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.
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.
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!
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).
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,
some meditation to focus,
and some food for sustenance before delving into all the forms.
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.
Each night we did our best to try out other aspects of chanoyu, making Japanese sweets, making tea scoops and making kobukusa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The closing chakai started with the charcoal, an excellent bowl of thick tea, and then everyone participating in Kazucha for their thin tea.
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.
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-
Our friend Ahmad of Chanoyu Arabia relocated to Cairo and after some settling in invited us to share tea with the people there.
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 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.
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.
Some people are drawn to chado from very young ages. Noor, commonly known as Hanto-chan is eagerly mastering every aspect.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
This was followed by a short message from Dr Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska, recently returned Ambassador to Japan from Poland.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
We intended to share one last bowl of tea today. But before the year ends we like to make sure the tea spaces are well cleaned, and to that end, today there was a lot of cleaning. Many of our members came and went during the big day of cleaning (osoji), such was the group turnover and length of the cleaning that we nearly abandoned the idea of having tea. Perhaps it was the draw of the clean room or the charm of tea by candlelight that we found irresistible, but either way, we couldn’t help ourselves.
We had soba noodles as the idea of eating toshikoshi soba seems to have become our tradition at this event.
The first guest shows appreciation for the tea.
The host prepares the tea caddy (natsume) and tea scoop (chashaku) along with a candle so that the guests can have a closer look at them.
You can’t see much without the candle but everything takes on a magical quality with it and the entire evening turned out to be a unforgettable way to wind up our tea activities for the year.
After a short break we will begin looking forward to the first kettle of 2012.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this year so wonderful. See you all in the year of the dragon.
In December we got out of Warsaw a little. On one occasion the Museum in Bielsk Podlaski welcomed us and chanoyu with heartwarming hospitality during their Japanese exhibit.
Here is their site: www.muzeum.bialystok.pl/bielsk/
Surrounded by two large groups of curious friendly guests it was easy to transmit Rikyu’s principles: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility…
even after the kids took over.
It was great to have so many interested people, especially the children, with which we could share this aspect of Japanese culture.
At the same time there was a ritual towel exhibition at the Museum. http://www.bielskirecznik.pl/
Ula became so inspired that she later tried her hand at embroidery and made her own towel like those in the exhibit. So it was a true exchange of cultures and another memorable meeting.
Thanks again to the staff at the museum for having us.