Chanoyu in the morning

20090712-20090712-IMG_0603In life I have found that there is always something that feels urgent, something that just has to be done at once. Chanoyu gives me great enjoyment and peace of mind, but it is never urgent. I’ll always be able to do it tomorrow, so that I can handle the urgent things today. However, when tomorrow arrives there are still urgent things to do. Even if I completed all the high priority items on my itinerary yesterday, there will be new ones today.

Therefore I have decided that at least once a week I’m going to make Tea my first priority. Which means it shall be the first thing I do that day. Today was the first such day. I got up 20 minutes before I normally would. Even before I went to the bathroom I put on the water boiler. I made a few slices of bread which I ate while preparing the tea-space and utensils. I’m fortunate to have it all in my apartment. I finished eating and preparing at the same time. Then I spent approximately 30 minutes making myself a bowl of koicha in the dark. It was a very nice way to begin the day.

Afterwards, I cleaned the utensils and did the other tasks of the morning. I left for work about 10 minutes late, but in a very good and peaceful mood.

Why begin with Ryakubon.

20040221-20040221-IMG_0382_14_1I’m wondering how common it is for teacher to start teaching their new students Ryakubon. I my self started learning Hakobi, since that was the only temae my teacher knew. I have been thinking that maybe it would be beter to start the students with Ireko-date rather than Ryakubon.

Historical perspective
In Rikyus day a new student would not begin learning Ryakubon, in fact they would not even start with Hakobi. They would start their studies with the highest temae, learning how to serve Tea using a daisu and a formal setting. Only when their experience grew did they simplify before finaly arriving at Hakobi as a Tea master. Somewhere around the 1700 this order was reversed. So that we today start our journey into Tea with the simplified temaes.

The virtues of Ryakubon
I have been asking myself; What is the virtue of Ryakubon that makes it the preferred first temae? I can’t think that many. However, I can think of a lot of reasons why it is not.

We are told that Ryakubon does not require much in the way of utensils. comparing the list of required utensils to that of Hakobi there are only a few items that differ.

Why Irekodate
The main argument for starting with Irekodate for me is that it allows a softer transition in to the other temae. Where as there is a large gap between Ryakubon and Hakobi, it is much smaller for Irekodate to Hakobi. Also it allows all the students in a class to use the same setup of furo/ro instead of having to set up specially for the beginning students.

I thought about it, why not start with Hakobi, why Irekodata? Mostly because Irekodate is quicker, so that the beginning studentd does not have to sit seiza for a long time, and it does not require Haiken. One might skip Haiken to shorten Hakobi, but from personal experience I know the students will learn that Haiken is something extra, something special not a natural part of the Hakobi temae. Therefore I think Irekodate is better as it does not need any modifications or adaptations.

Also if one only wants to learn one temae I personally think that Irekodate is the perfect choice.

Finally I cant think of a single movement in Irekodate that is not immediately usefull for the student in other temaes or in the mizuya.

Practical experiences
I haven’t taken any new students in a while, I want to wait untill I have a proper Tea-room. Therefore I haven’t been able to se how it works to begin teaching a student Irekodate.

As mentioned before I started learning Tea with Hakobi, but without haiken. I felt this worked very nicely. However, our teacher did not teach us about haiken. It was only after studying in Japan for 6 months that haiken felt as a natural part of the temae and not as somthing added.

I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts about this, and if you have any experience with starting a students journey into Tea with anything beond Ryakubon.

Kyojo

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.

Conclusion
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

Chaire

Since I made my first chawan I have wanted to make chaire. I have tried sculpting one using the same technique that I use when I make chawan, without any success. I do not own a potters wheel, and have neither space nor money for one. So that is not a option either.

In 2007 before Christmas I learned to make cups using a mold and liquid clay. A year later I have now acquired the ingredients for making my own molds.

This image series shows me making a chaire mold and finally a chaire.

Beginner’s Mind

Every Tea teacher I ever met has emphasized the beginner’s mind. I have a long way to go before I understand this principle, but I learned a bit about the meaning while I was in New York.

After a long week, in which I had attended a computer course and done my best to see all the sights of New York City, I felt ready to do some Tea. Late Friday evening I looked up the New York branch on the web. They had classes on Saturday. Since it was late I had no time to make arrangements in advance. I figured I could just go there in the morning and ask politely if I could join for this one session.

When they did not have room in their class I was very disappointed. Why? Their web page gave no indication that drop-in students were permitted, on the contrary, it gave the impression that it was a bit of hassle to become a student. Still I expected that it would work out. Why? Having done Tea in several different cities (Oslo, Sapporo, Kyoto, Prague, and London) I have always had the distinguished pleasure of meeting very accommodating and kind Tea people. So I had come to expect an unreasonable amount of kindness from Tea people. Which is very much not a beginner’s mind.

The first Tea person I met was Mr. Westad. He had a presentation at Kunstindustrimuseet in Oslo. After the presentation, I asked if there was any books one could learn Tea from. He said there wasn’t, but I could come to his home and he would teach me. I remember how happy and surprised I was by this invitation.

I think in this situation that a beginner’s mind would approach the New York branch with no expectation of being accommodated, and would not be disappointed by this result either.

Shu Uemura Art of Hair Norway 2

lorealAfter the success with the last presentation, we were invited to hold another presentation for L’Oreal. Unfortunately my guest from last time, Stig, was not available this time.

I was able to convince Anne (girlfriend) to be my guest for the presentation. She have been my guest many times when I have done tea at home, but this was her first presentation. She finds seiza very painfull, so we agreed that she would sit agaru (with the legs crossed in front).

Our presentation was part of a course L’Oreal held for hair dresses in regards to the Shu Uemura Art of Hair products. The venue for this presentation was not as nice as last time. But then again you can’t expect to have a place as nice as Dragonfly each time. The setup of the presentation area can bee seen on the image above. The students brought their own chairs, and were able to sitt very close to the stage. I hope this helped make it a more intimit experience.

At the end of the presentation when I turned to put out natsume for haiken I noticed that Anne was sitting in seiza. I was very surprised, and asked here afterwards. Apparently she had sat down the “wrong” way and realized it too late.

On our way back home Anne said that this was the most relaxing Tea experience she had had to this day. This got me thinking, I haven’t invited her for a propper tea event yet. She has only been at training sessions. I will have to do something about it.

Shu Uemura Art of Hair Norway

shu1 On September 2nd Loreal released the Shu Uemura Art of Hair line of products in Norway, but why am I writing about it?

First of all since I was there, well not in a guest capacity, but I was there. More about that later. Through these products they seek to give their customer an experience of relaxation, comfort and luxury. Being a Japanese product it has drawn inspiration from the experience of chado and therefore they wanted a presentation as part of the release.

Stig and myself ended up doing this presentation because the association didn’t have anyone that could do it, and am I glad we did! First of all the event was hosted at Dragonfly, and Asian inspired spa in Oslo. We did tea on a stone path crossing over a small square pond. The room was very still, only a low sound of running water and the accustomed sounds of tea being made could be heard, even though there were more 40-50 people in the room. For the presentation the audience had seated them selves at the floor.
We showed hakobi usucha and had a short speech. This is shu2without doubt the best presentation I have been part of in Norway, and not because of my effort. The place was awesome, and the audience were even better. They were attentive and had an obvious interest in what we were showing.

I’m very happy that we did this presentation. I will hopefully get some photos from the event and will share it with you here. (Probably in about 3 weeks).

Letter from Loreal, only in Norwegian:

 

Jeg vil få lov å takke deg for en fantastisk seremoni i går! Kundenevar så fornøyd og følte at de hadde fått være med på noe helt unikt!

Håper det kan være mulighet for å kontakte deg igjen senere hvis vi skulle ha behov for noe lignende?

Igjen – tusen takk!shu3

The tana documentation project, 2

This weekend I finally had some time to start on the tana project. I have updated the Tana page with more general20070129-20070129-IMG_2663a information about ko-dana and I have created detailed pages for Koko-dana and Maru-Joku.
Furthermore, I created a new page with a list of all the Konomi that I found during the research. Having made the Konomi list, I decided that this information should also be available under each tea master, so I included it under Rikyu, Sotan and Gengensai. This way, a small part of the Konomi page is shown at the bottom of each of the pages about the tea mastersand it is updated automatically.

I hope you find this information useful, and that you will continue to contribute to the project. There are still many tanas to document. I do not own more tanas myself, and will therefore be unable to take photos of any other tana. If you have access to a tana, I would greatly appreciate if you would take images of it, if possible with other utensils placed correctly inside.