By Marjorie Yap
My year of studying tea at Urasenke Headquarters in the Midorikai program was wonderful, even the difficult times were wonderful. I saw and experienced many things in Japan and have made friends for a lifetime. But there really is no place like home.
Many people have asked me what I learned since I returned home. I have given many answers to people, but as I reflect on my time in Japan, I think that the most important thing I learned is how precious each moment of my life is.
While I was in Japan, I wanted to make the most of my time there, to make each day and every moment count since I only had one year. I went to as many festivals, museums, chakai, Kabuki and Noh plays as I could. I visited many temples, imperial villas, gardens, castles and sightseeing spots in and around Kyoto. Why not take that same attitude now that I am home?
My sempai (older student and mentor) told me once that when ever you make tea, whether it is for a chaji, a demonstration or just for students in your class, it is not practice tea. Remember that it is the real tea. Make tea each time as if it is the real tea. Just like my life. It is not my practice life, now is my real life, and every moment counts. I appreciate the saying “ichigo ichie” one lifetime, one meeting.
I also came to a deeper understanding of the four principles of tea. It is easy to think about harmony, respect, purity and tranquility in the tea room, or strolling through a temple garden, but putting it into practice in my every day life is much more difficult. I ask myself every day how can I manifest wa, kei, sei, jaku, even in the midst of conflict and confrontation, when I am in a hurry, and when I am impatient.
The day that I left Kyoto, I said good bye to my sempai under a cherry tree near the tea school and I cried because I thought I would never return to Japan, that I would never see the cherry trees bloom again along the Kamo river. My sempai said to me, “I understand how you feel. I felt the same way the first time I left Kyoto. But you are now part of the family, and how can you not help but come home again?”