Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Together for Tanabata

Tanabata, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a Japanese festival. According to legend, there was a princess who used to weave beautiful cloth. Her father, the sky god, loved the cloth, and she worked hard every day to make more. However, because she worked so hard, she never got to go out and meet people. Her father was sorry to see her so sad, and he introduced her to a cowherd. The two fell instantly in love and married, but then the weaver stopped making her cloth and the cowherd let his cattle wander free. The sky god grew angry that he put them on opposite sides of a river (the Milky Way) and forbade them from seeing each other. This made his daughter so sad that he finally relented and allowed them to see each other for one day a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month. This is the date of Tanabata.

This year our group held its first Tanabata tea, and we were really pleased with the number of people who came, particularly since it was a horribly hot day, with a high around 100 degrees and very humid. Fortunately, our event was in the evening, so it had cooled off at least a little bit.

The tea was held at Shofuso, and here I need to stop and put in a photo of the garden in the evening light, taken courtesy of the fabulous Terry S.:

Before the tea started, we had everyone write their wishes on a piece of colored paper, which we then tied to a piece of bamboo that the staff of Shofuso had put near the entrance to the house. Of course, this was modest compared to the type of decorations you’d see in Japan, but by the time we were done it was full of wishes! Taeko Shervin-sensei also made some decorations to add.

Once the gathering started, we had the guests sitting so that they could look out on the pond and the waterfall. We served koicha (thick tea) and then usucha (thin tea) with sweets for both. The sweets for koicha were called midori no hoshi (green stars) and were taken from a recipe developed by Glenn Pereira of Urasenke Boston. My batch came out a little more blue than green, but this will give you the idea:

And here are some pictures of the tea itself:

 By the time we were finished it was dark outside, and everyone made their way back to the cars with lanterns (since Shofuso is a traditional-style Japanese house, there are no interior lights). It was a beautiful way to celebrate this holiday, and we were lucky to have such wonderful people to celebrate with!