Sep 24, 2012

Confessions of a Chado geek

It has been more than a week since we had an intensive workshop here in Portland with Machida Gyotei sensei and we are grateful to Urasenke and Oiemoto for sending him to Portland.   I don't remember the last time we had a Gyotei sensei in Portland, but I have studied with them while I was in Kyoto, Japan and Seattle.

It always takes me awhile to process what was presented because it is like drinking from a firehose, there is so much information presented in such a short time.

As always we start the seminar with warigeiko, back to basics of folding the fukusa.  Though each time we do it, I learn something new.  Machida Gyotei sensei teaches in a little different manner than others I have studied with.   He asks questions designed to make you think deeply about what you are doing.  For example, he asked us the first day, "Why to you fold the fukusa in this manner to purify utensils?   Did you know that the fukusa is not exactly square?  Why to you think that is?

We studied from the very basic usucha procedures to the most advanced daisu  procedures in the course of three very full days.   On the third day in the afternoon, we practiced kagetsu, including two that I have not done before ko-tsuki kagetsu, and yojohan kagetsu (kagetsu in the four and a half mat room).

Machida Gyotei-sensei  offered practical advice in his lecture, Movement within the tea room, and got into some very philosophical aspects of Buddhist and Chinese daisu procedures, how to handle precious utensils and things to think about for later.  All with a charming and funny demeanor.

It was overwhelming and inspirational at at the same time.   And yes, I really needed that hot tub after sitting on my knees for three days.


  1. That is a good question -- what did you learn is the purpose of the fukusa not being square? Is it a practical reason, or is it more philosophical, like a zen koan?

    1. I have my own speculations... What do you think? Sensei wanted everyone to think more deeply about this.

    2. Hm. I think rectangles are more aesthetically pleasing, in a way, than perfect squares; shikishi aren't perfect squares, and most photographs. Maybe it also has to do with wabi sabi, not being perfect. I can't think of any practical reasons right now, though...

    3. One practical aspect, I think: Something I learned while sewing called the "turn of the cloth." When you fold more than one layer of cloth, the outside layer must be longer than the inside layer for the edges to match up. You can see this if you fold several sheets of paper in half. The outside layer becomes shorter and shorter with more and more layers. Because of all the complicated folds of the fukusa, (there are at least 9 different ones I know of)having it not quite square helps the edges match up and the folds fall gracefully.