Monday, June 20, 2011

A Great Day for a Great Cause

Yesterday our tea group held a benefit for the earthquake victims of Sendai, Japan. Even though it’s been several months since the tsunami hit that region, the cleanup continues, and the people are still struggling to put their lives back in order. More than 23,000 people died as a result of the earthquakes and the tsunami, and countless more were affected. It’s hard to comprehend the scope of the tragedy, and even though our efforts were pretty small in comparison to what needs to be done, we were happy to be able to do something – particularly for the people of Sendai, who have been so generous to us in the past.

We did six sittings total – three for thin tea (usucha) in the 15-mat room that looks out over the garden, and three more thick tea (koicha) in the actual tearoom, which is 4 ½ mats including the alcove (tokonoma). In my mind, I’m seeing some of the people from the large Urasenke branches who do tea for hundreds of people in a single day saying, “Ha! That’s nothing!” But for us, it was a big day.

The credit for putting everything together goes to Taeko Shervin sensei, who came up with this idea back in March and has spent the past couple of months putting everything together, including making all of the sweets herself (a hundred each of two different kinds of dry sweets for thin tea and 50 moist sweets for koicha; her friend Wada-san also made dry sweets for us). But the staff at the Japanese House, where the benefit was held, also deserve a lot of thanks for all their hard work in making it happen. They really helped to promote it, and of course did a lot of work getting the house ready and managing all the visitors.

People were so generous, it really blew us away. There was one man from a tattoo shop in Philadelphia who raised $2,300 for tsunami victims, but wasn’t sure what to do with it; when he heard about this event he decided to give the money to this fund. There was also a little girl who, on her birthday, asked people to donate for the tsunami victims rather than getting presents; she brought her money to the event too.

At the end of the day, there were about 250 people who came through the house (though not all of them had tea; there was an artist named Aaron Mannino who did an art installation on the house grounds, and there were a number of visitors who came specifically to see that), and the event raised about $7,000, including donations that came in from people who couldn’t make it on that day.

To everyone who helped and everyone who came, thank you so much!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tea Ceremony Benefit for Japan

Apologies for the late notice, but please spread the word to anyone that you think might be interested:

The people of Sendai have had a close relationship with the Japanese community of Philadelphia for many years. Sendai is known as Mori no Mikyo, the City of Trees, because of the large number of trees within its city limits -- something it shares with Philadelphia, which has more parks within its city borders than any city in the United States.

Volunteer groups from Sendai have helped to raise money to repair and maintain the roof at Shofuso, the Japanese House and Gardens in Fairmount Park, and many times have come to Philadelphia to help celebrate Tanabata, the Milky Way festival in July.

In honor of this relationship, and to express our deep sympathy for their suffering following the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, the Chado Association of Philadelphia is hosting a benefit tea ceremony, with proceeds going directly to the people of Sendai.

Date: Sunday, June 19th (Father's Day)
Time: Seatings for usucha (thin tea) at 12:00, 1:30, and 3:00 p.m.
Seatings for koicha (thick tea) at 11:30, 1:30, and 3:00 p.m.
Location: Shofuso, the Japanese House and Gardens in Fairmount Park
Horticultural and Lansdowne Drives, Philadelphia, PA
Fee: $25 for Shofuso members; $30 for non-members. Additional donations are gratefully accepted.

Reservations are recommended. To register, visit or call 215-878-5097