Things have returned to normal here. People are getting along again and we four sempai are finally realizing that graduation is coming up quickly in mid-March. Then just until the end of the month to move out of the dorms and fly to our homes around the world. What a wonderful year we have spent together!
We had Tetiana’s keiko chakai. My role for it was “hanto,” which is the person who supports the host in their activities from the kitchen, mizuya and behind the scenes. Ideally, the hanto should be noiselessly going about the numerous things that require attention. The person needs to spread water along the path and in the garden to make it look welcoming and clean. This was especially amusing because it was snowing lightly the whole time while I was spraying water around everywhere. But it was absolutely beautiful. The guests were enjoying the feeling of warmth in the tea rooms protected only by paper shoji doors…so, that means that they were most likely cold but they were trying to feel the warmth of the fire and in the tea utensils the host selected especially for this event. There was a hand warmer in the waiting area, so I had to make sure we had warm fire for that. Hot water of course to make tea from the back.
Tetiana did a wonderful job and our sensei helped us immensely. Though, Makela-sensei did ask me a few times “Now what should I be doing now?” and he got a few blank stares back… I sometimes had no idea or I didn’t know what I order I was supposed to do things in. Also, I learned a valuable lesson that you always want to bring extras of everything – I accidentally stood with the charcoal basket and out fell two of the expensive white edazumi made from wisteria tree. Naturally they shattered on the ground and we hadn’t brought any extra. In Japan and in a tea building, one can hopefully have someone just run to fetch some more but if this was a demonstration or in a location that we had rented far from any shops, we may have had some difficulties…or some interesting explaining to do during the tea gathering that would have turned in to a funny story.
Sometimes the things a hanto needs to do changes due to the season, so you need to do things for longer, or earlier/later depending on that. It was actually a lot of fun for me to fill this role! I helped unpack all the utensils, cleaned and packaged them all up again after it was finished. I think all the guests had a wonderful time. I heard a lot of laughter from the tea room and I was sad I couldn’t have been in there with them. But I had an important role to play and it was great experience.
I think I enjoy seeing the surprises and participating in the conversation the most out of tea gatherings. It’s sort of like when you know a lot about something and there is a subtle hint or clue and people who know about that really get it and then are excited about it. Sort of like the thrill of doing a crossword or when there is a play on words or even in Shakespeare when the words reference something else. It’s just fun. I suppose it’s an intellectual sort of fun created in a time when people didn’t watch TV. And you have to be knowledgeable. There are connections that our teachers comment on during O’iemoto’s gatherings and I am amazed by the seeming subtlety and complexity involved in the story-telling and emotions created by something as simple as the utensils. Still, these are things I can continue to enjoy in many different ways and in many different topics, not just in Chado.
There was the lovely Baikasai event at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. I had gone previously to this shrine to see the plum blossoms in the snow. This time people could purchase a ticket to have tea served by the maiko and geiko (Kyoto term for geisha). It was a beautiful sunny day, though it was quite cold. The young, talented women looked so lovely and it was great to be able to examine their clothing up close. Usually you only get to see them on their way to engagements or at the annual shows their houses put on occasionally. As it was, the queue to get in took forever…about two hours if you wanted to sit closer on the tatami space. It was well worth the wait, though people were going crazy with their cameras. Tetiana wore her beautiful embroidered kimono. I thought my friends who enjoy crafting as well as sewing would appreciate seeing it.