Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tatami layout; Art Museum teahouse; acquisitions.

A thing that's good about having chanoyu class so far away in the northwest of the city is that the walk home (a bit under 5 miles) takes me past all kinds of interesting things. So, after tea I like to wander wherever I feel like wandering. I often head toward the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the collection is so vast, and so diverse, that I always encounter at least one piece there that says to me whatever I need to hear that day.

This past Saturday, when once again I found myself at the PMA, I had two things on my mind: tea utensils (道具 dougu) and tearoom tatami layouts. Dougu, because I always think about dougu after tea; after hours of handling them and discussing them (during 拝見) it's impossible not to. Tatami configurations, because we'd just had our first class in the new Sakura Pavilion*, in which the tatami for tea practice are configured differently from the practice spaces at Shofuso itself.

Shofuso (I think)

At Shofuso we practice either in the shoin, a 15-mat room, or in the small chashitsu, a square format that's 4.5 mats in overall size but with an inset tokonoma that occupies one half mat in one corner. (See image at right; said to reflect the tearoom in which Rikyuu ended his life, which presumably was at Juurakudai.) The Sakura pavilion has loose tatami that can be configured however the teachers think best, so this time it was a standard four-and-a-half-mat format (below). Of course, since pretty much everything (including every step) in chanoyu is choreographed per the configuration of the tatami, the new format means recalibrating every step! Like migrating birds, forgetting which way is north.

standard 4.5-mat format
Moreover, because the setup is in a tight corner of the building, there's no room for the tokonoma at the far end, so it's at the near end, where usually one would have the nijiriguchi entrance—so, either the first guest has to be furthest from the tokonoma or the guests sit in opposite order! This makes for a lot of adjustments in courtesy bowing and language between the guests. Good to be kept on our toes.

So, at the PMA I was thinking of tatami. The museum has quite a chanoyu collection: an entire teahouse complex, with yoritsuki (waiting room) and tearoom/pantry, connected by a garden, and side galleries with dougu and calligraphy. (Tour the collection through "A Taste for Tea" and "Sunkaraku", here.) So I headed in that direction to check out the tatami and visit the dougu.

The complex was built by the Tokyo architect OUGI Rodou (仰木魯堂, 1863–1941) for his own use, around 1917, and sold to the Museum in 1928. (Ougi built other teahouses, too, but this is the only example outside Japan.) The tearoom itself is structured as 二畳台目 nijoudaime, a two-mat room with a separate three-quarter mat (daime) for the host and brazier, divided by a semi-wall with a rustic 床柱 tokobashira post. It's named Sunkaraku-an (寸暇楽庵), "Fleeting/Evanescent Joys", after a panel that hangs over the garden side, carved by the daimyo and tea master MATSUDAIRA Harusato (1751–1818, called Fumai 不昧 "Not Dark"?). Inside the tearoom is a kakejiku donated by Ougi, "kankokka", which the Museum translates as "look to where you stand". (I can't quite read the kanji, but maybe "官刻下" or "感刻下"—"senses/present"—?) The scroll is by TAKAHASHI Yoshio, who also made some of the dougu, so maybe he and Ougi knew each other.

At this point time was running short, so I buzzed through the dougu, tried to read the calligraphy, and took as many pictures as I could. (One shikishi really stood out, a 17th-century writing of a poem from the 11th-century Wakan Roueishuu; it's been difficult to find out much about it beyond the museum's translation, but I'll keep looking.)

On the way out, I hit the gift shop, supposing that if dougu were to be found anywhere in town it would be there. No such luck, but I did find a rack of brushes, all unique—goat, "beaver" (which 先生 says probably is tanoki), etc. One of them had a curved ox bone on the end, presumably as a hook to hang it up. I bought two: one with a bamboo shaft and black-and-white monkey fur (or so it says)—I've never tried a monkey brush, and it made me think of the colobus monkeys I like at the zoo—and another that's of goat fur, with a severe black handle that reminds me of Darth Vader. Silly, I know, but I can justify buying things from the museum because it supports a good cause.

There were, too, some other Japanese items: colorful tabi, shoes, bundles of old kimono fabric, ceramics など. There were a few general tea sets (not dougu), and one of them demanded that I take it home. It's decorated with a calligraphed poem:
kochi fukaba
nioi okoseyo
ume no hana
aruji nashi tote
haru na wasure zo
It made me happy, because it's fun to try to read the writing, and 忘れぞ (忘るな) is like the tanka we're working on now, 忘れし—the same idea of (not) forgetting. "The eastern breeze blows and brings spring fragrance; plum blossoms, even though your master isn't around, don't forget to spread your fragrance." Or something. I've read that 匂い has an older sense that's not about scents. おこせよ is probably some kind of awakening (起こす). The last three words were modified in a later collection—almost two centuries later, that is—as 春を忘るな, which makes sense as "don't forget spring". Apparently when the poet was exiled from Kyouto he missed his plum tree so much that it was dug up and taken to him. (There are 6,000 plum trees at the shrine to him in Fukuoka, including the "flying plum" 飛梅 that's said to have flown to him on its own.) Some of the writing on the tea set is a little weird, so 先生 says it probably was written phonetically. I like it, though, and am glad to have met it.

Here's the fun part: the poem is by the famous (and now deified) SUGAWARA no Michizane (who also appears in the Wakan Roueishuu). What particularly amuses me about it is his name: "michi" is another reading of the "dou" in "dougu", and "zane" is only two strokes different from the "gu". So, I went to the museum looking for dougu 道具 but instead found Michizane 道真. あははは。

*The "new" Sakura Pavilion is, in fact, two single-room brick buildings built for the 1876 World's Fair that Shofuso recently acquired and renovated for classes and storage; originally they were built as "comfort stations" (i.e., 手洗い). I snuck in once, before the renovation, when the original space-architecture and plumbing fixtures all were still in place. Very different from modern public restrooms! And the gents' space was in layout very little like the ladies' space. 面白いですね。

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