We had our Robiraki gathering, celebrating the beginning of the winter season, at the beginning of November. (Yes, I’m a little late posting… but look, photos!)
As with previous gatherings, we met at the Horticultural Center meeting room, which is far from being a traditional setting for tea, but in November the weather is so uncertain that we wanted to be sure everyone has a warm and dry place to enjoy their tea. As it turned out, the day itself was beautiful, sunny and warm, and there were still a lot of leaves on the trees, so it made for some beautiful scenery as people were coming in.
We were also very lucky to have a number of friends from different places join us for the gathering, including a group from New Jersey, some students from Penn State who are working on setting up a tea ceremony program at their school, and of course a number of tea people from our local area. We had sixteen guests in all, which made it one of the largest single gatherings we’d ever done! Luckily, we also had some great help in the kitchen, which is really the key to making everything run smoothly.
For this gathering, we served a meal as well as koicha (thick tea) and usucha (thin tea). The main part of the meal consisted of rice, sashimi, and seasonal foods in a bento box, and we also served soup with grilled tofu:
Because we weren’t in a traditional tea space, we had to improvise in a number of ways, one of which was to put the machiai (where the guests gather before going into the room) in one of the greenhouse spaces. Usually the machiai has a hanging scroll and a flower arrangement; there was no place to hang a scroll, but we put a flower arrangement on the path that guests would take to the meeting room, where we had put down tatami mats and set up an alcove space with a scroll:
In the tatami space we had a tana, which in this photo is set up in preparation for laying the charcoal fire. This is a Ryuseidana, and if you look closely you can see that the gridwork on the left side is made from used handles from hishakus (the ladles we use to scoop water). The mizusashi (cold water jar) on the bottom is a black Oribe-style, and on the top of the tana is a feather (used to brush stray ash from the sides of the hearth) and an incense container. The incense container was made by Saeda Makoto, one of the artists who exhibited at the Five by Eight exhibition in Philadelphia last month.
In this picture, Drew Hanson, one of our teachers, is making usucha for the guests:
All in all, it was a wonderful day, and as always we hope that the guests enjoyed it too!