Rikyuki 2015

One of the events we try to hold each year is Rikyuki, the memorial tea gathering for Sen no Rikyu.tokonoma before flowers

It has become our tradition to begin with hanayose, a group form where each participant arranges the flowers in a different vase. We squeezed in room for nine people this year, still not enough for everyone but it’s a nice way to get a lot of people involved.arranging flowers

Next Ula and Damian made the fire using the sumi shomo form.P1250960P1250968P1250972

Once the fire was burning Aaron made an offering of tea that was placed in the tokonoma.P1250977

Everyone left the tearoom to enjoy a bite of food and then have the yomogimochi sweet that Monika had prepared.P1250980 P1250982

Once back in the tearoom everyone shared both thick and thin tea.P1250985P1250989

To wrap up the day a simple kagetsu was carried out.P1250996

It’s was a great pleasure to herald in the Spring as well as remember the father of our modern wabi tea practice. We wish that everyone can enjoy the warming season and the company of friends and family.P1250978

Summer Tea Workshop 2014

So many events skipped, I’ll try to fill in the blanks over time.

Let’s talk about the Warsaw Summer Workshop while it’s still fresh!

After a welcoming dinner in old town Warsaw

After a welcoming dinner in old town Warsaw

This year, somehow, the word about our workshop continued to spread and we were privileged to receive participants from many different places. Of course some of our own members were here to host six members of the Krakow group along with one from Hungary, two from Finland, another Finn who came all the way from Kyoto, and an American from London. All together about 19.3 participants (that’s including 7 month old Gabriela and our fantastic cook/masseur Marcin).

Many of the participants

Many of the participants

One reason we were able to draw a member from Japan is because we focused heavily on practicing the shichijishiki this year. The shichijishiki are a set of group forms devised in the 18th century in part to enlist many participants in one practice and based somewhat on the seven practices in Zen temples.

Each day started with light exercise to wake up,

wake up

wake up

stretch?

stretch?

relax

relax

some meditation to focus,

meditation

meditation introduction

and some food for sustenance before delving into all the forms.

breakfast

breakfast

These group forms, like any other, require repetition in order to learn; however, they require a knowledge of all the basic forms as well as having a sufficient number of people in order to practice them.

charcoal form

basic charcoal form

Each night we did our best to try out other aspects of chanoyu, making Japanese sweets, making tea scoops and making kobukusa.

Rikyu manju

Rikyu manju

Goldfish made of sweet bean paste swimming over sweet sesame sand.

Goldfish made of sweet bean paste swimming over sweet sesame sand.

bending chashaku

bending chashaku

The first day, as always, we began by refreshing the basic elements of tea practice, sitting, standing, walking, bowing, and preparing the utensils. We then discussed the history of the group forms and talked a little about each one.

you can never practice walking too much

you can never practice walking too much

That afternoon we practiced the most common of the group forms, Kagetsu. Kagetsu is a form that can be practiced in many different ways and in which each participant must be ready to change places with any other to do whatever task is at hand.

sumi tsuki kagetsu

sumi tsuki kagetsu

koicha tsuki kagetsu

koicha tsuki kagetsu

The second day was spent at Kaian, the Japanese tea house at Warsaw University. There we practiced more Kagetsu, specifically the types that can be carried out in a 4 1/2 mat room. We also did a little practice in the 2 3/4 mat room for some close tea sharing with each other.

drawing for the initial roles

drawing for the initial roles (in the huge corridor)

4.5 mat kagetsu

4.5 mat kagetsu

daime koicha

daime koicha

On the third day we hit the more difficult forms, or at least those less practiced. We started with Shaza, a form where each person takes care of a different task; arranging flowers, making the charcoal fire, preparing incense, making the thick tea, and making the thin tea.

incense preparation in Shaza

incense preparation in Shaza

Next we practiced Chakabuki, a form where each person drinks two different thick teas, the consumers are informed of the names of each. Then three more thick teas are prepared randomly and each person must guess which tea they are drinking, the first, second, or a third mystery tea.

bringing in the "ballots"

bringing in the “ballots”

tasting the tea

tasting the tea

showing the tea type to the record keeper

showing the tea type to the record keeper

In the afternoon we practiced Senyū. This form is somewhat similar to Shaza above except each element is modified and/or expanded on: instead of one person arranging the flowers everybody takes a turn doing it, the charcoal fire is done honsumishomo style so the guest actually only puts in the charcoal, two types of incense are prepared, thick tea is made for everyone, and the thin tea is carried out as in Kagetsu.

charcoal element of Senyū

charcoal element of Senyu

Of course anytime there was extra time we tried to fit in an extra Kagetsu.

One the last day we practiced a form called Ichi-ni-san which enables each participant to give a review of the tea form done for them by the host.

checking her "score"

checking her “score”

We also practiced Kazucha, a form wherein each participant will have a sweet, make tea and drink tea all in random order. We then used this form in our closing tea gathering that afternoon.

Kazucha beginning bow

Kazucha beginning bow

in the midst of Kazucha

in the midst of Kazucha

The closing chakai started with the charcoal, an excellent bowl of thick tea, and then everyone participating in Kazucha for their thin tea.

Chakai set-up for charcoal

Chakai set-up for charcoal

Koicha L

Koicha L

koicha center

koicha center

koicha R

koicha R

Kazucha during chakai 1

Kazucha during chakai 1

Kazucha during chakai

Kazucha during chakai 2

We were busy from early morning to late night everyday but we still tried to have a little party to wrap up the event. As usual, most everyone was too tired to notice. That’s how we can tell if people had a good workshop, when they pass out when it is over.

sleep party

wild party

Thanks to everyone for making the workshop another special event and for coming together to share tea with us here in Warsaw. See you next year!

 

-Extra shots of the kiddo-

These are my tatami

These are my tatami

Hey, what are you doing to my foot?

Hey, what are you doing to my foot?

Ready to work out

Ready to work out

I see you think it's  your turn to talk again Dad

I see you think it’s your turn to talk again Dad

Yes, give me the talking stick

Yes, give me the talking stick

Maybe I should do the talking

Maybe I should do the talking

No no no bring it back I have things to say, Mom let go

No no no bring it back I have things to say, Mom let go

I'm here for my koicha

I’m here for my koicha

Visit to Egypt

Our friend Ahmad of Chanoyu Arabia relocated to Cairo and after some settling in invited us to share tea with the people there.

red and bent pyramids

Ahmad making koicha

We held practices for thirteen days and were also able to travel to Tunis, a pottery town in Fayoum, about three hours drive from Cairo, where we were able to show the local artists how we use ceramics in chanoyu.

The potters of Tunis

tea for the potters

The Cairo tea group has a long history and is currently trying to get more active, and they showed it, many members came several times during our stay.

ryakubon practice

fukusa folding

guests all around

There are of course Egyptian people studying tea as well as Japanese, we also met other people from diverse regions all living in Cairo that Ahmad has been getting involved in tea.

five countries represented

Some people are drawn to chado from very young ages. Noor, commonly known as Hanto-chan is eagerly mastering every aspect.

Hanto-chan

The trip was wonderful, the people friendly and receptive, tea everyday, warmer weather, a fantastic and giving host. A truly magical experience we hope to repeat soon. Thanks Ahmad and everyone in Cairo.

Happy tea drinkersThe Host and his guests

Summer Anniversary Chakai 2012

This year marked the fifth and fifteenth anniversary of our tea group in Warsaw.

It has been fifteen years since Iwona returned from Japan after beginning study with Sugimoto-sensei and then began sharing tea culture with others in Warsaw. Five years have passed since we became recognized as an affiliate of Urasenke Tankokai with endorsed Urasenke teachers and support. Ordinarily we have had our anniversaries at our practice space but this year, in order to celebrate with a wider group of people we planned the event in a public location.

Our setting was a palace affiliated with Warsaw Castle called the Palace Under the Tin Roof (or The Tin-Roofed Palace)

The palace itself was built in 1720 and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Warsaw and the first building to have such a roof rather than the tiles that were customary before then.

The rooms we shared with our guests are filled with an exquisite Oriental Carpet Exhibit that created an intensely warm and cozy atmosphere. Earlier in the summer we held a tea presentation in collaboration with the palace and the wonderful staff there allowed us to hold this event using their facilities.

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The guests were a combination of our own members and guests along with those invited by the palace. Sugimoto-sensei attended from Japan along with several of our other honorary members.

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After our president Urszula greeted the guests Sugimoto-sensei, with Anna Z. translating, read a letter of congratulations from Sen Hounsai and Sen Zabousai, the fifteenth and sixteenth generation heads of the Urasenke tradition of tea in Kyoto.

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This was followed by a short message from Dr Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska, recently returned Ambassador to Japan from Poland.

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Next we conducted a tea making presentation in which Aaron and Damian offered tea to Sugimoto-sensei, Krzysiek and Misia while Ula explained a little for those new to the process.

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Next, as the tatami on the stage were exchanged for a misonodana during a quick intermission, the guests were served their sweets. Then while Agata and Marta made tea on the stage the rest of our group served everyone assembled their tea.

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In another change from our standard events we had a professional photographer taking pictures for us, that’s why there are so many to look at. All the pictures marked ** are his. Thanks Sebastian for taking these great shots and for letting us share them here. Everyone can check out his sites at the links shown below:
  

Lastly, thank you and congratulations to all our members for coming together and making this another special event. Looking forward to continued Tea sharing for many years to come.

Thank you all

Annual Summer Workshop

This was already our 6th Summer workshop, how did that happen?

Every year we have great participants and a lot of fun.
We were happy to have several members up from Kraków and we always look forward to getting to share in more activities with those friends.   Senshinkai, Urasenke Kraków

The schedule for the four days began each morning with zazen (sitting meditation) followed by a short session of group exercise, breakfast, a few hours of practice, lunch, then a few more hours of practice followed by more zazen, dinner and some evening activities. It was tough but many participants sleep on site so the 6:30 meditation isn’t too bad, right fellow non-morning-people?


We all began with the basics (warigeiko)


This year we had the ability to focus on sumi temae (that’s preparing and burning the charcoal)


Of course there was no shortage of practicing the tea forms either

Everyone was able to work on forms they chose each day based on a rough schedule

Every night we made sweets for use the next day, additionally each evening had a different activity for the participants.

The first night we practiced how to wear Japanese clothes, especially obi (belt) tying for kimono and yukata. One night we had our friend from the Japanese Embassy come and give a workshop on furoshiki, including a lot of hands on training.


The third night we made chashaku (bamboo tea scoops) which turned out remarkably well for most everyone’s first attempt.

We averaged 12 participants a day and just about everyone had a chance to do sumi

Once or twice we practiced sumi tsuki kagetsu, a group form including charcoal and tea

By splitting up from time to time we were able to include temae from many levels and using different utensils.

After lunch on the last day Damian and Marta hosted a tea gathering for the rest of us. They prepared a little more food (Damian’s excellent creation) along with refreshing sweets (wonderfully creative by Marta) before serving thick and thin tea in a combined form called tsuzuki usucha.

After all those days of work it was almost relaxing the last evening as we all celebrated the conclusion of the workshop. Simultaneously Ula and Aaron packed for a trip leaving the next morning and several participants finished carving their tea scoops. It was non-stop and a great time. Now what about these requests for a Winter Workshop?

Tanabata Matsuri at the Japanese Embassy Culture Center

Invited by the Japanese Embassy, on the 5th of July we participated in the very rare occasion to help fulfill a dream. Monika Tomaszewska (in blue kimono) wanted to become the Ambassador of Japan to Poland for a day. And thanks to the I have a Dream Foundation, she did. Ambassador Yamanaka gave up his position for a day and together with his wife accompanied the new appointee throughout the evening. Monika’s address to those gathered had a professional and at the same time heartfelt warm ring to it.
Tanabata, the Star Festival, is a Japanese celebration dedicated to fulfilling dreams. A festival of love and hope. All our numerous guests this day joined in cordial atmosphere of this special event.
Our respects to the I have a Dream Foundation and its Good will Ambassador, Małgorzata Kożuchowska. Here is a link to more photos on her Facebook provided by the Japanese Embassy
There was tea at the misonodana table…
Some of our guests got a chance to try on a yukata…
There was tea prepared from a box (chabako)…
And a tea gathering on the tatami mats…
In the end some of the guests, after on the spot training, helped us to serve everybody sweets and tea.
A joyful event, great guests, thanks again to everybody who helped with it’s organization.

Trip to Vilnius, Lithuania

In June, the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania asked us to help them celebrate the opening of a new Japanese garden within their botanical gardens in Vilnius.

(The Japanese garden has been in the works for nearly ten years, the botanical garden itself is a part of Vilnius University http://www.botanikos-sodas.vu.lt/gallery/main.php/v/dvaras/Japoniskas-sodas/)

Krzysiek, Ula and Aaron made the trip in order to share tea at this festive occasion.
(With the additional bonus that this would be the first time to visit Lithuania for any of us.)

The drive was pleasant and not overly long. We took a day for driving each way and two days in Vilnius.

At the garden we were shown around and chose a nice spot outside where we made tea for the special guests who were there to view the garden the day before the official opening.

After the VIP group was served all the attendees were invited to sit with us and share the beauty of the garden.

That night H.E. Ambassador Shiraishi invited all of us who had come to help to a fine dinner.

The grand opening was the next day and several hundred guests wandered the gardens,

listened to koto music,

watched ikebana (flower arranging) presentations,

listened to us talk a little about tea culture in Japan

and settled in to share a sweet and tea with us.

Everyone seemed interested in hearing about Japan and tasting the tea, we noticed several people mentioning magic and “reading” the remains of the tea in the bowl, it seems Lithuanians might be living close to nature and open to powers beyond the physical realm.

Luckily we had a helper from the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania who helped us serve all those guests. Thanks to Ambassador Shiraishi and all her staff who made this a great event as well as a fantastic memory of a rare chance for us in Poland. Vilnius was a pleasure to visit with a wonderful old-town full of friendly people. We hope to share tea in Lithuania again and recommend a trip there to everyone.

Senshinkai Hatsudate in Kraków

In January, seven of us piled into the car and made our way down to Kraków for their group’s first tea celebration of the year.

As always it was great to see, visit with, and share tea with our sister group Senshinkai.
(Forum: www.senshinkai.fora.pl)
(Facebook: Group and Community)

This was the first time many of our members had the chance to have tea in Kraków and our hosts made it fine and memorable for us all.

The pleasure of going to another group’s tea gathering and fully enjoying the role of guest is unmatched. Being the recipients of such generosity always reminds us that we should be making this trip more often.

Many thanks to all our friends in Senshinkai. Here’s to another year filled with chanoyu.

Kyūdō Group First Shot and Tea Presentation

We were asked to share tea in order to commemorate the first kyūdō competition of the year.

In Japanese arts there is an old tradition of holding “the first of the year” celebrations. Following suit in kyūdō, the First Shot of the New Year is practiced. In chanoyu we indulge in the First Chasen (chasenzome) celebrations.

Once the competition ended the archers gathered and sat in two rows so that they could easily receive their tea.

Everyone was served dark and light sweets preparing them for the tea.

 

Krzysiek and Ula made tea simultaneously. One with dark, one with light utensils.

The forms used allowed the hosts to make tea in a nearly mirror-image manner, placing the tea out for the guests without getting in each other’s way.

The form with the dark utensils is called hongatte (standard, with guests on the right of the host)

That with the light is called gyakugatte (guests seated on the opposite side than standard)

 

It was indeed a pleasure to share a bowl of tea with other practitioners of the Way. All the best for the New Year to all kyūdō practitioners!