Thursday, January 10, 2019

East-West Chanoyu Center & Chado Through Japanese History at Sakura Con 2018

Japanese Tea Ceremony with East-West Chanoyu Center

I was fortunate to attend the first tea ceremony demonstration presented by East-West Chanoyu Center during Sakura Con 2018.

An introduction and narration was provided by Timothy Sowa Olson.  The host (Teishu) was Taylor, the main guest (Shokyaku) was Isaac, and the second guest (Kyaku) was Joann.  The scroll reads "Wakei Seijaku" which are the principles of tea.  "Wa" is harmony, "Kei" is respect, "Sei" is purity, and "Jaku" is tranquility.

Tea ceremony creates a profound bond between the participants.  Sen no Rikyu emphasized heartfelt hospitality, regardless of status, through aesthetic experience and skillful use of resources, creating a sense of warmth in winter and coolness in summer through shape, pattern, texture, and imagery.  In springtime (when this demonstration took place), camellia, cherry blossom, and iris motifs will appear on teaware and in sweets.

Sweets provided to the guests at the start of the ceremony help to balance the astringency of the matcha that will soon follow.  Before preparing the matcha, the host will adjust their position, using this time to empty their mind.  Before taking a sip, the guest will raise the bowl slightly to show respect (kansha) to the heavens, to nature, and to the efforts of the people involved in producing the tea.    

If you're interested in learning more about tea ceremony in Seattle, tea rooms include East-West Chanoyu Center in Hawthorne Hills, Shoseian in the Seattle Japanese Garden, and Ryokusuian, a 3-mat teahouse in the Seattle Art Museum.  Matcha and Mindfulness as well as introductory classes are held on Saturday afternoons and demonstrations are held at the Seattle Art Museum on third Thursdays.

Chado (Study of Tea Service) Through Japanese History with Nakagawa Masaye

Masaye-san's presentation began with a video of kencha, a ceremonial offering of tea to the deities, as part of Mifune Matsuri (the Mifune Festival).  The first bowl of matcha is an offering for the deity/deities, prepared with great care and carried to an ornately decorated boat.  The second bowl of matcha is served to a re-enactor of Lady Sei Shōnagon, Heian-era lady-in-waiting and author of the Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon

We learned that when the monk Essai originally brought tea seeds to Japan, he had to smuggle them because at that time in history China would sell tea, but not the seeds or plants. 

The great tea master Sen no Rikyū was a member of the merchant class which was ranked among the lowest social classes of the feudal era.  At that time tea implements were Chinese and tea ceremony was only for the wealthy, so Rikyū was forbidden to take part.  Instead, he was inspired to look for more austere tea tools of Japanese origin and developed a style of tea ceremony that is the basis for most Japanese tea ceremony today. 

Masaye-san also shared some of the differences between the wabi-cha of Rikyū and buke-cha (or buke-sado) of the warrior or Samurai.  The event concluded with a taste of matcha.

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