Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hatsudate no Shiki New Year Tea Gathering

This post was originally written for another social media platform on January 8, 2012 and I thought it would be worth sharing here.

Today, I attended the Hatsudate no Shiki New Year Tea Gathering for East-West Chanoyu Center (formerly Urasenke Foundation Seattle Branch).  I wore a blue-silver iromuji with a festive jewel-tone fukuro obi tied nijuudaiko with the aid of a biyosugata.   There were wardrobe malfunctions aplenty this morning, but I am very happy to say that nothing slipped out of place for the entirety of the event.

The event was held at Momiji, a relatively new Japanese restaurant in Capitol Hill on 12th Avenue near Pike Street.  It has an absolutely beautiful interior including a central Japanese courtyard which is like a secret oasis from the urban setting outside the restaurant.  I was greeted warmly and provided with a name badge with a cute dragon emblem, signifying the new year.  Mitchell-sensei found me easily in the crowd, though she has only met me once before at the Setsubun Chakai in 2010.  I spent some time chatting with a gentleman who teaches Iaido and later, by pure luck, I was seated with a local teacher of Omotesenke who had wonderful stories to tell.  Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushakojisenke are the 3 houses/families of Japanese tea ceremony, started by the grandsons of Sen no Rikyu.

[Momiji 2013]

[Year of the Dragon Name Tag]

We were treated to Ryurei (seated at a table) tea ceremony performed by Bonnie Mitchell-sensei, the Director of EWCC.  The carved box-like stand (misonodana) she used was designed for presentations for the imperial family.  We were fortunate to be able to hold and look at the bowls presented to the Guests of Honor.  I was told that they were quite rare and priceless and generally would not be passed around as they were.  After the tea and sweets, we enjoyed a delicious kaiseki buffet.

[Kaiseki at Momiji]

Other Highlights:
  • Speaking at length with the local Omotesenke sensei.
  • Guy on the street telling me he liked my "getup."
  • First successful attempt at nijuudaiko obi tying!  I admit to cheating with a biyosugata and have no regrets. 
  • One of the recent students is also the artist who designed Momiji's light fixtures, Yuri Kinoshita.  Olson-sensei told me that she created a paper tearoom and they're trying to come up with a tea event where they could talk her into taking it out of storage for us to use. 
  • This was the first event for the newly formed EWCC (East-West Chanoyu Center) which was previously Urasenke Foundation Seattle Branch.  Due to the financial hardships brought on by economic downturns and the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Urasenke home branch had to cut funding to its Seattle branch.  EWCC will continue unchanged, aside from the name. 
  • We were treated to a song from the famous Noh play, Tsurukame performed by Kumiko Negishi-Lawrence.  A most auspicious selection for the event.
Now that I've willing thrown myself into a formal tea event, I'm feeling much, much less anxious about the lessons beginning next Saturday.

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