Happy New Year! Thank you for your support of Entoten in 2019 through visiting my website, offering comments, interacting through the blog and SNS, and purchasing work at my gallery and online shop. I would like to ask for your continued support in 2020, so that I can keep on sharing the work and stories of the people who have dedicated their lives to carry on the tradition of handmade craft for use.
For this first blog post of 2020, I would like to share the story of my first tea demonstration that was mortifying and uplifting at the same time.
My new year began by taking part in the Hatsugama, which literally means the first kettle, for San Diego Urasenke Tea School’s annual tea event. This year’s preparation for the event was a little more stressful than usual because I was instructed to prepare tea in front of about 120 guests.
I was required to follow the procedure called Misonodana, a way of serving tea using tables and chairs. This style of tea preparation is called ryurei, and was first introduced to the world by Gengensai, the 11th head of Urasenke for the 1872 International Exposition in Kyoto so that Western visitors could be served tea while comfortably sitting in chairs in a non-traditional Japanese setting.
In most matcha preparations, the water is scooped and poured with a bamboo ladle called hishaku, which is one of the most difficult utensils ever invented to master the use in chanoyu. It is very easy to spill, drip, or dribble water while using the hishaku. But when the utensil is used masterfully, it is beautiful to watch and the sound of the water poured from a hishaku is one of the highlights of the tea preparation.
The other issue with the hishaku that I discovered when preparing this year’s tea is that when I’m nervous, it is very difficult to stop it from shaking. The more I tried to stop, the more my hands trembled. It was devastating.
After I finished my demonstration I told my sensei that because I was so nervous, I could not stop the hishaku from shaking and it was very difficult to prepare the tea. Her response was unexpected. She laughed and said, “that’s perfect. That’s the attitude you should always have when you prepare a bowl of tea. Prepare every bowl, like you did today.”
I wanted to prepare tea smoothly and elegantly because, after learning chanoyu for 6 years, I naively believed that I should have been able to carry out the procedure without any problem. But after hearing what sensei said, I realized that my desire missed the point of tea completely. I also felt a little better that I was able to make a good bowl of tea for the guests.
I hope that 2020 will be a year full of eye-opening discoveries like this for you too.