Kobukusa making workshop

Saturday, May 13, 11:00 am. Fee $10.

Kobukusa making workshop taught by Kate Comstock. Students will learn about fabrics used for kobukusa, a small cloth used in Chanoyu. Pattern, written instructions, and fabric testing kit will be included.

Techniques for sewing, secrets for perfect corners, and kobukusa magic will be taught. Bring your own silk fabric, or cotton to use as a trial. Some silk fabrics may be available.

To reserve your place, sign up at class or contact Margie. Space is limited to 6.

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Tiny treasures – Inside Tea

A student did some research on the composition of tea, and wrote a little book for me.

It was beautifully put together, with hand lettered pages and illustrations:

I learned some things about tea, and the names of the compounds that make up this magical beverage:

I also learned specifically how tea compounds affect the body:

Specifically matcha:

The end:

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Final chakai for new students

We have just completed 10 weeks of study for new students, and I put on a chakai for them in Kashintei at the Portland Japanese Garden. They get to attend a chakai in a real authentic tea house surrounded by the beautiful, award winning Japanese Garden.  They also get to invite friends and family to show off what they have learned in the class and serve them tea and sweets from their own hands.And the students get a completion certificate for the class. We are so lucky to have this facility available to us.



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Back home again – final Midorikai interlude

Graduation from school brought with it the same feelings I have always gotten: joy from completing something I set my mind to do, anxiety for things that are out of my control (like anything related to the future), nostalgia for the beginning memories and anticipation for the wonderful things just over the horizon. It’s such a mixed bag of strong emotions. Kyoto is such a beautiful city with such interesting people and I have enjoyed living in my part of town with the view from the rooftop, the daily fire caller man who walks the streets chanting and striking his clappers together, the smells of delicious cooking food when I bicycle in the evenings, sitting by the river drinking a grape fizzy Mistio soda and bird or people watching, walking popular streets like Shijo or Teramachidori, paying my respects to temples and shrines…the list goes on and on. The sakura were starting to bloom as I was departing and that was also really special. We came full-circle, nature wise too. Sure there have been many challenges: Kyoto has extreme weather (for an Oregonian) in the summer and winter, I had troubles with my legs sitting seiza, school kept me incredibly busy, and just being far away from my family. I was elated to learn how wonder, delight and gratitude returned to my awareness in spades. Prior to this it was easy to be hung up by the daily plannings, dramas, technology-pitfalls, isolation, etc. It takes work to live a happier life, and tough choices and decisions.

Now I sit in the San Francisco airport, having departed from Kyoto. I was the last sempai to leave, the other three having already departed for Osaka and their flights home. It was wonderful to see them off. My kohai saw me off and I was grateful for that as well. They will become sempai and as I was leaving, there was a call that the first new kohai arrival was on her way. It’s fun how that happens.

I can’t sum up this year with just words. If you haven’t done this experience it’s impossible to explain. We each have our own wonderful stories to tell. I have so many stories and memories and things that I’ve worked out for myself that I will cherish for years to come. Besides these occasional musings, I wrote one page a day in a journal about my daily life at Midorikai. Perhaps I’ll revisit that for a project someday. The things that resonated with me, well, I hope and pray they will guide me and be present in my life. My enthusiasm keeps me deleting so much of what I want to say because I just feel that words are insufficient.

The four of us sempai sat around the gakuen kitchen table waiting to say thank you to the office (saying thank you before and after things is VERY important here), and we all agreed that we felt very lucky to have experienced this together, at this time, at this place and that we were so happy to have these memories, this shared time. We also have been there, we understand. It was like doing color guard in the drum corp or backpacking Europe. It’s difficult to understand or to talk about it if you weren’t there. I hope that with these brief writings you were able to glimpse, even briefly, this fabulous, zen world.

I will continue to learn and grow and focus on the things I learned here. Man, there sure are a lot of them. Thank you for reading!

Love Karla

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Chakai planning 2017

This year, I have several students who have put on a chakai or are planning to put on chakai for guests.  It takes a lot of planning and effort to do this, and yes a lot of courage to do it.  From the beginning to just decide to host a gathering is kind of a scary thing to do.  I am very proud of these students who have stepped up or are about to step up in their training and take the plunge.

The tea gathering can be as simple as sweets and usucha, or as elaborate as a full kaiseki, charcoal fire, koicha, and usucha.  No matter what the gathering, planning is essential.  At every stage, decisions about the date, venue, who to invite, invitations, toriawase, temae, and a thousand other things crowd together.  With food or without food, what kind of sweets, who will make them? It helps to have support, so recruiting fellow students to  share the workload is important as well.

Over the years, I have developed a utensil checklist to help with the planning and a countdown, from the first planning, to the day of the event, so nothing is forgotten. Role definition, seating arrangements, and parallel flowcharts of the order of things and of what is happening in the kitchen, mizuya and honseki are helpful as well.

Wedding planners, caterers, event managers, and project managers will recognize many of these tools, because pulling off a chakai is a major event.  The more planning up front, the less possibility of an unrecoverable disaster the day of the event.

But even the best planned event probably will have its own disasters, so hosts should remain flexible with a sense of humor, and strive to work out solutions on the spot without resorting to blame.  After all, the guest’s experience is what counts.

Besides, what are we training every week in class for?  So that when the time comes, you can present tea splendidly and without shame.  I hope you will decide to host a tea gathering this year.  If you do, please send me a photo or let me know about it.

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