Wednesday, January 18, 2012

You scoop tea *how*?!

Another article I was reading, from Japan Quarterly, recounted a visit to the Midorikai tea intensive (for non–Japanese people) in Kyouto. It's a fun read that also gives an overview of tea, the Sen family, and the Urasenke school and includes interviews with some of the students. One student offered the following remarkable anecdote "that illustrates how chanoyu gives one confidence":
Once a tea master accompanied a feudal lord into town, wearing a sword to appear incognito. There he was challenged to a duel by a samurai. Desperate, he asked a Buddhist priest what he should do. The priest said, "Just handle your sword like a tea scoop." The tea master appeared at the dueling site at the appointed time. He pulled out his sword before the watching samurai and handled it just as he would a tea scoop, upon which the samurai skedaddled.
Now, I don't have a ton of experience with tea, and of course I don't suppose the priest meant it literally; but I can't imagine a situation in which handling a katana as one would a chashaku (tea scoop) would result in success. Sounds like a great way to cut your fingers very badly...and probably spill your matcha.

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