Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sakura Time!

The past couple of weeks we’ve been caught up in cherry blossom (sakura) time. The weekend of April 9th we had our usual demonstration at Shofuso, the Japanese House, and then the following day was Sakura Sunday, the big celebration in Fairmount Park. The timing was absolutely perfect – the blossoms were just coming into bloom. Here’s a view from one of the main plantings of cherry trees:

We didn’t have a formal demonstration that day, but one of our students, Mary Lynn, set up under one of the cherry trees and did chabako, a picnic-style tea, for anyone who happened to stop by and want some tea. …

The following week, we had another tea gathering, this time for members of the Chado Association. This was something new for us – even though chabako is especially designed to be done outdoors, we rarely plan outdoor gatherings for logistical reasons. Even for a simple tea, when you’re serving a dozen people there’s a fair amount of stuff to carry out to the site, and of course you have to plan for rain or other contingencies. I’m very happy to say that the weather was mostly good. “Mostly” in that it was sunny and reasonably warm, but it was also very windy, which made it a little on the chilly side and caused some complications in making the tea.

There were little things – for example, the tea whisk kept blowing over – and then there were the messy things: every time I opened the lid of the tea container, a gust of wind came up and blew a cloud of powdered tea all over the place. The tray with the tea items was a mess!

However, the really important thing in any tea gathering is that the guests have fun and enjoy each other’s company, and on that score I think it was a success – everybody seemed to have a good time, and we got to see some old friends we hadn’t talked to in a while.

Here’s a picture of us under the cherry trees:

(This, by the way, is the same place Sakura Sunday is held.)

Even though we look like we’re all alone in the photo above, there were actually a fair number of people in the park, and as I walked around before and after I got a lot of questions about what we were doing. That’s another fun thing about doing an outdoor gathering – we get to talk to people about tea ceremony, and maybe share some things with them that they didn’t know before. All in all, it was a good day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our Fame Spreads...

Last August, a film crew from a site called Tokyo Pop came to Shofuso to do some filming for a show they were doing called America’s Greatest Otaku. I had never heard of the site before, but I was assured that this was just because I’m very old. They were in Philadelphia looking for Japanese-themed places and events, and their search led them to Shofuso. They did some filming and interviews with the site manager at the time, with a local taiko drumming group called Kyo Daiko, and with us, your faithful tea people.

The filming was fun – they had two young people in the tearoom with us; I made the tea, and one of our students, Mary Lynn, acted as first guest and coached them on how to drink. (She did a great job and actually did quite a bit of talking, although they ended up not using much of her in the final cut.) After the temae was finished, they did a short interview with me about tea ceremony in general.

I thought that the whole thing turned out very nicely, including the tour of Shofuso and the bit on the taiko group. I always cringe when I see myself on film, but they managed to make even me look good. If you’d like to see for yourself, it’s just been posted online:

The Philadelphia portion starts at around 3 minutes and 15 sections into the clip.