That is what my husband calls tea events, whether it is Hatsugama, an anniversary celebration, a koshukai, a convention or a large chakai, we get together with other chajin and enjoy tea, sweets and company of our kindred who understand “that we are the lucky ones whose hearts were stolen by tea.”
Recently, I had the good fortune to attend the Wakai 35th anninversary event here in Portland last month. It was held in the famous and newly renovated Portland Japanese Garden. Even though the temperatures soared, the garden was much cooler for the abundant shade trees and higher elevation above the city. I loved the toriawase in that some of the utensils were those I had studied with Minako sensei and had not seen since she passed away.
There were two seki, Usucha and Koicha. The Usucha seki was held in the large pavilion inside the garden and it was air conditioned. This lovely pavilion overlooks the city of Portland in a picture postcard framing with Mt. Hood in the background. The Koicha seki was held in the lovely Kashintei tea house in the lower part of the garden. Kashintei was built in Japan in the 1960s, taken apart, shipped to the U.S. and reassembled on site. It uses traditional building techniques of joinery and wood pegs — no nails or screws. It is a yojohan, 4 1/2 mats and built as a presentation space so it has an area for chairs for people to observe what is going on in the tatami mat space.
The new part of the garden, designed by Kengo Kuma and dedicated only this April, consists of a large open plaza, buildings housing offices, library, the Japanese Garden institute, gift shop and tea cafe. There is also a bonsai terrace and soon to be a chabana garden. While the anniversary events were going on, the Behind the Shoji gift exhibition was going on featuring Japanese and Japanese inspired art and crafts.
After the Japanese Garden events, there was a banquet at the Chart house with a lovely view of Portland and the Willamette river. I especially appreciated that the organizers of the event had mixed the seating arrangements so that our table mates were from different places and we introduced ourselves to some people we had not met before.
I think it is wonderful that so many people get to travel to see other people to renew acquaintances, see old class mates, meet people in person who they have only met on online, and meet people for the very first time. We all share a love for the way of tea, and there is no explanation needed for how long it takes to study how to make tea, or why you want to dress up in silk to sit on your knees until your legs go numb. Indeed is a gathering of the tribe.
“In tea, there are no strangers.”
*Sorry for the blurry photos