Mar. 1st, 2014

sechan19: (anne)
Friday afternoon found the members of Team Ise participating in an extensive and complex tea ceremony, but once again I'm a little ahead of myself.

The tea ceremony was preceded by a lengthy lecture on the history of tea and tea usage in Japan, and it included a ton of useful information on present-day tea terminology and practice. Additionally, the tea master had selected a number of exquisitely beautiful tea objects for us to view during the lecture break. These included a hand-painted lacquerware water box, a gold-embossed lacquer tea caddy, and several beautiful tea bowls. Most of the objects featured imagery related to the famous sights of Ise—the Grand Shrine in Uji no Machi, the Toyouke Shrine in Yamada no Machi, and the Wedded Rocks located near the Futami Okitama Shrine. In terms of their quality, these tea objects were extremely luxurious and valuable, but in terms of their appropriateness to the season and location, they were without price. It was really lovely of the tea master to share these objects with us, to allow us to photograph them and hold them in our hands.

The tea ceremony itself was, as it often is, a grueling affair. I've learned shortened versions of the tea ceremony before, but never have I learned such a complicated version. This was not a tea ceremony lecture for beginners, and I felt rather like I had graduated. The extensive practice we did before the actual ceremony extended the amount of time we spent sitting in seiza (on the soles of the feet), but I appreciated that the master did not dumb the ceremony down for us. I felt it as a mark of respect. And I somewhat enjoy sitting in seiza, even when it becomes painful. There is something profound about pushing yourself beyond the physical sensations to fully savor the totality of the experience.

The tea, which was as excellent as expected, was served with a delicious sweet potato wagashi (Japanese-style sweet)—yet another Ise meibutsu (famous product) from the delicious food tour of Ise—that was chosen especially for us. The sweet was fashioned into a the shape of an ume (plum blossom), which is sometimes known by the more poetic name of harutsugekusa (lit. the blossom that announces the spring), another deeply appropriate choice for the season.

The tea ceremony is always a wonderful experience, and this particular tea ceremony—with its abundance of explanation and example—was no exception.

May 2014

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