Jun 29, 2013

Haigata workshop

A reminder to all students: Haigata workshop is Sunday July 7th at 10 am.  Fee is $25.  Next week in fact. Please let me know by Friday July 5. We will be learning about the different kinds of furo and their formality; about the different kinds of ash, how to prepare the furo: leveling the kama, and the different kinds of haigata(ash forms) How to use the ash spoons to sculpt beautiful forms that still breathe and allow the fire to burn.

Bring what you have: furo, kama, mae gawara, (front tile), gotoku (stand), hai (ash), haisagi (ashspoons).

If we have time, we will go over charcoal, and how to arrange it in the furo to make sure it burns nice and hot, rather than go out.

Haigata workshop:

Sunday, July 7, 10 am - noon
Issoan Tea Room - outside, too.
Fee: $25
Reserve now only 3 spots left

You can register and pay for the class by Paypal at the left.
Or contact me (503) 645-7058  to register and pay at the time of the workshop

Jun 23, 2013

Paring back to the essential

Temae, the procedure for making tea, to our American eyes, may seem overly complicated and rigid with rules.   But these procedures have been refined for more than 400 years to be able to make a bowl of tea in the most efficient and beautiful way.

When we start to study temae, we start with the simplist form called ryakubon, or tray style and progress to more and more complicated procedures.   But as we study higher and higher temae, we are actually going back in time to procedures that were done at the beginning of the codefied tea ceremony.   What has happened over the years is that things have been pared away so that as we get closer to modern day, things get simpler.

Now that is not to say that procedures get easier.  Simpler does not mean easier.  In fact, simpler becomes harder because it exposes more and more of the person doing the procedure.  Just like Mark Twain said that he wrote you a long letter because he didn't have time to write you  a short one, doing a simple temae and making it look natual and beautiful takes a lot of training.

I did a chanoyu demonstration once for a post-graduate  course of theater majors on movement.  After the demonstration we had a discussion of the procedure and one student said that it didn't look all that hard to do.  But he failed to notice that I always entered the room with the right foot and exited with my left.  He also failed to notice that  when I folded my  fukusa all the folds and corners lined up, every single time.  He also failed to notice that everything was in its place, and not a centimeter off in a ten foot square space. "It looks so natural," he said, "and simple to do." 

Part of living in these times, is that we have very complicated lives.  It takes a conscious effort to pare back the things in our lives to essentials.  That means we have to take time to decide what is essential to us.  What is a want and what is a need?  Indeed, Rikyu said, “There is shelter enough if it keeps the rain off, and food enough when it staves off hunger. We draw water, gather firewood, boil the water and make tea.” 

I have a couple of students, and some friends in Seattle who do not own a car.  They have made the decision that a car is not essential to their lifestyle.  This eliminates car payments, insurance, gasoline, and maintenance.  

What can you eliminate from your complicated life?


Jun 18, 2013

The seven types of chaji

As my classes are preparing to host a chakai this summer, I thought that I would talk a little about tea gatherings.  

Chakai are rather informal tea gatherings.  Sweets and usucha are usually served, and usually no meal is served at a chakai.  I have been to chakai in Japan where there were hundreds of participants.  Everyone was seated in a very large tatami room.  In one corner, near the first guest the temaeza is set up and a few bowls of tea are made.  Then the rest of the guests are served tatedashi, from the kitchen.  There is an efficiency and order to this type of gathering.  I have worked in the mizuya whisking tea. -- with 3 people, we whisked 300 bowls of tea for a chakai one time. 

Chaji are a more formal type of gathering and there are 7 types of chaji.  There are 3 timed chaji
  1. Shojo no chaji - this is the most formal and the standard type of chaji.  It can be held in the ro or the furo season.  The start time is 11 or 12 o'clock. The order for shogo no chaji is shozumi, full kaiseki, nakadachi, koicha, gozumi and usucha.  This is the most difficult to pull off and challenging for the guests to sit through.
  2. Asa chaji - takes place in the morning at 5-6 am. Furo season only. It is short and quick and ends by 7 or 8 . It is a way to beat the heat in the summer time, so tsuzukiusucha (usucha following directly after koicha) no gozumi, an abbreviated kaiseki.  No raw fish or yakimono (grilled dish).
  3. Yobanashi chaji -  takes place in the evening about 4-5 pm and in the ro season only.  Serve tsuzukiusucha, and abbreviated kaiseki.  No gozumi, but  tomezumi or tachizumi (charcoal at the end).  No raw fish or yakimono.  Plan to use lights (candles and lanterns) and heat sources such as teaburi (handwarmers) and hibachi.
  4. Hango chaji -- takes place after meal times.  10 am or 2 pm or 7 pm, can take place in furo or ro season.  VERY abbreviated kaiseki to no kaiseki - the food can be tenshin (one plate meal) noodles or snack, or just nimono, and hassun.  The order is lay sumi, food, serve sweet, break, and koicha.  Usucha can be skipped. This is a good chaji for less dogu or time.
  5.  Rinji chaji -- emergency or spontaneous, unexpected. Contains the basics of rice, soup charcoal sweets and tea.  Can do tsuzukiusucha.  Other than that, no real rules, no set times.  Because it is so informal, it should have a very formal feeling.
  6. Atomi chaji-- viewing the remains.  This takes place after another chaji.  The host's very best friends basically invite themselves to view the utensils.  The host will rehang the scroll and move the flowers to the floor.  Order, food, koicha tsuzukiusucha. no nakadachi.   Food is something different for than what was served for the first chaji guests, may even be just noodles or rice soup.(I always thought this was rather rude to invite yourself over and make the host do double duty when the first chaji was probably exhausting enough).
  7. Akatsuki chaji - Dawn chaji. This is the expert's tea. It starts at 4 am and always in the ro season.  You need a ceiling window.  The illumination turns to sunlight in the tea room as it  moves from dark to light.  There is a bit of drama as the windows open and light streams in just at the hassun is served.  (timing is critical here).  Oil lamps or candles naturally guttter out as the light comes in.  Sumi first, food is variable, hassun must be served, sweets, koicha tsuzukiusucha.
Here is hoping that you will be hosting a chaji soon.

    Jun 14, 2013

    The True way of tea

    I talk to a lot of people about chado.  It's what I love and I love to talk about it.  Often times the questions are predictible:   How long does it take to study?  Is there talking during the ceremony? Why do you turn the bowl? 

    Sometimes I will get a person who knows a little about it, or has read about it on the internet.  Quite often I will get the question of "I want to study chado, which school should I pick, Urasenke or Omotesenke?"  My answer to this question is always, it doesn't matter which school you study.  Find a teacher and study the school that they teach. 
    Recently, I had a question from a young man who wanted to study chado, but his question to me was, "I want to study chado, but I want to learn Rikyu's tea.  I don't want to study Urasenke or Omotesenke beacause there just is too much politics.  I want to learn the true way of tea."

    So I have thought about it for a while.  What is the true way of tea?  Is learning Rikyu's tea the true way of tea or is this just a romantic notion? 

    I have talked about learning to make tea the way Rikyu made it is like hearing Yoyo Ma play Bach and telling a teacher that you want to play Bach on the cello just like Yoyo Ma does.   But even Yoyo Ma had to begin somewhere, and learning the basics (scales, fingering, bowing techniques for the cello -- folding fukusa, purifying utensils, walking in and out of the tea room in the case of chado) is where you start, not making tea like Rikyu.   Besides, Rikyu is out of context in America and out of context of his own time. 

    Out of respect for my teachers and generosity of Daishosho for the year in Kyoto, I teach the Urasenke curriculum.  I teach it, as much as I can, as I have learned it.   Tea is a living tradition.  It is passed teacher to student, but it also has changed with the times   It was Gengensai who first developed Ryurei, table style in the late 1800s.  New procedures are developed, changes made to old ones.  It is part of our history and through this history we are connected back through the generations to Rikyu and his ideals. 

    But the true way of tea?   When I was at Midorikai, Mori-sensei told us at our orientation, "Tea is not a thing to learn from teachers.  The things you seek are already in you.  Tea is not the procedure, and this is not a University."  She wrote on the board a character -- Shinan -- finger pointing South.  It is a name for someone who teaches Japanese culture, one who points to the South.  "There is nothing to teach you.  All a teacher can do is point to the moon.  Seek for yourself, if you have a strong will you will learn the way of tea, the way of life, the way of the spirit."

    And that, I believe is the true way of tea.

    Jun 12, 2013

    Upcoming Events at Issoan Tea

    Saturday, June 15, and July 20 1 and 2 pm
    Chanoyu demonstration at Kashintei, the teahouse at the Portland Japanese Garden

    Sunday, June 23, 1:30 pm
    Kagetsu at Mieko sensei's house

    Sunday, July 7, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
    Haigata Workshop at Issoan Tea Room, bring furo, ash, gotoku, kettle and haisaji if you have them

    Sunday, July 14th - TBD
    Tanabata Chakai at Issoan Tea Room

    Sunday July 21st
    Seichuki at Kashintei, the Portland Japanese Garden teahouse

    Regular classes at Issoan Tea house:

    Wednesdays 7-9 pm -  Intermediate studies

    Thursdays 7-9 pm - Beginning Chanoyu

    Saturdays 1-3 pm - Beginning Chanoyu

    Saturdays 3-5 pm - Intermediate Studies

    Blogging Chanoyu

    When I started blogging about Chanoyu six years ago, I didn't know anyone else was writing about the way of tea.   But I have discovered or been referred to a number of blogs that has enriched my own study of Chado.

    There are a few recent ones that I'd like to call your attention to:

    The Way of Tea in LA   -  A blog started by Lauren Deutsch a long time tea student and now teacher in LA. She has written numerous articles about tea in the Kyoto Journal, Parabola and others.

    喫茶去: Kissako ~ Explorations of Japan's Tea Culture  - a blog by Mindy Landeck, a historian of early modern Japan currently at work on a dissertation focused on Tokugawa-era warrior tea practitioners, a project researched in Kyoto last year as a Japan Foundation fellow.


    Below are links to some of the blogs I read. If you know of others, please mention or link them in the comments.

    Chanoyu to wa


    Drinking Limnality: Tea across borders 


    Chado the way of tea

    More links to the lower left column.  Even more links here.

    Jun 9, 2013

    Photos from the sweets workshop

    Kanten comes in many types, from powder, to threads, to dried blocks.  The trick is to get the ratio right.  We used a powder that I was not familiar with and the sweets turned out to be so hard they were like hockey pucks and had to be discarded.

    Molding the koi for the most popular sweet was like sculpting with play-doh.  The fish are made with white an and then orange and yellow bits are added randomly for color.

    Here they are in the kitchen.  Some fish are more lively than others.  Some look like they are playing dead.  But they all tasted good.

    Final presentation on a glass tray.  Don't they look delicious and cool?  We also made mizu yokan and kudzu yaki. The thing about kanten is that the longer it sits, it seems to get more cloudy, so they have to be eaten fairly soon after making them.  Darn!

    And for the inspiration of koi in the pond: