Robiraki: Opening of the Winter Hearth

Every year as the weather turns colder in November we put the brazier away and open the sunken hearth in the tearoom.

This time of year is celebrated as New Year for people involved with chado for it is now that the present year’s new tea is first opened and shared.

The guests gather and eat zenzai, a traditional sweet made of azuki beans and mochi…and a lot of sugar.

The tearoom is prepared for the first charcoal fire to be lit in the hearth.

Guests gather around and watch as the fire is built.

Once the fire was built everyone had the chance to drink both thick and thin tea. There were several great groups of guests throughout the day making this another joyous occasion for sharing time and tea.

As the last guests left, those of us who had been serving during the day got a chance to join our friends and enjoy some tea as well. Always a treat.

 

 

Celebration of Leaves at the Botanical Garden

Once again we teamed up with Ścieżka (http://sciezka.art.pl/), this time for an outdoor festival dedicated to the beautiful leaves at the Warsaw Botanical Garden.

Although the garden is closed to the public starting in November, we got to get inside and celebrate what must be the best season to view them.

Paintings were hung around the garden and the guests were left to wander and wonder at the beauty of nature as well as the fantastic art.

It was a great joy to be outside in such a splendid environment.

Some guests stopped at our table to watch or to partake some tea.

 

This style of procedure , called chabako, is especially nice in an outdoor setting.

 

After some question and answer guests continued walking the gardens…

made prints of leaves they found…

 

ran into friends…

and were invited to join us for sweets and tea.

Before the tea everyone was offered a bowl of warm zenzai (a traditional Japanese sweet, like a sweet soup of beans and mochi) it’s hard to describe, but tasty, really.

We all stayed busy preparing the sweets and tea, to try and forget how cold it was.

We had a great team and managed to supply the demand for warm food and drink.

By the end of the day everyone had their chance to have some tea.

Although chilly, you couldn’t have asked for better weather or better people to spend the day with. Thanks to everyone for coming out and an extra big thank you to all who helped serving our guests and yet again to Ścieżka for working with us once more.

”Japan Days” at Warsaw University

Near the beginning of every school year the Japanese Studies Department at Warsaw University hosts a two day event full of presentations called Japan Days. Several of our members gave presentations and we also held a tea presentation once again with Ścieżka for the opening of the event.  At the same time we hosted tea gatherings in Kaian (the Japanese tea room in the Warsaw University library) both days for all comers as well as for the guest lecturers visiting for the event, Zivka Serper and Hirano Keiichiro.

Ścieżka art included ikebana, ceramics, paintings and caligraphy.

 

Our utensils, besides the table and kettle, were Polish and American.

 

 

 

 

 

We dressed in Western clothes for the presentation at the misonodana (pictured black lacquered table)

 

Guests trying the sweets and tea

 

 

Making tea for some membes of Ścieżka

 

In Kaian with theater specialist Zivka Serper

 

Students enjoyed the chance to drink tea in an authentic Japanese tearoom and setting

 

 

Rome Tea Seminar

For the last week of September, Misia, Ula and Aaron were fortunate enough to be able to attend a chanoyu workshop in Italy near Rome.

We first visited the Urasenke center in Rome which has a nice big reception room and three tea rooms for both practice and tea gatherings, a spacious 6 mat, a 4.5 mat and a three mat.

There we met other members of the seminar and headed out to the beautiful Benedictine monastery of Saint Vincenzo.

The seminar was led by Nojiri Michiko-sensei who has been the resident instructor in Rome for more than forty years. She has a distinct teaching style based heavily on proper posture both during meditation and temae (tea making procedures). To that end, every day began and ended with meditation (and a lot of instruction on how to sit).

Just after morning meditation

Our practice space

Fully stocked preparation area

During the daily practice, between zazen sessions, the participants were divided into smaller groups working through the entire Urasenke curriculum of temae. But, the focus of the teaching always centered on how to be rather than how to do.

 

The attendees averaged around forty and traveled from such places as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, UK, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Czech, Japan, and even Poland.

Nojiri-sensei and her teaching assistants were teaching in as many languages as countries represented.

Everyday we burnt charcoal produced in Germany (usually cut the night before use) and did sumi temae (charcoal laying procedures) so every night we got to practice three or four haigata (ash forms).

 


Ula got to make tea for Nojiri-sensei and Chantal-sensei on the last day

Nojiri-sensei can be funny and strict, has a lot of energy and is very animated in her descriptions and overall teaching style. She is also quite generous with her utensils as well as her personality, we were shown a couple of tea bowls from the 15th (current) and 14th generations of Raku and then allowed to use them in our temae.

On the last day Nojiri-sensei made a bowl of tea for every participant.

The atmosphere and instruction as well as the food and companionship all added up to a wonderful seminar. We hope to continue having great relations with everyone we met and retain all that we learned. Thanks to Nojiri-sensei and everyone involved.

Daisosho visits London to inaugurate the UK group

Between September 21-22 Hounsai Daisosho spent a few days in London in order to make their long-time group into an official member of the Tankokai association. We were kindly invited to attend the events surrounding the occasion. There was a beautiful chakai before the inauguration banquet on the first day.

Daisosho presenting certificates to both the Honorary Chairman (above) and the President (below) of the Urasenke UK Association.

On the second day the London brach held another chakai in the British Museum before Daisosho provided those gathered with a lecture and tea presentation.

A large number of guests turned out for the tea and lecture

Setting for Daisosho’s presentation

Afterwards a few guests were able to attend a special kencha (tea offering) that Daisosho performed at the Lambeth Palace Chapel, home chapel in London of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Aside from the members of many European tea groups, the event was attended by members of the “Compass Rose” society, Anglicans from outside of England, who seemed to adapt to the different climate with good humor and curiosity

 

The Archbishop gave an excellent talk about peace and unity during the service, one that all members of a chado group surely easily associated with.

Afterwards we were invited to mingle and share tea with everyone assembled. Thanks to all the members of the London group for sharing the celebration and for giving us the chance to meet so many of you as well as other members of the European tea community. We look forward to sharing more tea with you all in the future.

Ścieżka Exhibit with Tea

On September 10th the members of Sunshinkai (the Warsaw Urasenke Association) were invited to participate in a joint event with Studio Plastyczne Ścieżka at the Studio Teatralne S/T.

wordpress:  http://sciezka.art.pl/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Studio-Plastyczne-Ścieżka/122147404505821?ref=ts

Ścieżka asked us to combine a contemplative tea environment with their art show in order to put the guests in a calm state of mind while viewing the pieces.

To do this we had the guests all enter the gallery/theater as if they were coming into a tearoom. First they put on white socks, used a tsukubai, and finally entered through a nijiriguchi (small crawl-through doorway) into the dimly lit room.

Practice the day before Building the nijiriguchi

Without any additional explaination we started a tea presentation in which three Sunshinkai members arranged flowers, built a charcoal fire and made and drank thick tea on a tatami stage.

First the flowers were arranged

Next the charcoal

Making the tea

Afterwards the lights came up and the guests were invited to view the art.

About an hour later the guests were asked to sit in two lines where they were served tea in temple style before quietly leaving.

The feedback all seemed good, both the guests and the members of Ścieżka thought the atmosphere and environment lent themselves to a peaceful and contemplative experience.

We always enjoy working with Ścieżka, thanks to you all, the next event lined up sounds equally interesting.

 

Colorado outside the tea room

Of course we only spent about half our time in the tea rooms in Colorado.

When we weren’t visiting with family and friends we were usually sharing the outdoors with them as well as visiting the largest herbal tea producer in the U.S.

Aaron and Ula at Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, Colorado

A great year of tea, from the Dead Sea in Jordan to the continental divide in the mountains of Colorado

As always we loved our time in Colorado and look forward to the next time we can share a bowl of tea with our family and friends there. Thank you all so much for the great time.

 

Colorado Chaji

Mike gave us the chance to hold a complete chaji at his place for him and a few of his students during our stay. We took the opportunity to share some of the tea life we encountered over the past year.

The waiting room, our somewhat subtle way of bringing the (tea) revolution into the theme. (the scroll is called “Giza Pyramid”)

Sorry, for although we had a full kaiseki there are no pictures to share, we were a little too busy. Ula and Aaron shared the host tasks, Ula prepared the Sumi and thin tea and Aaron served the kaiseki and thick tea. Mike was the first guest with Lindsey and Tom as second and third.

Ula prepares the charcoal

Ula lays the charcoal

We were fortunate to have Mike make the beautiful and tasty main sweets himself while we cooked the food, we named it “Colorado Nishiki” or Colorado brocade

The unity is completed as we use our favorite vase from Jordan along with American, Polish and Japanese items.

sharing the sweets before thin tea

guests enjoying thin tea

wonderful dimly lit room

The last bowl of tea before the guests quietly leave

We took the Polish kaigu (set of blue ceramic utensils for the daisu) for Mike and brought back many great memories and experiences (as well as a beautiful futaoki Mike made) that will stay with us always. Another great day of tea and togetherness.

 

Colorado Practice

We had the great pleasure to meet and practice with old friends and new.

We met in four different tea spaces and had the chance to run through an entire chaji practice with Ulrich Haas-sensei while he visited from Germany.

Acting as host, Roy fills the tsukubai.

Kaiseki

Mike calls the guests back for tea by ringing a gong.

The guests listen to the gong and re-enter the tea room for the second half of the tea gathering.

The guests entering the room for the thick and thin tea.

 

More practice

Mike in Roy’s tea room

Tom’s tea room

Lots of practice

Never can get too much of a good thing.

 

Visit to Colorado

During the Summer break Ula and Aaron visited friends and family in Colorado. The tea activities were many and are highlighted over the next few posts.

A presentation for a group in Estes Park

 

Drinking matcha was new to nearly the entire group.

The guests all seemed open to the new experience, especially commenting on the overall atmosphere even more than the tea itself.

On the right you see the vase from A. Saqf (www.saqf.com) making its first Colorado appearance.

We also used the calligraphy “Ikka Goyou ni Hiraku”, one flower opens into five petals.