These past two weekends we did demonstrations at the Horticultural Center and at Shofuso as part of the Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival.
The busiest day of the two-week festival is Sakura Sunday, when vendors and performers all convene on the Horticultural Center underneath the cherry blossoms. There are demonstrations of dancing, singing, aikido, reiki, shiatsu, calligraphy, origami, and … hmmm … what am I forgetting?
We had a slightly different venue for our tea ceremony demonstrations this year. In the past, we did our demo in a small room off to the side. This year, we moved into one of the Horticultural Center’s indoor spaces, in the middle of one of their perennial foliage displays. The good news was that a lot more people came to watch this year, and the bad news was that the space was so noisy that the ones who came had a tough time hearing what was going on. Still, it was great to see so much interest – we literally had people packed around on all sides watching what was happening.
Here’s a photo of the audience listening to me talk about tea:
At one point I ran down to Shofuso to grab some supplies – well, okay, in kimono it’s more like a brisk hobble – and there were huge crowds outside enjoying the trees. It was a beautiful, warm day, and the cherry trees were just a little bit past their peak, but still gorgeous. There are literally dozens of cherry trees on the grounds, of all different types. Most of them are pretty young, but there are a couple of fairly old ones (I’m sorry, I don’t know how old). Here’s a photo of one:
And while I'm at it, here's a picture of Shofuso, with its weeping cherry tree in bloom. (This is where we have lessons, although you can’t see the tearoom in this photo.)
This past Saturday, there was another demonstration, this time on the veranda at Shofuso, overlooking the pond. This was a semi-private event, open only to people who reserve in advance. Taeko-sensei, one of my teachers, did a type of tea called chabako, which literally means “tea box.” The idea is that all of the utensils needed to make tea are miniaturized and packed into the box so that they can be easily transported to make tea outside. You can do it any time of year, but it’s especially popular during cherry blossom season and in the fall, when the leaves are changing colors.
We did two sittings of about twenty people each, serving tea and sweets to each person. The traditional sweets for chabako are something called konpeito, which are basically small, hard, round sugar candies. But for demonstrations we like to give people something more substantial to eat, so Taeko-sensei made sakura mochi. The innermost layer is a sweet bean paste (“an” in Japanese), surrounded by layer of steamed sweet rice dough (mochi), wrapped in a pickled cherry leaf. Delicious! But the people who were helping behind the scenes were good and let the guests have some.
After the demonstrations, a photographer from the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation took some photos of Taeko-sensei and the rest of us to use on Shofuso’s web site and in other Philadelphia marketing efforts. So if you live in the Philadelphia area, or like to read Philadelphia marketing pieces for fun, keep an eye out for photos of women in kimono – it could be one of us!