Serving a simple bowl of tea to the guests with utmost respect has a history of more than 400 years in Japan. In its elegance and fine taste, Cha-no-yu (tea ceremony) integrates almost every aspect of traditional Japanese culture; such as architecture, gardening, clothes, painting, calligraphy, flower arrangement, pottery, lacquerware, cuisine and so on. Therefore, it is a great experience to see every piece fitting into their place and painting the cultural canvas together.

On Saturday, 24thof November 2018, the MSA Kansai Team organized a hands-on tea ceremony demonstration under the guidance of a world-famous tea master, Professor Toru Ota at Yuuhisai Koudoukan.

Upon entering the house, the guests sat closely in a uniquely designed waiting room, leaving everything behind for a meaningful and may be once in a lifetime gathering. Then, Ota Sensei arrived to give a detailed explanation of the ceremony. We learned about historic background of the place and the museum-grade pieces carrying the spirit of the past generations. We also learned how the hanging strolls, flowers, utensils and sweets are carefully selected according to the season and theme of the meeting. The theme of our meeting was ‘Fall Season’.

After the introductory gathering, we were offered to wear old style Japanese slippers for passing through the path on the garden to the ceremony place. We enjoyed the peaceful garden blooming with elegant autumn beauty. With each stepping stone, we let go of our emotional weights one by one and looked at ourselves from above such as to get purified before entering the ceremony place.

After being told about the surroundings in more detail, we watched the preparation of the tea with refined movements and sincere respect. The demonstrator was Risako Kitagami Sensei who was also helping us with the English translations on that day. After the demonstration, three of the MEXT scholars, who were educated just before the ceremony, carried the sweets named ‘Aki no niwa’ meaning ‘Autumn garden’ made from sweet potatoes and chestnuts. By the time the sweets are finished, we were served the delicious usui matcha and informed about the thoughts behind the tea cups we were using. Ota Sensei’s sense of humor added a special flavor to the rigid idea of a traditional tea ceremony.

After the tea, sensei gave a presentation regarding his artwork and its relevance to science and architecture as well as how the themes can be created in unusual ways. We also understood why the philosophy behind the tea ceremony may be best described by the words Wa-Kei-Sei-Jaku (harmony, respect, purity, tranquility). At the end of the presentation we promised each other that we will meet again may be for a night time tea ceremony.

Special thanks to: Toru Ota Sensei, Risako Kitagami Sensei, Yuuhisai Koudoukan for providing us with this unique opportunity. Aris Chandra and Sohaib Baig for helping with preparations and serving.

Kansai team members leading the event: Duygu Sahin, Anirban Chakraborty and Daniel Baldys.

Written by Duygu Sahin.

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