The student teacher relationship is so important in Chado. Your teacher is like your parent in that they have brought you up in the world of tea.
My sensei, Minako-sensei, was my first teacher. Even though she passed away 13 years ago, she is still my sensei. When I talk about Sensei, I mean Minako-sensei. Even though I have had other sensei in my tea life, she is still the one.
Likewise, I have many sempai, senior students who have helped me and taught me, commiserated with me and scolded me. And now I have students of my own that I want to teach what I know.
Relationships like these are for a lifetime, and in Sensei’s case, beyond a lifetime. Why are these ties so strong? I think it is partly built in to the training in the Way of Tea. Transmission from teacher to student are in person and personal. I know that every time I went to class, my sensei spent at least two hours before and after to prepare. For every hour I spent in the tea room, she spent that and more. I know that Sensei also thought about my strength and weaknesses and taught me things that I needed to learn.
I also know that my sempai, who were on their own journey of tea, took the time to explain many of the unspoken rules, etiquette, obligations and appropriate behavior in the tea world.
This makes me grateful for the many, many people who have helped me on my own journey with Chado. How do I repay that? Sensei said that I didn’t need to repay her, but to pass on what I had learned to the next generation of students. And so that is why I am a teacher of Chado, to repay my debt of gratitude and to pass on what I know.