Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Price of Tea in Japan...

So today's post is all about the Japanese tea ceremony and it features LEE because I don't think he gets enough face time on here :) Plus a lot of the pictures were from behind and I don't particularly want to share a bunch of shots of MY behind, bwahahahaaa!

Ok, to start with, we had to wash our hands and purify ourselves before we entered the room for the tea ceremony; this is something Lee and I have seen before at the Shinto shrine. You take the dipper in your right hand and pour water over your left, then switch and do the other hand, and then you run water back over the handle of the dipper so that it's clean for the next person (there's no soap involved in all of this so I'm not sure how clean it actually gets, but I guess it's more symbolic than anything).

Apparently this Japanese lady took a real shine to Lee; all the rest of us got through this without any extra instruction but she kept stopping him and telling him different things. Of course, she doesn't speak English and we don't speak Japanese so I think Lee ended up more confused than anything, but Mom and I sure thought it was funny :)

So then we went into the room for the tea ceremony. This one is larger than usual since this place is a school where they teach people how to perform the ceremony. You have to take your shoes off because the floor is covered with tatami mats, and you're expected to sit on your knees with your feet under you. Maybe that's okay if you've grown up doing it but MAN, my knees were killing me by the time we left!! Anyway, there are a lot of different parts to the ceremony. You start out in the back right corner of the room where you sit, you bow, and then you get up and walk towards the front of the room. When you walk from one tatami mat to another, you're supposed to always go right foot first as it's some kind of good luck thing (the Japanese are highly superstitious).

Then you sit and bow to the tea (???) Oh, they also give you a fan that you carry with you while you do all this, so you take it over here and then place the fan on the floor, unopened, to your left and you bow. Then you pick it up and get up and walk over...

To the floral arrangement and scroll in the front right corner of the room. The host or hostess of the tea ceremony will make the floral arrangement according to what season it is and so forth, and s/he also does the scroll, about which you are expected to converse once the tea drinking has commenced. After you bow to this, you go sit down along the far right wall; the seat closest to the scroll and floral arrangement is reserved for the most honored guest, akin to being at the head of the table I suppose.

There's a whole series of steps to how to prepare the tea as well, and how to serve it. This is one of the ladies who was hosting us whisking the tea leaves into the hot water.

Lee got to make the tea too! Actually he got volunTOLD to do it, hehehe. Two or three people from our group were allowed to make the tea and serve it to someone else, and since two women had already done it they asked for a guy to volunteer. I volunteered Lee, I'm so evil...

And he got to serve the tea to my dad! There's a certain way you're supposed to present the tea and you have to bow to the person you're serving to, I forget what exactly Lee had to do.

And this is the thanks I get for roping him into that :)

With the tea, they also serve a small pastry (I think this is to kind of kill the taste of the tea, that stuff was totally bitter). The cakes we got were kind of cute, and once again, the type of pastry you get depends on the season because they want everything to harmonize in color.

They started a tray with the cakes on it at the seat of honor and you took one and passed the tray down. When you got the tray, you had to turn to the person on your left and say something in Japanese that equates to "I apologize that I am going ahead of you" and take your cake, then pass the tray. Usually people wear traditional kimonos during the tea ceremony so in general you'd have your own little piece of paper that doubles as a plate stuffed in the front of the kimono. When you finish with it, you put the paper in the sleeve of your kimono and dispose of it discreetly when you leave the tea ceremony.

These are the ladies who taught us about the tea ceremony. Aren't their kimonos beautiful? And see how they're all sitting...we were supposed to sit like that the whole time we were there, about two hours. I couldn't do it, my knees just couldn't take it, but these ladies were all sitting as if this were the most natural thing in the world. Then again, I suppose it might be in Japanese culture, the way that American kids sit Indian-style.

Here's the whole tour group that we went with. That chick in the green and white striped shirt didn't crack a smile ONCE the whole time we were there, I think her dad must have forced her to go...

So there you have it, the Japanese tea ceremony. Oh, I forgot to mention, they serve green tea. It's not just called green tea, it's actually GREEN. Like, really green. :) Originally the tea ceremony was for men only, and they would discuss battle plans and the like during the tea ceremony because it is so private. Interesting, huh?


CCsMom said...

LOVED it, Kik! I am looking at these pictures again and wondering HOW IN THE WORLD I'm going to choose ones to put into my book. I thought I'd get started. SO MANY TO CHOOSE FROM!!! And some of them are really beautiful--and in a few, I caught the "real Christy" personality. I just LOVE it! In fact, there's one where you are turned to me pointing your finger instructing me that there would be absolutely NO MORE BUTT SHOTS since I was taking scenery and behind you all -- oh well, some of those WILL make it into my book. Can't wait to get it started. And this post gives me a lot of ideas for that particular day. Love ya, kiddo! Mom

Giffysk8s said...

Love all the info! My dad always loved tea ceremonies. Reading your blog reminds me of him and of the stories he told. He didn't have many photos, so yours give me a good visual of so many things he described. Thanks for letting me read all of this!

Giffysk8s said...

Oh...and your mom cracks me up! Glad she is putting some butt shots in her album~they'll always make both of you laugh! LOL