Friday, July 22, 2011

茶の湯 (tea class)。

In tea class I'm still learning ryakubon (or 盆略手前, or お盆手前, or 略盆手前—short-form, tray-based tea), so last time I worked on entering and leaving the tea room, walking to place, etc., in addition to the ceremony itself and oshimai ("wrapping up"). I had some (very patient) guests, so we also went a bit deeper into the logistics of tea—how to keep sweets, tea, and tea items circulating in an orderly fashion (and avoid traffic jams—such as the one I caused when, as a guest at a demonstration ceremony, I neglected to finish my sweet before tea was served). The experience is very different when you're actually making a bowl of tea for someone, rather than doing a "dry run". Really makes you want to get the details right.

I was invited to stay for the advanced class; that's always a pleasure, as I can either hang out as last guest or just observe. The advanced students were working on 洗い茶巾 (araijakin), a nuance of 運び手前 (hakobidemae), a longer-form style that involves carrying in more items (including hishaku and mizuzashi), without a tray. I don't know much about araijakin (lit. "washing the tea cloth"), but it seems to be a "sidebar" in the ceremony, performed in July and August, of which the purpose is to refresh the guests with the tinkling sound of cool water dripping from the chakin (cloth) into the kensui (waste-water bowl). For the occasion one of the students used a more formal kensui—of some kind of metal (maybe bronze), rather than the usual glazed pottery—that made a beautiful ringing sound as the water dripped in.

I'm still new to tea, but the more I learn, the more I like. That the whole point of araijakin is for the guests to enjoy the sound of the dripping water is a very charming thing.

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