoal doesn't boil the water.  For some reason, the water boiled with charcoal tastes better, sounds better and the steam is more consistently fluffy and pretty.

Of course, it all begins with the haigata or ash form. The first time I saw the ash form, I thought it was some kind of cardboard, and I stuck my finger in the front of it and spoiled the look of it. Making the haigata takes patience and practice. 

When I was at Midorikai we got to burn sumi everyday, and that means one of the chores after dinner was to do the haigata for the next day.  Fortunately for me, I like to do it, and my fellow students didn't, so I did many ash forms during the furo season as I could.  When we switched to the ro season, I bought a furo, ash, gotoku and practiced  in my room just about every night.

I think we got one lesson on ash forms and the rest of the year we were left to discover for ourselves how to do it by practice and experience. Sometimes one of the teachers would come up to the mizuya after dinner and drop the haisaji (ash spooon) in the middle of the haigata.   If the spoon stood upright in the ash, it was too hard packed and the fire couldn't breathe.  If the spoon fell over in the ash, it was soft enough for the fire to burn.  Of course, either way, you had to do it over again.

A few things I learned about doing haigata: 
  1. Don't spend more than 45 minutes playing with the ash.  The more you work it, the more it gets packed down.  Torigai-sensei used to say, "Better an ugly haigata that breathes, than a beautiful one that is too packed down."
  2. There are three main tools to form the ash. The wide flat tool, the curved tool and the spear point tool. I use the wide flat tool for maybe 75-80%  of the time.
  3. Let the ash tool do most of the work.  You really are not pushing down on the ash spoon to smooth it out.  Just lay the tool down gently on the ash and drag it across the surface of the ash.  You will get a beautiful smooth surface without it getting too packed down.
  4. I usually start smoothing the front, then the back then the U shaped valley in the center.  Make sure the valley is deep enough to accommodate the height of the charcoal, plus the width of the kudazumi and edazumi so it won't get crushed when you put the kettle on the gotoku.
  5. Sometimes the angle of what you want to do is very awkward.  Learn to use your left hand to work the right side of the form.   You may have to re-grip the tool in  a different place to get the angle you want.
  6. The only place that is okay to pack down the ash is right behind the maegawara (front tile).  This helps hold the mae gawara in place.
  7. Pay special attention to the corners and the points of the mountains.   It takes practice to make these smooth and sharp.
  8. Smoothing and cutting around the gotoku and maegawara are the trickiest.  The mountain in the front should look like there is no interruption in the line and it looks like it goes right through the gotoku.

If you get a chance to work the ash, it becomes very meditative and sometimes addicting.  Relax and it will show in the final product.  Good luck.

Aug 9, 2012

Cicada's Cry

We have been talking about poetic names and the sounds of the Japanese summer.  The Japanese cicada or semi are a ubiquitous part of the soundscape in summer.  Different species, I guess hatch at different times so there are different songs throughout the summer. 

I remember trying to fall asleep in Kyoto and the semi being so loud that one night I opened my window and shouted "SHUT UP" at the semi and it got quiet for about ten or 15 seconds, then quietly, "meep, meep, meep, Meep,.Meep, MEEP, MEEP" louder and louder again.

There are some that sound like rain showers:  Semi shigure

But sometimes they just sing in the evening with an evocative song:

And this one sounds very sad or plaintive

Aug 6, 2012

Kobukusa making workshop at Issoan Tea

Date: Sunday, August 12, 1-3 pm
Where: Issoan Tea School 17761 NW Marylhurst Ct. Portland, OR 97229
Make reservations by Friday August 10, 5 pm. 503-645-7058
Fee: $10

We are lucky to have talented students at Issoan.   This Sunday August 12 there will be a kobukusa making workshop from 1-3pm at Issoan Tea. That little square of brocade cloth is used in many instances such as serving tea from the kitchen, haiken, displaying utensils and intermediate and upper temae.

Kate has generously agreed to teach the workshop and will be providing practice fabric, patterns and teaching the workshop.  Bring  a sewing kit if you have one.  If you do not, we will supply everything.   Please call to make your reservations for this workshop by Friday evening, August 10, 503-645-7058.

Stay tuned we have other workshops planned for this fall.

Aug 3, 2012

Kagetsu Koshukai, Beginner's Perspective

Hello fellow Tea Lovers! It's Karla and I apologize for my long absence from the blog. I recently completed my Masters in Teaching and have been busy, busy, busy with school, student teaching and a continuing job search. Here is a lovely picture of what Oregon looks like when the sun is coming through the doug firs near my home. Lovely, no?

I wanted to post today about an experience I had last weekend at a beginning koshukai regarding kagetsu study. Christy Sensai from San Francisco was the Sensai there and gave all of us some great things to think about during the beginning usucha hirodemae temae. (Note: Please forgive me my beginner Japanese spelling. If you see errors, don't hesitate to let me know.) Christy Sensai said that one thing you should always strive for in kagetsu, and for any time you are in the tea room, is matching your timing to the other people in the room. I'm not talking about the host's timing in making tea, but the guest's timing. To put it another way, timing that guests may need to worry about would be bowing together, folding fukusa together, and standing and sitting together. These things should happen at the same time and it looks beautiful and effortless when executed that way. This timing shouldn't be found by craning your necks to the left and right. Just watch the movement from the corner of your eyes. This is something, Christy Sensai said, that a person who studies tea needs to apply to any part of the study of tea. It need not only apply to kagetsu. It means matching the height of your bows appropriately to the people around you. It means being conscious of when people's feet may be asleep so you don't try to stand up too quickly in courtesy to the people around you. It means that tea isn't just about yourself but it's about everyone in the room with you. You are all there to enjoy the experience the host is presenting you. No one should feel ashamed that they can not rise as quickly as the others. Tea is about acceptance and humility. About slowing down where needed and always showing respect to those around you. I was honored to be reminded of such an integral part of the way of tea.