The difficulty of Chado study

Beginning Chado study is hard. Nobody is inherently beautiful and graceful and perfect out of the gate. Even Japanese people who begin to study make mistakes. It is like learning a foreign language. You are not going to be fluent after a few lessons, and even after years and years of study, you never feel like you totally get it.

There really is not anything that prepares you for your Chado studies, though some people have particular talents like a good memory, or body spatial awareness. There may be some training that may help you, like martial arts or dance, but Chado is not like that exactly. You may have studied Japanese language or literature or Zen but really these things do not really help you to do temae or be graceful when eating a sticky sweet like mochi.

Do you remember how difficult it was in the beginning to fold your fukusa? Do you remember how hard it was sit down and get up off the floor in kimono? How hard it was to remember the order of temae?

At one time, we were all beginners. We all had to learn to walk correctly, sit down in the proper place and could not figure out right foot, left foot and which one we had to use first.

At one time, we discovered we didn’t know much about what were doing. We saw advanced students doing different kinds of things, and asking questions about things we had no idea what they were talking about.

At one time, we helped with a tea demonstration and got lost in temae. We have had that panicky feeling of what do I do next, and how am I going to get through this procedure in front of everyone?

At one time we were all frustrated with where we were in our Chado training. We saw other students studying different temae and wondered if we were ever going to progress enough with so sensei would advance us to the next one.

At one time, we all felt like we were never going to feel competent in the tea room. If we only had a little more knowledge, or remembered everything we learned, we would feel more confident.

The thing about Chado study is that it is hard. There is so much to learn and so much to remember. Did I say that Chado study is hard? Yes, Chado study is hard. And to continue to practice it even when we know we are not very good at it is hard and sometimes discouraging. To persist in practice at something we know we are not good at is humbling and makes us want to quit, to move on to something we can excel and look good at doing.

And yet there is a sense of accomplishment when we begin to get it. When the secrets of temae begin to open up and we understand some of the lessons we couldn’t get before. It is a good feeling when sensei asks us to help a new student to prepare in the mizuya and we know exactly what to do.

But will we ever feel fluent and competent in the tearoom? Looking back on 30 years of training in Chado, there is always something that I feel like I don’t know much about or am unsure what to do. I do feel a certain comfort in that, generally speaking, I know what is going on, and what I need to do at certain times.

But then again, I just spent a weekend attending multiple seki at the Hakone Daichakai, and felt like a fairly new beginner again. I was unsure when I was asked to be the shokyaku if I would mess up the experience for the rest of the guests. I don’t know if it is worse to humiliate yourself in front of total strangers that you will never see again, or fellow students and teachers who have seen you mess up many times.

And you know what, Chado study is hard. But how will you learn anything new unless you try it out?How else will you get better at something you suck at if you don’t practice, mess up, and re-do it again and again? If we only stuck with things we know how to do and look good doing it, our world would be small and unchallenging. It is a myth that if you love something, you will be naturally good at it. Lots of things take unending practice and effort, and yes looking not so good when you are practicing it. But if you love something, I think there is motivation to move through the humiliation of not being very good at it, and to continue to practice until you get better at doing it.

After all these years, I am learning Japanese language, and I suck at it. But I am practicing every day, and little by little, I am getting better. I may never be fluent, but I am understanding more about myself through the study and application. And that means a lot, too.

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Hakone Daichakai

I was fortunate enough this year to attend the Hakone Daichakai held at the Hakone Gardens near San Jose, California this year.  The Hakone gardens were so beautiful and the weather was perfect.  It was so lovely to see so many people in kimono (both men and women).

A big shout out to Harvey Harvey, Holly Harvey and Laura Dodd for inviting me and taking care of me.  Also thank you to John Larissou and all the other people coordinating and holding seki in the garden.

I had such a good time being a guest at this annual event. There were eight venues within the garden where several schools of tea were holding seki, plus the terrace where the bento lunch was served.  I got to attend 5 seki. 2 usucha and 3 koicha, and that means 5 sweets, and 5 teas throughout the day.

It is always interesting to see other schools,  and it is always interesting to see how people adapt to the surroundings and make everyone feel comfortable and welcome.   The differences in the schools were not so great that I felt uncomfortable as the order of temae is essentially the same.   But the arrangement, the choice of utensils, the feeling of hospitality, the welcome was so very nice.  I think that I would like to attend again next year.

A big highlight for me was the seki in Shogestu an.  It is a tiny 2-jo daime (2 and 3/4) mat tea house at the top of the garden.  You have to climb the hill to get to it, but you rewarded with koicha seki in an exquisite jewel of a tea house. 

I just wanted to highlight the scroll in the tokonoma. It was a waka poem brushed by Sen Kayoko, Tantansai’s wife.



aki wa nao
tadanaramu koso
omo(h)o yure
ogi no uwakaze
hagi no shitatsuyu

autumn, especially
as it turns ever more splendid,
provokes deep feelings
wind over miscanthus grass
dew fallen from bush clover

by Sen Kayoko Ōokusama

One of the best things for me was to meet my twin, Marjorie Oda-Burns.  Two Marjories, we both have been studying tea for more than 30 years!

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September Introduction to Chado

Introduction to Chado class
Starts on Wednesday, September 13, 7:30-9:00 pm. 10 weeks

The essence of Japanese culture is contained in Chado, the way of tea.
Students in this class will learn the etiquette of how to be a guest at a tea ceremony, the basic order of the tea ceremony and how to whisk green powdered matcha ceremonial tea. Students will also participate in 6 Japanese tea ceremonies from informal to semi-formal tea gatherings. An overview of Japanese arts and how the tea ceremony has influenced Japanese culture will be presented. Students will also be learn about tea ceramics, Japanese gardens, calligraphy, kimono dressing, and incense ceremony. They will also be introduced to zazen meditation and discuss how to put tea practice into every day life.

Places are limited. Reserve your spot with at $50 deposit. Use the button at right.
Fee: $250, includes all materials, tea and sweets for 10 weeks
Location: The Jasmine Pearl Darjeeling room, 724 NE 22nd Ave., Portland, OR 97232

For more information contact Marjorie Yap, Instructor
Phone: 503.645.7058
email: margie[at]issoantea[dot]com or use the contact form at the bottom of the About page here

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Stencils and indigo

Last Saturday we held the Katzome workshop with Tyler Peterson, textile artist. It was a cloudy overcast day which was a relief from the triple digit weather we have had over the past week.   After Tyler introduced himself he talked about how katazome (stencil resist ) is used in kimono and other clothing.  He showed us some photos of his work

We talked about making the resist paste with recipes and sources, and then we got to work hands on by helping him make a batch of paste.  The ingredients were mixed and formed into a doughnut shape and put in a steamer to cook.  While the paste was steaming, we took a look at some historical stencils, modern adaptations of stencils,  books of stencils and Japanese motifs. Tyler then gave us the opportunity to draw and then cut our own stencil designs using mylar and x-acto knives.  Everyone had a chance to show their creativity.  Big, bold, or cute or delicate, traditional or modern. While we were working on our designs and stencils, the paste was cooked and Tyler showed us how to add the other ingredients and and using the suribachi (Japanese mortar and pestle) to grind the paste and incorporate the ingredients and finally thin it to a good consistency.

When the paste was ready he showed us how to squeegee the paste through the stencil so that the patter came out on the cloth.

We hung the cloth to dry the paste.  Meanwhile, Tyler talked with us about indigo dyeing.  He had two vats, one natural indigo and synthetic. Keeping a vat going means feeding and caring for it.  Things that I did not know about is that indigo is the only natural vegetable source of blue color, and that the dye lays on top of the cloth, not penetrates into it.  So you can layer indigo through several dippings to get darker colors.  Also like blue jeans and denim the color can also flake off and run. 

When indigo comes out of the dye vat, it is this greenish color but  we dipped it in water to reduce the oxygen it turns that beautiful brilliant blue.  Subsequent dippings can make it darker and longer times in the vat you also can get ombré effects by how slowly you dip and take out the cloth. To dip the cloth without gloves, we used these thin bamboo sticks that have a needle in each end.  The bamboo is flexible so you can bend them and attach them with the needles to make handles to dip the cloth. Again, the cloth comes out green, but dip it in the water and it gradually turns blue.  Magic!

When the stenciled paste was dry we got to try our own hand at making handles, and dyeing.  Once the cloth is dry, you can soak it in hot water to remove the paste.  Here is my finished piece.  I wonder what I can make with it — a handbag?

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Katazome workshop

Please join us for an introduction to Katazome workshop with textile artist and instructor Tyler Peterson. Fee $35 covers materials. To sign up see Margie or use the paypal button on the right to reserve your spot.  Registration is very limited so sign up early.

Katazome is a surface design process used for centuries in Japanese textile decoration, especially with cloth destined to become kimonos. For centuries artisans created a resist paste made from a rice flour mixture and applied this paste to cloth through the use of elaborately hand carved stencils. Wherever this paste is applied will resist the dye, creating a pattern. Traditionally Katazome is paired with indigo to create the iconic white and dark blue of many Japanese textiles.

During this 3 hour crash course we will dive into the basics of katazome. We will cover the preparation of the fabric and the resist paste, the making of stencils, the application of the paste onto fabric, and the dyeing of the fabric in a natural indigo vat. Along with having access to vintage stencils from Japan we will also discuss advanced forms and non-traditional DIY methods that one can use at home.

Tyler Peterson is an artist and educator based in Portland, OR. He graduated with his MFA in Applied Craft + Design and was awarded the program’s 2015-2016 Fellowship position. He has shown work in Oregon, Colorado, and Tennessee and recently finished a residency with c3:initiative and Pulp & Deckle. Since 2014 he has been an instructor for WildCraft Studio School teaching classes on natural dyes and traditional Japanese textile processes. You can see examples of his work at the Jasmine Pearl Tea Shop, 724 NE 22nd Ave., Portland, OR 97232


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