Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tea Ceremony - 'Chado'

I finally made it to a tea ceremony.  Well, more of a tea ceremony training.  Tea ceremonies are actually pretty rare from what I understand, and do not occur very often to the public.  There are some in certain areas of the country (more tourist areas) where you can be an observer and sit and watch.  But here on base the Japanese woman (Sensei) who coordinates all activities that have to do with international relations between the base and Japanese culture teaches how to participate as the host and observer at a tea ceremony.

One of my co-workers who was here last found out a wife who works on base attends these and offered her information to me for this visit.  I touched base with her in the first week I was here and set it up.  She was so nice....she picked me up and drove me over to the class.  It was wonderful!  Such an appreciation of culture, enjoyment of others, and respect for tools and traditions.  Which is probably one of the biggest reasons I enjoy being over here (despite missing Cam).  Everyone is quiet and respectful on the trains, people do NOT walk around on their cell phones - although they are texting constantly it seems.  Anyway, more on the differences in another blog...this is about tea!

But back to the tea ceremony....I sat for 2 hours on my knees on a woven mat raised off the floor in a room in one of the Japanese buildings on base.  I thought to myself 'easy, I can totally sit on my knees forever!  I use to be a catcher.'  Oh Heck no!  LOL  I was hurting!  But I was the guest as the woman who brought me practiced her host skills in performing the ceremony.  It is very reverent and quiet, but since she is learning and I was curious.  We had plenty of conversation about the tradition of the ceremony and the culture. 

What I did not realize is that the ceremony and rituals differ depending on the season, holidays and Japanese calander.  For example the type of ceremony I was able to participate in was using 'matcha', powdered green tea.  Beginning on February 21st the seasons change with the holiday that falls on that day and the tea changes to 'Koicha' - thick tea.  I will not bore you with all the details, since I am no pro.  But basically every movement, every tool, every piece of the ceremony is a precise, respectful, intimate ritual.  It was fantastic!  I will get an opportunity to attend one more of these classes and the Sensei offered me the opportunity to learn how to make the tea!  YAY!!  And the woman who brought me offered to bring me to a store to buy a few of the tools so I can make my own tea when I go home...super cool!

In this image I found online, you can see the matcha tea which is a green tea that is meant to be served frothy.  The powder is the green tea mixture you place in the bowl and you use the whisk to stir it.  As you can see the whisk is super delicate and there is a process where the host softens it and checks to make sure nothing has broken or will get into the tea :-)

Anyway, I could certainly tell you more about everything I have learned in such a short amount of time...but I will spare you.

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