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April 18-24

April 18

Monday started with a weekly quiz. This one, for us newer students, was supposed to be on the basics of mizuya and the names of tearoom elements, though I don't remember any questions about the latter. The questions were not so much on the lecture material as on what we had been taught—or not taught—during afternoon practice, during which note-taking is difficult to impossible since it's forbidden in the tearoom. I think I did fairly well on the quiz; maybe I'll find out tomorrow, at which time we'll have another one.

Following the quiz all of the students filed into a large classroom to hear o-iemoto's (bi-monthly?) lecture. For the benefit of those of us who don't understand much Japanese, Hamana-sensei and Gary-sensei took turns simultaneously interpreting into English through a set of short-range radios, but even though we tested them beforehand the setup didn't work in practice, maybe because the microphone wasn't picking up the quiet voices they used so as not to disturb the lecture itself. So I didn't really understand o-iemoto's lecture. :( Afternoon practice was bonryaku. Uneventful. In the evening June and I shopped for things for the next day's mizuya mimai. She made poke (a hit) and inarizushi, I made panfried mochifu, and we added some grapes, edamame, and bottled green tea.

April 19

On Tuesday one of our senpai held his hango chaji, a type of chaji that takes place after the guests have already eaten, so the host only serves sweets and tea. The idea of doing this type of chaji is that it's somewhat manageable for someone at our level. Even so, as guests we helped out in various ways that normally would be covered by the host. In the morning we brought the mizuya mimai and cleaned several of the rooms in Chado Kaikan as well as the garden areas, where most of the work was picking up fallen bamboo leaves, since spring is "bamboo autumn". We didn't have time to do a really thorough job, since we needed to hurry back to the dorm to change into our formal kimono and then to the cafeteria to eat lunch.

After a lunch that actually ended up being less rushed than usual, we gathered at Chado Kaikan, quietly avoiding some meeting that Okusama was holding there at the same time, and made our way to the yoritsuki to remove our tabi covers and leave our belongings (and, in the men's case, to put on their hakama). And this is where I'll wave my hands for now, dear reader, because there is much to write about the chaji, and I should be getting some sleep. I hope to fill in this part before my memory of it fades too much. Feel free to pester me if I forget.

April 20

Wednesday morning's lecture was an introduction to chashitsu by Hamana-sensei, whose overview of the requirements and design constraints of chashitsu is informed by some architectural training. A chashitsu requires a number of facilities outside the tearoom itself, including places for the guests to change their tabi and leave their belongings (genkan/yoritsuki), gather and wait for the chaji to begin (machiai), calm down and prepare spiritually for the drinking of tea (koshikake machiai), purify themselves (tsukubai), and rest while the host prepares for the second half of the chaji (koshikake machiai again). And the host needs places to prepare utensils and food, including the heating of water and charcoal, and means to move between the garden, preparation room, and tearoom unseen by the guests. I was interested to hear also about the psychological impact a chashitsu should have on guests and the ideas of 'cocooning' (Hamana-sensei says the Japanese have a preference for small spaces, a preference that I suspect I share) and tranquilization through the control of stimuli.

For afternoon practice, our class had Hamana-sensei for the only time this week, but he was in a bad mood! He was particularly not interested in hearing comments about how our teachers back home taught us to do things differently from how he was teaching us. I'd been warned about this by my teacher back home and advised to adapt to whatever ways I was being taught at the time. Some of my classmates have a hard time, when they encounter the different way of doing something, keeping from commenting about the difference; I suppose my strong skill in inhibition serves me well here. :/ Still, we tried our best at bonryaku and avoided causing our teacher any further irritation.

April 21

Thursday morning's lecture was on rekidai by Gary-sensei. Rekidai refers to the successive generations of heads of Urasenke, from Sen no Rikyu to the present day. But this lecture just started with Rikyu and focused on utensils that he preferred or designed, including the Amidado kettle, Shigaraki ware pottery, chashaku with a node in the center, Rikyubashi (long, unlacquered wooden chopsticks tapered on both ends), shibugamide 渋紙手 utensils that mimic the color and texture of kakishibugami 柿渋紙 (paper treated with persimmon juice), and many more. One slide showed a glimmering image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's gold-leaf-covered portable tea room in what I presume was an example of the kind of extravagance Rikyu was against.

Afternoon practice was more bonryaku, this time with Imagawa-sensei, whose grace and gentleness leaves us students in awe. He speaks with us in Japanese but is quick to switch to English when it's clear we're not understanding him.

April 22

Friday morning's lecture was on seasonal topics for May. I can tell this is going to be one of my favorite kinds of lecture. We covered flowers that appear in May, various poetic names for the month, the solar terms that occur in May, festivals and traditional events that occur in May, the tradition of beginning to pick tea leaves on the 88th day after Risshun, the Tokugawa-era procession of the shogun's tea jars from Uji to Edo, the processing of green tea, and the history and traditions of Children's Day.

I practiced chitosebon for first time in the afternoon. Chitosebon is a temae created by Tantansai's wife for his sixtieth birthday; in it the utensils are carried inside a circular lacquered black box similar in size and shape to a round hat box. This was our first session with Ro-sensei, one of the teachers who doesn't speak English, but he didn't say a great deal. We had looked at some reference materials beforehand so we had a rough idea of how the temae goes. At first it felt strange to be putting down my fukusa with my left hand, but when you're putting it down to your left, it's less awkward than the alternative.

That evening it was my turn to do haigata for my class—that is, to sculpt the ash formation for the brazier we'll use on Monday. The hour of time we have in the evenings at Gakuen is plenty of time for the cleaning chores but not nearly enough time for a newbie doing haigata, so after an hour's effort I put mine aside to finish over the weekend.

April 23

my new chabakoOn Saturday morning June and I took advantage of a 50% off sale at Kitagawa, one of the local chadogu shops. We picked up chitosebon-sized kobukusa, and I fixed myself up with a gorgeous chabako set, the box made of unlacquered wood cut with a watery motif. We treated one of our senpai to a gourmet shojin-ryori lunch at Izusen for helping us with the evening cleaning chores even though the senpai are not obligated to do them (a subject of some controversy). He in turn treated us to aburimochi at Ichiwa. If that last sentence sounds familiar, that's the same place where Kido-san treated me to aburimochi last weekend. I'm so lucky! On the way back to our respective dorms we stopped at a ceramics gallery on Kitaoji-dori with some really funky but expensive pieces.

April 24

my first haigataThis morning I spent 2.5 more hours on my first haigata. Gah. The end state for this kind of thing, at my stage of learning, is not so much "finished" as "given up".

June and I headed downtown afterward for a tenzarusoba lunch at 鶴喜そば and secondhand kimono shopping at Chicago. I got a couple of kimono, one of them a light green iromuji that might in retrospect need some cleaning, and a couple of obi to match. We were not quite sure about the distinction between summer (July/August) and non-summer obi, so we stuck with ones we're pretty sure are of the latter type. We walked around the basement food floor of Takashimaya a bit, but by then we were exhausted from the heavy bags, hordes of people, and rain outside, so we took a bus back to our neighborhood. A nap was really tempting, but I stopped in at Tsuruya Yoshinobu instead for namagashi and bowl of usucha, and that carried me through the rest of the evening, including a nice video Skype chat with my parents. Thank goodness for in-room Internet access.

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/15835.html.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
May. 9th, 2011 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you for writing about all this in such detail! I really enjoy reading although the depth of much of it is so far past my level of understanding of tea that I don't have much to say in return. But it's awesome!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )