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Welcome Chakai

On Thursday, September 29, 2011, the three of us 1Bs hosted a Welcome Chakai for the four 1As at Urasenke's Chado Kaikan. (The 1Bs are the senpai, currently those of us who entered in April, while the 1As are currently the newer students who entered in September.) A Welcome Chakai is not something that happens every semester in Midorikai; my understanding of the reason for having one this semester is mostly that since there are only three of us, as opposed to the usual four or more students, there was enough time for us to fit in an "extra" chakai/chaji beyond the ones we will each host individually, and since the students who enter in September don't get the opportunity to be part of the larger school-wide welcome events that take place in April (well, they'll still be around in April 2012 when their kohai arrive, but since they won't be new students it won't be so welcome-y), it seems like a good chance to welcome them. This gathering we hosted is maybe more properly called a chaji, though only a hango chaji, which is the type held after a mid-day meal, and so a meal is not necessarily served at the event. So this was a hango chaji very similar in form to the ones we'll host individually, except without any nakadachi (intermission). Each of us hosted a different part of the gathering: Andrei did the shozumi temae, I did the koicha temae, and Mika did the usucha temae. We tried to use as many utensils made by—or somehow connected to—previous generations of Midorikai students as possible; most of them are the property of Midorikai and reside in our utensil storage room at Kenshu Kaikan (currently the men's dormitory).

Here are the utensils we used:

Machiai 待合
Tabakobon 煙草盆Kozama-zukashi
Hi'ire 火入Vent de sel by Midorikai graduate Lue Foucher
Kumidashiwan 汲出し茶碗asahi-yaki
Kumidashibon 汲出し盆Finrando-saku by Pentik
Koshikake Machiai 腰掛待合
Tabakobon 煙草盆Tsurutsuki-marubon
Hi'ire 火入Chosengaratsu
Honseki 本席
Sumitori 炭斗don't remember; it was one of the sumitori that was already in Chado Kaikan
Kan 鐶rikyu-gata
Hibashi 火箸Tatami needle by Kimura Seigoro
Haiki 灰器Sasaki Shoraku
Haisaji 灰匙rikyu-gata
Ko 香byakudan
Kakemono 掛物"wa kei sei jaku 和敬清寂" yokomono by Hounsai Daisosho
Hana 花kikyou, mizuhiki, and another that I forget...
Hanaire 花入a kurogaratsu-yaki mimitsuki hanaire that I got in Karatsu-shi when I visited there this past August
Kama 釜matsuyama?
Furo 風炉doan mentori
Furosaki 風炉先purple Indian fabric, ordered by Gary-sensei
Mizusashi 水指four-sided mimitsuki with white and green glaze by Richard Milgram
Tana 棚marujoku (Sotan-konomi)
Kogo 香合Hawai'ian koa wood
Fuchidaka 縁高Shinnuri
Okashi お菓子Midori no Hoshi みどりの星 made by us
Chaire 茶入Taikai
Shifuku 仕覆Jukô-donsu
Koichawan 茶碗kuroraku by Sasaki Shoraku
Chashaku 茶杓福音(ふくいん?)by Midorikai graduate Andrew Hare
Futaoki 蓋置by Richard Milgram
Kensui 建水something borrowed from Hamana-sensei...
Koicha 濃茶Babamukashi 祖母昔 by Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten 上林春松本店, a perennial Midorikai favorite
Usuchaki 薄茶器ceramic Richard Milgram
Chawan 茶碗Irabo-style chawan by Midorikai graduate Lee Jeong-hwan
Kaejawan 替茶碗Mika's akaraku-style chawan, made and given to him by his senpai and teacher, Midorikai graduate Markku Peltola
Kaejawan 替茶碗"American" chawan, provenance unknown; we call it "American" because of the stars-and-stripes cord around its kiribako
Tabakobon 煙草盆Same as machiai
Hi'ire 火入Same as machiai
Usucha 薄茶Uzuru no Shiro 宇鶴の白 by Tsujirien 辻利園, a brand that we understand is familiar to our first guest; Mika reports that Uzuru no Shiro 宇鶴の白 is a Hounsai-konomi, but I suggested it (among Tsujirien's usucha line-up) because of the reference to the Apollo moon landing(s) on the description page
Higashi 干菓子edamame 枝豆-shaped higashi from Yuuzuki 遊月 (used by our senpai Karoliina in her hango chaji) and Polish marzipan left by our senpai Krzysztof and formed by us into red maple leaf shapes
Higashiki 干菓子器Polish higashibon
Mizu 水Somei no Mizu 染井の水 from Nashinoki-jinja 梨木神社

You'll notice we used three utensils—mizusashi, usuchaki, and futaoki— by Richard Milgram, a potter who is probably the most well-known dogu maker among past Midorikai graduates. Originally we were planning to use only the mizusashi and usuchaki made by him, but Hamana-sensei noted that if you're going to use several utensils with something in common, it's better that the set have odd rather than even cardinality (this is a rule of thumb generally in Japan, not just in tea). So we used a four-sided Milgram-made futaoki featuring the four cardinal directions in place of the futaoki we were going to use, which was one Mika had bought on our trip to Bizen this summer.

Mika and I had practiced making the omogashi Midori no Hoshi みどりの星 a few times, cutting the proportion of sugar because the amount called for in the recipe seemed extreme, and cutting the amount of kanten because it also seemed more than necessary and imparted a kanten-y flavor. We couldn't find Limoncello in our local big liquor store, Liquor Mountain, so we substituted a yuzu liqueur, which I think worked well. But. In our tests of this sweet, we had always refrigerated it immediately after making it, and we tasted it right from the refrigerator. I think we didn't realize how important the original kanten ratio and/or refrigeration were to the stability of this sweet, though, because we discovered on the day of the chaji that at room temperature, our reduced-kanten version starts to melt. We did end up using the refrigerator at Chado Kaikan, but not before our sweet had started to form little pools of liquid inside the fuchidaka, and I understand that several of our guests ended up having their brand-new packs of kaishi ruined by the messy sweet. Oops. Logistically, I think we also should have finished preparing this sweet (by cutting it into individual servings and topping with kinpaku) before arriving at Chado Kaikan instead of in the midst of morning-of preparations; it was only because there were three of us hosting that we didn't run into time trouble because of saving this to the last minute.

Overall this chaji went well, and if I'm focusing on things we could have done better, it's only because that's easier to notice and write about. That said, we were running a pretty messy mizuya until Hamana-sensei stepped in and told us to tidy up and get things off the floor. (During the temae we always had an instructor in the mizuya area with us, but during preparations that morning we were largely on our own, and since this was our first time as hosts, we didn't know about things like lining the mizuya shelves with sarashi.) Mizuya organization was one of the topics of our lecture this morning, actually, and the thing about mizuya is that everything has its place... for a limited subset of "everything". The problem is that many things you need for a chaji don't have a place in the mizuya, especially sweets and their serving utensils. And you need to find a place for the myriad boxes that utensils are stored in. Keeping a tidy mizuya requires constant vigilance.

I do wish I had been able to practice handling a short, wide taikai chaire more before the event, as I found it difficult to rotate while I wiped it with the fukusa. We had decided on this shape of chaire pretty well in advance because of its contrast to the shape of the ceramic usuchaki that we knew we wanted to use. I should have gone to my teacher(s) and requested to borrow one to practice with, instead of relying on one of my co-hosts who thought he had one I could borrow but discovered he didn't when it was too late for me to borrow one from elsewhere. I did practice the nagao knot to the point where I became relatively comfortable with it, but since I was practicing alone, there was nobody to point out that katatombo is for the chawan shifuku we use in chabako, not for chaire shifuku. (I practiced it in class a day or two before the chaji, but apparently the teacher wasn't watching very closely.) I was surprised at how little practice we did of the temae for this chaji—I would have expected we'd at least run through them once together the weekend or evening or morning before the event, but my co-hosts seemed to think it was unnecessary. I would have been much more comfortable if we had, but I guess they're on a different level of confidence with their skills than I am.

I apologize for the lack of photos. I didn't bring my (bulky) camera that day, and so far no one who did take photos has shared any with me. Given that those factors tend to repeat themselves and combine with my protectiveness of images taken at the school, I have fewer photos to record my experiences here than I'd like. I'm buying an extra-slim point-and-shoot camera that I can slip in my obi or kimono sleeve to try to remedy that.

This entry was originally posted at http://bokunenjin.dreamwidth.org/19764.html.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 13th, 2011 05:24 pm (UTC)
This is wonderfully informative. I'm sorry you had such trouble with the sweets. Would you like a bottle of limoncello shipped to you?
Oct. 14th, 2011 09:52 am (UTC)
Although I enjoy Limoncello, our particular use for it has passed, and there are so many other liqueurs here to enjoy that you ought not spend the money to ship me a bottle. Thank you for the offer, though!
Josh Haynes
Oct. 15th, 2011 04:30 pm (UTC)
the kettle was "mozuya," a design with a ring of 2 and 3 dots around the shoulder and hips. this particular one was nicely worn, one of kaikan's.
i was delighted by the tsujirien tea! i had only really been familiar with their "mampu no mukashi," which is a rather nice thick tea; the thin tea was delicious.
Oct. 16th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
Re: kettle
Ah, thanks for filling in that gap in my memory.

I'm glad you liked the usucha!
Oct. 28th, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
I just stumbled onto your site searching for something. I love all the information on the tea ceremony! I saw an NHK World documentary a few months ago on Richard Milgram but I forgot his name. I had been trying to rememeber it. And here you mentioned him. Thank you!

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )