Friday, February 21, 2014

Tea party in a proper tea room!

Today’s coffee: White Day blend… a bit early perhaps?

The last several weeks have seen a lot of progress in our Cultural Education… and lately I’ve not had much time to write, since lots of things seem to be happening in Fridays and Saturdays. So, here’s an update with some pictures!

Last Tuesday was a national holiday, so we had a lovely day out with our tea ceremony teacher, Fujiyama-sensei, and our friend, Noriko, who is studying tea ceremony with us.

Although we’ve been served tea in various places and in various styles, this was our first time to have tea in a proper tea room… and this one even had a nijiriguchi—a tiny entrance door.

Can you see the door behind me?
Noriko in the doorway
Let me explain. In the sengoku (warring states) period, a tea room provided a place for even bitter enemies to peaceably talk and enjoy a cup of tea together. If you tried to enter the room with your sword strapped on, you wouldn’t fit through the door. Furthermore, everyone must crouch down to enter, bowing in humility. Once in the room, everyone is considered equal in status, if only for the short period of time spent in the tea room.

Before we entered the room, Fujiyama sensei led us through the process of preparing to enter the tea room. First we put on new socks—good manners when attending an お茶会 (ochakai—tea party). We entered the waiting area, then when the host “called” for us with a drum, we washed our hands and mouths and prepared to enter the tea room. I’m vastly oversimplifying here—there is a proper way to do each of these things.

This is the "garden" with hand-washing place. In the summer, we might go to a tea room in a real garden... but this is Sapporo in February.
The door was tiny. I’m not a large person, but I knocked my hairpin and the back of my obi on the top of the doorframe as I crouched to enter. Once in the room, I bumped my head on the rafters across the middle of the room as I moved around to observe the flowers, the scroll on the wall, and the kama (cauldron).

The kama sits in a hole in the floor, and is heated by charcoal. Don't try this at home, kids.
Although we were having a “proper” ochakai, Fujiyama sensei didn’t hesitate to teach. The host was a friend of our teacher’s; I imagine she is accustomed to serving tea to beginners. Her patience and grace put us at ease, even though there are still a lot of things we don’t know.

Our host prepares the tea
Waiting for our tea. The scroll on the wall says "wakeiseijaku" which means harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.
After we finished our tea, we got to see some antique hina dolls. March 3 is Girls’ Day (hinamatsuri); some Japanese families put out an elaborate display of dolls in honor of their daughters and granddaughters.

Antique hina dolls

Then… a stroll through Odori Park to see Yukimatsuri, and lunch at a tofu restaurant!

The next day, we attended an entirely different ochakai. This time, Fujiyama sensei visited the preschool where Noriko works to give them a basic lesson! Each child served and received tea, then had a chance to practice making tea themselves. I was impressed at how the children sat quietly through the lesson and respectfully (and happily) took part. I helped out by preparing lots of tiny cups of tea.

Last night, Noriko came to our house to practice for our next ochakai, which will be at our church on March 1! Noriko and I will prepare and serve tea, and Keith will give a short talk. The ladies of our church will prepare sweets. I’m excited! I’m praying that each one of us will have a 持て成しの心 (motenashi no kokoro—a heart of hospitality) to welcome our guests; we’ve had some great examples lately!

No comments: