20050310-20050310-DSCN0641 I had studied Tea for two-three years before I heard anything about kyojo, since then I have heard a lot of different opinions and view about them. I’ll discuss a few of them in this post.Concept
Kyojo is a permission to study a certain group of temae. Nyumon encompass the first temae each student is thought. Logically you should be given this kyojo upon your enrollment for a Tea class. To this day I have never heard of anyone receiving this before starting to learn. Most people that I have talked to have received Nyumon, Chabako and Konarai as a group when they are about ready to start learning the Konarai temae. I my self received them only after having studyed both Chabako and Konarai for a while.Permission to study and/or proof of achievement

I think everybody are familiar with the belt system of the many different martial arts. In most you will have a grading, which take place at one of your clubs events. All the members of club are welcome to attend and watch as you prove that you are worthy of the next grade.
I have heard that some teachers do a similar thing for Tea. I was told by my teacher that he would watch the Shikaden temae I was about to perform and decide whether or not I was ready/worthy of the Okuden kyojo. Others have a test where the student must be prepared to do any of the Konarai, and they will draw one or two on random like an exam.
From what I have witnessed I conclude that even if the true meaning of kyojo is a permission to study it also infers a proof of achievements to a certain degree. You even get a nice calligraphy that you can hang on your wall to display your achievements.There is more than one way to obtain a kyojo.
Ideally I assume that you would be given a kyojo at the point in time when your teacher deems you ready to start learning the more advanced temae. There is a lot of buts with this, especially for people outside Japan. I’ll talk about some of them later on. Here is a few different ways you might obtain a kyojo:

Maybe you can just ask your teacher kindly if he or she thinks you are ready for the next kyojo. In places with out a local teacher you may not be allowed to make this request yourself, it is the president of the local association that must request it for you. This was the case when I got my Shikaden kyojo.

Some people has gotten their kyojo by requesting it 20050310-20050310-DSCN0652directly from Oiemoto or Daisosho because all other methods failed. The request was probably done through Kokusaibu.

You could be at a party with a high ranking official were the topic of kyojo is brought up by one student who was dissatisfied with her kyojo level in relation to the long time she had studdied. The official my than utter the words “Every body up one level.” followed by a stern look at the Tea teacher that happened to be at the same party. Sounds unreal right? Well it’s the way I got Nyumon, Chabako and Konarai. We had requested it from our teacher, but no progress had been made until the party.

There are rumors about teachers who push kyojo on their student once a year, or the minimum interval. You ask, why would a teacher do that? Greed! You probably know that there is a fee associated with the kyojo. A significant amount of that fee is for the teacher. So the teacher has economical reasons for doing this. Up the same alley of greed are the rumors that some “teachers” let students just buy the kyojo with out studying.

According to rumors some people are bestowed a kyojo of the highest level as an honor, much like an honorary doctor at a university. When I heard about this I did not like it, but the more I think about it the more I realize that this is very much in line with the principle that kyojo are permission to study and to prof of achievements.

The use of kyojo

Kyojo is a permission to study a group of temae, from this I logically conclude that if you do not have the kyojo you should not be allowed to study the temae. This logic gets very iffy with Nyumon, but I have certainly heard it practiced with Shikaden.When are you studying a temae? Tea students are practiced in learning by watching their fellow students do temae. There is a commonly used expression kengaku which means to study by watching. So are you studying a temae by watching your sempai do it? I have witnessed three distinctly different views on this:

Yes! You may be asked to leave the room when they are doing the temaes you do not have permissions to learn. I have seen this practiced with Shikaden and Okuden, but never with the lower temae. I guess there is no point in preventing a student from seeing a particular temae when that same students can buy a book or video showing the temae in great details.

No! It is just plainly impractical to ask students to leave the room while their sempai does a temae. Not to mention who are you going to handle this if you only have one or two students with the kyojo. You’d probably want one of them being the host, the other to prepare for next temae, who then will be the guests?

Who cares? Some teachers will teach you any temae as long as you pay the lesson fee and have the necessare knowledge/skill. Usually that means you must be able to do the lower temaes with only minor mistakes, and you already know the major points of the new temae.

As mentioned I have witnessed all these. I have been asked to leave the Tea-room while my sempai did Shikaden, but I have also been invited back to the same room to fill the role as guest because they ran out of people. And I have found teachers and sempais that thought me Shikaden  and Okuden long before I got the kyojo for it.

Tagged along with the kyojo are a set of other permissions and licenses. Namely Hikitsugi, Sei-Hikitsugi, Chamei and Monkyo. Especially the first two are troublesome in use. They are the assisting teacher and teacher license. I guess that all but the most fortunate of Tea-students have at some point or another been to classes thought by their sempais, most of which did not have the licenses. I know I did. My first teacher was not licensed. I started teaching even before I knew what kyojo was, which was probably not the best of idead but there was no one else that could do it.

Personally I like the kyojo, they give me a sense of achievements. When I was a new student they gave me something to strive for. The secret temaes were very exciting to learn, as you had to puzzle the information together from what different teachers and sempai told you. However, I wish they kyojo was officially treated as token of achievements. Because today I feel they are related to achievements and not to permission, but the official policy is the opposite.Publish Post

9 Replies to “Kyojo”

  1. Thank you so much for writing this post! It is a relief to know that it isn’t so unusual for me to have been studying at an Urasenke branch for (in my case, 4+) years and not yet have any kyojo. I do wish there were some resolution to the dual conceptions of kyojo as permission versus kyojo as achievement, but I’m glad to hear that this issue is not a matter of something being “wrong” with the branch in my area.

    In my case I am hoping to apply to the Midorikai Short-term Study Program so that I can study at Urasenke for several days when I visit Kyoto in October. But I understand applicants must have at least Konarai kyojo, so if I am to have any hope of applying my teacher would have to support my getting the Nyumon, Chabako, and Konarai kyojo within the next few months.

  2. I have all the Kyojo. It took three years of full time Midorikai study and then some. Eventually Daisosho created the Ichiukai for people who had a minimum of three years full time Midorikai according to the original way. I got the chamei and the rest 17 years after beginning studying, but then I never applied for anything. They just gave it to me in due time.

    I have seen a lot of people do temae, who according to their years of study and service, kyojo etc. are very advanced in the system, however miserable. Among my students are many with all the kyojo obtained from another teacher, but who still struggle with basics. So I have no respect for the Kyojo system at all. As Marius writes, some just buy them without being qualified.

    In such a world I disregard Kyojo and just teach everybody according to their ability, being very strict and demanding perfection. I wish to pass on my knowledge on to those who qualify for it, my aim being to share what I have learnt with so many as possible, even if I may remain poor and outcast in the Kyojo system. The esoteric secret teachings for money is a symptomatic problem of Japan since olden days and a hindrance for the liberation tea was meant to be by the masters of the formative period.

    I am afraid the official policy continues just like in the rest of the Japanese educational system (it is not inherent to the study of tea) because it is good for business and that another system of qualification is necessary to prove real achievement.

    But then, sadly, this has never been a major concern throughout Japanese history where membership of and rank (a person with better initial credentials, like family line, wealth etc. automatically has a higher position than one with lesser credentials, even if that person is more qualified) within a group remains more important than actual achievement within the proclaimed aims of the group.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. It is important, especially for non-japanese, who may be confused by the many inconsistencies they may experience. But then that is really Japanese.

    From Søren Bisgaard on Feb 2 2009, 9:58am on Plaxo

    PS: This was a message from Søren, that I share with you as a comment.

  3. Marius,

    Thank you for this post. Katie, when I was at Midorikai, there was no requirements for kyoju, but this may have changed since I was there. Most of my class had studied Chado for less than 6 months and two of them had never studied at all. If you have as much experience as you do, then you will do fine.

    I have kyoju up through chamei, and it took me about 22 years. I never asked for them, my senei(s) just told me that they were applying for them and told me the fee and orei to be paid.

    My sensei let us watch sempai do konari, but she taught shikaden on a different day for those with kyoju, and okuden was only studied in a special class once a month.

    Since I began teaching, I have not emphasized attaining kyoju. The first Nyumon, Konarai and chabako licenses I ask serious students (studying for at least one year) to apply for so that there is a record somewhere in Headquarters that they are students and tied to the tradition and lineage of Urasenke. If they should ever visit Kyoto, they will be treated as such.

    Beyond that, I do not emphasize the attainment of the kyoju. If students were not to progress beyond hirademae, that is fine with me. If students want further certification I will teach them. There are students who are nearly to shikaden and have no interest in kyoju. For my beginning students, I try to emphasize how to incorporate chado into everyday life.

    I have been in tea groups where the competition to attain kyoju was very fierce and students demanded teachers apply for the next one as soon as they received one; where students who wanted to take their time were ridiculed for being slow or stupid.

    In chado, I think, you get out of it just as much as you put into it.


  4. Margie,

    The konarai requirement is for Midorikai’s Short-Term Study Program, as I understand it, not for Midorikai’s regular year-long program. It makes a certain amount of sense to me, since a new student (i.e., one with no previous experience) could not hope to “drop in” for a few days in the middle of a term at Midorikai and understand what’s going on.

    The problematic issue, as I see it, is the intersection of Urasenke headquarters’ expectation that experienced students will have kyojo and individual branches’ de-emphasis of kyojo (to the point of not getting them for students). Most of the time, that disconnect seems not to matter. In cases where a minimum kyojo is required for participation in some activity, though, it seems to me that it does matter.

  5. Marius, your short-term was in 2002.

    Katie, I agree that you should have your konarai kyojo before the short-term study so you feel comfortable with what is happening there; however, knowing your experience I believe you would do just fine without the kyojo itself. Marius was invited to attend by Daisosho so of course no one bothered with the rules at that point. If you need proof of study in order for Kokusaibu to let you do the short-term visit I bet a letter from your teacher would suffice. Of course using this as a chance for you to get the kyojo from your teacher is nice as well. Let us know how it goes, I’ll write you a letter of recommendation if it would help.


  6. I don’t think there can be a right or wrong to any of this.

    Different teachers and students have their strengths and weaknesses and so does the system itself. The kyojo system is reward, permission, and certification simultaneously depending on a multitude of factors that can be chosen in any combination depending on who is doing the decision making.

    Knowing that, I too find it hard to interpret how I feel about kyojo. I have studied with many teachers who all had their own methods stemming from their own levels of knowledge and interpretations. They all have their reasons and I don’t feel like judging them, actually I appreciate all their views, making it even harder to sort out how I personally deal with kyojo and interact with the system.

    Essentially I have never been able to ask for kyojo for myself and I get suspicious of those who do. Ideally I always thought the teacher should judge the potential and ability of the student and move them along in their studies accordingly, and if that teacher and student wish to do so by using kyojo, fine. If students don’t want to use the system it’s nice if the teacher respects that and continues to teach them. More problems arise if the teacher doesn’t like the system and the student wants to use it. Either way teacher or student might try to demand that the other follow the “rules” at which time the relationship crumbles into a contractual obligation and no longer a connection from heart to heart. No longer an ideal situation.

    Realistically but still trying to keep as much of the ideal as possible, we outside of Japan are afforded a little flexibility in how we approach the system. The harder part isn’t in how to personally interpret the use of kyojo but how to get your interpretations to coincide with Kyoto when you wish to maintain a relationship with Urasenke headquarters.

    Seems to me (just my own opinions now) that if a teacher and a student are going to work with and within the system best would be to give the Nyumon as soon as a student seems like they are going to stick around. After that it depends on the student’s diligence and abilities, only slightly taking into consideration other factors, because there are always going to be exceptions.


  7. abry: Since writing my original comment, I received my nyumon, chabako, and konarai kyojo. So I’m finally squared away with kyojo. Thanks for your kind offer, though!

  8. Very late to this party, but I wanted to comment with my own experience.

    I am a student in a small tea group which is a distant satellite of a much larger tea organisation. Our group is perhaps 30-40% non-Japanese. So far, my sensei has been very open-minded about kyojo. We students can continue up quite a few levels without having kyojo as a prerequisite, however, people are welcome to receive the kyojo for the temae they are learning/about to learn if they wish. In every case I can think of, it so happens that the people who have opted for kyojo are the seniormost students. But it’s been completely up to us.

    The reason I decided to opt for kyojo, and pay my annual dues to Urasenke Tankoukai, was twofold. The first was to keep my options open in terms of studying elsewhere (full-time Midorikai is probably an unattainable dream at my age, but the short-term programme is not). Secondly, I felt that my sensei might be regarded with more respect in the hierarchy if she had a number of students holding kyojo, rather than not, and I wanted to do my best to encourage that. I’m very grateful to my teacher for being so devoted to her small circle of students, and I felt that accepting kyojo not only demonstrated to here that we are serious, but that she can demonstrate it to others in turn who might matter to her. In retrospect that was probably hugely naive… but it was my thinking at the time.

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