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.

**

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 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.

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

**

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.

Thank you all

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!

 

 

Presentation in Bielsk Podlaski

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.

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.

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.