Sunday, April 23, 2006

tea ceremony

Many moons ago I was involved in a project to develop a Mental Health Resource centre in a Melbourne suburb. We were developing an old house in Cheltenham, which was surrounded by a garden filled with big trees and some outhouses. I had been interested in transforming one of the outhouses into a teahouse, as a place to be outside and feel as if you were somewhere far away from the city. As you can see by the photo my ideas didn't quite make it.
The exercise bikes stand like butting goats in the old shed , though around this shed the people who use the centre have developed a nice, japanesy garden.
Anyway, I did quite a bit of reading around the tea ceremony and got very interested in some of the concepts. About two years ago I ran into a young japanese woman, Kuniko, who is studying to become a tea master. I mentioned my interest and she said that she thought I might like to come to their annual tea ceremony. It was cancelled last year so I got a surprise e mail out of the blue from Kuniko wanting to know if I was still interested to come. I did and today I partook in my first real ceremony this afternoon.
The tea ceremony was held in a big house whose owners kindly support this annual event. Kuniko invited me to be one of the "guests" who sit up on the tatami mats with two other "guests" and partake directly in the ceremony. The room smelled of the coal from the small brazier and subtle scent that had been added to the coal. Kuniko made the tea but the difference between a normal tea and this event was vast. Each action that Kuniko made was ritualized and controlled to a high degree. Every utensil had been carefully chosen. The utensils were from both Japanese and Australian artisans, reflective of the theme of the day which was the harmonious connection between Australia and Japan. The tea was also specific to the occaision and I have not been able to have a normal cup of tea after tasting it, though I have managed a glass of red!
We were first offered a sweet, to be savoured before the tea. The tea, after being slowly and carefully prepared by Kuniko was offered to me in an antique bowl from Kyoto. It was beautiful tea, bright green and very fresh!
After the tea ceremony we made our way to tables where we were served Seasonal delicacies such as Asparagus pickled in beer and Clear soup with crocodile and chicken dumpling.
Below is a link for more information about the tea ceremony...

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