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March Seasonal Notes

March 2009

wind moans so sadly
trying to get in the house
petals fall in grief

Higan-e is a Buddhist service performed during the equinoctial week, with the equinox day in the middle, and three days before and three days after.  The fist day of the week is higan no iri, the fourth day is chuu-nichi (spring equinox) and the last day is higan-ka or kechi-gan.

As they say no heat or cold lasts over the equinox, it becomes warmer, arousing tea people to make tea.  Ideally tea should be served to pay a tribute to the memory of tea friends or for the circle of students studying under a teacher (shachuu).  For the kettle, onoe-gama (in the shape of a Korean bell), kurin-gama (nine-ring decoration on top of a pagoda), or wani-guchi-gama (crocodile-mouth kettle) are appropriate.  For the incense container, an mokugyo (fish shaped temple floor gong) can be used.  The deceased might be better remembered by the use of tea bowls or tea scoops made by them.

Don’t forget that March 28th is the anniversary of Sen no Rikyu. (see News and Events)

 March 2008

daffodils come up
with bowed heads they slowly turn
faces to the sun

March is the month for shell gathering, and various kinds of shells show up in the tea room, especially the kaiseki for Hina Matsuri. Shijim is a small shell living in fresh water or brackish water of ponds, marshes, lakes and rivers to be cooked for the meal. Dishes are presented in various shells, ark shells, scallop shells, clam shells.  Many kogo incense containers are shaped like shells, such s the tsuki hi gai preferred by Gengensai, the 11th generation Urasenke tea master.  The sazae shell futaoki or lid rest is famous and a basket that was used for collecting these shell is used as a charcoal basket.

March is also the month that many birds return (tori kaeru). The wild geese are said to leave around the autumnal equinox and return around the spring equinox. A wild goose alone is a symbol for autumn, but the wild goose kogo can also be used in the spring for when they return.  There is a legend, Gan-buro that the returning geese leave behind a chip of wood which they normally hold between their bills for resting on in the ocean. People thought those geese must have died in Japan and they held a memorial service for them by heating a bath.

There is another activity I find charming is the writing poems by a meandering stream.  When sake cups floated on the stream come close to the spot where you are sitting, you attach poems to them. This event was held mostly on the third day of the third month and you see paintings and pictures of people in this activity.

 

March 2007

little heads
fallen before opening
camellia buds

Spring comes to Japan in March.  Flowers bloom and the wind is warm and refreshing.  The landscape is waking up after the winter.  Willow buds are forming. All kinds of flowers, especially peach blossoms, and willow are themes for tea utensils this month.  You will also see dolls for the Hina matsuri on the third of March. On March 15 the memorial service for the death of Buddha is celebrated and an image of Buddha can be used for the scroll.  Higan or the equinox is an occasion to hold a tea ceremony. March 28 is Rikyu-ki, Sen no Rikyu’s anniversary.  This is one of the biggest events for tea people and many utensils that Rikyu favored may be used for tea on this occasion. Other seasonal images include the spring mist (kasumi), especially something obscured by the mist, like flowers, the moon, distant mountains, and anything relating to the return of life, including sprouts, planting, leaf buds and the return of birds like robins.

With the coming warmth, the tsurigama or hanging kettle is used in March.  The kettle is not supposed to swing, but the slight sway when using the ladle adds a little bit of interest.  It is a challenge to lay the charcoal with the tsurigama as one must raise the kettle on the chain and remove the large rings by which it hangs. The gotoku or trivet is not used with the hanging kettle, so the lid rest or futaoki in the shape of the gotoku is used.

 

References:

An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu, by Michael A. Birch

Chado: The Way of Tea, A Japanese Tea Master’s Almanac, translated from the Japanese by Shaun McCabe and Iwasaki Satoko.

Notes from Midorikai lectures, 1996-1997

 

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