Hello, blog readers!
I have a double whammy I’d like to share with everyone. I recently got to experience a tea ceremony demonstration from my host mother and sister at home, then followed up with another one from Sophia University as an optional event. It’s the difference between the two that I’d like to share with you, sorta’ to see the two sides of the approaches to the same traditional event.
Let’s begin with the tea ceremony I experienced at home.
It was pretty straightforward. Okaasan showed me the different tools used to prepare the tea, such as the chasaji, or “mini spoon” made of bamboo used to scoop the tea, the chasen, or whisk you mix the powdered tea with, and the chawan, or tea bowl, which you drink the tea in.
Macha is the specific Japanese powdered green tea that has a slightly bitter tang. It’s delicious, really. So Okaasan took out her tea tools, but she let my Imoto-chan take the lead and show me how it’s done. I was informed that the tea ceremony is a class you take in Jr. High school, while my host sister Imoto-chan took me step-by-step through the motions.
Firstly, using the chasaji, only two scoops of macha are used to make roughly 1/3 of the chawan’s capacity in tea. You then pour hot water onto the macha, and use the chasen you vigorously mix the contents until it’s an even darker green. Then, you lift the bowl by placing it on your left palm and using your right hand to turn the bowl clockwise twice.
Okaasan explained that this is done to appreciate the design and pattern on the bowl, or the shape of the bowl (chawan) you are about to sip tea from. Then you drink while your hands are held the same way. After being dubbed nekko-jita by Okaasan for being unable to drink my macha that hot (and lolled at a little—don’t worry, I can eat spicy food which leaves my host family in awe, so I got a laugh, too) I was shown how to wipe the portion you sipped from and then rotate counterclockwise in the same method. It ended just as abruptly, and was pretty informal.
While Okaasan had me at the dinner table with Imoto-chan, and a fascinated Otooto-kun watched along, the demonstration at school didn’t really involve me as much, nor did it get into the motions of the tea ceremony so much. Rather, it was all an explanation about the aesthetics of the tea ceremony and the psychology behind it. A faux tatami room was set up to add to the mood.
We observed the making of the tea from scratch, using very traditional methods, all the while the movements of the oba-san making the were constrained and deliberate, all radiating discipline. We had an announcer giving us the play-by-play of what she was doing. I kept mentally comparing it to Okaasan’s pouring hot water out of a hot water heater, and the four of us just sitting and laughing around the table, (me attempting to drink super hot tea), to what I was watching now. Although the aesthetics that were explained to us said that this ceremony was supposed to be one of relaxed airs and easy communication between the teishu (host) and the kyaku (guests), it was a far cry from Okaasan’s kitchen table.
We watched the wrap up with the guest thanking everything (not just the host, but the tea growers, the tea, the tea cup, the displayed wall scroll and the ikebana) and I didn’t get the same explanation for why to rotate the tea cup, to my surprise. Then the oba-san cleaned up everything on the spot in a very traditional way, and we all got to taste the macha they’d made behind the screen, along with a famous tea sweet called Momoyama from the Yamanashi Prefecture popular for such tiny cakes.
I liked this ceremony as well, but I feel like what we were shown was more of how it was done, old school. I guess the way Okaasan showed me would be more of the modern spin on a very, very old tradition. It still kept the idea and purpose behind the tea ceremony—to relax and enjoy one’s company and scenery—but it was done with less rigidity and more silliness.
Those cakes were so darn cute! I learned that you eat the sweet before you drink the tea, to equalize the bitterness. And it didn’t hurt that an adorable little kid was shuffling about serving them on a tray. Kawaii desu ne?
Thanks for dropping by, bloggers! Until my next omoshiroi event, Ja matta ne!