Friday, December 30, 2011


 On an incredibly rainy day Hallie and I headed to Tokyo to go to a Tea Ceremony that all the Tea Teachers and Clubs were doing.
 We were told it is near the Four Seasons hotel, so we used their dressing rooms to change and get ready.
 We'd been told to 'follow the ladies in kimono.'  Joke's on us.  There are a lot of weddings at the Four Seasons, everyone wearing kimono.  So, we ended up trying to find the place from the opposite end of the park.  Finally we found it.  Notice all the raingear on their slippers.  Now I know why they're all high heeled... so you can keep yourself out of the rain puddles!
 Rhonda's husband, Tim helped to serve tea.  He met us at the front door.
 I loved the view from this room.
 We had to wait in rooms before going into the tea ceremonies.
 This room looked victorian in architecture, even had a fireplace at the end of the room.  Turns out, Shouuen, the house, was built by Prince Aritomo Yamagate.  He held meetings here, many with their newly acquired trade countries, like the states.
 The outside of this place was gorgeous.  The house and back garden is on a hill, called Chrysanthemum hill.  Below, following estate owners made a park, Chinzan-so and brought in a pagoda from Hiroshima, and items from Kyoto.
 The style of the house was very Kyoto-castle-ish with the large tatami rooms inside, and the hallways outside.  These women are admiring the wall hanging and other tea itmes.
 How can these people sit like this?  Well, we saw a few cushions going under their bottoms!
 Tatami mats have different edge bindings.  Green is common.  This decoration might be more Chrysanthemum.  Tsubaki is a very popular and much honored flower here in Japan with festivals for them, and different hybrids of them.
 They put out rugs to protect the tatami.  This is Rhonda's tea ceremony teacher in the pink, by the door.  Her daughter, Takami, speaks excellent English.
 Sorry it's fuzzy,but you see the heating pot on the far side and the tea 'canister' (more like a laqueur canister, but VERY nice) on the second to top shelf.  These are the items to prepare tea.
 I was sneaking pics without flash.  Rhonda is bowing to the person she placed the sweet in front of.
 These are the sweets you get to eat before having tea.  You bow to the person giving it to you, then bow to the person you're going to take a turn before, then use the hashi -chopsticks, in this case made out of natural wood, to serve yourself one piece.  Then you bow to pass it on.  You 'slide' it to the side. This is all very ritualistic, and we had to be schooled on it before we could come in to participate in one of the tea ceremonies.
 Takami is the one in white, she is now in front of the tea making area, and making tea.
 We are sliding them to others.
 Hallie taking hers.
 Every person brings their fan.  Often their fans show how long they've studied, and the 'line' of folks before them that it was passed down from... think DAR with a fan as a calling card.
They also have little pocket books to keep this special paper in.  You bring it out, fold it inside out (so the part is clean you'll put the cake on) and then fold it correctly afterwards.
You also get a little fork/knife to cut it.  You can just pick it up and eat it.  I made the mistake of cutting it.  CRUMBLES!  So I was trying to pick up all the crumbs in this small piece of paper.
 Tim serving tea.  They only had a symbolic one done in the corner.  They brought the hot tea out from behind the shoji screens.
 Rhonda's teacher observing.  I heard her telling others that she had American student.  This is RARE.  Learning tea ceremony is a lesson in patience and humility.  You think you're doing it right, and then they say, 'No, like this,' and move the item a millimeter.  How you hold your palms on your legs as you shuffle in... has to be just so...

But the meaningfulness of the ceremony, and the manners it shows how to do is really a very important cultural thing.  Only a few study the art of it.
 After the ceremony, you are to appreciate and admire items, like the ikebana.  A very famous teacher came and did the ikebana for this tea ceremony party.
 Now you can see better where they heat the water, and use the dipper to get clean water, etc.
 The rain finally stopped.  This house is so beautiful.  It is rarely used.  It is on the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Very few Japanese are ever allowed to see it.  I looked up blogs on it, and they get to see the outside gate, not inside!
 Our admission (invitation only, thank you Rhonda) included lunch.  These folks are putting the obento together.
 We also got hot miso soup and tea with it (no cerremony for the tea(.  The cake looking thing on the left was a meat cake, and good.  Rice in the back.  Orange thing was a mochi.  There was also a chestnut, piece of chicken, and seaweed salad.
 A couple of guys motioned us to go see parts of the house not used for the tea ceremonies.  Large tatami rooms like this is very palace like.  Interesting that they made a room in the house European, to host foreigners.
 Even the hallways had tatami.  This is an inner hallway.  The outer-hallway is behind the shoji screens to the right.  It gets progressively colder as you go towards the outside.
 This is part of a hand-crank elevator used to get things up to the second floor where there was a performance room.  We got scolded  by a lady, and the guys who let us take the pictures... vanished.  We stopped!  :)
 There are very old trees in the park.  This one is being held up.
 The fall colors were beautiful.
 Hallie and I.
 I loved this walkway to the true tea house that was out behind the big house.
 Loved all the umbrellas!
 We got the last 2 seats in the last ceremony held here.  This was a thick tea.  You pass it around, people take a sip and pass it on.  The last person holding it, has to drink the rest.  Hallie was the lucky one!
We ended up in a group of elderly women.  Several had actual pop out chairs to sit on, instead of their knees.  They'd obviously been taking tea ceremony lessons together for years and were hazing each other and joking.  They had fun with Hallie and I.  Hearing old Japanese ladies say their version of 'Chug, chug, chug!' was fun.  They didn't seem to mind that we were bungling our way through their sacred customs.
 We played, 'which kimono would you take home?' and this was mine.  Painted silk.
 Here's that same pathway looking from the tea house back towards the big house.  Gorgeous!
 The big house resplendent in colors of the season!
 This held water.  It is 5 feet tall!
 Rhonda, looking out from an outside hallway on the house.
 Rhonda's tea class, and their husbands who served tea in that room that day.  There were other rooms, and I learned there are other schools of tea ceremony.  Probably like PADI scuba and NAUI scuba.  A little different.
 This place was gorgeous, and all the woodwork was amazing.
Hallie posed by a lantern.  Items were huge here!  We had a fabulous time, and got to see what few foreigners get to see.  Besides us, Rhonda and Tim, there were only 2 others from the newspaper.

Now, the video!

1 comment:

The Anthony Family said...

Fantastic write up, Caroline! And your pictures are, as always, lovely!!! For something so sacred and seemingly benign, it sure could get me in a kerfuffle! (how DO you get the sticky sweet off the hashi? How do you bow with out sticking knocking your hands into your tea cup or getting your hair in it?!? How, exactly, do you wipe the cup clean, with a kimwipe, so you can "admire" it?!?). I had so much fun!!! And what a privilege!