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Sweet Persimmon Blog Archive – 2009

 

Dec 30, 2009

Invitation to a tea gathering

Like any formal invitation,  an invitation to a tea gathering will have a time, date and place.   But look closer at the invitation.  The host of the tea gathering has included a seasonal poem, reference, greeting or saying that tells you about the occasion for  the gathering.  It may even hint at the theme for the gathering.

In a cold, cold dawn
the golden fragment of a
waning moon — how bright!

The wording of the invitation will be humble, something like —  “The end of the year approaches and the remaining days are getting shorter.  Let’s not put off meeting again so please come to share a simple meal and a bowl of tea.”

You will also notice that the invitation is hand written.  In Japan, these invitations were callgraphied in your best brush writing on beautiful paper and hand delivered.  Today in America, hand written invitations with appropriate illustrations sent through the mail is appropriate. No flyers, cutesy printed invitations or emails for tea gatherings.

Then the time, the date and the place.  An RSVP such as “Please let me know by Dec. 31 if you will attend”

Sometimes there will be a list of the other guests, especially the Shokyaku or first guest.

When you receive an invitation to a tea gathering, etiquette demands that you RSVP as soon as you can. Do not wait until the deadline or make the host call you and ask if you are attending or not.

If you are the shokyaku, the host will provide you with a list of the other guests who have confirmed attending.  It is the shokayku’s responsibility to call each of the other guests and tell them the order of seating, what to bring to the gathering, the format of the gathering and answer any questions they may have. Also the shokyaku will either call or visit the host (zenrei) to bring a gift and ask the host if there is anything that they can do before the gathering.  A polite guest other than the shokayku should call or write a note to the host a couple of days before to express thank you for the invitation. (This is in ADDITION to the RSVP).

As a guest, you are expected to bring your fukusa basami with fan, fukusa, kaishi, sweets pick, plastic bag and handkerchief.  As shokyaku, I always bring an extra set of fukusa, fan, papers, plastic bags and handkerchief just in case anyone forgets to bring them.

As a guest, please arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of the gathering to take care of hanging up your coat, putting on your tabi (or removing tabi covers), and stowing your belongings.  Sometimes the host will make a changing room available for those wearing or putting on kimono.  Please arrive in time to be dressed and ready 10-15 minutes ahead of time, and try not to disturb your host with requests such as helping you put on your kimono or tie your obi.

Next:  Anatomy of a tea gathering

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, December 30, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chakai, etiquette, study, tea ceremony, tea gathering, training, Welcome

Dec 16, 2009

New Introduction to Chanoyu Class

Well gee, I just learned how to put some things into the left hand column.   You will see two new things today: an announcement of the new introduction class, and an Issoan tea school calendar. On the calendar, all classes will be listed as well as events, workshops, cultural activities in Portland and other things as I think of them.  Any suggestions for the calendar welcome.

Issoan will be starting 2 new Introduction to Chanoyu classes in January 2010. The classes are filling up fast, so if you’d like to take the class, please contact me soon.  As soon as the class fills up, I will close the registration and put people on a waiting list.

Tuesday evenings 7:00 – 8:30 pm for 10 weeks starting January 12
Issoan Tea School:
17761 NW Marylhurst Ct.
Portland, OR 97229.  
Two places left.

Friday evenings 6:00 – 7:30 pm for 10 weeks, starting January 15
Ryokusuido Tea Room:
3826 NE Glisan St.,
Portland, OR 97232.  
One place left.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: chanoyu, classes, stuff

Dec 14, 2009

Before Rikyu

Before Sen Rikyu there was tea and before Bach there was music.
~Hisashi Yamada

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, December 14, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Rikyu

Dec 9, 2009

Anagama kiln and preivew of the Holiday Sale

Despite bitter cold and a horrendous East wind blowing last Sunday, my husband and I were invited to the opening of the anagama firing by Richard Brandt and crew.  I have attended a firing before, but I had to leave before the kiln was opened.  This time though, the previous week the kiln was fired for 5 days — that is they fed it more than four cords of wood, then sealed it up to cool and Sunday was the opening.  This was very exciting as the fire is unpredictable and what went into the kiln may or may not resemble what comes out, depending on the fire, the flames and the placement in the kiln.  That is the magic of an anagama firing.

Last Sunday we unloaded the anagama kiln and I must say that it’s the best firing I’ve ever taken part in. The frozen wind and numb hands were not even a bother because the work was so fantastic. The colors are outstanding. The carnage low. Plenty of startling surprises. Everything seemed to fall into place. A labor of love it remains. I am very excited to share this work with you.  ~ Richard Brandt

We got there as they were taking the bricks down from the front of the kiln.  I was surprised at how orderly it was and the crew was very careful to stack each brick as it came from the door in order for the next people to seal up the front more easily.  Then the ash was swept away from the firebox and everything cleaned out before any pieces were taken out.    One of the first pieces to be taken out was a little figurine.It was found standing among the ashes in the firebox. It was on the lower front shelf and it had fallen off but remained standing as if it had jumped into the fire.

Here are a couple of photos as the first pieces were unloaded from the kiln:

While everything looks monochrome in these photos, there was plenty of drama and color when the pieces were unloaded.  There were so many spectacular vases, bowls, tea pots and sculptures:

I just wanted to preview a few pieces that Richard will be showing at the sale and (modestly) show some of the handbags I made from kimono material that will also be featured at the show.
Nishiura Ryokusuido
3826 NE Glisan St.
Portland Oregon 97229
Friday evening opening reception 7-9 pm

Saturday and Sunday 12-5 pm

I hope you will come out to see Richard’s work.  Here’s a few handbags made from kimono and obi that will be featured.

 

 

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, December 09, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, handbags, kimono, pottery, sweetpersimmon.com, tea utensils, Welcome

Dec 4, 2009

First Annual Ryokusuido

Holiday Show and Sale 2009

 

Please come to our Holiday Show of Japanese

Antiques, Kimono, and Obi, featuring wood fired

tea utensils by Richard Brandt, and Handbags and

Fashions by SweetPersimmon at

Nishiura Ryokusuido

Japanese Arts and Antiques

3826 NE Glisan, Portland, OR 97232


(503) 236-8005 or (503) 262-8369

Friday Dec. 11 7-9 pm

Saturday and Sunday

Dec. 12-13   12-5 pm


Please join us Friday evening for drink and refreshment

Tea will be served in a traditional tea ceremony room

on Saturday and Sunday

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, December 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, handbags, kimono, Welcome

Dec 1, 2009

Senke Jusshoku, ten craft families

For generations, the Urasenke, Omotesenke and Mushakojisenke schools have been supported by ten craft families who have supplied them with tea utensils.  Each family has its own specialties that are passed down to the next generation just as the grand tea mastership is passed down in the Senke families.

The ten craft families number of generations serving and their specialties are:

  1. Raku Kichizaemon 15th generation –  chawan shi, teabowls, mizusashi, flower vases, incense containers
  2. Eiraku Zengoro 16th generation  – doburo yakimono shi, ceramics, including mizusashi, futaoki, ceramic furo, flower containers, tea bowls, incense containers, and futaoki
  3. Onishi Seimon 16th generation- kamashi, kettles, gotoku (iron trivet), kensui, and other cast iron works
  4. Nakagawa Joeki 11th generation – kanmono shi, bronze vases, kettles, ash spoons, trays, kensui, kan and hibashi
  5. Nakamura Sotetsu 12th generation- nu shi, lacquer, especially gold painted design, natsume, trays, incense containers, bowls and sake cups
  6. Hiki Ikkan 15th generation – ikkanbarisaiku shi, paper mache and lacquer over paper, for example inside of charcoal baskets, sweets trays, also feather work for haboki
  7.  Kuroda Shogen 13th generation – takezaiku hishaku shi, bamboo anything, including hishaku, chashaku blanks, tana made of bamboo
  8. Tsuchida Yuko 12th generation – fukuro shi, fabric for fukusa, kobukusa, and shifuku pouches
  9. Komazawa Risai 15th generation -sashimono shi, wood worker for tana (display shelves), bentwood containers, hearth frames, screens, tabakobon
  10. Okumura Kichibei 12th generation – hyogu shi, scroll mounting, fusuma (paper doors), furosaki byobu (screens), paper goods such as kettle hotpads, paper tobacco pouches

As we get further along in haiken, it is good to know these families and their specialties, in case your teacher in class or shokyaku should ask “who made it?”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, December 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, practice, tea utensils, training

Nov 22, 2009

New Japanese Tea Garden

We have permission and will soon be kicking off an ambitious project.  The students and I will be building a new Japanese Tea Garden in the backyard of Ryokusuido.  We are excited that Marc Peter Kean’s new book has come out just as we are beginning planning for the garden.  We also have secured Virginia Harmon, director of grounds maintenance at the Portland Japanese Garden as our advisor.  One of the things we need to do is raise funds and donations to get started.  If anyone has suggestions for fundraising or plant, tools or materials donations to our efforts, please let me know.

We will be documenting our progress at a new blog Ryokusuido Tea Garden.  Please join us on our journey to complete this project.  I’ll add a link to the new blog.  (Blog now closed).

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, November 22, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: gardening, study, training

Nov 20, 2009

Sweet Zenzai

The sweet we had at Robiraki was a sweet bean soup, called zenzai. It is especially welcome at Robiraki when the weather has turned cold and rainy and the guests leave the tea room for a short break outside. I have a request for the recipe as follows:

Ingredients:

1 lb adzuki red beans (454 grams)
10.5 oz. white granulated sugar (300 grams)
10.5 oz dard brown sugar (300 grams)
1 Tbls. usukuchi (thin) soy sauce
mochi (sweet rice cakes) or boiled dango
roasted chestnuts (optional)

Check the beans carefully and discard any broken or off color or misshapen beans. Rinse the beans in cold water several times then soak overnight in plenty of cold water to soften. Drain and discard soaking water. Rinse beans and cover with fresh cold water. Gently bring beans to the boil and skim off the foam that comes to the top of the pot. Boil gently until the beans are soft and cooked through. (about an hour).

When beans are done, pour off the water until the beans are just barely covered. Add both the sugars and soy sauce. Bring back to boil, stirring in the sugar. Turn down the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes. Taste for sweetness. You can add sugar if not enough. Simmer until all sugar is completely dissolved. The zenzai can be served now, but tastes much better if it is allowed to cool and sit overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, cut round or square mochi pieces and lightly grill until golden brown under the broiler. (Or from round balls of dango and boil until it floats). Heat the zenzai until very hot.
Place a few pieces of grilled mochi or dango in serving bowls and ladle the hot zenzai on top.

Optional you can roast and peel chestnuts and cut in half and put in the bowl with mochi and put hot zenzai on top.

This recipe makes about 20 small servings. I cut this recipe in half and reduced some of the sugar (for my taste) and had enough for 7 people for Robiraki. (5 guests, two mizuya helpers).

This also can be served over ice cream for a tasty dessert.

Go ahead make some zenzai this fall.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, November 20, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: chakai, guests, sweets, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Nov 17, 2009

Chakai went well

I am happy to report that the chakai went very well. I know that the meal is not the high point of the chakai, but cooking is not my most strong point, so I am a little extra careful when I am preparing a meal for others. Here is a photo of the tray before it went out to the first guest. I forgot my camera, so this is a rather rough photo from the camera phone.

I think the guests all had a good time, but I want to remind all of you who are thinking of putting on a chakai, to think of the comfort of your guests. I had planned for this chakai to last about 2 hours with a 10 minute break in between the meal and the koicha. For most of my students, this is a long time to be sitting seiza in the tea room. At the end of the first hour, most of the guests were suffering and needed the break. For some it was torture to return to the tea room and sit through the koicha procedure (about 25 minutes for 5 guests). After koicha, I brought in zabuton and seiza stools to help the guests and alleviate their pain. There was a heartfelt sigh of relief when I brought these in and proceeded to make usucha.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, November 17, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: chakai, chanoyu, guests, kaiseki meal, tea gathering

Nov 16, 2009

Pre-chakai jitters

Tonight, I will be putting on a chakai for Robiraki. My students will be attending their first tea event and I want to make it special. I will be doing a tenshin meal, koicha and usucha.

We will have tea by candlelight. For the meal, pressed rice garnished with furikake, grilled fish, sliced tuna in a citrus soy sauce, marinated oyster mushrooms, sweet potato cooked in dashi, and daikon radish cut in the shape of a chrysanthemum. The nimono or boiled soup dish will have taro root, carrot, mitsuba and hinoki mushrooms. I prepared zenzai (sweet bean soup) for sweets. I also made some pressed sweets in the shape of mushrooms and gourds.

Mr. Nishiura will be the honored guest and I am a little apprehensive because he is so accomplished in Japanese arts. I hope it will go well.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, November 16, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chakai, chanoyu, kaiseki meal, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Nov 6, 2009

Back to the beginning

I have already written posts about going back to basics and back to one again, but for this week’s lessons we are changing to the ro season and we are reviewing the very first things we learned in the tea room again. Every change of season we go back to the beginning in how to bow, how to enter the tea room, how to walk, turn, sit and stand and move about the tea room. We also review warigeiko: folding fukusa, purifying utensils, handling hishaku and most importantly the roles of the guest and host. This is a good time to correct bad habits that we have accumulated over the past season and straighten up sloppy handling of utensils.

Funny thing is that my students have taught me more about basics than I think I am teaching them. I have found quite often in teaching the way of tea that the lessons I am teaching are really not what the students are learning. Yes, this week’s classes are about the technical aspects of learning tea, but what one of my students told me after class was that we should go back to basics in other parts of our life as well. We talked about being grateful and how it is very rare these days to receive a hand written thank you note, especially that people don’t write in cursive handwriting anymore.

One of the things that another student talked about was that tea forces her to slow down. At first she was rather resentful in having to go back and re-do something she thought she already mastered. This led to a discussion of what mastery really means. Does folding your fukusa every week during your temae mean you have mastered it?

Even high ranking teachers with many years of experience, when they go to an intensive seminar, they start with the beginning of tea training: how to bow, how to walk, how to fold the fukusa and every time I have attended a tea training seminar, I realize just how sloppy I have become and how many bad habits that I have accumulated.

Also for me, going back to the beginning is really not back to the beginning but going back and learning the basics at a deeper level. It also connects me back to when I began as a tea student and was so very excited about learning the way of tea. I have at times become quite nonchalant about my tea studies, and it helps to recapture “the humble, but eager heart of the beginner” again.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, November 06, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, classes, gratitude, practice, study, training

Nov 3, 2009

Robiraki, Opening the Winter Hearth

The new year for tea is upon us. Frost is forming and the mountain passes are filling with snow. The landscape and people are preparing for winter cold. Once again the fire moves to the sunken hearth and laying charcoal for the first time is celebrated at Robiraki. The chatsubo, the tea container that has held the tea leaves since the harvest in May, is brought out and opened in a ceremony called Kuchikiri. The sealed jar is displayed in the tea room as the guests enter. The host takes the jar from the mesh bag, allows the guests to see the seal before he/she opens the seal and takes out the tea leaves to be ground for tea that day. Then the jar is sealed up again.

There are two ways to display the chatsubo: in the mesh bag as noted above and with the three decorative knots, formal in front, semiformal to the right, and informal to the left. This is a beautiful way to display the chatsubo if you are not going to take the tea out of the jar in front of the guests.

The laying of the charcoal is always a feature of Robiraki, emphasizing the warmth of the winter hearth. Laying the sumi (charcoal) for the ro season is larger than for the furo (summer) season. It is usually laid at the beginning of the chaji (tea gathering) and all through the meal, the charcoal is heating the water in the kettle. Ro sized kettles are larger and it takes more time and charcoal to heat them up.

Another seasonal treat is the sweets for Robiraki. That is zenzai. It is kind of a sweet bean soup served hot in lacquer bowls. Sometimes there is bit of mochi or chestnuts in the soup.

Timing for Robiraki is sometimes a mystery. There are various ways to think about it: approximately 88 days from the time of the tea harvest is the time to open up the chatsubo, so timing robiraki for this allows for a kuchi kiri as well as robiraki. I think it was Rikyu who said that “when the yuzu (citron) turns yellow it is the time to open the ro.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, November 03, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Japanese culture, rituals, study, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Nov 2, 2009

The Japanese Tea Garden

Portland Japanese Garden Presents:
The Bontei Tray Gardens of Marc Peter Keane
November 7–22
Free with Garden Admission

The 2009 Art in the Garden series continues at the Portland Japanese with a special exhibition of The Bontei Tray Gardens of Marc Peter Keane, featuring exquisitely designed, handcrafted wood and stone tray gardens by one of the world’s leading experts on Japanese gardens. Keane is the author of Japanese Garden Design, one of the most popular books on this topic in the English language. He will be in Portland for the opening weekend of the exhibition on November 7 and 8, during which time he will give talks about his Bontei as well as a presentation on Japanese tea gardens in conjunction with the debut of his soon-to-be-released book on this subject.

Marc Peter Keane’s release of his latest book, The Japanese Tea Garden, will be available. This new book, in which he describes the history, design, and aesthetics of tea gardens from T’ang China to the present day will be featured with a lecture and book signing. With over 100 stunning photographs, floor plans, and illustrations, this is the most extensive book on this genre ever published in English. The Japanese Tea Garden is a rich resource for garden lovers, landscape designers, and architects—and anyone who admires the striking aesthetic of the Japanese garden.
Lecture and Book Signing: The Japanese Tea Garden
Sunday, November 8, 4:30pm
$30 Members/$40 Non-Members
Place reservations online or call the events hotline at (503) 542-0280

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, November 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, Chado, chanoyu, gardening, roji, study, tea ceremony

Oct 31, 2009

Tea Ceremony Haiku

I am happy to say that This Moment: Tea Ceremony Haiku by Margaret Chula is back in print. It is priced at $10.00 and is available from Katsura Press as is her wonderful new book What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps

Katsura Press
P.O. Box 10584
Portland OR 97296

This Moment: Tea Ceremony Haiku by Margaret Chula
ISBN: 0963855174 Paperback
Always Filling, Always Full by Margaret Chula
ISBN: 1893996115 Paperback
Haiku especially for Tea, written by award winning haiku poet Maggie Chula. This title is now back in print, and I recommend any of her books: Grinding My Ink, Shadow Lines or Always Filling, Always Full. “Visual imagery, which predominates in most English as well as Japanese haiku, is sometimes astonishing in Chula’s. She has the uncommonly keen perception and compositional skills of a painter or fine photographer, while at the same time working with the music and implications of language.” Morgan Gibson, Kyoto Journal.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, October 31, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: haiku

Oct 27, 2009

Blogging about Chado

Hello blog readers,

When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I had one or two students and I began to write about Chado for them. I had no idea that other people would be interested in or follow this blog. I know that there are some who have followed what I write here for a very long time, and thank you so much for reading. And to new readers, thank you for visiting.

Although I have a long list of blog topics to write about, I have from time to time taken inspiration from current events, tea class discussions, or happenings in my own life, I’d like to throw it open to the community… what would you like to read about? Please let me know, by posting in the comments, what you may be interested in. I may not know anything about it, but together perhaps we can explore the possibilities and continue the conversation.

Here is a partial list of topics either by student request or I have in my notes to write about:

Sweets recipes
More samurai stories
List of the 100 poems of Rikyu (in English)
Advanced temae
Flowers and flower arranging
History of tea masters
The roji (tea garden)
Rikyu and Hideyoshi stories
More stories of my time in Kyoto

What would you like to read more about? Vote on these in the comments or propose your own topics. And a sincere thank you to all readers, even if I don’t know about you.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, blogging, gratitude, Welcome

Oct 19, 2009

The microcosm of the tea room

Sensei says: How you are in the tea room is how you are in the world.

Haji o sute hito ni mono toi naraubeshi kore zojozu no motoi narikeru
A person must discard all embarrassment when training in tea, this is the foundation of mastery.
~ from Rikyu’s 100 poems
Every time we step into the tea room, it is a microcosm of how we are in the world.

As I observe myself in the tea room, am I impatient, bored, eager, timid, attentive? Am I selfish, critical, generous? Do I treat others with respect? Do I show off? Try to compete? Question others? How do I treat correction and criticism? How do I handle mistakes?

“In a certain place for practice of the way of tea,
there hangs a plaque the reads:
‘A Place Making a Shameful Show of Oneself.’
Once you pass through the entrance way,
you will experience no shame,
no matter how shameful a show you may make of yourself.
The practice room is where you are trained as a human,
even as you are sharply scolded
and hesitate to humiliate yourself in the process.
The principal aim of your training is to enable you,
when the time comes,
to perform tea splendidly and without shame.
This is the reason why all those who pass through the entrance way
of this place are prepared to endure severe discipline.
For it is in this way that
they gradually develop fine characters as people.
They cannot achieve this simply by reading books
and listening to others.
They must experience it with their own bodies.”

~ Sen Soshitsu XV, The Spirit of Tea

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, October 19, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Rikyu, sensei says, tea ceremony, the way, training

Oct 12, 2009

Aki Matsuri

Please join us this weekend October 17th and 18th

Aki Matsuri 2009
Kibou (Hope)

October 17th and 18th
Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

You are invited to Ikebana show by Saga Goryu Hokubei Shisho
Demonstrations of Chado (Way of Tea)
Kou Asobi (Playing with incense)

Featuring Potters Motoko Hori, Ken Pincus and Anne Iverson
With Japanese Antiques form Nishiura Ryokusuido
And Local Farm Vegetables

Location: Buddhist Daihonzan Henjyoji Temple
2624 SE 12th Ave
Portland, Oregon
Donation: $5.00

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, October 12, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, flowers, incense, tea ceremony, Welcome

Oct 7, 2009

Kabuki

PSU Center for Japanese Studies presents
Backstage to Hanamichi: the Color, Magic and Drama of Kabuki Lecture & Performance

Wednesday, October 21st, Time: 7:30 p.m.
$22.00 Tickets: 503.248.4335
The PCPA box office

The Japan Foundation, Shochiku Co., Ltd and The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center are pleased to present Backstage to Hanamichi – A Behind the Scenes Look at the Color, Magic and Drama of Kabuki with lead actors Nakamura Kyozo and Nakamura Matanosuke of the world-renowned Shochiku Company.

Kabuki with its magnificent beauty and highly refined artistry has made it a rare jewel among the great theater traditions of the world. Its actors must undergo years of rigorous training in order to master its three artistic components of music (ka), dance (bu) and drama (ki) before being allowed to perform before an audience. In order to create the magic that is seen on stage, the kabuki actor is supported backstage by a team of unseen artisans and craftsman including costumer stylists, wig masters, musicians and prop masters.

Backstage to Hanamichi provides the audience with a rare glimpse into the traditional world of this centuries-old theater and the painstaking preparations that leads up to an actor’s grand entrance onto the hanamichi stage.

The lecture/performance includes performances of two kabuki dance classics: Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden) and Shakkyo (Lion Dance), contrasting the lyrical style of the onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) with dynamic, acrobatic style in the heroic Lion Dance.

This program is presented in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary Celebration of The Japan America Society of Southern California.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, October 07, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, Japanese culture, theater

Sep 28, 2009

What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps

My friend Margaret Chula, poet, has a new book out. What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps, Poems by Margaret Chula, Art Quilts by Cathy Erickson.

This collaboration of artists is very moving. Each art quilt has an accompanying poem written in a different voice from the camps. A young boy who had a pet rabbit, a young woman longing to dance the jitterbug, a husband/father fashioning furniture from scraps of wood.

“This is truly a beautiful, remarkable achievement — two artists bringing history to life through visionary quilts and insightful writings.” ~ Lawson Fusao Inada, Poet Laureate of Oregon

“Cathy Erickson’s quilts, combined with Magaret Chula’s luminous poems, evoke emotions of rage, regret, confusion, sadness, resignation and ultimately, hope.” ~ Colleen Wise, Casting Shadows: Creating Visual Depth in Your Quilts.

“The dynamic interplay of Magaret Chula’s poetry and Cathy Erickson’s quilts is collaborative art at its best. Chula’s poems weave a memorable story and voice into each visually stunning quilt — together a powerfully beautiful interpretation of the Japanese American interment camp Experience.” ~ Amy Uyematsu, 30 Miles from J-Town.

This is a subject that is close to my heart. One of my mother’s best friends was interned at Minidoka, and college friend’s parents met at Manzanar, and another a high school friend’s father caught scarlet fever at Tule Lake.

In 1990, Portland, Oregon dedicated a park on the waterfront to the people who were rounded up and sent to the camps. It was part of an event that brought back — some for the first time since being interned — people who had lived and worked together in Portland. And I was on the publicity committee at that time.

I took some oral histories from returnees. What had happened to them after they had to leave their homes and businesses, during their internment and after their release. As part of my duties, I tried to place articles about the reunion and the internment in national magazines and newspapers. I remember one young assistant editor I contacted in New York. She told me that they did not publish fiction. I told her that it was the truth, and she said that the United States would never do that to U.S. citizens and I must be mistaken they must have been Japanese nationals and spies. She further told me that she had asked other people in her office in New York about the internment and nobody else had heard about it either.

You can see the park along the waterfront in Northwest Portland. The cherry trees bloom there every spring, and you can stroll along the path of stones carved with haiku about having your freedom taken away.

You can order your own copy of this wonderful book from:

Full Color, 108 pages, 8.5 x11, $24.95 + $3 S/H

Edited to add that the Address and ISBN for this book is wrong. Please order your book from:

Katsura Press
P.O. Box 10584
Portland OR 97296
ISBN: 978-0-9638551-1-4

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, September 28, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, gratitude, haiku, stuff, the way

Sep 25, 2009

Thoughts on gomei, or poetic names

Students who practice Chanoyu are asked by their teachers to think of gomei or poetic names for tea utensils. Many students think it is a chore or silly to come up with names for your chashaku every week. But during the haiken, or the appreciation part of the ceremony, the gomei can heighten the drama, tell the story of the utensil or enhance the theme of the tea gathering.

Gomei, literally, most honoured name, are given to utensils, sweets, and other things related to Tea. Originally, names were given to various objects by great connoisseurs and Tea masters in the late Higashiyama period. Kobori Enshu gave many famous tea utensils gomei taken from poetry and literature.

Tea utensils may reflect nature by echoing particular seasons both in form and with their poetic names. In observing the seasons, there are many more than the basic 4: spring, summer, fall, and winter. For example, early spring is more like winter and late spring is more like summer. Flowers are a great indication of the season as they don’t appear at once, but can evoke the time of year that they bloom. So noticing what particular flowers are in bloom are a good source of gomei. Also instead of just naming a flower, a good gomei may offer a description of the flower. For example, Kiku or chrysanthemum is a good autumn flower, but to use kiku as a gomei is a little general and not very poetic. If it is late November, the chrysanthemums are getting a little tired as their blooming season is coming to an end. So “rangiku” or ragged chrysanthemum might be a gomei for that season.

Gomei can also come from place names that evoke different feelings, seasons or memories. For example, the gomei “Tatsuta” refers to the Tatsuta river in Nara prefecture. In the fall this river fills with fallen red maple leaves and thus alludes to the momiji or red maple leaves of autmn. Likewise, Yoshino is a place where the hill sides bloom with cherry blossoms in the spring. With these place names, one can allude to the seasons without directly saying “cherry blossoms.” It gives a little more sophisticaton, depth and feeling to the name.

For usucha and okashi (sweets) gomei can be very seasonal and light; sometimes they can be humorous, or emotional such as “chajo chashin” tea feeling, tea heart. When we get to koicha, however, the gomei are a little more serious. Many Zen words and phrases are used as gomei. For example, I have a scroll with a Zen phrase that says: White clouds come and go as they please. I might pair this scroll with a tea scoop name “Ao yama” or green mountain because the companion phrase to this is: Green mountain is unmovable.

Japanese literature is also a rich source of gomei. An example of this might be “Murasame” literally it means autumn rain. Murasame was also one of two sisters in the in the Noh play Matsukaze. The two main characters are the sisters Matsukaze and Murasame who once lived on the Bay of Suma in Settsu Province where they ladled brine in order to make salt. A Middle Counsellor named Yukihira dallied with them while staying at Suma for three years. Shortly after his departure, word of his death came and they died of grief. They linger on as spirits or ghosts, attached to the mortal world by their sinful emotional attachment to mortal desires. The name of the chief character, and title of the play, Matsukaze, bears a poetic double meaning. Though Matsu can mean “pine tree” (?), it can also mean “to wait” or “to pine” (??). Autumn Rain is strong and gentle intermittently, while the Wind in the Pines is soft and constant. Though the characters in the play actually represent the opposite traits – Matsukaze alternating between strong emotional outburts and gentle quietness while her sister remains largely in the background, and acts as a mediating influence upon Matsukaze. Many layers of meaning here: Autumn, love, tears, grief, desire, strong, gentle depending on how it is used.

So please think about your gomei for keiko next week and use your imagination and some of these suggestions. It will make your temae more interesting to both your teacher and your guests.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, September 25, 2009 8 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, gomei, Japanese culture, Japanese words for the tea room, practice, tea ceremony, tea utensils, temae, theater, training

Sep 12, 2009

Introduce Chado to people you love

Introduce Chado to people you love. Take them to a tea ceremony demonstration; or invite them to your class as a guest. They just may be captivated like you.

Issoan Tea School will be doing tea demonstrations at the Portland Japanese Garden:

When: Saturday, September 19, at 1 pm and 2 pm.
Where: Portland Japanese Garden, Kashineti Tea House
Free with admission to the Japanese Garden.

When: Sunday, October 4, Otsukimi, Moonviewing from 5:30-8:00 pm
Where: Portland Japanese Garden Kashintei Tea House
Reservations required. $25 for members, $35 for non-members

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, September 12, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, classes, tea ceremony

Sep 8, 2009

Twenty not Nineteen

Someone has brought to my attention that there are only 19 rules for lifelong learning. I forgot to type number 8. Do not burden others with your own troubles.

It has been corrected in the original post and now there are 20. I aplogize and thank you to Cordelia for calling it to my attention.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, September 08, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Correction

Sep 7, 2009

Shin, Gyo, So

In chado, there are usually three levels of formality designated as shin, gyo and so. These are formal, semi-formal, and informal. This permeates everything from the types of bows to utensils, fabrics, ceramics, and many other aspects of tea.

Often the differences between these types of formality is subtle and you must pay attention to details. For example, with the bamboo tea scoop, where the node, or fushi, is placed on the handle of designates how formal it is. The tea scoop with the node (joint) in the middle is an informal tea scoop. The fushi at the end is a gyo or semi-formal scoop and one with no fushi is shin or the most formal of bamboo tea scoops.

When bowing in the tea room, there is no difference in the length or time it takes to bow, but there is a very slight difference in how the hands are placed on the tatami. In the formal shin bow, the whole hand is placed on the tatami mat and the head aligned with the back (about a 45 degree angle). For the gyo, semi-formal bow, only the fingers are placed on the mat, and for the so, informal bow, only the fingertips touch the mat. Be sure that you are not placing the weight of your body on your hands.

I think part of this classification of shin, gyo and so is teaching us about etiquette and appropriateness. It makes us pay attention to what is going on and gives us guidelines to help determine behaviors and choices. Just as you wouldn’t go in beach wear to a reception at the White house and belch at the hostess, or you wouldn’t wear a tuxedo to family picnic and eat with your gloves on, there are appropriate dress codes and behavior in tea.

Even when preparing for a tea gathering, while paying attention to the seasonality of the utensils, don’t forget to also pay attention to the formality of the occasion. Big events such as New Year’s celebration, or Robiraki – the change to winter time hearth, are more formal occasions than a spontaneous gathering.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, September 07, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, etiquette, study, tea gathering, tea utensils, training

Sep 4, 2009

New Introduction to Chado, the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. These are the four principles of tea ceremony distilled from Japanese culture. In this ten week class, students will be introduced to Chado, the way of tea. The arts of Japan will be examined through the ritual preparation and drinking of matcha, Japanese ceremonial tea. An overview of Japanese aesthetics found in gardening, architecture, art and literature and how Tea Ceremony has influenced Japanese culture will be presented. Also covered are tea ceramics, calligraphy, kimono dressing, and participate in an incense ceremony. We will also learn zazen meditation and discuss how to put tea practice into every day life.

When: Wednesdays, 7:00-8:30 Starting September 9, for 10 weeks
Fee: $250 most materials, tea and sweets furnished. Others available for purchase at class.
Where: Classes will take place in an authentic Japanese tea room located at Ryokusuido Tea House, 3826 NE Glisan St. Portland, OR 97232.
How to register: Call Margie 503-645-7058 for registration or email margie@issonatea.com

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, September 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, classes

Sep 2, 2009

Twenty rules for lifelong training

Training for Chado is very similar to training in martial arts. Even though it is not as actively physical, Chado trains the body and strengthens character just like martial arts. It is a lifelong pursuit and if you do not train constantly, you lose your edge.

Early in their formal education, young samurai were instructed to brush a copy of the following rules and then sign and date the document as a lifelong pledge. I think it also applies to tea training.

  1. Never lie.
  2. Never forget to be grateful to one’s Lord.
  3. Never forget to be grateful to one’s parents.
  4. Never forget to be grateful to one’s teachers.
  5. Never forget to be grateful to one’s fellow human beings.
  6. Do nothing to offend gods, buddhas and one’s elders.
  7. Do not begrudge small children.
  8. Do not burden others with your own troubles.
  9. There is no place for anger or rage in the Way.
  10. Do not rejoice in the misfortune of others.
  11. Do your best to do what is best.
  12. Do not turn your back on others and only think of yourself.
  13. When you eat, think of the hard work of the farmers who grew the food. Never be wasteful of plants, trees, earth or stones.
  14. Do not dress up in fine clothes, or waste time on superficial appearance.
  15. Always behave properly with good manners.
  16. Always treat everyone like an honored guest.
  17. To overcome ignorance, learn from as many people as possible.
  18. Do not study and practice the arts just to make a name for yourself.
  19. Human beings have good and bad points. Do not dismiss or laugh at anyone.
  20. Strive to behave well but keep good actions hidden and do not seek the praise of others.

From Budo Secrets, Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters by John Stevens.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, September 02, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Japanese culture, martial arts, samurai, spiritual path, the way

Sep 1, 2009

The winners

Thank you for everyone who participated in my little contest. I was very happy to see that you took my questions seriously, and provided such thoughtful answers to my questions.

And now….

The winners are:

Nick who won Michael Soei Birch’s120 page manuscript, “An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu.

And Zlati (temae) who won the CD of Japanese for the tea room.

Congratulations to both of you. Please email me with your shipping address. marjorie_yap@yahoo.com.

I’d like to refer you all to Phillytea blog. It has an excellent post on Tasting Tea. Enjoy.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, September 01, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, award, contest

Aug 21, 2009

Japanese words as prizes

I have finally decided what I will be offering for prizes for the contest in honor of the 250th blog post at SweetPersimmon. Thank you all to the regular readers, all of my sensei and sempai, students of Chado and those who have only a passing interest. You have made this blog experience rewarding.

Prize number 1 will be a CD of Japanese for the tea room. It features an explanation in English the basics of Japanese pronunciation and very basic Japanese grammar. It also has the dialog for usucha, usucha haiken, koicha, and koicha haiken. The dialog includes the English translation and then the Japanese slowly twice, then again at normal speed. The final part is the dialog for aisatsu before and after study.

Prize number 2 will be a copy of Michael Soei Birch’s120 page manuscript, “An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu. This is a workbook, compiled by Michael Birch and written in English and romanji. It is filled with all kinds of information and it is a good source for seasonal gomei, or poetic names. The manuscript is divided into the four seasons — Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter with information about each. It is further divided into each month that includes information about the month, perhaps haiku, appropriate scrolls, seasonal words and suggested gomei. It is illustrated throughout with Michael’s calligraphy so you can see the kanji for each word, scroll, phrase or haiku.
Here are a few sample pages:The contest eligibility and the rules
Okay, to be eligible for the prizes (there will be two winners, one prize each) there are a few things you have to do. First, if you have a blog, please link it to this blog. I will also link to your blog in return. Second, you need to post a comment to this post. Not just any comment, but you need to answer two questions.

First question: How did you learn about chado and why are you studying? If you are not studying, what do you find interesting about the SweetPersimmmon blog?

Second question: How much of the traditional Japanese teaching methods do you think need to be incorporated in learning Chado outside of Japan? For those not studying, what do you think the best way would be to learn something like the Japanese tea ceremony?

I do ship internationally so everyone can participate. Please leave me a way to contact you to inform you if you have won.

The contest remains open until midnight PDT August 31st 2009. That’s 10 days folks, to get your answers together and compose your answers. Winners will be chosen randomly. All decisions final. Prizes will ship by September 2. Good luck!

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, August 21, 2009 8 comments Links to this post

Labels: contest, gratitude, Japanese words for the tea room, stuff

Aug 11, 2009

What do you love?

It is not often that we give ourselves permission to love, or let alone talk about the things we love. These days it is hip and cool to be cynical and make fun of others who are too emotional. Someone told me once that I needed to take a look at where I was spending my money, because there also was my heart.

These days, I spend my heart on chado, my husband, my grandchildren, my students, and sewing. Besides the essentials of food and shelter, there also I spend my money. Since leaving the corporate world, I have pared down my lifestyle to fit my considerably reduced income and I could not be happier.

Just as wabi used to mean to be disappointed by failing in some enterprise or living a miserable and poverty stricken life, some of my former associates would look at my present life and think that I am miserable. But wabi also means to transform material insufficiency so that one discovers in it a world of spiritual freedom.

Right now, I have never been more joyful in my life. Everyday is a good day. I feel aligned in living my values and in the integrity of what I do. I feel grateful for the opportunity to live this life. I love what I do, I love my life and I love to share with others some of the things I’ve learned through chado.

What do you love?

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, August 11, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Chado, gratitude, spiritual path, the way, wabi

Aug 5, 2009

The rules

I have talked with many people who don’t like rules. These people think that too many rules in tea restrict them and don’t allow them to be free to do as they please. But think if nobody driving on the road ignored the rules and just did as they please. The rules of the road such as staying on the right hand side of the road protect everyone and keep them safe. Or think of the rules of a game, if everybody just did as they pleased, then the game would be no fun.

The rules set boundaries, and in the tea room, everyone knows what to expect. There are appropriate times to talk and listen. There are rules for the role of the host and for that of the guest. The etiquette works if everyone is playing by the same rules. That is why it is so important to learn to be a good guest.

Remember that tea was developed in 16th century Japan, when there was incredible conflict and civil war. It was nearly a relief to be in the tea room, free from the conflict. If everyone observed the rules, people — for a short time — could get along, everyone would be safe and they could enjoy themselves.

Once the rules are ingrained into your consciousness, it actually frees your mind to be able to pay attention to other things, like the comfort of your guests, or creating that unique experience together. Communication occurs at a deeper level, and being present and open to profound insights can all happen in the rule restricted environment of the tea room. Amazing!

Coming up soon. In honor of my 250th blog post, I will be having a blog contest giveaway for those of you who are faithful readers. In order to qualify for the giveaway, you will have to leave a comment. More details will be posted shortly.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, August 05, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, etiquette, study, the way, training

Jul 22, 2009

C.H.A. Creative Handmade Art

C.H.A.
Creative Handmade Art
Year II

This show presents a collection of artists who study the way of tea.
…a way of beauty
…a way of life

Richard Brandt, Sanje Elliott, Jan Waldmann, Barbara Walker, and Margie Yap.

Together, with other special guest artists, we offer objects in clay, wood, painting and calligraphy in the spirit of peace and hospitality.

Come join us in this spirit.

August 7th, Opening Gala: 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm.
8th, Noon until 5:00 pm
9th, Noon until 5:00 pm

8855 SW 36th Ave., Portland, Oregon, 97219
503-245-8705

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, calligraphy, Chado, handbags, sewing, sweetpersimmon.com, Welcome

Jul 21, 2009

The false choice

I was looking for something to watch on TV the other day. I have digital cable with more than 168 channels, and there was nothing on. Yet I kept flipping from channel to channel for a couple of hours to see if there was something that looked interesting to me. Yes, I have 168 channels to choose from, but nothing that I wanted. To me there really was nothing to choose from.

On the other hand, I went to the fabric store to get some fabric to make a handbag. There were rows upon rows of beautiful fabric. I spent an hour and a half there and ultimately left with nothing because I was so overwhelmed that I could not choose a fabric.

When I was in Kyoto to pick out fabric for my first kimono and obi, I became so sensory overloaded that I just wanted to pick things out at random. There were other women with me who looked at all of the choices and asked the shop owner to bring even more fabrics and obi from the store room to look at. I had to leave temporarily and take a walk around the block. Fortunately, the kimono shop owner recommended three colors and fabrics with obi to match. I made my choice from the of the three combinations and it is still my favorite kimono and obi.

With all of the abundance of choice in these three instances, I could not make a choice. Why is that? There is almost too much to choose from that often leads to paralysis. Is it the right choice? How do we know what we want? What if we don’t know? Can we go back and choose again if it isn’t right?

As for choosing, there is so much potential. The point of choosing is a powerful position to be in. All the possibilities open for you. But what if we make the wrong choice? Once the choice is made, we have excluded all the possibilities except the choice we have made. It may lead to buyer’s remorse or regretting the choice already made.

We are almost too rich with choice. I tend to get overwhelmed if I have too much to choose from. If I limit my choices, it is much easier for me to make a decision without regrets. And once I make a choice, I try not to think about what could have been had I made another choice. If things don’t work out, it helps to look at it as if I had another choice to make rather than go back and make a different choice.

How does this relate to chado? On the surface of tea, it seems like there is very little choice in how to do it or what to do. For some people it looks overly restrictive and very rigid. In fact, as we are learning, there are restrictions. But that is because tea is so wide and so deep, that the beginning student can easily become overwhelmed. As we learn the way of tea, even within the restrictions, there is so much potential for creativity. By limiting and simplifying the choices a student makes and revealing the depth of the few choices he can make, he can see the whole in a different light and the choices become more meaningful. In fact, when it comes to choice less is more.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, July 21, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, study, tea ceremony, the way, training

Jul 16, 2009

Performance Anxiety

Doing temae in class is sometimes intimidating, especially when we are learning a new procedure. We want to get it right from the very beginning. Many students have performance anxiety and can do procedures at home but make mistakes or forget the order in front of sensei.

I used to get very nervous before class and worried if I was going to forget something. But after many years of class, and some very kind (but strict) sensei, I have come to the conclusion that performance anxiety is ultimately a self-centered thing. When I should have thought about making the very best tea for my guests, I worried about how I looked. When I should have concentrated on being as natural and relaxed for so my guests enjoyed the experience, I was tense and worried about doing things in the correct order. When I should have made a mistake beautifully, I became embarrassed and forgot what the next thing to do was.

My sensei told me that the classroom is the place to make your mistakes. (And believe me; I have made some real doozies). If you look at mistakes in your temae as learning opportunities, then the outcome is not whether you did it right or wrong, but what did you learn from it. How do you handle a mistake or lapse of memory? Do you get flustered? Do you lose your place? How do you recover from a mistake?

Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Often the lessons we learn in the tea room have nothing to do with the temae and correct procedures. How you are in the tea room ultimately is how you are in life. If you can detach enough to see how you behave in the tea room, many lessons will open up for the rest of your life.

Torigai-sensei in Kyoto was watching me make tea one day, and afterwards, told me, “Marjorie, you will never have a perfect temae.” I was disappointed that after I worked so hard she thought I would never achieve a perfect temae. “However, you are very interesting to watch. You are able to work yourself out of your mistakes and come out fine in the end.”

Presentation July 18th
Issoan tea will be at the Portland Japanese Garden on Saturday July 18th at 1:00 and 2:00 pm for a demonstration of Chanoyu. Free with admission to the garden. Come down to the tea house for an explanation and to see Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, July 16, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, tea ceremony, temae, training

Jul 12, 2009

A Pure Heart Creates Pure Tea

Sei (Purity) is one of the four principles of Chanoyu. Purity is the quality of having an open mind and heart; which is reflected in the care the host puts into the ritual purification of the tea utensils. The purification is done in full view of the guests and is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Recently, my Sensei gave me the gift of a new Fukusa. This beautiful, square piece of silk is bold red and so far, untamed. Men and women often use different colored Fukusa. Women typically use a color associated with male energy (Yang), while men use a color such as violet, representative of female energy (Yin). As in all things, balance is essential.

The Fukusa is used in the tea ceremony to purify the Natsume (tea container) and Chashaku (tea scoop). During the course of the ceremony, the Fukusa is folded and refolded so that a new surface is used each time. In this way, the cloth is always new, always clean, always pure.

Tea is made by combining two simple ingredients: hot water and matcha. Each element is pure and complete in its own right. When combined, the purest form of tea is produced. Sugar is never added to the tea itself. Instead, guests are invited to eat a sweet before the tea is served.

The pure intentions of the host are reflected in the care for the utensils, the clean water and the minimalistic decor of the tea room itself. Each movement and each item have a clear purpose which create the atmosphere for the simplest of beverages to be sincerely enjoyed and purely appreciated.

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Posted by .j at Sunday, July 12, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Jenni

Jul 5, 2009

Zen and tea scrolls

I’d like to post a link to Phillytea blog. Morgan took very good notes during Roshi’s talk about Zen and tea scrolls. Much better than mine. Please go check it out.

In the meantime for those of you who would like a little more reading on Zen calligraphy scrolls, there is a very good book by Eido Roshi and Tani Roshi who both wrote the scroll we used for the koicha seki where I made tea for Eido Roshi at Dai Bosatsu last month.


Zen Words, Zen Calligraphy
by Eido Tai Shimano, Kogetsu Tani (Illustrator)
ISBN-10: 1570621276
ISBN-13: 978-1570621277
Paperback
Calligraphy by Tani Roshi, commentary by Eido Roshi. The heart of Zen is expressed here in beautiful Japanese calligraphies, some of them just a word, other a famous Zen phrase from a person from a poem, koan, or anecdote. Shimano, a well-known Japanese-American Zen master, uses Zen stories and teachings to illuminate the inner meanings of each calligraphy.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, July 05, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, Buddhist path, calligraphy, Dai Bosatsu, reading list, spiritual path, the way

Jul 4, 2009

Serendipity

I had one day left in New York after the Friends in Tea conference. Roger had given a couple of us a ride as far as a train station near his house and we took the train into Manhattan. We checked into an inexpensive but nice hotel on the upper west side and had a fabulous Indian dinner before retiring.

The next day we went to Minamoto Kitchoan and I bought sweets to take home to my students. A friend was going to meet us for lunch, but on Monday many places are just not open for business. We were hot and tired and I was rather irritated. We wandered around for a time and found a small boutique shop with interesting interior décor. We asked if they knew of a place that sold Japanese antiques, and the sales clerk said that the gallery upstairs had some contemporary ceramics, but didn’t know if they were open.

We took the elevator up to the fourth floor and there it was. The tea room described in the Wall Street Journal Article was right there to the left. We invited ourselves in and Mr. Yoshi Munemura was gracious enough to show us the room, serve us some tea and talk about tea, tea utensils and the Yanagi Gallery

We took the elevator up to the fourth floor and there it was. The tea room described in the Wall Street Journal Article was right there to the left. We invited ourselves in and Mr. Yoshi Munemura was gracious enough to show us the room, serve us some tea and talk about tea, tea utensils and the Yanagi Gallery. The tea room itself was an 8 mat room with a host entrance and tokonoma on two sides for display. There was a temaeza set up with Japanese contemporary ceramics, a furokama, tea bowl, chaire, and mizusashi.

Then along the guest side was a footwell that you could put your feet into, and beyond that was a half tatami mat cut lengthwise so you could sit on it with your feet in the well.

We were lucky to have seen it, according to Mr. Munemura, because the tea room will be taken down for the next exhibition this fall. I love it when things like this happen.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, July 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Japanese culture, stuff, the way, Welcome

Jun 26, 2009

Did you have enough tea?

Tea in the living room

Tea on the dock

Tea on the Patio

Double Tea

Open Tea

Simultaneous Tea

Photos courtesy of Bettina, Rebecca, and Morgan

Sharing tea together in the lovely and intimate setting of Dai Bosatsu filled me to the brim with happiness. I could talk all day (and many times late into the night) about tea and nobody’s eyes glazed over. I could drink my fill of koicha, usucha and work to my heart’s content in making a bowl of tea for others. There is nothing like the intimacy of a chakai to get to know one another as fellow guests and observe the host make tea. I learned so much more about gardening, ceramics, shifuku, sweets and flowers.

One of the great things about the Friends in Tea gathering is that I got to meet so many new (to me) tea friends. Some people I have only known through the internet and it was great to meet face-to-face. One person I was anxious to meet was Morgan from Philly Tea. She also has a blog and a post about the Friends in Tea conference. Please visit her site and leave a comment. I know she would appreciate it.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, June 26, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Dai Bosatsu, tea gathering

Jun 23, 2009

Mizuya work

At the Friends in Tea conference, the tea space was improvised, so there was no mizuya to prepare for chakai. Thanks to our resourceful mizuya cho, Jan, she set up a temporary space upstairs near the tatami mats to make a working mizuya. I especially appreciated the fact that the mizuya was set up even though there was no running water or drain nearby. She did this by setting up tubs and buckets for clean and dirty water. These buckets and tubs had to be filled and emptied by hand. This was also a good reminder to be careful to conserve the clean water, and efficient in cleaning up so that the dirty tubs didn’t fill up quickly and have to be emptied in the middle of a chakai.

With so many great utensils brought by the participants the cho had to double the mizuya space by setting up tables. Even though she did that, it still was tight to work there given that two chakai were scheduled at the same time. Part of tea training is to work efficiently and quietly in the mizuya.

Most mizuya that I have worked in are tiny spaces — 1 to 3 tatami mats. That is 3 feet by 6 feet up to 6 feet by 9 feet. It begins to get really crowded in there when 3 or 4 people are all working to get things ready, or clean up from a previous chakai or lesson.

This is where training comes in. If you are not working in the mizuya, get out. The mizuya is no place for standing around and chatting. If you are working, do what you need to do quickly and efficiently and get out. Do not dawdle around or stay to look at things. Make sure your things are cleaned up properly and everything is put back in the proper place. If there is a kama with hot water coming, get up and out of the way. Most important, the cho is the head of the mizuya. You must do what the cho says without argument. There may be a meeting later about it, but at the time, the cho is in charge and what he/she says must be done immediately and without complaint. It is a big responsibility.

*Photo courtesy of Morgan Beard

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 23, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Dai Bosatsu, practice, tea gathering, tea utensils, training

Jun 20, 2009

Ichigo ichie revisited

During Eido Roshi’s talk about Zen scrolls he discussed the often used phrase, ichigo ichie. We often translate this phrase as “one lifetime, one meeting.” But Eido Roshi likes the translation, unprecedented, unrepteatable as a more clear translation of the meaning.

He said on that day that June 12, 2009 has never come before and will never be repeated. It is the only one of it’s kind. This translation only emphasizes the uniqueness of this moment. I live most of my life going from one thing to the next without awareness of the passing of days . Ichigo ichie calls upon me to pay attention to right now before the moment has passed.

I did not bring my camera to the conference for some reason that I think had to do with paying attention. When I take photos, I feel somewhat separated from the “action.” As an observer, I try to capture the moment rather than be in the moment. As we well know, the photograph will never capture the moment, but it can bring back the memories of the time that it was taken.

Eventually, if the people who were there at the time pass, even these memories fade. The very language of photography, to capture the moment, to take a photo seems to be an aggressive way of keeping a hold of or stopping time. We can neither stop the flow nor hold onto the moment. The moment is the moment and you can never recapture it.

Ichigo ichie — unprecedented, unrepeatable.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, June 20, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Dai Bosatsu, Japanese words for the tea room, the way

Jun 19, 2009

Just dye your heart with Chanoyu

During the Friends in Tea conference, there were two formally scheduled chakai, the opening chakai the first day and the closing chakai on the last day. In between, there was what they called open chakai. The tatami mat room upstairs at the guest house at Dai Bosatsu was divided in half and people could sign up to make tea, drink tea or help in the mizuya.

Many participants brought tea utensils to be used at these open chakai, and with the sweet making workshops going on, we always had plenty of sweets. Wild flowers were growing in abundance and thanks to Jan, the mizuya cho, tea and everything was available to put on chakai.

You could also put together impromptu chakai outside, in the meeting room, on the terrace or on the dock over the lake. More than a few people brought chabako, and there was always an early morning chakai in the woodshed.

I would say that there were about 10 scheduled chakai a day in the tatami room and at least 2-3 more chakai that you could attend in other places. And still, I couldn’t get enough of making and drinking tea.

Don’t look with your eyes or cock your ears to listen, just dye your heart with Chanoyu . Look with your eyes and listen with your ears, smell incense and grasp their meaning with questions.” ~ from Rikyu’s 100 poems.

*Photo courtesy of Morgan Beard

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, June 19, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Dai Bosatsu, Rikyu, tea ceremony, tea gathering, temae

Jun 18, 2009

Take a left before you get to the Buddha

Certainly I am not a Zen student, I know very little about Zen. But I was on my way to the yoga class at the Dai Bosatsu Zen monastery, and I didn’t know how to get to the library where the class was held. I had already wandered around and run into a room where the monks were chanting and nearly smacked into the Roshi during the services, so I didn’t want to disturb them any further.

I asked around and these were the instructions on how to get there: “Go up to the second floor and take a left before you get to the Buddha.” It rather struck me as funny that I would have to take a left before I got to the Buddha in a Zen monastery, but I suppose we all take detours in our life. I can also see this as a metaphor in following teachings that tell you to take a left before you get to the Buddha. If you took that left you would end up in the library with lots of words, and words could become confusing (at least to me) about Zen.

On the other hand, the yoga class was just what I needed. I never had yoga before. I am so stiff I cannot sit half lotus when sitting zazen. I have never taken a yoga class, and Jimin our instructor, said that she would not get so hung up on correct positions but make it more of a meditative experience. Through gentle stretches, breathing and the sound of her voice, I opened up my body. In opening my body, I am sure that I opened my mind and my spirit as well, to take in what was going on around me. Not just the things that were planned and happenstance to do with the tea group, but I became aware of the monks as they went about their work and worship in the monastery. Ah, “Zen cha ichi mi” or Zen and tea, one taste.

*Photo courtesy of Morgan Beard

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, June 18, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Buddhist path, Chado, chanoyu, Dai Bosatsu, meditation, mindfulness, spiritual path, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Jun 17, 2009

Chabako, tea anywhere

It was a little early for me to sit zazen at 4:30 am with the monks, but I did get up for the 6:00 Chabako tea that was planned for that morning. We were to have tea on the dock out on the lake, but it was pouring rain. The wood shed was the alternate location and among the resiny smell of the newly cut and stacked wood we had tea. With a thermos and chabako, tea can be anywhere, no need of tatami room.

The sound of the rain on the roof of the woodshed soothed us and as I sat there drinking tea, listening to the host and guest talk about the tea and utensils, I felt a profound sense of belonging, of coming home to be with people of my own family (tribe) where I could talk about tea, drink tea, be immersed in tea and not be thought crazy or obsessed.

I also was reminded again of an essential tea lesson: The best laid plans will somehow be altered and it is best to remain flexible, rely on your training and go with the flow. Oh yes, and it is always good to make alternate plans. As Rikyu said, “Prepare for rain.”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, Dai Bosatsu, Rikyu, tea gathering, Welcome

Jun 16, 2009

Four days of tea

I just got back from the Friends in Tea conference and I am exhausted, but full to the brim in my heart for tea. The conference was held at Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery about 3.5 hours drive from New York City in the Catskills. It is so isolated that cell phones and GPS do not work there. When we reached the entrance gate after driving for miles on a one lane road that turned into a dirt road, I thought we had arrived, but we still had to drive 2 more miles to the monastery. Then we crossed a small bridge and there on a beautiful lake in the mountains was Dai Bosatsu. The long journey was like going through the roji before entering the tea house, and helped to shed the dust of the world and clear our minds for what was about to take place.

I will be writing more about my experience there in the coming days, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who planned and participated in the conference, and thank the Roshi and residents and helpers at Dai Bosatsu who made our stay there memorable, unprecedented and unrepeatable. Thank you.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 16, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Chado, Dai Bosatsu, tea gathering, Welcome

Jun 9, 2009

Friends in Tea

I will not be blogging this week as I will be in New York for the Friends in Tea conference. Be back next week. I am sure that there will be plenty to write about.

No class this week. Make ups on Tuesday at 7 pm at Issoan, Wednesday 7 pm at Issoan, Thursday after 5 pm at Ryokusuido, or Friday at Peninsula Odd Fellows at 7:30 pm. Email and let me know if you are coming to a make up class.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 09, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: classes

Jun 2, 2009

Fushiki, not knowing

Today’s characters are sometimes seen on scrolls in the tea room. They read, fushiki, in translation: I know not.

Reaching out into the unknown is a scary thing. I think of explorers, who had to go beyond where anyone else had been. (yes, the final frontier). It drives some people to explore and it terrifies others to go or do or experience something that they had not done before.

For me to try something new and not know the outcome is like exploring, too. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. My good friend Larry Toda says, “If your palms are not sweaty occasionally, it means that you are not really living.” Really, trying something new is how we stretch and grow.

There was a study done on salespeople and performance. They took high performing salespeople and put them in low yielding territories and took low performing salespeople and put them into high yielding territories. Within a year, the high performing salespeople were back to their income and low performing salespeople were also back to their low sales records. The point of this is that we each have a comfort zone. If we are comfortable with a certain outcome (in this case income level) then we will gradually gravitate to that level. Even when people are miserable, they will only have what they feel comfortable with. It is called the comfort zone.

It seems that high performing people will take risks outside of the comfort zone and low performing people will not. It is not like taking big risks will make you a high performing salesperson, but the attitude of taking small risks helps build confidence in further risk taking. The risk can be as small is finding a new way home from work. The point is to try something that you don’t always know what the outcome will be. If one approaches small risks with the attitude, “it will be interesting to see how this turns out,” rather than one of success/failure, it takes a lot of the pressure off and one can look at the endeavor as a learning opportunity, no matter what happens.

Risk taking can take many forms, from the physical risks of extreme sports, to being vulnerable enough to love someone. So maybe today you will find a new way home and discover part of your neighborhood you had never seen before. What will the outcome be? Fushiki, I know not.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Buddhist path, Japanese words for the tea room, the way

May 30, 2009

Kimono Dressing For Dummies

Step one: Go to the bathroom.

Step two: Put on tabi.

. . . and then it gets more complicated.

The first time I was dressed in kimono for Japanese tea ceremony, I simply stood still with my arms held outstretched while my Sensei did the work. The process, which feels something like transforming from a caterpillar into a butterfly, involves 15 separate pieces and takes approximately 15 minutes for an experienced person to accomplish. Dressing oneself, especially when just learning, takes a bit longer. It goes something like this:

There are two layers of underwear. First put on the one piece slip and then the two piece juban (underkimono). Don’t forget to insert the collar stiffener. Be sure to cross the left side of the juban over the right and tie snugly. If you do not already possess a “cylindrical” figure, you will have to pad your middle to create a uniform shape. No hourglass figures allowed!

The word Kimono literally translates to “thing to wear.” Traditionally, kimono were made of silk, but today they are also available in a variety of synthetic fabrics and come in many patterns and styles. With the underwear securely in place, it is time to put on the kimono.

Take the kimono and put your arms through the sleeves, tucking the sleeves of the juban into the sleeves of the kimono so that they line up evenly. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, adjust the fabric of the skirt so that it hangs just above your ankles and fold left side over right. Wrapping a thin tie around your waist, secure the kimono so that it will stay closed, with the skirt hanging evenly. Smooth out the material to eliminate any wrinkles.

The obi is a straight piece of cloth, generally made of silk and sometimes elaborately embroidered. The obi is wrapped around the ribcage, leaving a tail which is then folded and tucked to create the traditional “drum” bow. Insert the obi stiffener to create a nice, smooth shape. The obi-age, a silk cloth, covers the pad that helps to shape the back of the obi and is tied in the front and tucked into the obi. Caution! Do not let too much of the obi-age show. This is considered to be quite flirty! Finally, the obi-jime, a braided cord, is tied in a square knot securing the entire creation.

Next, look in the mirror and behold the work of art that you have created. Wearing kimono is more than a series of folding fabric and tying knots. It creates a certain sense of elegance and a requirement for proper posture and dignified demeanor. Enjoy this other-worldly feeling.

Incidentally, I am not joking about using the bathroom first. If nothing else, heed this advice. You’ll thank me later.

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Posted by .j at Saturday, May 30, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Jenni, kimono

May 20, 2009

Chakai

I was invited to a chakai Monday night. Mr. Nishiura, owner of Ryokusuido was in town from Tokyo. He is a student of Omotesenke tea school, and we made tea for each other. One thing that he told me about Omotesenke is that there is the way that men make tea and it is different than the way that women make tea. The simpler way is the way that men make tea.

It was a wonderfully sunny, warm day for a chakai, and I arrived at the house in the late afteroon. I love the way that the sidewalk out to the street is dampened all the way out to the street in the summer time in welcome. It looks so fresh and cooling.

Inside the house was cool and dark. Mr. Nishura had prepared a cool drink for me and invited me to enter the tea room. He had cleaned the tea room top to bottom as well as washed the window so that it looked like there was no glass in it.

He brought fresh sweets from Japan and I enjoyed watching him make tea in the men’s Omotesenke style. What struck me was that the temae placement and order were exactly the same as Urasenke style that I study. Just a few stylistic differences made the procedure distinctive, but not strange. Many of the movements were familiar because they were movements that Urasenke style uses for koicha but not usucha. I could see, however, that studying one style and switching to another style can get very confusing.

The tea was fresh and green, and I particularly enjoyed the “jade lake” in the center of the teabowl surrounded by foam. I then prepared and made tea for Mr. Nishiura and as we cleaned up, we compared notes on the different styles. He was very appreciative of the tea I made for him and complimented me on how graceful was my temae. (That was a first for me and quite unexpected).

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, May 20, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, tea ceremony, tea gathering, temae, Welcome

May 11, 2009

Mmmm, Matcha!

With this post, I’d like to introduce you to a new guest blogger, Jenni. She has agreed to post this on the blog, and we hope to see more posts from her in the future. ~ Margie

It has been said that if green were a flavor, matcha would be that flavor. There is a distinctive freshness about it that cannot be duplicated. The taste is slightly sweet, somewhat grassy, and pleasantly addictive. Much has been said about the health benefits of green tea. Matcha is green tea in its purest form. The advantages of powdered matcha are multiplied many times over what can be obtained from an ordinary tea bag.

In addition to being exceptionally good for the body, matcha is good for the soul. The simple act of sipping a bowl of tea nourishes the spirit and provides respite from the mundane world. Matcha is the centerpiece of the Japanese tea ceremony. Full of ritual, prescribed movements and interaction between host and guest, the tea ceremony sets a beautiful scene to celebrate the most important element: Tea.

In a bowl of matcha, the properties of the entire high quality tea leaf are present. The tea bushes are covered weeks before harvesting which preserves the brilliant green color and allows for a high concentration of amino acids in the leaves. The hand-picked leaves are stone ground into a fine powder and whisked with hot water to produce a beverage which, in addition to tasting great, provides these benefits:

– Very high in antioxidants
– Gives a pleasant burst of energy
– Lowers blood pressure
– Fights cancer
– Boosts metabolism & the immune system
– Contributes to mental clarity and overall well-being

Even your dentist would approve – matcha has also been shown to reduce cavities!

Enjoying matcha is a simple and delicious experience. Although nothing can compare to the harmony and tranquility of the Japanese tea ceremony, matcha can easily be prepared at home to satisfy a craving for health, vitality, and the unmistakable flavor of green.

Premium matcha and other fine teas can be purchased at sweetpersimmon.com

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, May 11, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Jenni

May 8, 2009

A Tea Ceremony for Today

I found an article that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal on Tea Ceremony. Sen So-Oku, heir to the Mushakojisenke school of tea was introduced to the U.S. and will be teaching at Columbia University for a year.

He has designed a tea room at the Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, with a sunken foot well similar to the foot wells in American Japanese tatami restaurants. They refer to it as a “tea bleacher,” though that sounds so much like tea as a spectator sport. Please go read the article.

The point Mr. Sen wants to make is one that I have been teaching my students, that tea is a living tradition. Things change in tea not only to accommodate foreign influences, but also to the ages in which it is practiced. In Urasenke, we have table style tea ceremonies, new configurations of tea rooms, and modern tea utensils using 21st century materials.

And yet at its essence is the human relationship of host and guest. The sharing of food and drink and harmony among the participants as well as the awareness of the seasons that make us part of the whole universe. Simple, and yet at the same time very much needed in our modern world.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, May 08, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Japanese culture, stuff, tea ceremony

May 2, 2009

Acquiring tea utensils part 2

Many of my students are at a point of acquiring tea utensils. With ebay and the internet it is relatively easy to get tea stuff from Japan. A tea bowl for $10, a chabako set for $25 including shipping from Japan, a natsume for $5. They can all be had on ebay or online if you look hard are patient and bid at the right time. One might justify buying things because they are cheap and just for study.

But getting the best bargain isn’t the point of owning tea utensils. Sure, you can get a lot of stuff right now, but Rikyu says “Tea should not be an exhibition of what the tea man owns. Instead the sincerity of his heart should be expressed.” (from Rikyu’s 100 poems). Every tea utensil you acquire is a reflection of your heart. It is a big public statement and responsibility when you hold your chakai or chaji. Before purchasing, consider what statement about yourself your guests will take away when they view your piece. Rikyu also said, “Having one kettle you can make tea; it is foolish to possess many utensils.”

Buying utensils from ebay leaves much to be desired, such as the relationship you might have with the person who made it or owned it previously. Often the stories we can tell about a utensil are lost, and it seems to be so awkward during haiken when the guests ask about it to say, “I know nothing about this, I bought it on ebay.”

It was perhaps 3 years into my study of tea before I purchased my first teabowl. It was not easy to find one and I looked for a long time. I consulted with my sensei before I purchased it at an antique store. I knew nothing about its maker or history, but it was a very nice bowl. It was a little more than I could afford, and I gave a chakai for my sensei as a thank you for helping me. We used the bowl at the chakai and sensei really liked it. She said that it had presence and taste.

After the chakai, I carefully wrapped the bowl in a furoshiki because it did not have a box. When I got home, I dropped the chawan in the driveway and it shattered into dust. I only got to use the bowl one time. Ichigo, ichie (one lifetime, one meeting). So don’t get too attached to tea utensils, they are just things.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, May 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, Chado, chanoyu, Rikyu, stuff, tea utensils, training

May 1, 2009

The Honest Scrap Award

Jordan at Succession of Insights blog has tagged me with The Honest Scrap award. I didn’t know that someone thought so highly of this blog to give me an award. It is rather humbling and makes me want to do much better at it.

These are the rules for acceptance :

  1. List 10 honest things about yourself, hopefully interesting.
  2. Pass the award on to 7 bloggers.

So here is my list of 10 honest things about myself, you may find interesting.

  1. I am not Japanese, though I find the culture fascinating. I lived in Japan for a year and teach traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
  2. I find national politics entertaining and follow it quite closely
  3. We decided to stop taking the local newspaper when it was consolidated from 4 sections into two.Though I do miss having the newspaper to wrap things up or put down before a messy job like repotting plants or painting.
  4. I kill plants. I used to take my sick plants to my mom to rescue. She would trade me with her blooming healthy plants and make my plants well again. Since she passed away, I cannot keep plants alive.
  5. Though I worked in the technology field for more than 30 years, I am a technology laggard. I have not ever texted, nor am I on twitter. I have a mobile phone, but often leave it at home and rarely check it, so don’t leave a message, call the home phone.
  6. I don’t miss my high paying corporate job, but sometimes it would be nice just to buy something without having to check the balance in my checking account to see if I can afford it.
  7. I love my students. I love every single one of them. They are all different, they all have talents, they are all so dedicated. Thank you for choosing me.
  8. I have a drawer full of blank journals. Nothing written in them yet, but I keep collecting them.
  9. I have a closet full of art supplies that I have accumulated over many unfinished projects. I am great at starting, but lousy at finishing. Oh yes, I also have knitting stuff, crochet stuff, hand spinning stuff, paper stuff and other miscellaneous craft stuff that I have never finished.
  10. I know how to cook, I just don’t like it that much. I started cooking for my family when I was nine years old and continued until I graduated from high school. My husband is a great cook. He finds it a creative outlook, and I am trying to see it that way, too.

And now for 7 bloggers, check ‘em out:

  1. Fashion Incubator
  2. First Draft
  3. Nuido
  4. You Sew Girl
  5. Talk Left
  6. Firedoglake
  7. Emptywheel

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, May 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, award, gratitude, stuff

Apr 28, 2009

Return to the original one again

keiko to wa ichi yori narai ju wo shiri ju yori keru moto no sono ichi

In training for chanoyu, you go from one to ten and return to the original one again.

This is from one of Rikyu’s 100 poems. Next week we will close the ro and begin the summer season for chanoyu. Before we begin the furo season, all the classes will review the basics again. We will learn how to walk in the tea room, how and when to bow. We will review folding the fukusa and purify the tea utensils and correct bad habits that we have acquired along the way.

When I went to Japan to study tea, even though I had 15 years of tea training, they began teaching us how to walk and bow. The sensei assumed you knew nothing and started everyone at the beginning, no matter how long you had studied. One sensei said that I had accumulated many bad habits and I needed to go back to the beginning. At first I was rather put out by what I thought was wasting time, until I found out that at every koshukai (intensive training workshop), they taught the basics to everyone, even teachers of more than 20 years’ experience. They call this warigeiko.

Even though we go back to the beginning, it really is not the beginning because we have some experience of what it is like to study. I like to think of it as a spiral. Each time you come back to the beginning, you go deeper and learn more about yourself, your temae and your relationships. Just like the seasons come around again, it is different every year. This spring is not like last spring, nor the spring before that.

So next week, bring your fukusa basami, chakin, chasen, chashaku. Be prepared for warigeiko, back to the orginial one again.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, April 28, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, practice, study, tea ceremony, temae, training

Apr 24, 2009

Sakura Festival Saturday

Please join us at Uwajimaya in Beaverton for the Sakura festival. Issoan tea school will be demonstrating tea ceremony on stage in the parking lot (early in the morning). Right after that, Aikido Yoshokai will take the stage for a demonstration of Aikido. See you there.

When: Saturday, April 25th 9:00 am tea ceremony, 10:00 am Aikido
Where: Sakura Festival, Uwajimaya
10500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. Beaverton, OR 97005
Phone: (503)643-4512

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, April 24, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Aikido, Chado, chanoyu, presentation, Welcome

Apr 21, 2009

Hisashi Yamada

Hisashi Yamada, a loving and devoted tea ceremony teacher at Urasenke Chanoyu Center of
New York, passed away on April 18, 2009 at the age of 81. He will be greatly missed by
all his family, friends and students.

Please share this information with anyone who was acquainted with Mr. Yamada.

Funeral Service: Tuesday, April 21, 2009, 2:30PM

The service will take place at Riverside Memorial Chapel
180 West 76th Street *entrance on Amsterdam Avenue- NYC 10023
http://www.riversidememorialchapel.com, tel. 212 362 6600

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, April 21, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Chado, rituals, the way

Apr 19, 2009

Under the cherry trees

Thank you to Ikuko and her husband Mike for coming out to view the sakura and share their tasty lunch with us. And thank you Ronda for wearing your kimono. It was a lovely day, although we missed the blossoms by a few days, we served several adventurous souls tea and sweets.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, April 19, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, flowers, tea ceremony, tea gathering, Welcome

Apr 18, 2009

I dreamed a dream

The phenomenon of Susan Boyle on You tube this week made me think about dreaming dreams. If you are not one of the 26 million people who have watched it, click the link and go there now. She’s 47 and dreams of a singing career, though she’s never had the opportunity until now.

The story seems to resonate in these tough times of an unlikely star with hidden talent. Yet she pursued her dream of singing in front of a large audience and a career like Elaine Page. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

I went to Japan to pursue my teaching license when I was 40 years old. Most of the other students in my class were 19-21 years old. I didn’t start teaching tea until I was 45 years old. My husband went back to school to become an artist when he was 48 years old. There is no law that says dreams are only for the young.

A piece of advice I got from an old man who told me when you dream, don’t dream little dreams. Dream big dreams. Dream unreasonable dreams. And go after them. Do one thing every day that moves you a little closer to your dream. And do one thing every day that nurtures yourself so you have the reserve to pursue your dream

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, April 18, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, the way

Apr 17, 2009

One-of-a-kind Handbags and Purses

Now a word from our sponsors. SweetPesimmon.com is the retail site that supports this blog, so please check it out and buy something to support this blog. You may or may not know that I have been making one-of-a-kind handbags and purses and now they are for sale on my retail website. Handbag link. I also have meditation seats for those of you who have trouble with dead feet while sitting seiza, as well as tea, teaware, incense, photos, books. Also I have started a sewing blog. (link to the left). Thank you we will now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, April 17, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: gratitude, handbags, sewing, sweetpersimmon.com

Apr 16, 2009

Hanami: flower viewing

Looks like we will have good weather this weekend. We’re planning an outdoor tea event with chabako under the cherry blossoms. Please join us:

When: This Saturday, April 18, after 1:00 pm

Where: Japanese American Historical Plaza,
Old Town
2 NW Naito Pkwy
Portland, OR 97209

Portland waterfront near the steel bridge, under the cherry trees.

Come share the fine weather, flowers and a bowl of tea.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, April 16, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, chanoyu, flowers, tea gathering, Welcome

Apr 15, 2009

It’s not my fault

I’ve been having car troubles lately. I have a 1989 Toyota Supra. I love this car. It is 20 years old. Some of the original parts are finally wearing out. Because this car has been so maintenance free, I don’t really have a regular mechanic. When we picked it up, the steering made funny noises that it didn’t before. It began to leak the power steering fluid and had to be replaced again. Then we noticed that there was anti freeze all over the driveway. So we had to take it back to the radiator place who replaced a hose. We got it home and the next day there was anti freeze all over the driveway again. Back the mechanic, the radiator place. We got it back and my husband opened up the hood and anti freeze shot up out of a hose with a hole in it. He spent the day replacing leaking hoses that should have been found by the mechanic or the radiator place. The car is now in the shop for the 6th time in two weeks. It’s still leaking anti freeze all over my driveway.

Each time we took the car back to mechanic or to the radiator place, we got the same plaintive cry, “It’s not my fault!” As a customer, I don’t really care whose fault it is, I just want my car fixed so I don’t have to keep bringing in my car and cleaning up my driveway. I am sure that both places would rather not see me again with the same problems.

How does this relate to tea ceremony? It may or may not, but I want service providers who want to help solve my problem rather than tell me it’s not their fault. I know it is an old car, but it’s been pretty reliable up to this point and I love it. I would feel much better about the inconvenience of taking the car into the shop numerous times if the mechanic just told me, “I am sorry for your inconvenience. Sometimes these old cars have lots of parts that wear out all at once. I’ll get right to work on it and do my best for you.”

I don’t think I have gotten the best from either the mechanic or the radiator place and that makes me want to take a look at the things that I do for other people. Whether it is a small thing or a large thing, am I giving them the best I can do, or am I just doing what I can to get by? How many times am I doing the same job over again that I could have done right the first time? How much inconvenience do I put others through? Do I shift blame to others?

Just like my sensei in Japan were not interested in my excuses for being late, I just wanted an apology and a promise not to inconvenience me in the future. That is accepting responsibility for their actions and being accountable for the results.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, April 15, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, stuff, the way, training

Apr 11, 2009

Chabako and flower viewing

The students are currently studying chabako (traveling tea box) in preparation for Hanami,or flower viewing. This month the Sakura or cherry blossoms will be blooming and for the Japanese people, this is one of the events of the year. We will take our chabako and thermos and venture outside to prepare tea under the cherry blossoms. Portland has a fine waterfront park dedicated to the Japanese interment and it is lined with Sakura that are just in bloom now. We can do it at the peak, or we can do it when the petals start coming down like pink snow all around us.

I remember the first week I was in Kyoto my sempai invited us new students to a chakai at the Kyoto botanical gardens. They packed up the chabako, thermos and bento and we walked from our dormitory to the gardens. It was a beautiful sunny spring day. Under the cherry blossoms, they prepared tea for us and told us how it was to be students and the headquarters under the grand tea master. They were so helpful and took great care of us those first six months when everything was brand new. Thank you, Herman, Kirsten, Scott, Maya, Jani, Robert, and Nastya. It was a wonderful year thanks to you.

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Labels: Chado, chanoyu, sempai, tea gathering, the way, Welcome

Apr 7, 2009

Slow Down

Another lesson I took from the koshukai is that I need to slow down. My mind is always full of thngs, and as Christy sensei told me that an active mind manifests as an active body. I sometimes do things so fast that the guests don’t have time to catch their breath or visually rest when they watch me make tea. Especially with koicha, the pace is slower than with usucha to give the ceremony more weight.

This is not a new problem for me. I know that my mind moves very fast, and I talk very fast. When I get nervous, I move and talk even faster. I am getting better though, Christy sensei did find a few places while I was making tea that were restful, but I really need to slow down.

One way I do this is to pay attention to my breathing. Whenever I am nervous or excited, I tend to hold my breath or breathe very shallowly. Taking one or two deep breaths helps to restore oxygen to my system and my brain seems to function better. Continuing to breathe while my body is moving tends to focus my mind, slow down my nervous tics and allows me to be more present.

From the beginning of entering the tea room until the last act of closing the door, your breathing should be even and controlled. This breathing helps to control the pace of the procedure. As you begin the procedure, folding your fukusa, your guests will begin to breathe in unison with you. It is amazing what happens to the harmony in the room when everyone is breathing in unison.

If you have the opposite problem that I do, of being too slow and too deliberate, increasing the pace of your breathing very slightly will help the pace of your tea procedure. Holding your breath while you make tea does not do you any good at all. You must breathe.

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Labels: breathe, Chado, chanoyu, study, tea ceremony, temae, training

Apr 4, 2009

Oh this blogging business, I can’t figure out how to link this video. It’s about kimono dressing for men.

So here’s my attempt.
Thanks for your patience.

Video: Kimono dressing for men.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, April 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, kimono, study, training

Breaking bad habits

During the course of making tea for Christy sensei, she pointed out a bad habit I have when I fold my fukusa. I didn’t even realize that I was doing it. She stopped me in the middle of folding it and asked me if I knew why she stopped me. I had no idea and she said that it must be a habit if I am unaware of it. She then proceeded to demonstrate what I do and I was appalled at how sloppy it looked. From then on, I was conscious of making sure I did NOT do it when I fold the fukusa.

The first step in breaking a bad habit is becoming aware it is a habit. We cannot see ourselves so it is a good thing to have someone point these bad habits out. The problem is that honest feedback seems so impolite in the tea room. To overcome this, the intention of giving the feedback has to be clean and it must be pointed out in a loving way. I am grateful to sensei that she is paying attention to what I do and is honest with me to help me improve.

We train our bodies so that we can do the movements of temae with an empty mind. And if we train our bodies to do something, it will faithfully reproduce what we have trained it to do; it becomes a habit. Somewhere along the way, I had trained my body into a bad habit and I did it without realizing that I was doing it. They say that it takes a minimum of doing something 32 times before it becomes a habit. So the second step once we become aware is to consciously do it correctly for a minimum of 32 times.

Christy also suggested that I examine what it was that made me initiate the bad habit in the first place. For something as basic as folding the fukusa, I know the correct way to fold it, but something triggered a change and I kept repeating it until I became unaware of it. By examining the trigger, it will help me break the bad habit as I re-train my body to do it again correctly.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, April 04, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, study, temae, training

Apr 2, 2009

Pay attention to what you are doing

No matter how many times we have done temae, it is always good to pay attention to what we are doing. One of the things Christy sensei emphasized in koshukai is the precision with which we do temae. First of all make sure that the orientation of your body is correct. Especially in the winter season, there is a difference in centering your body with the outside corner of the hearth frame and the inside corner. There may be less than an inch in difference, but it changes the position of all the utensils as you use them. Your left knee should also come up to be even with the corner of the hearth frame, and the space of 16 tatami weaves should be in front of you. Also make sure that your body is centered with the outside line of the hearth frame when speaking with guests and putting out the haiken utensils.

One thing many students become sloppy with is picking up and moving utensils. When the left hand or the right hand picks up or puts down the bowl make sure it is precisely at 9 o’clock or three o’clock on the bowl. There are certain times to pick up the bowl or set it down at 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock. Know when to use these different handling techniques and why. When transferring the bowl or the hishaku (water scoop) make sure that changing hands occurs in the center of the body. A lot of students tend to transfer the utensils from one hand to another on the way to where ever it is traveling.

After purifying natsume or chaire, the fukusa is squeezed in the right hand, but then it comes just over the right knee. If you pull your hand up your leg near your body, you get this chicken wing effect as you put down the tea container that looks awkward and funny.

Finally, make sure you have good posture. Not only do you look better in kimono if you have good posture, but also when making tea, sit with a straight back and not too close to the bowl. Bow with a straight back and do not put your weight on your hands while you are doing it.

We all learned these things as basics, but it is always a good reminder to pay attention to what we are doing in temae, even if we have done them a hundred times before.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, April 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, classes, mindfulness, practice, study, tea ceremony, temae, training

Apr 1, 2009

Back to Basics

Christy Bartlett sensei was just in town for koshukai, an intensive teaching workshop for the way of tea. These workshops are always an inspiring and humbling experience. Usually they last two or three days and are divided into sections for advanced intermediate and beginner students. The students prepare and make tea for other student guests much like regular keiko, but as I said before it is intensive. Christy sensei’s experience, knowledge and teaching deepen our understanding of the way of tea, of the historical precedents of tea, of the exact order and questions about temae and most important, something about ourselves. One thing I so appreciate about Christy sensei is that she gives the most honest feedback and corrects even the smallest points to pay attention to. The effects of these workshops stays with me for many days and weeks.

These koshukai are also a gathering time to be with people who we do not ordinarily see, fellow students and teachers of the way of tea. While the format of the classes are strict, there is a fellowship of feeling as we are all there to study hard and learn more. There is something to be said about the closeness one feels for other students who have suffered along with you sitting seiza for 8 hours a day for three days.

It was interesting to me that this time, what struck me the most was not so much the teaching of the upper temae, but comments and teaching from sensei about the basics. How to fold the fukusa, working on footwork, conversation about utensils, picking up and putting things down, the speed (or slowness) of the pace of temae. How we do all of these things tell us about ourselves. It is a way of looking at ourselves as we are in the world. What can we learn by looking at ourselves as we behave in the tea room?

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, April 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, study, temae, the way, training

Mar 24, 2009

Reduce, reuse, recyle and repair

“There was a Chajin of Sakai who had a tea caddy called Sessan and he used it when Rikyu came. But Rikyu thought nothing of it so its owner smashed it against the trivet on the hearth. Another guest took away the pieces and put them together again and gave a chaji to which he invited Rikyu. This time the master praised the caddy, so the host returned it to its former owner and told him to take great care of it. Later on someone bought it for a thousand pieces of gold, and noticing that the joins were very rough proposed to have it mended again more neatly and submitted it to Kobori Enshu for his opinion. “If you do that you will spoil it altogether,” was his decision, “for that was just why Rikyu liked it.” ~from Cha-no-yu, by A.L. Sadler

Today in our disposable society, when something is broken, we toss it out without even thinking about it. Technology and planned obsolescence makes it cheaper and more convenient to throw things out and buy new ones, especially with more features, bells and whistles on it. I had a VCR and it stopped working one day. I took it to a repair shop and the guy told me that it wasn’t worth fixing because it would cost me $150, when I could go a buy a new one with a more sophisticated remote control gizmos for $49.00. I was told my old sewing machine (1940s model) was worth less than $15, and yet it costs $85 for a cleaning and adjustment. The technician told me to junk it because he’d likely spend at least a month trying to track down a similar model so he could cannibalize parts for it as it is no longer manufactured and I would end up paying him for his time as well. I have two or three old cell phones that worked fine until the cell phone company no longer supported them and I had to upgrade to a new one.

But, going green, there is a consciousness of not just recycling, but repair and reusing things that were broken, discarded or no longer usable. Just like the depression of my parent’s era, in this economic climate, there are more people who see repairing things as a way to save money, and get more use out of what you already have. It may be even cool again to be known as the guy who can repair anything. There is even a site that seeks to make repair the fourth ‘R’: reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair. The repair manifesto.

In my classes we are learning chabako (traveling tea set). I have a set with matching ceramics with a bamboo desgin, but the chakin tsutsu (wiping cloth tube) met the floor rather violently last week and was shattered into many pieces. In the spirit of Rikyu’s guest, I gathered as many pieces as I could find and repaired with a little gold powder in the joints. Now I have a chakin tsutsu that no longer matches the set, but has an interesting story.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, March 24, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Chado, Rikyu, tea ceremony, tea utensils, wabi

Mar 23, 2009

Kimono and Obi Sale

Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, 2009
10:00AM – 5:00PM

We’ve received new shipment of many Kimono, Obi, and Kimono Tansu,
And are having a party to celebrate. Refreshments will be served in a
Traditional tea ceremony room

Nishiura Ryokusuido
Japanese Arts & Antiques
3826 N.E. Glisan St. (near NE 39th Ave.)
Portland, OR. 97232
(503) 236-8005

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, March 23, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: kimono, tea ceremony

Mar 18, 2009

Playing with scents, more on Kodo, the Way of Incense

On Monday, Mr. Nishiura, incense master, came from Tokyo (via San Francisco) for a chakai at Ryokusuido. The students and I were able to serve him tea and after that he presented us with a game of incense.

As the night fell, the room was lit by candle light. It bathed us all in a flattering glow and Mr. Nishiura began the incense ceremony. Like tea, there are specialized dogu (utensils). Like tea, he brought everything into the room and prepared the things for us to smell the incense. While he was doing that, the guests were passed our own brush, calligraphy set, and answer sheet. We made ink with ink stick and stone. Then we were to write our name on the outside of our answer sheet.

The game we were to play would be to compare two different incenses. He shuffled the incense packets and chose six. There would be three rounds of comparison and we were to mark on our answer sheets with a dash – if they were the same or two dots ?? if they were different. We were to write them from the bottom to the top. The resulting symbol, three lines of dashes and dots referred to a phenomenon of nature, such as fire, thunder earth etc. With this combination, there were 8 possibilities for the answer. Mr. Nishura told us that as we listen to the music of the incense and come upon our answers, the symbols will tell us something about our own nature.

We started to listen to the first incense. It was a heady fragrance and I could barely tell if there was anything at all on the burner. I inhaled with all my lungs as we only had one chance to listen before we passed on to the next one. Mr. Nishura told us not to just smell the incense. That happens with just your nose. But to inhale and listen with our whole body, not just the surface or top notes, but also to the under notes and the whole of the music. We could write down our answers after each set, or wait until the end. And we could change our answers at any time.

I must say that there was a lot going on in that first inhalation. But I really don’t have the words to describe what was going on for me. The second round we had to judge if it was the same or different than the previous round. Not only did we listen to the incense, we had to remember how the first one was and distinguish if it was different from the second one. Being a novice, I didn’t know how subtle the differences could be. I could not distinguish between the first two, nor the second set of two, nor the third set.

When all the sets were done, we passed the answers to Mr. Nishura on a tray, and he scored and recorded the answers on a beautiful sheet of calligraphy (see photo). The correct answer was that the first two sets were alike, the third set different. Mr. Nishura said that to get a high score is not the point. If you have a high score that means you are very sensitive and that you are healthy. To get a low score means that you are happy.

To be an incense master, you must also have beautiful handwriting, too.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, March 18, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, breathe, calligraphy, the way

Feb 23, 2009

Issoan Tea School will be presenting
Tea Ceremony Demonstrations

At the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation
Japanese Market

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

West End Building, 4101 Kruse Way

Tea Ceremony Demonstrations at 10:30, 1:00 and 3:00. There will also

be other traditional entertainment, fascinating demonstrations and unique treasures.

SweetPersimmon will also have a booth with Portable Meditation Seats, Rice Heat Wraps, Handmade Purses and Handbags, Tea, Incense, and other unique items.

Directions: From I-5 and 217:

Exit I-5 #292 Kruse Way

Proceed East on Kruse Way to Kruse Way Place

4102 Kruse Way. Parking lot is on the left (West side) behind the building

Google Map

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, February 23, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, presentation, tea ceremony, Welcome

Feb 13, 2009

In the winter suggest warmth

Some things come along to remind me how easy and comfortable my life really is. Yesterday, the house where I teach the furnace went out, as in it didn’t work. When I arrived in the afternoon to set up the mizuya and clean the tea room, it was about 40ºF (5ºC), a little above the outside temperature. I immediately turned on the thermostat to start the furnace as I usually do. No sound of it starting up and no heat.

I began to set up the mizuya, putting on the water to boil, and cleaned the tea room. That warmed me up a little, but still no heat. I closed the shoji doors to the tea room and started the little electric element in the ro. Still no heat. I put the kama on, filled the natsume and began to make sweets. Still no heat. I lit a candle in the tea room and hung the scroll, arranged the flowers and lit some incense.

By the time the first student arrived, it seemed to warm up a little from the boiling water and my moving around rather energetically. But still no heat. We did zazen for about 10 minutes and then began to set up for the lesson. By now it was obvious that there was not going to be heat for the evening lessons.

We proceeded with the day’s lessons and learned lessons on how to project through your spirit and personality how to suggest warmth. The guests sat closer together on the tatami and the host drew attention to the steam from the kettle rose that in such beautiful clouds, guests lingered over bowls of tea, stories were exchanged to take guests minds off the cold. The host offered extra bowls of tea or hot water. As the guests left the tea room, they remarked on how much warmer the tea room was from the hallway just outside.

From the seven rules of Rikyu – “In the summer suggest coolness, in the winter warmth.”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, February 13, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Chado, chanoyu, classes, Rikyu, study, training

Feb 9, 2009

Noh: Pathos behind the mask

Noh is one of the oldest performance arts in the world, featuring rhythmic musicians, choral chanters and masked actors. Principal noh actor Shizuka Mikata will be joined by four exceptionally talented performers from the Kanze School to demonstrate this traditional art, including actor, Michiharu Wakebayashi, flute player Manabu Takeichi, kotsuzumi drummer Ichiro Kichisaka, and otsuzumi drummer Masaharu Kawamura.

Portland:
Tuesday Februay 10, 7pm
Dolores Winningstad Theater
Contact Dr. Laurence Kominz, phone 503-725-5288, email: kominzl@pdx.edu

Seattle:
Thursday February 12, 7 pm
Stimson Auditorim Seattle Asian Art Museum
Contact SAM box office, to RSVP email boxoffice@seattleartmuseum.org

Denver:
Saturday February 14, 8 pm
University of Colorado, Denver
Kenneth King Academic & Performing Arts Center, Recital Hall
Contact lee Ann Weller, phone 303-556-2296, email: LeeAnn.Weller@ucdenver.edu

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, February 09, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, artists, Japanese culture, theater

Feb 1, 2009

Chado, a way of life

One of my sensei in Japan once said that Chado becomes the yardstick with which you measure your life. I didn’t know what he meant by that, and to be sure it is like the scrolls in the alcove – the meaning of the words are much deeper than the words appear on the surface.

Over the many years of study, Chado has changed my life. Every time I step into the tea room, I learn something new. As I learn more about the way of tea, the more I learn how I am in the world. The tea room is a microcosm of life and how I behave there often translate to how I behave outside the tea room. The form and etiquette of tea are often seen as empty gestures, yet some of the enforced politeness pays off as I unconsciously incorporated politeness, respect and thinking of others in my everyday life.

Before I started to study Chado, I had a very short attention span. Anything new or shiny took me off course and I had trouble finishing any project, job or chore. Even moment by moment, I had trouble staying on task. Eventually, I found myself focusing more and more until the job was done.

My years of cleaning and cleaning the tea room and mizuya have trained me to do the same thing in my home. I used to be such a slob. Now, I cannot cook in a kitchen until I have cleaned everything up. I never used to make my bed in the morning and now I do.

While some people see Chado as irrelevant and tradition bound, there are benefits that are applicable to everyday life. As my husband says, “After a while, studying tea goes beyond a hobby and becomes a lifestyle.”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, February 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Chado, practice, study, tea ceremony, training

Jan 30, 2009

Introduction to Japanese Culture through the Tea Ceremony

Harmony, purity, respect and tranquility. These are the four principles of tea ceremony distilled from Japanese culture. In this ten week class, students will be introduced to Chado, the way of tea. The arts of Japan will be examined through the ritual preparation and drinking of matcha, Japanese ceremonial tea. Students will participate in at least six tea ceremonies, an incense ceremony, and kimono dressing. Japanese architecture, gardening, flower arranging and calligraphy will also be covered.
Issoan Tea School
17761 NW Marylhurst Ct.
Portland, OR 97229

Wednesdays 7:00-8:30 pm beginning Feb. 4

Contact me 503.645.7058 or email margie@issoantea.com to register. Space is limited only 2 more spaces left.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, January 30, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, classes, Japanese culture, tea ceremony

Jan 28, 2009

The Stubborn Twig

The Stubborn Twig, by Laruren Kessler is the story of the Yasui family making their way in America through the generations. This book is the official selection for Oregon Reads 2009, which is a community reads program that will take place in nearly every public library and in every county in Oregon during the state’s sesquicentennial, January through April of 2009. As a result of this, there are many Japanese cultural events scheduled through the libraries, cultural and recreational centers to foster an understanding of the Japanese culture.

Issoan Tea School will be giving lectures and demonstrations as part of this cultural education.

• Cornelius Public library, Saturday Feb. 21 at 1:00 pm.
• Lake Oswego Parks and Rec. Japanese Market, Saturday Feb. 28th at
10:30, 1:00 and 3:00 pm
• Driftwood Public Library, Lincoln City, Sunday March 8, 3:00 pm

Please join us for a sweet and a bowl of tea.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, January 28, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, presentation, tea ceremony, Welcome

Jan 27, 2009

Living forward for a year

Every year the Emperor of Japan selects a poetic theme for the next year. The theme is announced and guest poets and the public are invited to submit waka poems based on the theme. Waka or Tanka is a five line poem with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables in each line. Anyone can submit a poem and if your poem is selected, you will get an invitation to attend the gathering held for poems in January. You will have the opportunity to have an audience with the Emperor and recite your poem at the gathering. The Emperor will present his poem at the gathering as well.

The chokudai, or poetic theme for last year was fire. for 2009 is sei – meaning “to live” or “to live forward.” If you are an artist, this might mean you continue striving in the arts. If you are a craftsperson, perhaps it means to keep the old or new tradition going. If you are a teacher, you might try to impart a good education to your students. Or for a plant it may mean to remain in the ground for another year.

For this year, I will not dwell in the past. All the mistakes I made in the past or perceived slights made by others will be in the past. Everyday for this year, I will wake up to a new day and continue to live forward.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, haiku, the way

Jan 26, 2009

2009 the year of the ox

It seems like such a long time since I last posted and for regular readers and those who enjoy reading this blog, I am very sorry. I promise to be better about posting as I have many things that I would like to share with you about Chanoyu, the way of tea. New updates on my Issoan Tea website, too.

This year, 2009 is the year of the Ox. The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.

Ox people need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, though they have a tremendous imagination and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.

People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families. Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who don’t take kindly to being told what to do.

The Ox works hard, patiently, and methodically, with original intelligence and reflective thought. These people enjoy helping others. Behind this tenacious, laboring, and self-sacrificing exterior lies an active mind.

The Ox is not extravagant, and the thought of living off credit cards or being in debt makes them nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.

Ox people are truthful and sincere, and the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world is distasteful to them. They are rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain. These people are always welcome because of their honesty and patience. They are reputed to be the most beautiful of face in the zodiac. They have many friends, who appreciate the fact that the Ox people are wary of new trends, although every now and then they can be encouraged to try something new. People born in the year of the Ox make wonderful parents and teachers of children.

It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the tri

Dec 30, 2009

Invitation to a tea gathering

Like any formal invitation,  an invitation to a tea gathering will have a time, date and place.   But look closer at the invitation.  The host of the tea gathering has included a seasonal poem, reference, greeting or saying that tells you about the occasion for  the gathering.  It may even hint at the theme for the gathering.

In a cold, cold dawn
the golden fragment of a
waning moon — how bright!

The wording of the invitation will be humble, something like —  “The end of the year approaches and the remaining days are getting shorter.  Let’s not put off meeting again so please come to share a simple meal and a bowl of tea.”

You will also notice that the invitation is hand written.  In Japan, these invitations were callgraphied in your best brush writing on beautiful paper and hand delivered.  Today in America, hand written invitations with appropriate illustrations sent through the mail is appropriate. No flyers, cutesy printed invitations or emails for tea gatherings.

Then the time, the date and the place.  An RSVP such as “Please let me know by Dec. 31 if you will attend”

Sometimes there will be a list of the other guests, especially the Shokyaku or first guest.

When you receive an invitation to a tea gathering, etiquette demands that you RSVP as soon as you can. Do not wait until the deadline or make the host call you and ask if you are attending or not.

If you are the shokyaku, the host will provide you with a list of the other guests who have confirmed attending.  It is the shokayku’s responsibility to call each of the other guests and tell them the order of seating, what to bring to the gathering, the format of the gathering and answer any questions they may have. Also the shokyaku will either call or visit the host (zenrei) to bring a gift and ask the host if there is anything that they can do before the gathering.  A polite guest other than the shokayku should call or write a note to the host a couple of days before to express thank you for the invitation. (This is in ADDITION to the RSVP).

As a guest, you are expected to bring your fukusa basami with fan, fukusa, kaishi, sweets pick, plastic bag and handkerchief.  As shokyaku, I always bring an extra set of fukusa, fan, papers, plastic bags and handkerchief just in case anyone forgets to bring them.

As a guest, please arrive 10-15 minutes before the start of the gathering to take care of hanging up your coat, putting on your tabi (or removing tabi covers), and stowing your belongings.  Sometimes the host will make a changing room available for those wearing or putting on kimono.  Please arrive in time to be dressed and ready 10-15 minutes ahead of time, and try not to disturb your host with requests such as helping you put on your kimono or tie your obi.

Next:  Anatomy of a tea gathering

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, December 30, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chakai, etiquette, study, tea ceremony, tea gathering, training, Welcome

Dec 16, 2009

New Introduction to Chanoyu Class

Well gee, I just learned how to put some things into the left hand column.   You will see two new things today: an announcement of the new introduction class, and an Issoan tea school calendar. On the calendar, all classes will be listed as well as events, workshops, cultural activities in Portland and other things as I think of them.  Any suggestions for the calendar welcome.

Issoan will be starting 2 new Introduction to Chanoyu classes in January 2010. The classes are filling up fast, so if you’d like to take the class, please contact me soon.  As soon as the class fills up, I will close the registration and put people on a waiting list.

Tuesday evenings 7:00 – 8:30 pm for 10 weeks starting January 12
Issoan Tea School:
17761 NW Marylhurst Ct.
Portland, OR 97229.  
Two places left.

Friday evenings 6:00 – 7:30 pm for 10 weeks, starting January 15
Ryokusuido Tea Room:
3826 NE Glisan St.,
Portland, OR 97232.  
One place left.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, December 16, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: chanoyu, classes, stuff

Dec 14, 2009

Before Rikyu

Before Sen Rikyu there was tea and before Bach there was music.
~Hisashi Yamada

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Labels: Rikyu

Dec 9, 2009

Anagama kiln and preivew of the Holiday Sale

Despite bitter cold and a horrendous East wind blowing last Sunday, my husband and I were invited to the opening of the anagama firing by Richard Brandt and crew.  I have attended a firing before, but I had to leave before the kiln was opened.  This time though, the previous week the kiln was fired for 5 days — that is they fed it more than four cords of wood, then sealed it up to cool and Sunday was the opening.  This was very exciting as the fire is unpredictable and what went into the kiln may or may not resemble what comes out, depending on the fire, the flames and the placement in the kiln.  That is the magic of an anagama firing.

Last Sunday we unloaded the anagama kiln and I must say that it’s the best firing I’ve ever taken part in. The frozen wind and numb hands were not even a bother because the work was so fantastic. The colors are outstanding. The carnage low. Plenty of startling surprises. Everything seemed to fall into place. A labor of love it remains. I am very excited to share this work with you.  ~ Richard Brandt

We got there as they were taking the bricks down from the front of the kiln.  I was surprised at how orderly it was and the crew was very careful to stack each brick as it came from the door in order for the next people to seal up the front more easily.  Then the ash was swept away from the firebox and everything cleaned out before any pieces were taken out.    One of the first pieces to be taken out was a little figurine.It was found standing among the ashes in the firebox. It was on the lower front shelf and it had fallen off but remained standing as if it had jumped into the fire.

Here are a couple of photos as the first pieces were unloaded from the kiln:

While everything looks monochrome in these photos, there was plenty of drama and color when the pieces were unloaded.  There were so many spectacular vases, bowls, tea pots and sculptures:

I just wanted to preview a few pieces that Richard will be showing at the sale and (modestly) show some of the handbags I made from kimono material that will also be featured at the show.
Nishiura Ryokusuido
3826 NE Glisan St.
Portland Oregon 97229
Friday evening opening reception 7-9 pm

Saturday and Sunday 12-5 pm

I hope you will come out to see Richard’s work.  Here’s a few handbags made from kimono and obi that will be featured.

 

 

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, December 09, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, handbags, kimono, pottery, sweetpersimmon.com, tea utensils, Welcome

Dec 4, 2009

First Annual Ryokusuido

Holiday Show and Sale 2009

 

Please come to our Holiday Show of Japanese

Antiques, Kimono, and Obi, featuring wood fired

tea utensils by Richard Brandt, and Handbags and

Fashions by SweetPersimmon at

Nishiura Ryokusuido

Japanese Arts and Antiques

3826 NE Glisan, Portland, OR 97232


(503) 236-8005 or (503) 262-8369

Friday Dec. 11 7-9 pm

Saturday and Sunday

Dec. 12-13   12-5 pm


Please join us Friday evening for drink and refreshment

Tea will be served in a traditional tea ceremony room

on Saturday and Sunday

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, December 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, handbags, kimono, Welcome

Dec 1, 2009

Senke Jusshoku, ten craft families

For generations, the Urasenke, Omotesenke and Mushakojisenke schools have been supported by ten craft families who have supplied them with tea utensils.  Each family has its own specialties that are passed down to the next generation just as the grand tea mastership is passed down in the Senke families.

The ten craft families number of generations serving and their specialties are:

  1. Raku Kichizaemon 15th generation –  chawan shi, teabowls, mizusashi, flower vases, incense containers
  2. Eiraku Zengoro 16th generation  – doburo yakimono shi, ceramics, including mizusashi, futaoki, ceramic furo, flower containers, tea bowls, incense containers, and futaoki
  3. Onishi Seimon 16th generation- kamashi, kettles, gotoku (iron trivet), kensui, and other cast iron works
  4. Nakagawa Joeki 11th generation – kanmono shi, bronze vases, kettles, ash spoons, trays, kensui, kan and hibashi
  5. Nakamura Sotetsu 12th generation- nu shi, lacquer, especially gold painted design, natsume, trays, incense containers, bowls and sake cups
  6. Hiki Ikkan 15th generation – ikkanbarisaiku shi, paper mache and lacquer over paper, for example inside of charcoal baskets, sweets trays, also feather work for haboki
  7.  Kuroda Shogen 13th generation – takezaiku hishaku shi, bamboo anything, including hishaku, chashaku blanks, tana made of bamboo
  8. Tsuchida Yuko 12th generation – fukuro shi, fabric for fukusa, kobukusa, and shifuku pouches
  9. Komazawa Risai 15th generation -sashimono shi, wood worker for tana (display shelves), bentwood containers, hearth frames, screens, tabakobon
  10. Okumura Kichibei 12th generation – hyogu shi, scroll mounting, fusuma (paper doors), furosaki byobu (screens), paper goods such as kettle hotpads, paper tobacco pouches

As we get further along in haiken, it is good to know these families and their specialties, in case your teacher in class or shokyaku should ask “who made it?”

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Labels: Chado, chanoyu, practice, tea utensils, training

Nov 22, 2009

New Japanese Tea Garden

We have permission and will soon be kicking off an ambitious project.  The students and I will be building a new Japanese Tea Garden in the backyard of Ryokusuido.  We are excited that Marc Peter Kean’s new book has come out just as we are beginning planning for the garden.  We also have secured Virginia Harmon, director of grounds maintenance at the Portland Japanese Garden as our advisor.  One of the things we need to do is raise funds and donations to get started.  If anyone has suggestions for fundraising or plant, tools or materials donations to our efforts, please let me know.

We will be documenting our progress at a new blog Ryokusuido Tea Garden.  Please join us on our journey to complete this project.  I’ll add a link to the new blog.  (Blog now closed).

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, November 22, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: gardening, study, training

Nov 20, 2009

Sweet Zenzai

The sweet we had at Robiraki was a sweet bean soup, called zenzai. It is especially welcome at Robiraki when the weather has turned cold and rainy and the guests leave the tea room for a short break outside. I have a request for the recipe as follows:

Ingredients:

1 lb adzuki red beans (454 grams)
10.5 oz. white granulated sugar (300 grams)
10.5 oz dard brown sugar (300 grams)
1 Tbls. usukuchi (thin) soy sauce
mochi (sweet rice cakes) or boiled dango
roasted chestnuts (optional)

Check the beans carefully and discard any broken or off color or misshapen beans. Rinse the beans in cold water several times then soak overnight in plenty of cold water to soften. Drain and discard soaking water. Rinse beans and cover with fresh cold water. Gently bring beans to the boil and skim off the foam that comes to the top of the pot. Boil gently until the beans are soft and cooked through. (about an hour).

When beans are done, pour off the water until the beans are just barely covered. Add both the sugars and soy sauce. Bring back to boil, stirring in the sugar. Turn down the heat and simmer for another 15 minutes. Taste for sweetness. You can add sugar if not enough. Simmer until all sugar is completely dissolved. The zenzai can be served now, but tastes much better if it is allowed to cool and sit overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to serve, cut round or square mochi pieces and lightly grill until golden brown under the broiler. (Or from round balls of dango and boil until it floats). Heat the zenzai until very hot.
Place a few pieces of grilled mochi or dango in serving bowls and ladle the hot zenzai on top.

Optional you can roast and peel chestnuts and cut in half and put in the bowl with mochi and put hot zenzai on top.

This recipe makes about 20 small servings. I cut this recipe in half and reduced some of the sugar (for my taste) and had enough for 7 people for Robiraki. (5 guests, two mizuya helpers).

This also can be served over ice cream for a tasty dessert.

Go ahead make some zenzai this fall.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, November 20, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: chakai, guests, sweets, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Nov 17, 2009

Chakai went well

I am happy to report that the chakai went very well. I know that the meal is not the high point of the chakai, but cooking is not my most strong point, so I am a little extra careful when I am preparing a meal for others. Here is a photo of the tray before it went out to the first guest. I forgot my camera, so this is a rather rough photo from the camera phone.

I think the guests all had a good time, but I want to remind all of you who are thinking of putting on a chakai, to think of the comfort of your guests. I had planned for this chakai to last about 2 hours with a 10 minute break in between the meal and the koicha. For most of my students, this is a long time to be sitting seiza in the tea room. At the end of the first hour, most of the guests were suffering and needed the break. For some it was torture to return to the tea room and sit through the koicha procedure (about 25 minutes for 5 guests). After koicha, I brought in zabuton and seiza stools to help the guests and alleviate their pain. There was a heartfelt sigh of relief when I brought these in and proceeded to make usucha.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, November 17, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: chakai, chanoyu, guests, kaiseki meal, tea gathering

Nov 16, 2009

Pre-chakai jitters

Tonight, I will be putting on a chakai for Robiraki. My students will be attending their first tea event and I want to make it special. I will be doing a tenshin meal, koicha and usucha.

We will have tea by candlelight. For the meal, pressed rice garnished with furikake, grilled fish, sliced tuna in a citrus soy sauce, marinated oyster mushrooms, sweet potato cooked in dashi, and daikon radish cut in the shape of a chrysanthemum. The nimono or boiled soup dish will have taro root, carrot, mitsuba and hinoki mushrooms. I prepared zenzai (sweet bean soup) for sweets. I also made some pressed sweets in the shape of mushrooms and gourds.

Mr. Nishiura will be the honored guest and I am a little apprehensive because he is so accomplished in Japanese arts. I hope it will go well.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, November 16, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chakai, chanoyu, kaiseki meal, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Nov 6, 2009

Back to the beginning

I have already written posts about going back to basics and back to one again, but for this week’s lessons we are changing to the ro season and we are reviewing the very first things we learned in the tea room again. Every change of season we go back to the beginning in how to bow, how to enter the tea room, how to walk, turn, sit and stand and move about the tea room. We also review warigeiko: folding fukusa, purifying utensils, handling hishaku and most importantly the roles of the guest and host. This is a good time to correct bad habits that we have accumulated over the past season and straighten up sloppy handling of utensils.

Funny thing is that my students have taught me more about basics than I think I am teaching them. I have found quite often in teaching the way of tea that the lessons I am teaching are really not what the students are learning. Yes, this week’s classes are about the technical aspects of learning tea, but what one of my students told me after class was that we should go back to basics in other parts of our life as well. We talked about being grateful and how it is very rare these days to receive a hand written thank you note, especially that people don’t write in cursive handwriting anymore.

One of the things that another student talked about was that tea forces her to slow down. At first she was rather resentful in having to go back and re-do something she thought she already mastered. This led to a discussion of what mastery really means. Does folding your fukusa every week during your temae mean you have mastered it?

Even high ranking teachers with many years of experience, when they go to an intensive seminar, they start with the beginning of tea training: how to bow, how to walk, how to fold the fukusa and every time I have attended a tea training seminar, I realize just how sloppy I have become and how many bad habits that I have accumulated.

Also for me, going back to the beginning is really not back to the beginning but going back and learning the basics at a deeper level. It also connects me back to when I began as a tea student and was so very excited about learning the way of tea. I have at times become quite nonchalant about my tea studies, and it helps to recapture “the humble, but eager heart of the beginner” again.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, November 06, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, classes, gratitude, practice, study, training

Nov 3, 2009

Robiraki, Opening the Winter Hearth

The new year for tea is upon us. Frost is forming and the mountain passes are filling with snow. The landscape and people are preparing for winter cold. Once again the fire moves to the sunken hearth and laying charcoal for the first time is celebrated at Robiraki. The chatsubo, the tea container that has held the tea leaves since the harvest in May, is brought out and opened in a ceremony called Kuchikiri. The sealed jar is displayed in the tea room as the guests enter. The host takes the jar from the mesh bag, allows the guests to see the seal before he/she opens the seal and takes out the tea leaves to be ground for tea that day. Then the jar is sealed up again.

There are two ways to display the chatsubo: in the mesh bag as noted above and with the three decorative knots, formal in front, semiformal to the right, and informal to the left. This is a beautiful way to display the chatsubo if you are not going to take the tea out of the jar in front of the guests.

The laying of the charcoal is always a feature of Robiraki, emphasizing the warmth of the winter hearth. Laying the sumi (charcoal) for the ro season is larger than for the furo (summer) season. It is usually laid at the beginning of the chaji (tea gathering) and all through the meal, the charcoal is heating the water in the kettle. Ro sized kettles are larger and it takes more time and charcoal to heat them up.

Another seasonal treat is the sweets for Robiraki. That is zenzai. It is kind of a sweet bean soup served hot in lacquer bowls. Sometimes there is bit of mochi or chestnuts in the soup.

Timing for Robiraki is sometimes a mystery. There are various ways to think about it: approximately 88 days from the time of the tea harvest is the time to open up the chatsubo, so timing robiraki for this allows for a kuchi kiri as well as robiraki. I think it was Rikyu who said that “when the yuzu (citron) turns yellow it is the time to open the ro.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, November 03, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Japanese culture, rituals, study, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Nov 2, 2009

The Japanese Tea Garden

Portland Japanese Garden Presents:
The Bontei Tray Gardens of Marc Peter Keane
November 7–22
Free with Garden Admission

The 2009 Art in the Garden series continues at the Portland Japanese with a special exhibition of The Bontei Tray Gardens of Marc Peter Keane, featuring exquisitely designed, handcrafted wood and stone tray gardens by one of the world’s leading experts on Japanese gardens. Keane is the author of Japanese Garden Design, one of the most popular books on this topic in the English language. He will be in Portland for the opening weekend of the exhibition on November 7 and 8, during which time he will give talks about his Bontei as well as a presentation on Japanese tea gardens in conjunction with the debut of his soon-to-be-released book on this subject.

Marc Peter Keane’s release of his latest book, The Japanese Tea Garden, will be available. This new book, in which he describes the history, design, and aesthetics of tea gardens from T’ang China to the present day will be featured with a lecture and book signing. With over 100 stunning photographs, floor plans, and illustrations, this is the most extensive book on this genre ever published in English. The Japanese Tea Garden is a rich resource for garden lovers, landscape designers, and architects—and anyone who admires the striking aesthetic of the Japanese garden.
Lecture and Book Signing: The Japanese Tea Garden
Sunday, November 8, 4:30pm
$30 Members/$40 Non-Members
Place reservations online or call the events hotline at (503) 542-0280

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, November 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, Chado, chanoyu, gardening, roji, study, tea ceremony

Oct 31, 2009

Tea Ceremony Haiku

I am happy to say that This Moment: Tea Ceremony Haiku by Margaret Chula is back in print. It is priced at $10.00 and is available from Katsura Press as is her wonderful new book What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps

Katsura Press
P.O. Box 10584
Portland OR 97296

This Moment: Tea Ceremony Haiku by Margaret Chula
ISBN: 0963855174 Paperback
Always Filling, Always Full by Margaret Chula
ISBN: 1893996115 Paperback
Haiku especially for Tea, written by award winning haiku poet Maggie Chula. This title is now back in print, and I recommend any of her books: Grinding My Ink, Shadow Lines or Always Filling, Always Full. “Visual imagery, which predominates in most English as well as Japanese haiku, is sometimes astonishing in Chula’s. She has the uncommonly keen perception and compositional skills of a painter or fine photographer, while at the same time working with the music and implications of language.” Morgan Gibson, Kyoto Journal.

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Labels: haiku

Oct 27, 2009

Blogging about Chado

Hello blog readers,

When I started this blog two and a half years ago, I had one or two students and I began to write about Chado for them. I had no idea that other people would be interested in or follow this blog. I know that there are some who have followed what I write here for a very long time, and thank you so much for reading. And to new readers, thank you for visiting.

Although I have a long list of blog topics to write about, I have from time to time taken inspiration from current events, tea class discussions, or happenings in my own life, I’d like to throw it open to the community… what would you like to read about? Please let me know, by posting in the comments, what you may be interested in. I may not know anything about it, but together perhaps we can explore the possibilities and continue the conversation.

Here is a partial list of topics either by student request or I have in my notes to write about:

Sweets recipes
More samurai stories
List of the 100 poems of Rikyu (in English)
Advanced temae
Flowers and flower arranging
History of tea masters
The roji (tea garden)
Rikyu and Hideyoshi stories
More stories of my time in Kyoto

What would you like to read more about? Vote on these in the comments or propose your own topics. And a sincere thank you to all readers, even if I don’t know about you.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, blogging, gratitude, Welcome

Oct 19, 2009

The microcosm of the tea room

Sensei says: How you are in the tea room is how you are in the world.

Haji o sute hito ni mono toi naraubeshi kore zojozu no motoi narikeru
A person must discard all embarrassment when training in tea, this is the foundation of mastery.
~ from Rikyu’s 100 poems
Every time we step into the tea room, it is a microcosm of how we are in the world.

As I observe myself in the tea room, am I impatient, bored, eager, timid, attentive? Am I selfish, critical, generous? Do I treat others with respect? Do I show off? Try to compete? Question others? How do I treat correction and criticism? How do I handle mistakes?

“In a certain place for practice of the way of tea,
there hangs a plaque the reads:
‘A Place Making a Shameful Show of Oneself.’
Once you pass through the entrance way,
you will experience no shame,
no matter how shameful a show you may make of yourself.
The practice room is where you are trained as a human,
even as you are sharply scolded
and hesitate to humiliate yourself in the process.
The principal aim of your training is to enable you,
when the time comes,
to perform tea splendidly and without shame.
This is the reason why all those who pass through the entrance way
of this place are prepared to endure severe discipline.
For it is in this way that
they gradually develop fine characters as people.
They cannot achieve this simply by reading books
and listening to others.
They must experience it with their own bodies.”

~ Sen Soshitsu XV, The Spirit of Tea

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Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Rikyu, sensei says, tea ceremony, the way, training

Oct 12, 2009

Aki Matsuri

Please join us this weekend October 17th and 18th

Aki Matsuri 2009
Kibou (Hope)

October 17th and 18th
Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

You are invited to Ikebana show by Saga Goryu Hokubei Shisho
Demonstrations of Chado (Way of Tea)
Kou Asobi (Playing with incense)

Featuring Potters Motoko Hori, Ken Pincus and Anne Iverson
With Japanese Antiques form Nishiura Ryokusuido
And Local Farm Vegetables

Location: Buddhist Daihonzan Henjyoji Temple
2624 SE 12th Ave
Portland, Oregon
Donation: $5.00

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Labels: Chado, chanoyu, flowers, incense, tea ceremony, Welcome

Oct 7, 2009

Kabuki

PSU Center for Japanese Studies presents
Backstage to Hanamichi: the Color, Magic and Drama of Kabuki Lecture & Performance

Wednesday, October 21st, Time: 7:30 p.m.
$22.00 Tickets: 503.248.4335
The PCPA box office

The Japan Foundation, Shochiku Co., Ltd and The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center are pleased to present Backstage to Hanamichi – A Behind the Scenes Look at the Color, Magic and Drama of Kabuki with lead actors Nakamura Kyozo and Nakamura Matanosuke of the world-renowned Shochiku Company.

Kabuki with its magnificent beauty and highly refined artistry has made it a rare jewel among the great theater traditions of the world. Its actors must undergo years of rigorous training in order to master its three artistic components of music (ka), dance (bu) and drama (ki) before being allowed to perform before an audience. In order to create the magic that is seen on stage, the kabuki actor is supported backstage by a team of unseen artisans and craftsman including costumer stylists, wig masters, musicians and prop masters.

Backstage to Hanamichi provides the audience with a rare glimpse into the traditional world of this centuries-old theater and the painstaking preparations that leads up to an actor’s grand entrance onto the hanamichi stage.

The lecture/performance includes performances of two kabuki dance classics: Sagi Musume (The Heron Maiden) and Shakkyo (Lion Dance), contrasting the lyrical style of the onnagata (actor specializing in female roles) with dynamic, acrobatic style in the heroic Lion Dance.

This program is presented in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary Celebration of The Japan America Society of Southern California.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, October 07, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, Japanese culture, theater

Sep 28, 2009

What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps

My friend Margaret Chula, poet, has a new book out. What Remains: Japanese Americans in Internment Camps, Poems by Margaret Chula, Art Quilts by Cathy Erickson.

This collaboration of artists is very moving. Each art quilt has an accompanying poem written in a different voice from the camps. A young boy who had a pet rabbit, a young woman longing to dance the jitterbug, a husband/father fashioning furniture from scraps of wood.

“This is truly a beautiful, remarkable achievement — two artists bringing history to life through visionary quilts and insightful writings.” ~ Lawson Fusao Inada, Poet Laureate of Oregon

“Cathy Erickson’s quilts, combined with Magaret Chula’s luminous poems, evoke emotions of rage, regret, confusion, sadness, resignation and ultimately, hope.” ~ Colleen Wise, Casting Shadows: Creating Visual Depth in Your Quilts.

“The dynamic interplay of Magaret Chula’s poetry and Cathy Erickson’s quilts is collaborative art at its best. Chula’s poems weave a memorable story and voice into each visually stunning quilt — together a powerfully beautiful interpretation of the Japanese American interment camp Experience.” ~ Amy Uyematsu, 30 Miles from J-Town.

This is a subject that is close to my heart. One of my mother’s best friends was interned at Minidoka, and college friend’s parents met at Manzanar, and another a high school friend’s father caught scarlet fever at Tule Lake.

In 1990, Portland, Oregon dedicated a park on the waterfront to the people who were rounded up and sent to the camps. It was part of an event that brought back — some for the first time since being interned — people who had lived and worked together in Portland. And I was on the publicity committee at that time.

I took some oral histories from returnees. What had happened to them after they had to leave their homes and businesses, during their internment and after their release. As part of my duties, I tried to place articles about the reunion and the internment in national magazines and newspapers. I remember one young assistant editor I contacted in New York. She told me that they did not publish fiction. I told her that it was the truth, and she said that the United States would never do that to U.S. citizens and I must be mistaken they must have been Japanese nationals and spies. She further told me that she had asked other people in her office in New York about the internment and nobody else had heard about it either.

You can see the park along the waterfront in Northwest Portland. The cherry trees bloom there every spring, and you can stroll along the path of stones carved with haiku about having your freedom taken away.

You can order your own copy of this wonderful book from:

Full Color, 108 pages, 8.5 x11, $24.95 + $3 S/H

Edited to add that the Address and ISBN for this book is wrong. Please order your book from:

Katsura Press
P.O. Box 10584
Portland OR 97296
ISBN: 978-0-9638551-1-4

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, September 28, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, gratitude, haiku, stuff, the way

Sep 25, 2009

Thoughts on gomei, or poetic names

Students who practice Chanoyu are asked by their teachers to think of gomei or poetic names for tea utensils. Many students think it is a chore or silly to come up with names for your chashaku every week. But during the haiken, or the appreciation part of the ceremony, the gomei can heighten the drama, tell the story of the utensil or enhance the theme of the tea gathering.

Gomei, literally, most honoured name, are given to utensils, sweets, and other things related to Tea. Originally, names were given to various objects by great connoisseurs and Tea masters in the late Higashiyama period. Kobori Enshu gave many famous tea utensils gomei taken from poetry and literature.

Tea utensils may reflect nature by echoing particular seasons both in form and with their poetic names. In observing the seasons, there are many more than the basic 4: spring, summer, fall, and winter. For example, early spring is more like winter and late spring is more like summer. Flowers are a great indication of the season as they don’t appear at once, but can evoke the time of year that they bloom. So noticing what particular flowers are in bloom are a good source of gomei. Also instead of just naming a flower, a good gomei may offer a description of the flower. For example, Kiku or chrysanthemum is a good autumn flower, but to use kiku as a gomei is a little general and not very poetic. If it is late November, the chrysanthemums are getting a little tired as their blooming season is coming to an end. So “rangiku” or ragged chrysanthemum might be a gomei for that season.

Gomei can also come from place names that evoke different feelings, seasons or memories. For example, the gomei “Tatsuta” refers to the Tatsuta river in Nara prefecture. In the fall this river fills with fallen red maple leaves and thus alludes to the momiji or red maple leaves of autmn. Likewise, Yoshino is a place where the hill sides bloom with cherry blossoms in the spring. With these place names, one can allude to the seasons without directly saying “cherry blossoms.” It gives a little more sophisticaton, depth and feeling to the name.

For usucha and okashi (sweets) gomei can be very seasonal and light; sometimes they can be humorous, or emotional such as “chajo chashin” tea feeling, tea heart. When we get to koicha, however, the gomei are a little more serious. Many Zen words and phrases are used as gomei. For example, I have a scroll with a Zen phrase that says: White clouds come and go as they please. I might pair this scroll with a tea scoop name “Ao yama” or green mountain because the companion phrase to this is: Green mountain is unmovable.

Japanese literature is also a rich source of gomei. An example of this might be “Murasame” literally it means autumn rain. Murasame was also one of two sisters in the in the Noh play Matsukaze. The two main characters are the sisters Matsukaze and Murasame who once lived on the Bay of Suma in Settsu Province where they ladled brine in order to make salt. A Middle Counsellor named Yukihira dallied with them while staying at Suma for three years. Shortly after his departure, word of his death came and they died of grief. They linger on as spirits or ghosts, attached to the mortal world by their sinful emotional attachment to mortal desires. The name of the chief character, and title of the play, Matsukaze, bears a poetic double meaning. Though Matsu can mean “pine tree” (?), it can also mean “to wait” or “to pine” (??). Autumn Rain is strong and gentle intermittently, while the Wind in the Pines is soft and constant. Though the characters in the play actually represent the opposite traits – Matsukaze alternating between strong emotional outburts and gentle quietness while her sister remains largely in the background, and acts as a mediating influence upon Matsukaze. Many layers of meaning here: Autumn, love, tears, grief, desire, strong, gentle depending on how it is used.

So please think about your gomei for keiko next week and use your imagination and some of these suggestions. It will make your temae more interesting to both your teacher and your guests.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, September 25, 2009 8 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, gomei, Japanese culture, Japanese words for the tea room, practice, tea ceremony, tea utensils, temae, theater, training

Sep 12, 2009

Introduce Chado to people you love

Introduce Chado to people you love. Take them to a tea ceremony demonstration; or invite them to your class as a guest. They just may be captivated like you.

Issoan Tea School will be doing tea demonstrations at the Portland Japanese Garden:

When: Saturday, September 19, at 1 pm and 2 pm.
Where: Portland Japanese Garden, Kashineti Tea House
Free with admission to the Japanese Garden.

When: Sunday, October 4, Otsukimi, Moonviewing from 5:30-8:00 pm
Where: Portland Japanese Garden Kashintei Tea House
Reservations required. $25 for members, $35 for non-members

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, September 12, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, classes, tea ceremony

Sep 8, 2009

Twenty not Nineteen

Someone has brought to my attention that there are only 19 rules for lifelong learning. I forgot to type number 8. Do not burden others with your own troubles.

It has been corrected in the original post and now there are 20. I aplogize and thank you to Cordelia for calling it to my attention.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, September 08, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Correction

Sep 7, 2009

Shin, Gyo, So

In chado, there are usually three levels of formality designated as shin, gyo and so. These are formal, semi-formal, and informal. This permeates everything from the types of bows to utensils, fabrics, ceramics, and many other aspects of tea.

Often the differences between these types of formality is subtle and you must pay attention to details. For example, with the bamboo tea scoop, where the node, or fushi, is placed on the handle of designates how formal it is. The tea scoop with the node (joint) in the middle is an informal tea scoop. The fushi at the end is a gyo or semi-formal scoop and one with no fushi is shin or the most formal of bamboo tea scoops.

When bowing in the tea room, there is no difference in the length or time it takes to bow, but there is a very slight difference in how the hands are placed on the tatami. In the formal shin bow, the whole hand is placed on the tatami mat and the head aligned with the back (about a 45 degree angle). For the gyo, semi-formal bow, only the fingers are placed on the mat, and for the so, informal bow, only the fingertips touch the mat. Be sure that you are not placing the weight of your body on your hands.

I think part of this classification of shin, gyo and so is teaching us about etiquette and appropriateness. It makes us pay attention to what is going on and gives us guidelines to help determine behaviors and choices. Just as you wouldn’t go in beach wear to a reception at the White house and belch at the hostess, or you wouldn’t wear a tuxedo to family picnic and eat with your gloves on, there are appropriate dress codes and behavior in tea.

Even when preparing for a tea gathering, while paying attention to the seasonality of the utensils, don’t forget to also pay attention to the formality of the occasion. Big events such as New Year’s celebration, or Robiraki – the change to winter time hearth, are more formal occasions than a spontaneous gathering.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, September 07, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, etiquette, study, tea gathering, tea utensils, training

Sep 4, 2009

New Introduction to Chado, the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. These are the four principles of tea ceremony distilled from Japanese culture. In this ten week class, students will be introduced to Chado, the way of tea. The arts of Japan will be examined through the ritual preparation and drinking of matcha, Japanese ceremonial tea. An overview of Japanese aesthetics found in gardening, architecture, art and literature and how Tea Ceremony has influenced Japanese culture will be presented. Also covered are tea ceramics, calligraphy, kimono dressing, and participate in an incense ceremony. We will also learn zazen meditation and discuss how to put tea practice into every day life.

When: Wednesdays, 7:00-8:30 Starting September 9, for 10 weeks
Fee: $250 most materials, tea and sweets furnished. Others available for purchase at class.
Where: Classes will take place in an authentic Japanese tea room located at Ryokusuido Tea House, 3826 NE Glisan St. Portland, OR 97232.
How to register: Call Margie 503-645-7058 for registration or email margie@issonatea.com

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, September 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, classes

Sep 2, 2009

Twenty rules for lifelong training

Training for Chado is very similar to training in martial arts. Even though it is not as actively physical, Chado trains the body and strengthens character just like martial arts. It is a lifelong pursuit and if you do not train constantly, you lose your edge.

Early in their formal education, young samurai were instructed to brush a copy of the following rules and then sign and date the document as a lifelong pledge. I think it also applies to tea training.

  1. Never lie.
  2. Never forget to be grateful to one’s Lord.
  3. Never forget to be grateful to one’s parents.
  4. Never forget to be grateful to one’s teachers.
  5. Never forget to be grateful to one’s fellow human beings.
  6. Do nothing to offend gods, buddhas and one’s elders.
  7. Do not begrudge small children.
  8. Do not burden others with your own troubles.
  9. There is no place for anger or rage in the Way.
  10. Do not rejoice in the misfortune of others.
  11. Do your best to do what is best.
  12. Do not turn your back on others and only think of yourself.
  13. When you eat, think of the hard work of the farmers who grew the food. Never be wasteful of plants, trees, earth or stones.
  14. Do not dress up in fine clothes, or waste time on superficial appearance.
  15. Always behave properly with good manners.
  16. Always treat everyone like an honored guest.
  17. To overcome ignorance, learn from as many people as possible.
  18. Do not study and practice the arts just to make a name for yourself.
  19. Human beings have good and bad points. Do not dismiss or laugh at anyone.
  20. Strive to behave well but keep good actions hidden and do not seek the praise of others.

From Budo Secrets, Teachings of the Martial Arts Masters by John Stevens.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, September 02, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Japanese culture, martial arts, samurai, spiritual path, the way

Sep 1, 2009

The winners

Thank you for everyone who participated in my little contest. I was very happy to see that you took my questions seriously, and provided such thoughtful answers to my questions.

And now….

The winners are:

Nick who won Michael Soei Birch’s120 page manuscript, “An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu.

And Zlati (temae) who won the CD of Japanese for the tea room.

Congratulations to both of you. Please email me with your shipping address. marjorie_yap@yahoo.com.

I’d like to refer you all to Phillytea blog. It has an excellent post on Tasting Tea. Enjoy.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, September 01, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, award, contest

Aug 21, 2009

Japanese words as prizes

I have finally decided what I will be offering for prizes for the contest in honor of the 250th blog post at SweetPersimmon. Thank you all to the regular readers, all of my sensei and sempai, students of Chado and those who have only a passing interest. You have made this blog experience rewarding.

Prize number 1 will be a CD of Japanese for the tea room. It features an explanation in English the basics of Japanese pronunciation and very basic Japanese grammar. It also has the dialog for usucha, usucha haiken, koicha, and koicha haiken. The dialog includes the English translation and then the Japanese slowly twice, then again at normal speed. The final part is the dialog for aisatsu before and after study.

Prize number 2 will be a copy of Michael Soei Birch’s120 page manuscript, “An Anthology of the Seasonal Feeling in Chanoyu. This is a workbook, compiled by Michael Birch and written in English and romanji. It is filled with all kinds of information and it is a good source for seasonal gomei, or poetic names. The manuscript is divided into the four seasons — Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter with information about each. It is further divided into each month that includes information about the month, perhaps haiku, appropriate scrolls, seasonal words and suggested gomei. It is illustrated throughout with Michael’s calligraphy so you can see the kanji for each word, scroll, phrase or haiku.
Here are a few sample pages:The contest eligibility and the rules
Okay, to be eligible for the prizes (there will be two winners, one prize each) there are a few things you have to do. First, if you have a blog, please link it to this blog. I will also link to your blog in return. Second, you need to post a comment to this post. Not just any comment, but you need to answer two questions.

First question: How did you learn about chado and why are you studying? If you are not studying, what do you find interesting about the SweetPersimmmon blog?

Second question: How much of the traditional Japanese teaching methods do you think need to be incorporated in learning Chado outside of Japan? For those not studying, what do you think the best way would be to learn something like the Japanese tea ceremony?

I do ship internationally so everyone can participate. Please leave me a way to contact you to inform you if you have won.

The contest remains open until midnight PDT August 31st 2009. That’s 10 days folks, to get your answers together and compose your answers. Winners will be chosen randomly. All decisions final. Prizes will ship by September 2. Good luck!

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, August 21, 2009 8 comments Links to this post

Labels: contest, gratitude, Japanese words for the tea room, stuff

Aug 11, 2009

What do you love?

It is not often that we give ourselves permission to love, or let alone talk about the things we love. These days it is hip and cool to be cynical and make fun of others who are too emotional. Someone told me once that I needed to take a look at where I was spending my money, because there also was my heart.

These days, I spend my heart on chado, my husband, my grandchildren, my students, and sewing. Besides the essentials of food and shelter, there also I spend my money. Since leaving the corporate world, I have pared down my lifestyle to fit my considerably reduced income and I could not be happier.

Just as wabi used to mean to be disappointed by failing in some enterprise or living a miserable and poverty stricken life, some of my former associates would look at my present life and think that I am miserable. But wabi also means to transform material insufficiency so that one discovers in it a world of spiritual freedom.

Right now, I have never been more joyful in my life. Everyday is a good day. I feel aligned in living my values and in the integrity of what I do. I feel grateful for the opportunity to live this life. I love what I do, I love my life and I love to share with others some of the things I’ve learned through chado.

What do you love?

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, August 11, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Chado, gratitude, spiritual path, the way, wabi

Aug 5, 2009

The rules

I have talked with many people who don’t like rules. These people think that too many rules in tea restrict them and don’t allow them to be free to do as they please. But think if nobody driving on the road ignored the rules and just did as they please. The rules of the road such as staying on the right hand side of the road protect everyone and keep them safe. Or think of the rules of a game, if everybody just did as they pleased, then the game would be no fun.

The rules set boundaries, and in the tea room, everyone knows what to expect. There are appropriate times to talk and listen. There are rules for the role of the host and for that of the guest. The etiquette works if everyone is playing by the same rules. That is why it is so important to learn to be a good guest.

Remember that tea was developed in 16th century Japan, when there was incredible conflict and civil war. It was nearly a relief to be in the tea room, free from the conflict. If everyone observed the rules, people — for a short time — could get along, everyone would be safe and they could enjoy themselves.

Once the rules are ingrained into your consciousness, it actually frees your mind to be able to pay attention to other things, like the comfort of your guests, or creating that unique experience together. Communication occurs at a deeper level, and being present and open to profound insights can all happen in the rule restricted environment of the tea room. Amazing!

Coming up soon. In honor of my 250th blog post, I will be having a blog contest giveaway for those of you who are faithful readers. In order to qualify for the giveaway, you will have to leave a comment. More details will be posted shortly.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, August 05, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, etiquette, study, the way, training

Jul 22, 2009

C.H.A. Creative Handmade Art

C.H.A.
Creative Handmade Art
Year II

This show presents a collection of artists who study the way of tea.
…a way of beauty
…a way of life

Richard Brandt, Sanje Elliott, Jan Waldmann, Barbara Walker, and Margie Yap.

Together, with other special guest artists, we offer objects in clay, wood, painting and calligraphy in the spirit of peace and hospitality.

Come join us in this spirit.

August 7th, Opening Gala: 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm.
8th, Noon until 5:00 pm
9th, Noon until 5:00 pm

8855 SW 36th Ave., Portland, Oregon, 97219
503-245-8705

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, calligraphy, Chado, handbags, sewing, sweetpersimmon.com, Welcome

Jul 21, 2009

The false choice

I was looking for something to watch on TV the other day. I have digital cable with more than 168 channels, and there was nothing on. Yet I kept flipping from channel to channel for a couple of hours to see if there was something that looked interesting to me. Yes, I have 168 channels to choose from, but nothing that I wanted. To me there really was nothing to choose from.

On the other hand, I went to the fabric store to get some fabric to make a handbag. There were rows upon rows of beautiful fabric. I spent an hour and a half there and ultimately left with nothing because I was so overwhelmed that I could not choose a fabric.

When I was in Kyoto to pick out fabric for my first kimono and obi, I became so sensory overloaded that I just wanted to pick things out at random. There were other women with me who looked at all of the choices and asked the shop owner to bring even more fabrics and obi from the store room to look at. I had to leave temporarily and take a walk around the block. Fortunately, the kimono shop owner recommended three colors and fabrics with obi to match. I made my choice from the of the three combinations and it is still my favorite kimono and obi.

With all of the abundance of choice in these three instances, I could not make a choice. Why is that? There is almost too much to choose from that often leads to paralysis. Is it the right choice? How do we know what we want? What if we don’t know? Can we go back and choose again if it isn’t right?

As for choosing, there is so much potential. The point of choosing is a powerful position to be in. All the possibilities open for you. But what if we make the wrong choice? Once the choice is made, we have excluded all the possibilities except the choice we have made. It may lead to buyer’s remorse or regretting the choice already made.

We are almost too rich with choice. I tend to get overwhelmed if I have too much to choose from. If I limit my choices, it is much easier for me to make a decision without regrets. And once I make a choice, I try not to think about what could have been had I made another choice. If things don’t work out, it helps to look at it as if I had another choice to make rather than go back and make a different choice.

How does this relate to chado? On the surface of tea, it seems like there is very little choice in how to do it or what to do. For some people it looks overly restrictive and very rigid. In fact, as we are learning, there are restrictions. But that is because tea is so wide and so deep, that the beginning student can easily become overwhelmed. As we learn the way of tea, even within the restrictions, there is so much potential for creativity. By limiting and simplifying the choices a student makes and revealing the depth of the few choices he can make, he can see the whole in a different light and the choices become more meaningful. In fact, when it comes to choice less is more.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, July 21, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, study, tea ceremony, the way, training

Jul 16, 2009

Performance Anxiety

Doing temae in class is sometimes intimidating, especially when we are learning a new procedure. We want to get it right from the very beginning. Many students have performance anxiety and can do procedures at home but make mistakes or forget the order in front of sensei.

I used to get very nervous before class and worried if I was going to forget something. But after many years of class, and some very kind (but strict) sensei, I have come to the conclusion that performance anxiety is ultimately a self-centered thing. When I should have thought about making the very best tea for my guests, I worried about how I looked. When I should have concentrated on being as natural and relaxed for so my guests enjoyed the experience, I was tense and worried about doing things in the correct order. When I should have made a mistake beautifully, I became embarrassed and forgot what the next thing to do was.

My sensei told me that the classroom is the place to make your mistakes. (And believe me; I have made some real doozies). If you look at mistakes in your temae as learning opportunities, then the outcome is not whether you did it right or wrong, but what did you learn from it. How do you handle a mistake or lapse of memory? Do you get flustered? Do you lose your place? How do you recover from a mistake?

Sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. Often the lessons we learn in the tea room have nothing to do with the temae and correct procedures. How you are in the tea room ultimately is how you are in life. If you can detach enough to see how you behave in the tea room, many lessons will open up for the rest of your life.

Torigai-sensei in Kyoto was watching me make tea one day, and afterwards, told me, “Marjorie, you will never have a perfect temae.” I was disappointed that after I worked so hard she thought I would never achieve a perfect temae. “However, you are very interesting to watch. You are able to work yourself out of your mistakes and come out fine in the end.”

Presentation July 18th
Issoan tea will be at the Portland Japanese Garden on Saturday July 18th at 1:00 and 2:00 pm for a demonstration of Chanoyu. Free with admission to the garden. Come down to the tea house for an explanation and to see Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, July 16, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, tea ceremony, temae, training

Jul 12, 2009

A Pure Heart Creates Pure Tea

Sei (Purity) is one of the four principles of Chanoyu. Purity is the quality of having an open mind and heart; which is reflected in the care the host puts into the ritual purification of the tea utensils. The purification is done in full view of the guests and is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Recently, my Sensei gave me the gift of a new Fukusa. This beautiful, square piece of silk is bold red and so far, untamed. Men and women often use different colored Fukusa. Women typically use a color associated with male energy (Yang), while men use a color such as violet, representative of female energy (Yin). As in all things, balance is essential.

The Fukusa is used in the tea ceremony to purify the Natsume (tea container) and Chashaku (tea scoop). During the course of the ceremony, the Fukusa is folded and refolded so that a new surface is used each time. In this way, the cloth is always new, always clean, always pure.

Tea is made by combining two simple ingredients: hot water and matcha. Each element is pure and complete in its own right. When combined, the purest form of tea is produced. Sugar is never added to the tea itself. Instead, guests are invited to eat a sweet before the tea is served.

The pure intentions of the host are reflected in the care for the utensils, the clean water and the minimalistic decor of the tea room itself. Each movement and each item have a clear purpose which create the atmosphere for the simplest of beverages to be sincerely enjoyed and purely appreciated.

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Posted by .j at Sunday, July 12, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Jenni

Jul 5, 2009

Zen and tea scrolls

I’d like to post a link to Phillytea blog. Morgan took very good notes during Roshi’s talk about Zen and tea scrolls. Much better than mine. Please go check it out.

In the meantime for those of you who would like a little more reading on Zen calligraphy scrolls, there is a very good book by Eido Roshi and Tani Roshi who both wrote the scroll we used for the koicha seki where I made tea for Eido Roshi at Dai Bosatsu last month.


Zen Words, Zen Calligraphy
by Eido Tai Shimano, Kogetsu Tani (Illustrator)
ISBN-10: 1570621276
ISBN-13: 978-1570621277
Paperback
Calligraphy by Tani Roshi, commentary by Eido Roshi. The heart of Zen is expressed here in beautiful Japanese calligraphies, some of them just a word, other a famous Zen phrase from a person from a poem, koan, or anecdote. Shimano, a well-known Japanese-American Zen master, uses Zen stories and teachings to illuminate the inner meanings of each calligraphy.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, July 05, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: artists, Buddhist path, calligraphy, Dai Bosatsu, reading list, spiritual path, the way

Jul 4, 2009

Serendipity

I had one day left in New York after the Friends in Tea conference. Roger had given a couple of us a ride as far as a train station near his house and we took the train into Manhattan. We checked into an inexpensive but nice hotel on the upper west side and had a fabulous Indian dinner before retiring.

The next day we went to Minamoto Kitchoan and I bought sweets to take home to my students. A friend was going to meet us for lunch, but on Monday many places are just not open for business. We were hot and tired and I was rather irritated. We wandered around for a time and found a small boutique shop with interesting interior décor. We asked if they knew of a place that sold Japanese antiques, and the sales clerk said that the gallery upstairs had some contemporary ceramics, but didn’t know if they were open.

We took the elevator up to the fourth floor and there it was. The tea room described in the Wall Street Journal Article was right there to the left. We invited ourselves in and Mr. Yoshi Munemura was gracious enough to show us the room, serve us some tea and talk about tea, tea utensils and the Yanagi Gallery

We took the elevator up to the fourth floor and there it was. The tea room described in the Wall Street Journal Article was right there to the left. We invited ourselves in and Mr. Yoshi Munemura was gracious enough to show us the room, serve us some tea and talk about tea, tea utensils and the Yanagi Gallery. The tea room itself was an 8 mat room with a host entrance and tokonoma on two sides for display. There was a temaeza set up with Japanese contemporary ceramics, a furokama, tea bowl, chaire, and mizusashi.

Then along the guest side was a footwell that you could put your feet into, and beyond that was a half tatami mat cut lengthwise so you could sit on it with your feet in the well.

We were lucky to have seen it, according to Mr. Munemura, because the tea room will be taken down for the next exhibition this fall. I love it when things like this happen.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, July 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Japanese culture, stuff, the way, Welcome

Jun 26, 2009

Did you have enough tea?

Tea in the living room

Tea on the dock

Tea on the Patio

Double Tea

Open Tea

Simultaneous Tea

Photos courtesy of Bettina, Rebecca, and Morgan

Sharing tea together in the lovely and intimate setting of Dai Bosatsu filled me to the brim with happiness. I could talk all day (and many times late into the night) about tea and nobody’s eyes glazed over. I could drink my fill of koicha, usucha and work to my heart’s content in making a bowl of tea for others. There is nothing like the intimacy of a chakai to get to know one another as fellow guests and observe the host make tea. I learned so much more about gardening, ceramics, shifuku, sweets and flowers.

One of the great things about the Friends in Tea gathering is that I got to meet so many new (to me) tea friends. Some people I have only known through the internet and it was great to meet face-to-face. One person I was anxious to meet was Morgan from Philly Tea. She also has a blog and a post about the Friends in Tea conference. Please visit her site and leave a comment. I know she would appreciate it.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, June 26, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Dai Bosatsu, tea gathering

Jun 23, 2009

Mizuya work

At the Friends in Tea conference, the tea space was improvised, so there was no mizuya to prepare for chakai. Thanks to our resourceful mizuya cho, Jan, she set up a temporary space upstairs near the tatami mats to make a working mizuya. I especially appreciated the fact that the mizuya was set up even though there was no running water or drain nearby. She did this by setting up tubs and buckets for clean and dirty water. These buckets and tubs had to be filled and emptied by hand. This was also a good reminder to be careful to conserve the clean water, and efficient in cleaning up so that the dirty tubs didn’t fill up quickly and have to be emptied in the middle of a chakai.

With so many great utensils brought by the participants the cho had to double the mizuya space by setting up tables. Even though she did that, it still was tight to work there given that two chakai were scheduled at the same time. Part of tea training is to work efficiently and quietly in the mizuya.

Most mizuya that I have worked in are tiny spaces — 1 to 3 tatami mats. That is 3 feet by 6 feet up to 6 feet by 9 feet. It begins to get really crowded in there when 3 or 4 people are all working to get things ready, or clean up from a previous chakai or lesson.

This is where training comes in. If you are not working in the mizuya, get out. The mizuya is no place for standing around and chatting. If you are working, do what you need to do quickly and efficiently and get out. Do not dawdle around or stay to look at things. Make sure your things are cleaned up properly and everything is put back in the proper place. If there is a kama with hot water coming, get up and out of the way. Most important, the cho is the head of the mizuya. You must do what the cho says without argument. There may be a meeting later about it, but at the time, the cho is in charge and what he/she says must be done immediately and without complaint. It is a big responsibility.

*Photo courtesy of Morgan Beard

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 23, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Dai Bosatsu, practice, tea gathering, tea utensils, training

Jun 20, 2009

Ichigo ichie revisited

During Eido Roshi’s talk about Zen scrolls he discussed the often used phrase, ichigo ichie. We often translate this phrase as “one lifetime, one meeting.” But Eido Roshi likes the translation, unprecedented, unrepteatable as a more clear translation of the meaning.

He said on that day that June 12, 2009 has never come before and will never be repeated. It is the only one of it’s kind. This translation only emphasizes the uniqueness of this moment. I live most of my life going from one thing to the next without awareness of the passing of days . Ichigo ichie calls upon me to pay attention to right now before the moment has passed.

I did not bring my camera to the conference for some reason that I think had to do with paying attention. When I take photos, I feel somewhat separated from the “action.” As an observer, I try to capture the moment rather than be in the moment. As we well know, the photograph will never capture the moment, but it can bring back the memories of the time that it was taken.

Eventually, if the people who were there at the time pass, even these memories fade. The very language of photography, to capture the moment, to take a photo seems to be an aggressive way of keeping a hold of or stopping time. We can neither stop the flow nor hold onto the moment. The moment is the moment and you can never recapture it.

Ichigo ichie — unprecedented, unrepeatable.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, June 20, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Dai Bosatsu, Japanese words for the tea room, the way

Jun 19, 2009

Just dye your heart with Chanoyu

During the Friends in Tea conference, there were two formally scheduled chakai, the opening chakai the first day and the closing chakai on the last day. In between, there was what they called open chakai. The tatami mat room upstairs at the guest house at Dai Bosatsu was divided in half and people could sign up to make tea, drink tea or help in the mizuya.

Many participants brought tea utensils to be used at these open chakai, and with the sweet making workshops going on, we always had plenty of sweets. Wild flowers were growing in abundance and thanks to Jan, the mizuya cho, tea and everything was available to put on chakai.

You could also put together impromptu chakai outside, in the meeting room, on the terrace or on the dock over the lake. More than a few people brought chabako, and there was always an early morning chakai in the woodshed.

I would say that there were about 10 scheduled chakai a day in the tatami room and at least 2-3 more chakai that you could attend in other places. And still, I couldn’t get enough of making and drinking tea.

Don’t look with your eyes or cock your ears to listen, just dye your heart with Chanoyu . Look with your eyes and listen with your ears, smell incense and grasp their meaning with questions.” ~ from Rikyu’s 100 poems.

*Photo courtesy of Morgan Beard

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, June 19, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Dai Bosatsu, Rikyu, tea ceremony, tea gathering, temae

Jun 18, 2009

Take a left before you get to the Buddha

Certainly I am not a Zen student, I know very little about Zen. But I was on my way to the yoga class at the Dai Bosatsu Zen monastery, and I didn’t know how to get to the library where the class was held. I had already wandered around and run into a room where the monks were chanting and nearly smacked into the Roshi during the services, so I didn’t want to disturb them any further.

I asked around and these were the instructions on how to get there: “Go up to the second floor and take a left before you get to the Buddha.” It rather struck me as funny that I would have to take a left before I got to the Buddha in a Zen monastery, but I suppose we all take detours in our life. I can also see this as a metaphor in following teachings that tell you to take a left before you get to the Buddha. If you took that left you would end up in the library with lots of words, and words could become confusing (at least to me) about Zen.

On the other hand, the yoga class was just what I needed. I never had yoga before. I am so stiff I cannot sit half lotus when sitting zazen. I have never taken a yoga class, and Jimin our instructor, said that she would not get so hung up on correct positions but make it more of a meditative experience. Through gentle stretches, breathing and the sound of her voice, I opened up my body. In opening my body, I am sure that I opened my mind and my spirit as well, to take in what was going on around me. Not just the things that were planned and happenstance to do with the tea group, but I became aware of the monks as they went about their work and worship in the monastery. Ah, “Zen cha ichi mi” or Zen and tea, one taste.

*Photo courtesy of Morgan Beard

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, June 18, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Buddhist path, Chado, chanoyu, Dai Bosatsu, meditation, mindfulness, spiritual path, tea ceremony, tea gathering

Jun 17, 2009

Chabako, tea anywhere

It was a little early for me to sit zazen at 4:30 am with the monks, but I did get up for the 6:00 Chabako tea that was planned for that morning. We were to have tea on the dock out on the lake, but it was pouring rain. The wood shed was the alternate location and among the resiny smell of the newly cut and stacked wood we had tea. With a thermos and chabako, tea can be anywhere, no need of tatami room.

The sound of the rain on the roof of the woodshed soothed us and as I sat there drinking tea, listening to the host and guest talk about the tea and utensils, I felt a profound sense of belonging, of coming home to be with people of my own family (tribe) where I could talk about tea, drink tea, be immersed in tea and not be thought crazy or obsessed.

I also was reminded again of an essential tea lesson: The best laid plans will somehow be altered and it is best to remain flexible, rely on your training and go with the flow. Oh yes, and it is always good to make alternate plans. As Rikyu said, “Prepare for rain.”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, Dai Bosatsu, Rikyu, tea gathering, Welcome

Jun 16, 2009

Four days of tea

I just got back from the Friends in Tea conference and I am exhausted, but full to the brim in my heart for tea. The conference was held at Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery about 3.5 hours drive from New York City in the Catskills. It is so isolated that cell phones and GPS do not work there. When we reached the entrance gate after driving for miles on a one lane road that turned into a dirt road, I thought we had arrived, but we still had to drive 2 more miles to the monastery. Then we crossed a small bridge and there on a beautiful lake in the mountains was Dai Bosatsu. The long journey was like going through the roji before entering the tea house, and helped to shed the dust of the world and clear our minds for what was about to take place.

I will be writing more about my experience there in the coming days, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who planned and participated in the conference, and thank the Roshi and residents and helpers at Dai Bosatsu who made our stay there memorable, unprecedented and unrepeatable. Thank you.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 16, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Chado, Dai Bosatsu, tea gathering, Welcome

Jun 9, 2009

Friends in Tea

I will not be blogging this week as I will be in New York for the Friends in Tea conference. Be back next week. I am sure that there will be plenty to write about.

No class this week. Make ups on Tuesday at 7 pm at Issoan, Wednesday 7 pm at Issoan, Thursday after 5 pm at Ryokusuido, or Friday at Peninsula Odd Fellows at 7:30 pm. Email and let me know if you are coming to a make up class.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 09, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: classes

Jun 2, 2009

Fushiki, not knowing

Today’s characters are sometimes seen on scrolls in the tea room. They read, fushiki, in translation: I know not.

Reaching out into the unknown is a scary thing. I think of explorers, who had to go beyond where anyone else had been. (yes, the final frontier). It drives some people to explore and it terrifies others to go or do or experience something that they had not done before.

For me to try something new and not know the outcome is like exploring, too. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. My good friend Larry Toda says, “If your palms are not sweaty occasionally, it means that you are not really living.” Really, trying something new is how we stretch and grow.

There was a study done on salespeople and performance. They took high performing salespeople and put them in low yielding territories and took low performing salespeople and put them into high yielding territories. Within a year, the high performing salespeople were back to their income and low performing salespeople were also back to their low sales records. The point of this is that we each have a comfort zone. If we are comfortable with a certain outcome (in this case income level) then we will gradually gravitate to that level. Even when people are miserable, they will only have what they feel comfortable with. It is called the comfort zone.

It seems that high performing people will take risks outside of the comfort zone and low performing people will not. It is not like taking big risks will make you a high performing salesperson, but the attitude of taking small risks helps build confidence in further risk taking. The risk can be as small is finding a new way home from work. The point is to try something that you don’t always know what the outcome will be. If one approaches small risks with the attitude, “it will be interesting to see how this turns out,” rather than one of success/failure, it takes a lot of the pressure off and one can look at the endeavor as a learning opportunity, no matter what happens.

Risk taking can take many forms, from the physical risks of extreme sports, to being vulnerable enough to love someone. So maybe today you will find a new way home and discover part of your neighborhood you had never seen before. What will the outcome be? Fushiki, I know not.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, June 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Buddhist path, Japanese words for the tea room, the way

May 30, 2009

Kimono Dressing For Dummies

Step one: Go to the bathroom.

Step two: Put on tabi.

. . . and then it gets more complicated.

The first time I was dressed in kimono for Japanese tea ceremony, I simply stood still with my arms held outstretched while my Sensei did the work. The process, which feels something like transforming from a caterpillar into a butterfly, involves 15 separate pieces and takes approximately 15 minutes for an experienced person to accomplish. Dressing oneself, especially when just learning, takes a bit longer. It goes something like this:

There are two layers of underwear. First put on the one piece slip and then the two piece juban (underkimono). Don’t forget to insert the collar stiffener. Be sure to cross the left side of the juban over the right and tie snugly. If you do not already possess a “cylindrical” figure, you will have to pad your middle to create a uniform shape. No hourglass figures allowed!

The word Kimono literally translates to “thing to wear.” Traditionally, kimono were made of silk, but today they are also available in a variety of synthetic fabrics and come in many patterns and styles. With the underwear securely in place, it is time to put on the kimono.

Take the kimono and put your arms through the sleeves, tucking the sleeves of the juban into the sleeves of the kimono so that they line up evenly. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, adjust the fabric of the skirt so that it hangs just above your ankles and fold left side over right. Wrapping a thin tie around your waist, secure the kimono so that it will stay closed, with the skirt hanging evenly. Smooth out the material to eliminate any wrinkles.

The obi is a straight piece of cloth, generally made of silk and sometimes elaborately embroidered. The obi is wrapped around the ribcage, leaving a tail which is then folded and tucked to create the traditional “drum” bow. Insert the obi stiffener to create a nice, smooth shape. The obi-age, a silk cloth, covers the pad that helps to shape the back of the obi and is tied in the front and tucked into the obi. Caution! Do not let too much of the obi-age show. This is considered to be quite flirty! Finally, the obi-jime, a braided cord, is tied in a square knot securing the entire creation.

Next, look in the mirror and behold the work of art that you have created. Wearing kimono is more than a series of folding fabric and tying knots. It creates a certain sense of elegance and a requirement for proper posture and dignified demeanor. Enjoy this other-worldly feeling.

Incidentally, I am not joking about using the bathroom first. If nothing else, heed this advice. You’ll thank me later.

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Posted by .j at Saturday, May 30, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Jenni, kimono

May 20, 2009

Chakai

I was invited to a chakai Monday night. Mr. Nishiura, owner of Ryokusuido was in town from Tokyo. He is a student of Omotesenke tea school, and we made tea for each other. One thing that he told me about Omotesenke is that there is the way that men make tea and it is different than the way that women make tea. The simpler way is the way that men make tea.

It was a wonderfully sunny, warm day for a chakai, and I arrived at the house in the late afteroon. I love the way that the sidewalk out to the street is dampened all the way out to the street in the summer time in welcome. It looks so fresh and cooling.

Inside the house was cool and dark. Mr. Nishura had prepared a cool drink for me and invited me to enter the tea room. He had cleaned the tea room top to bottom as well as washed the window so that it looked like there was no glass in it.

He brought fresh sweets from Japan and I enjoyed watching him make tea in the men’s Omotesenke style. What struck me was that the temae placement and order were exactly the same as Urasenke style that I study. Just a few stylistic differences made the procedure distinctive, but not strange. Many of the movements were familiar because they were movements that Urasenke style uses for koicha but not usucha. I could see, however, that studying one style and switching to another style can get very confusing.

The tea was fresh and green, and I particularly enjoyed the “jade lake” in the center of the teabowl surrounded by foam. I then prepared and made tea for Mr. Nishiura and as we cleaned up, we compared notes on the different styles. He was very appreciative of the tea I made for him and complimented me on how graceful was my temae. (That was a first for me and quite unexpected).

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, May 20, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, tea ceremony, tea gathering, temae, Welcome

May 11, 2009

Mmmm, Matcha!

With this post, I’d like to introduce you to a new guest blogger, Jenni. She has agreed to post this on the blog, and we hope to see more posts from her in the future. ~ Margie

It has been said that if green were a flavor, matcha would be that flavor. There is a distinctive freshness about it that cannot be duplicated. The taste is slightly sweet, somewhat grassy, and pleasantly addictive. Much has been said about the health benefits of green tea. Matcha is green tea in its purest form. The advantages of powdered matcha are multiplied many times over what can be obtained from an ordinary tea bag.

In addition to being exceptionally good for the body, matcha is good for the soul. The simple act of sipping a bowl of tea nourishes the spirit and provides respite from the mundane world. Matcha is the centerpiece of the Japanese tea ceremony. Full of ritual, prescribed movements and interaction between host and guest, the tea ceremony sets a beautiful scene to celebrate the most important element: Tea.

In a bowl of matcha, the properties of the entire high quality tea leaf are present. The tea bushes are covered weeks before harvesting which preserves the brilliant green color and allows for a high concentration of amino acids in the leaves. The hand-picked leaves are stone ground into a fine powder and whisked with hot water to produce a beverage which, in addition to tasting great, provides these benefits:

– Very high in antioxidants
– Gives a pleasant burst of energy
– Lowers blood pressure
– Fights cancer
– Boosts metabolism & the immune system
– Contributes to mental clarity and overall well-being

Even your dentist would approve – matcha has also been shown to reduce cavities!

Enjoying matcha is a simple and delicious experience. Although nothing can compare to the harmony and tranquility of the Japanese tea ceremony, matcha can easily be prepared at home to satisfy a craving for health, vitality, and the unmistakable flavor of green.

Premium matcha and other fine teas can be purchased at sweetpersimmon.com

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, May 11, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Jenni

May 8, 2009

A Tea Ceremony for Today

I found an article that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal on Tea Ceremony. Sen So-Oku, heir to the Mushakojisenke school of tea was introduced to the U.S. and will be teaching at Columbia University for a year.

He has designed a tea room at the Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts Gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, with a sunken foot well similar to the foot wells in American Japanese tatami restaurants. They refer to it as a “tea bleacher,” though that sounds so much like tea as a spectator sport. Please go read the article.

The point Mr. Sen wants to make is one that I have been teaching my students, that tea is a living tradition. Things change in tea not only to accommodate foreign influences, but also to the ages in which it is practiced. In Urasenke, we have table style tea ceremonies, new configurations of tea rooms, and modern tea utensils using 21st century materials.

And yet at its essence is the human relationship of host and guest. The sharing of food and drink and harmony among the participants as well as the awareness of the seasons that make us part of the whole universe. Simple, and yet at the same time very much needed in our modern world.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, May 08, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, Japanese culture, stuff, tea ceremony

May 2, 2009

Acquiring tea utensils part 2

Many of my students are at a point of acquiring tea utensils. With ebay and the internet it is relatively easy to get tea stuff from Japan. A tea bowl for $10, a chabako set for $25 including shipping from Japan, a natsume for $5. They can all be had on ebay or online if you look hard are patient and bid at the right time. One might justify buying things because they are cheap and just for study.

But getting the best bargain isn’t the point of owning tea utensils. Sure, you can get a lot of stuff right now, but Rikyu says “Tea should not be an exhibition of what the tea man owns. Instead the sincerity of his heart should be expressed.” (from Rikyu’s 100 poems). Every tea utensil you acquire is a reflection of your heart. It is a big public statement and responsibility when you hold your chakai or chaji. Before purchasing, consider what statement about yourself your guests will take away when they view your piece. Rikyu also said, “Having one kettle you can make tea; it is foolish to possess many utensils.”

Buying utensils from ebay leaves much to be desired, such as the relationship you might have with the person who made it or owned it previously. Often the stories we can tell about a utensil are lost, and it seems to be so awkward during haiken when the guests ask about it to say, “I know nothing about this, I bought it on ebay.”

It was perhaps 3 years into my study of tea before I purchased my first teabowl. It was not easy to find one and I looked for a long time. I consulted with my sensei before I purchased it at an antique store. I knew nothing about its maker or history, but it was a very nice bowl. It was a little more than I could afford, and I gave a chakai for my sensei as a thank you for helping me. We used the bowl at the chakai and sensei really liked it. She said that it had presence and taste.

After the chakai, I carefully wrapped the bowl in a furoshiki because it did not have a box. When I got home, I dropped the chawan in the driveway and it shattered into dust. I only got to use the bowl one time. Ichigo, ichie (one lifetime, one meeting). So don’t get too attached to tea utensils, they are just things.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, May 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, Chado, chanoyu, Rikyu, stuff, tea utensils, training

May 1, 2009

The Honest Scrap Award

Jordan at Succession of Insights blog has tagged me with The Honest Scrap award. I didn’t know that someone thought so highly of this blog to give me an award. It is rather humbling and makes me want to do much better at it.

These are the rules for acceptance :

  1. List 10 honest things about yourself, hopefully interesting.
  2. Pass the award on to 7 bloggers.

So here is my list of 10 honest things about myself, you may find interesting.

  1. I am not Japanese, though I find the culture fascinating. I lived in Japan for a year and teach traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
  2. I find national politics entertaining and follow it quite closely
  3. We decided to stop taking the local newspaper when it was consolidated from 4 sections into two.Though I do miss having the newspaper to wrap things up or put down before a messy job like repotting plants or painting.
  4. I kill plants. I used to take my sick plants to my mom to rescue. She would trade me with her blooming healthy plants and make my plants well again. Since she passed away, I cannot keep plants alive.
  5. Though I worked in the technology field for more than 30 years, I am a technology laggard. I have not ever texted, nor am I on twitter. I have a mobile phone, but often leave it at home and rarely check it, so don’t leave a message, call the home phone.
  6. I don’t miss my high paying corporate job, but sometimes it would be nice just to buy something without having to check the balance in my checking account to see if I can afford it.
  7. I love my students. I love every single one of them. They are all different, they all have talents, they are all so dedicated. Thank you for choosing me.
  8. I have a drawer full of blank journals. Nothing written in them yet, but I keep collecting them.
  9. I have a closet full of art supplies that I have accumulated over many unfinished projects. I am great at starting, but lousy at finishing. Oh yes, I also have knitting stuff, crochet stuff, hand spinning stuff, paper stuff and other miscellaneous craft stuff that I have never finished.
  10. I know how to cook, I just don’t like it that much. I started cooking for my family when I was nine years old and continued until I graduated from high school. My husband is a great cook. He finds it a creative outlook, and I am trying to see it that way, too.

And now for 7 bloggers, check ‘em out:

  1. Fashion Incubator
  2. First Draft
  3. Nuido
  4. You Sew Girl
  5. Talk Left
  6. Firedoglake
  7. Emptywheel

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, May 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, award, gratitude, stuff

Apr 28, 2009

Return to the original one again

keiko to wa ichi yori narai ju wo shiri ju yori keru moto no sono ichi

In training for chanoyu, you go from one to ten and return to the original one again.

This is from one of Rikyu’s 100 poems. Next week we will close the ro and begin the summer season for chanoyu. Before we begin the furo season, all the classes will review the basics again. We will learn how to walk in the tea room, how and when to bow. We will review folding the fukusa and purify the tea utensils and correct bad habits that we have acquired along the way.

When I went to Japan to study tea, even though I had 15 years of tea training, they began teaching us how to walk and bow. The sensei assumed you knew nothing and started everyone at the beginning, no matter how long you had studied. One sensei said that I had accumulated many bad habits and I needed to go back to the beginning. At first I was rather put out by what I thought was wasting time, until I found out that at every koshukai (intensive training workshop), they taught the basics to everyone, even teachers of more than 20 years’ experience. They call this warigeiko.

Even though we go back to the beginning, it really is not the beginning because we have some experience of what it is like to study. I like to think of it as a spiral. Each time you come back to the beginning, you go deeper and learn more about yourself, your temae and your relationships. Just like the seasons come around again, it is different every year. This spring is not like last spring, nor the spring before that.

So next week, bring your fukusa basami, chakin, chasen, chashaku. Be prepared for warigeiko, back to the orginial one again.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, April 28, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, practice, study, tea ceremony, temae, training

Apr 24, 2009

Sakura Festival Saturday

Please join us at Uwajimaya in Beaverton for the Sakura festival. Issoan tea school will be demonstrating tea ceremony on stage in the parking lot (early in the morning). Right after that, Aikido Yoshokai will take the stage for a demonstration of Aikido. See you there.

When: Saturday, April 25th 9:00 am tea ceremony, 10:00 am Aikido
Where: Sakura Festival, Uwajimaya
10500 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy. Beaverton, OR 97005
Phone: (503)643-4512

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, April 24, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Aikido, Chado, chanoyu, presentation, Welcome

Apr 21, 2009

Hisashi Yamada

Hisashi Yamada, a loving and devoted tea ceremony teacher at Urasenke Chanoyu Center of
New York, passed away on April 18, 2009 at the age of 81. He will be greatly missed by
all his family, friends and students.

Please share this information with anyone who was acquainted with Mr. Yamada.

Funeral Service: Tuesday, April 21, 2009, 2:30PM

The service will take place at Riverside Memorial Chapel
180 West 76th Street *entrance on Amsterdam Avenue- NYC 10023
http://www.riversidememorialchapel.com, tel. 212 362 6600

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, April 21, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, Chado, rituals, the way

Apr 19, 2009

Under the cherry trees

Thank you to Ikuko and her husband Mike for coming out to view the sakura and share their tasty lunch with us. And thank you Ronda for wearing your kimono. It was a lovely day, although we missed the blossoms by a few days, we served several adventurous souls tea and sweets.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, April 19, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, flowers, tea ceremony, tea gathering, Welcome

Apr 18, 2009

I dreamed a dream

The phenomenon of Susan Boyle on You tube this week made me think about dreaming dreams. If you are not one of the 26 million people who have watched it, click the link and go there now. She’s 47 and dreams of a singing career, though she’s never had the opportunity until now.

The story seems to resonate in these tough times of an unlikely star with hidden talent. Yet she pursued her dream of singing in front of a large audience and a career like Elaine Page. It’s never too late to pursue your dreams.

I went to Japan to pursue my teaching license when I was 40 years old. Most of the other students in my class were 19-21 years old. I didn’t start teaching tea until I was 45 years old. My husband went back to school to become an artist when he was 48 years old. There is no law that says dreams are only for the young.

A piece of advice I got from an old man who told me when you dream, don’t dream little dreams. Dream big dreams. Dream unreasonable dreams. And go after them. Do one thing every day that moves you a little closer to your dream. And do one thing every day that nurtures yourself so you have the reserve to pursue your dream

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, April 18, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, the way

Apr 17, 2009

One-of-a-kind Handbags and Purses

Now a word from our sponsors. SweetPesimmon.com is the retail site that supports this blog, so please check it out and buy something to support this blog. You may or may not know that I have been making one-of-a-kind handbags and purses and now they are for sale on my retail website. Handbag link. I also have meditation seats for those of you who have trouble with dead feet while sitting seiza, as well as tea, teaware, incense, photos, books. Also I have started a sewing blog. (link to the left). Thank you we will now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, April 17, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: gratitude, handbags, sewing, sweetpersimmon.com

Apr 16, 2009

Hanami: flower viewing

Looks like we will have good weather this weekend. We’re planning an outdoor tea event with chabako under the cherry blossoms. Please join us:

When: This Saturday, April 18, after 1:00 pm

Where: Japanese American Historical Plaza,
Old Town
2 NW Naito Pkwy
Portland, OR 97209

Portland waterfront near the steel bridge, under the cherry trees.

Come share the fine weather, flowers and a bowl of tea.

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Labels: appreciation, chanoyu, flowers, tea gathering, Welcome

Apr 15, 2009

It’s not my fault

I’ve been having car troubles lately. I have a 1989 Toyota Supra. I love this car. It is 20 years old. Some of the original parts are finally wearing out. Because this car has been so maintenance free, I don’t really have a regular mechanic. When we picked it up, the steering made funny noises that it didn’t before. It began to leak the power steering fluid and had to be replaced again. Then we noticed that there was anti freeze all over the driveway. So we had to take it back to the radiator place who replaced a hose. We got it home and the next day there was anti freeze all over the driveway again. Back the mechanic, the radiator place. We got it back and my husband opened up the hood and anti freeze shot up out of a hose with a hole in it. He spent the day replacing leaking hoses that should have been found by the mechanic or the radiator place. The car is now in the shop for the 6th time in two weeks. It’s still leaking anti freeze all over my driveway.

Each time we took the car back to mechanic or to the radiator place, we got the same plaintive cry, “It’s not my fault!” As a customer, I don’t really care whose fault it is, I just want my car fixed so I don’t have to keep bringing in my car and cleaning up my driveway. I am sure that both places would rather not see me again with the same problems.

How does this relate to tea ceremony? It may or may not, but I want service providers who want to help solve my problem rather than tell me it’s not their fault. I know it is an old car, but it’s been pretty reliable up to this point and I love it. I would feel much better about the inconvenience of taking the car into the shop numerous times if the mechanic just told me, “I am sorry for your inconvenience. Sometimes these old cars have lots of parts that wear out all at once. I’ll get right to work on it and do my best for you.”

I don’t think I have gotten the best from either the mechanic or the radiator place and that makes me want to take a look at the things that I do for other people. Whether it is a small thing or a large thing, am I giving them the best I can do, or am I just doing what I can to get by? How many times am I doing the same job over again that I could have done right the first time? How much inconvenience do I put others through? Do I shift blame to others?

Just like my sensei in Japan were not interested in my excuses for being late, I just wanted an apology and a promise not to inconvenience me in the future. That is accepting responsibility for their actions and being accountable for the results.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, April 15, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, stuff, the way, training

Apr 11, 2009

Chabako and flower viewing

The students are currently studying chabako (traveling tea box) in preparation for Hanami,or flower viewing. This month the Sakura or cherry blossoms will be blooming and for the Japanese people, this is one of the events of the year. We will take our chabako and thermos and venture outside to prepare tea under the cherry blossoms. Portland has a fine waterfront park dedicated to the Japanese interment and it is lined with Sakura that are just in bloom now. We can do it at the peak, or we can do it when the petals start coming down like pink snow all around us.

I remember the first week I was in Kyoto my sempai invited us new students to a chakai at the Kyoto botanical gardens. They packed up the chabako, thermos and bento and we walked from our dormitory to the gardens. It was a beautiful sunny spring day. Under the cherry blossoms, they prepared tea for us and told us how it was to be students and the headquarters under the grand tea master. They were so helpful and took great care of us those first six months when everything was brand new. Thank you, Herman, Kirsten, Scott, Maya, Jani, Robert, and Nastya. It was a wonderful year thanks to you.

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Labels: Chado, chanoyu, sempai, tea gathering, the way, Welcome

Apr 7, 2009

Slow Down

Another lesson I took from the koshukai is that I need to slow down. My mind is always full of thngs, and as Christy sensei told me that an active mind manifests as an active body. I sometimes do things so fast that the guests don’t have time to catch their breath or visually rest when they watch me make tea. Especially with koicha, the pace is slower than with usucha to give the ceremony more weight.

This is not a new problem for me. I know that my mind moves very fast, and I talk very fast. When I get nervous, I move and talk even faster. I am getting better though, Christy sensei did find a few places while I was making tea that were restful, but I really need to slow down.

One way I do this is to pay attention to my breathing. Whenever I am nervous or excited, I tend to hold my breath or breathe very shallowly. Taking one or two deep breaths helps to restore oxygen to my system and my brain seems to function better. Continuing to breathe while my body is moving tends to focus my mind, slow down my nervous tics and allows me to be more present.

From the beginning of entering the tea room until the last act of closing the door, your breathing should be even and controlled. This breathing helps to control the pace of the procedure. As you begin the procedure, folding your fukusa, your guests will begin to breathe in unison with you. It is amazing what happens to the harmony in the room when everyone is breathing in unison.

If you have the opposite problem that I do, of being too slow and too deliberate, increasing the pace of your breathing very slightly will help the pace of your tea procedure. Holding your breath while you make tea does not do you any good at all. You must breathe.

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Labels: breathe, Chado, chanoyu, study, tea ceremony, temae, training

Apr 4, 2009

Oh this blogging business, I can’t figure out how to link this video. It’s about kimono dressing for men.

So here’s my attempt.
Thanks for your patience.

Video: Kimono dressing for men.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, April 04, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, kimono, study, training

Breaking bad habits

During the course of making tea for Christy sensei, she pointed out a bad habit I have when I fold my fukusa. I didn’t even realize that I was doing it. She stopped me in the middle of folding it and asked me if I knew why she stopped me. I had no idea and she said that it must be a habit if I am unaware of it. She then proceeded to demonstrate what I do and I was appalled at how sloppy it looked. From then on, I was conscious of making sure I did NOT do it when I fold the fukusa.

The first step in breaking a bad habit is becoming aware it is a habit. We cannot see ourselves so it is a good thing to have someone point these bad habits out. The problem is that honest feedback seems so impolite in the tea room. To overcome this, the intention of giving the feedback has to be clean and it must be pointed out in a loving way. I am grateful to sensei that she is paying attention to what I do and is honest with me to help me improve.

We train our bodies so that we can do the movements of temae with an empty mind. And if we train our bodies to do something, it will faithfully reproduce what we have trained it to do; it becomes a habit. Somewhere along the way, I had trained my body into a bad habit and I did it without realizing that I was doing it. They say that it takes a minimum of doing something 32 times before it becomes a habit. So the second step once we become aware is to consciously do it correctly for a minimum of 32 times.

Christy also suggested that I examine what it was that made me initiate the bad habit in the first place. For something as basic as folding the fukusa, I know the correct way to fold it, but something triggered a change and I kept repeating it until I became unaware of it. By examining the trigger, it will help me break the bad habit as I re-train my body to do it again correctly.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Saturday, April 04, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, study, temae, training

Apr 2, 2009

Pay attention to what you are doing

No matter how many times we have done temae, it is always good to pay attention to what we are doing. One of the things Christy sensei emphasized in koshukai is the precision with which we do temae. First of all make sure that the orientation of your body is correct. Especially in the winter season, there is a difference in centering your body with the outside corner of the hearth frame and the inside corner. There may be less than an inch in difference, but it changes the position of all the utensils as you use them. Your left knee should also come up to be even with the corner of the hearth frame, and the space of 16 tatami weaves should be in front of you. Also make sure that your body is centered with the outside line of the hearth frame when speaking with guests and putting out the haiken utensils.

One thing many students become sloppy with is picking up and moving utensils. When the left hand or the right hand picks up or puts down the bowl make sure it is precisely at 9 o’clock or three o’clock on the bowl. There are certain times to pick up the bowl or set it down at 5 o’clock or 7 o’clock. Know when to use these different handling techniques and why. When transferring the bowl or the hishaku (water scoop) make sure that changing hands occurs in the center of the body. A lot of students tend to transfer the utensils from one hand to another on the way to where ever it is traveling.

After purifying natsume or chaire, the fukusa is squeezed in the right hand, but then it comes just over the right knee. If you pull your hand up your leg near your body, you get this chicken wing effect as you put down the tea container that looks awkward and funny.

Finally, make sure you have good posture. Not only do you look better in kimono if you have good posture, but also when making tea, sit with a straight back and not too close to the bowl. Bow with a straight back and do not put your weight on your hands while you are doing it.

We all learned these things as basics, but it is always a good reminder to pay attention to what we are doing in temae, even if we have done them a hundred times before.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Thursday, April 02, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, classes, mindfulness, practice, study, tea ceremony, temae, training

Apr 1, 2009

Back to Basics

Christy Bartlett sensei was just in town for koshukai, an intensive teaching workshop for the way of tea. These workshops are always an inspiring and humbling experience. Usually they last two or three days and are divided into sections for advanced intermediate and beginner students. The students prepare and make tea for other student guests much like regular keiko, but as I said before it is intensive. Christy sensei’s experience, knowledge and teaching deepen our understanding of the way of tea, of the historical precedents of tea, of the exact order and questions about temae and most important, something about ourselves. One thing I so appreciate about Christy sensei is that she gives the most honest feedback and corrects even the smallest points to pay attention to. The effects of these workshops stays with me for many days and weeks.

These koshukai are also a gathering time to be with people who we do not ordinarily see, fellow students and teachers of the way of tea. While the format of the classes are strict, there is a fellowship of feeling as we are all there to study hard and learn more. There is something to be said about the closeness one feels for other students who have suffered along with you sitting seiza for 8 hours a day for three days.

It was interesting to me that this time, what struck me the most was not so much the teaching of the upper temae, but comments and teaching from sensei about the basics. How to fold the fukusa, working on footwork, conversation about utensils, picking up and putting things down, the speed (or slowness) of the pace of temae. How we do all of these things tell us about ourselves. It is a way of looking at ourselves as we are in the world. What can we learn by looking at ourselves as we behave in the tea room?

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, April 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, study, temae, the way, training

Mar 24, 2009

Reduce, reuse, recyle and repair

“There was a Chajin of Sakai who had a tea caddy called Sessan and he used it when Rikyu came. But Rikyu thought nothing of it so its owner smashed it against the trivet on the hearth. Another guest took away the pieces and put them together again and gave a chaji to which he invited Rikyu. This time the master praised the caddy, so the host returned it to its former owner and told him to take great care of it. Later on someone bought it for a thousand pieces of gold, and noticing that the joins were very rough proposed to have it mended again more neatly and submitted it to Kobori Enshu for his opinion. “If you do that you will spoil it altogether,” was his decision, “for that was just why Rikyu liked it.” ~from Cha-no-yu, by A.L. Sadler

Today in our disposable society, when something is broken, we toss it out without even thinking about it. Technology and planned obsolescence makes it cheaper and more convenient to throw things out and buy new ones, especially with more features, bells and whistles on it. I had a VCR and it stopped working one day. I took it to a repair shop and the guy told me that it wasn’t worth fixing because it would cost me $150, when I could go a buy a new one with a more sophisticated remote control gizmos for $49.00. I was told my old sewing machine (1940s model) was worth less than $15, and yet it costs $85 for a cleaning and adjustment. The technician told me to junk it because he’d likely spend at least a month trying to track down a similar model so he could cannibalize parts for it as it is no longer manufactured and I would end up paying him for his time as well. I have two or three old cell phones that worked fine until the cell phone company no longer supported them and I had to upgrade to a new one.

But, going green, there is a consciousness of not just recycling, but repair and reusing things that were broken, discarded or no longer usable. Just like the depression of my parent’s era, in this economic climate, there are more people who see repairing things as a way to save money, and get more use out of what you already have. It may be even cool again to be known as the guy who can repair anything. There is even a site that seeks to make repair the fourth ‘R’: reduce, reuse, recycle, and repair. The repair manifesto.

In my classes we are learning chabako (traveling tea set). I have a set with matching ceramics with a bamboo desgin, but the chakin tsutsu (wiping cloth tube) met the floor rather violently last week and was shattered into many pieces. In the spirit of Rikyu’s guest, I gathered as many pieces as I could find and repaired with a little gold powder in the joints. Now I have a chakin tsutsu that no longer matches the set, but has an interesting story.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, March 24, 2009 2 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Chado, Rikyu, tea ceremony, tea utensils, wabi

Mar 23, 2009

Kimono and Obi Sale

Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, 2009
10:00AM – 5:00PM

We’ve received new shipment of many Kimono, Obi, and Kimono Tansu,
And are having a party to celebrate. Refreshments will be served in a
Traditional tea ceremony room

Nishiura Ryokusuido
Japanese Arts & Antiques
3826 N.E. Glisan St. (near NE 39th Ave.)
Portland, OR. 97232
(503) 236-8005

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, March 23, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: kimono, tea ceremony

Mar 18, 2009

Playing with scents, more on Kodo, the Way of Incense

On Monday, Mr. Nishiura, incense master, came from Tokyo (via San Francisco) for a chakai at Ryokusuido. The students and I were able to serve him tea and after that he presented us with a game of incense.

As the night fell, the room was lit by candle light. It bathed us all in a flattering glow and Mr. Nishiura began the incense ceremony. Like tea, there are specialized dogu (utensils). Like tea, he brought everything into the room and prepared the things for us to smell the incense. While he was doing that, the guests were passed our own brush, calligraphy set, and answer sheet. We made ink with ink stick and stone. Then we were to write our name on the outside of our answer sheet.

The game we were to play would be to compare two different incenses. He shuffled the incense packets and chose six. There would be three rounds of comparison and we were to mark on our answer sheets with a dash – if they were the same or two dots ?? if they were different. We were to write them from the bottom to the top. The resulting symbol, three lines of dashes and dots referred to a phenomenon of nature, such as fire, thunder earth etc. With this combination, there were 8 possibilities for the answer. Mr. Nishura told us that as we listen to the music of the incense and come upon our answers, the symbols will tell us something about our own nature.

We started to listen to the first incense. It was a heady fragrance and I could barely tell if there was anything at all on the burner. I inhaled with all my lungs as we only had one chance to listen before we passed on to the next one. Mr. Nishura told us not to just smell the incense. That happens with just your nose. But to inhale and listen with our whole body, not just the surface or top notes, but also to the under notes and the whole of the music. We could write down our answers after each set, or wait until the end. And we could change our answers at any time.

I must say that there was a lot going on in that first inhalation. But I really don’t have the words to describe what was going on for me. The second round we had to judge if it was the same or different than the previous round. Not only did we listen to the incense, we had to remember how the first one was and distinguish if it was different from the second one. Being a novice, I didn’t know how subtle the differences could be. I could not distinguish between the first two, nor the second set of two, nor the third set.

When all the sets were done, we passed the answers to Mr. Nishura on a tray, and he scored and recorded the answers on a beautiful sheet of calligraphy (see photo). The correct answer was that the first two sets were alike, the third set different. Mr. Nishura said that to get a high score is not the point. If you have a high score that means you are very sensitive and that you are healthy. To get a low score means that you are happy.

To be an incense master, you must also have beautiful handwriting, too.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, March 18, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: appreciation, art of living, breathe, calligraphy, the way

Feb 23, 2009

Issoan Tea School will be presenting
Tea Ceremony Demonstrations

At the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation
Japanese Market

Saturday, February 28th, 2009 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

West End Building, 4101 Kruse Way

Tea Ceremony Demonstrations at 10:30, 1:00 and 3:00. There will also

be other traditional entertainment, fascinating demonstrations and unique treasures.

SweetPersimmon will also have a booth with Portable Meditation Seats, Rice Heat Wraps, Handmade Purses and Handbags, Tea, Incense, and other unique items.

Directions: From I-5 and 217:

Exit I-5 #292 Kruse Way

Proceed East on Kruse Way to Kruse Way Place

4102 Kruse Way. Parking lot is on the left (West side) behind the building

Google Map

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, February 23, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, presentation, tea ceremony, Welcome

Feb 13, 2009

In the winter suggest warmth

Some things come along to remind me how easy and comfortable my life really is. Yesterday, the house where I teach the furnace went out, as in it didn’t work. When I arrived in the afternoon to set up the mizuya and clean the tea room, it was about 40ºF (5ºC), a little above the outside temperature. I immediately turned on the thermostat to start the furnace as I usually do. No sound of it starting up and no heat.

I began to set up the mizuya, putting on the water to boil, and cleaned the tea room. That warmed me up a little, but still no heat. I closed the shoji doors to the tea room and started the little electric element in the ro. Still no heat. I put the kama on, filled the natsume and began to make sweets. Still no heat. I lit a candle in the tea room and hung the scroll, arranged the flowers and lit some incense.

By the time the first student arrived, it seemed to warm up a little from the boiling water and my moving around rather energetically. But still no heat. We did zazen for about 10 minutes and then began to set up for the lesson. By now it was obvious that there was not going to be heat for the evening lessons.

We proceeded with the day’s lessons and learned lessons on how to project through your spirit and personality how to suggest warmth. The guests sat closer together on the tatami and the host drew attention to the steam from the kettle rose that in such beautiful clouds, guests lingered over bowls of tea, stories were exchanged to take guests minds off the cold. The host offered extra bowls of tea or hot water. As the guests left the tea room, they remarked on how much warmer the tea room was from the hallway just outside.

From the seven rules of Rikyu – “In the summer suggest coolness, in the winter warmth.”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, February 13, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Chado, chanoyu, classes, Rikyu, study, training

Feb 9, 2009

Noh: Pathos behind the mask

Noh is one of the oldest performance arts in the world, featuring rhythmic musicians, choral chanters and masked actors. Principal noh actor Shizuka Mikata will be joined by four exceptionally talented performers from the Kanze School to demonstrate this traditional art, including actor, Michiharu Wakebayashi, flute player Manabu Takeichi, kotsuzumi drummer Ichiro Kichisaka, and otsuzumi drummer Masaharu Kawamura.

Portland:
Tuesday Februay 10, 7pm
Dolores Winningstad Theater
Contact Dr. Laurence Kominz, phone 503-725-5288, email: kominzl@pdx.edu

Seattle:
Thursday February 12, 7 pm
Stimson Auditorim Seattle Asian Art Museum
Contact SAM box office, to RSVP email boxoffice@seattleartmuseum.org

Denver:
Saturday February 14, 8 pm
University of Colorado, Denver
Kenneth King Academic & Performing Arts Center, Recital Hall
Contact lee Ann Weller, phone 303-556-2296, email: LeeAnn.Weller@ucdenver.edu

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, February 09, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, artists, Japanese culture, theater

Feb 1, 2009

Chado, a way of life

One of my sensei in Japan once said that Chado becomes the yardstick with which you measure your life. I didn’t know what he meant by that, and to be sure it is like the scrolls in the alcove – the meaning of the words are much deeper than the words appear on the surface.

Over the many years of study, Chado has changed my life. Every time I step into the tea room, I learn something new. As I learn more about the way of tea, the more I learn how I am in the world. The tea room is a microcosm of life and how I behave there often translate to how I behave outside the tea room. The form and etiquette of tea are often seen as empty gestures, yet some of the enforced politeness pays off as I unconsciously incorporated politeness, respect and thinking of others in my everyday life.

Before I started to study Chado, I had a very short attention span. Anything new or shiny took me off course and I had trouble finishing any project, job or chore. Even moment by moment, I had trouble staying on task. Eventually, I found myself focusing more and more until the job was done.

My years of cleaning and cleaning the tea room and mizuya have trained me to do the same thing in my home. I used to be such a slob. Now, I cannot cook in a kitchen until I have cleaned everything up. I never used to make my bed in the morning and now I do.

While some people see Chado as irrelevant and tradition bound, there are benefits that are applicable to everyday life. As my husband says, “After a while, studying tea goes beyond a hobby and becomes a lifestyle.”

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Posted by Margie Yap at Sunday, February 01, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, Chado, practice, study, tea ceremony, training

Jan 30, 2009

Introduction to Japanese Culture through the Tea Ceremony

Harmony, purity, respect and tranquility. These are the four principles of tea ceremony distilled from Japanese culture. In this ten week class, students will be introduced to Chado, the way of tea. The arts of Japan will be examined through the ritual preparation and drinking of matcha, Japanese ceremonial tea. Students will participate in at least six tea ceremonies, an incense ceremony, and kimono dressing. Japanese architecture, gardening, flower arranging and calligraphy will also be covered.
Issoan Tea School
17761 NW Marylhurst Ct.
Portland, OR 97229

Wednesdays 7:00-8:30 pm beginning Feb. 4

Contact me 503.645.7058 or email margie@issoantea.com to register. Space is limited only 2 more spaces left.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Friday, January 30, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, classes, Japanese culture, tea ceremony

Jan 28, 2009

The Stubborn Twig

The Stubborn Twig, by Laruren Kessler is the story of the Yasui family making their way in America through the generations. This book is the official selection for Oregon Reads 2009, which is a community reads program that will take place in nearly every public library and in every county in Oregon during the state’s sesquicentennial, January through April of 2009. As a result of this, there are many Japanese cultural events scheduled through the libraries, cultural and recreational centers to foster an understanding of the Japanese culture.

Issoan Tea School will be giving lectures and demonstrations as part of this cultural education.

• Cornelius Public library, Saturday Feb. 21 at 1:00 pm.
• Lake Oswego Parks and Rec. Japanese Market, Saturday Feb. 28th at
10:30, 1:00 and 3:00 pm
• Driftwood Public Library, Lincoln City, Sunday March 8, 3:00 pm

Please join us for a sweet and a bowl of tea.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Wednesday, January 28, 2009 0 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu, presentation, tea ceremony, Welcome

Jan 27, 2009

Living forward for a year

Every year the Emperor of Japan selects a poetic theme for the next year. The theme is announced and guest poets and the public are invited to submit waka poems based on the theme. Waka or Tanka is a five line poem with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables in each line. Anyone can submit a poem and if your poem is selected, you will get an invitation to attend the gathering held for poems in January. You will have the opportunity to have an audience with the Emperor and recite your poem at the gathering. The Emperor will present his poem at the gathering as well.

The chokudai, or poetic theme for last year was fire. for 2009 is sei – meaning “to live” or “to live forward.” If you are an artist, this might mean you continue striving in the arts. If you are a craftsperson, perhaps it means to keep the old or new tradition going. If you are a teacher, you might try to impart a good education to your students. Or for a plant it may mean to remain in the ground for another year.

For this year, I will not dwell in the past. All the mistakes I made in the past or perceived slights made by others will be in the past. Everyday for this year, I will wake up to a new day and continue to live forward.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Tuesday, January 27, 2009 3 comments Links to this post

Labels: art of living, haiku, the way

Jan 26, 2009

2009 the year of the ox

It seems like such a long time since I last posted and for regular readers and those who enjoy reading this blog, I am very sorry. I promise to be better about posting as I have many things that I would like to share with you about Chanoyu, the way of tea. New updates on my Issoan Tea website, too.

This year, 2009 is the year of the Ox. The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. This powerful sign is a born leader, being quite dependable and possessing an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.

Ox people need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, though they have a tremendous imagination and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.

People born under the influence of the Ox are kind, caring souls, logical, positive, filled with common sense and with their feet firmly planted on the ground. Security is their main preoccupation in life, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families. Strong-minded, stubborn, individualistic, the majority are highly intelligent individuals who don’t take kindly to being told what to do.

The Ox works hard, patiently, and methodically, with original intelligence and reflective thought. These people enjoy helping others. Behind this tenacious, laboring, and self-sacrificing exterior lies an active mind.

The Ox is not extravagant, and the thought of living off credit cards or being in debt makes them nervous. The possibility of taking a serious risk could cause the Ox sleepless nights.

Ox people are truthful and sincere, and the idea of wheeling and dealing in a competitive world is distasteful to them. They are rarely driven by the prospect of financial gain. These people are always welcome because of their honesty and patience. They are reputed to be the most beautiful of face in the zodiac. They have many friends, who appreciate the fact that the Ox people are wary of new trends, although every now and then they can be encouraged to try something new. People born in the year of the Ox make wonderful parents and teachers of children.

It is important to remember that the Ox people are sociable and relaxed when they feel secure, but occasionally a dark cloud looms over such people and they engage all the trials of the whole world and seek solutions for them.

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Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, January 26, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu

als of the whole world and seek solutions for them.

Email the authorDigg This!Save to del.icio.usShare on Facebook

Posted by Margie Yap at Monday, January 26, 2009 4 comments Links to this post

Labels: Chado, chanoyu

 

 

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