I was invited to participate in a Japanese tea ceremony in Toronto this weekend by a lovely friend. Even though my schedule for this weekend was packed (I went to visit a friend in the neighboring Hamilton) I couldn’t turn this invitation down because when else would I have a chance to attend a tea ceremony in Canada let along Japan.
The ceremony was held at the Nagomi (和) beauty room in the Bloor West Village. Other than providing beauty treatments such as facial treatments, acupuncture and nail services, the Nagomi (和) beauty room also hosts workshops about healthy living including healthy cooking classes, chinese medicine workshops, eco living seminars, and aroma workshops. You can check it out at http://www.nagomi.ca/
The tea ceremony was performed by the lovely Kyoko Nitta, a Chajin (tea expert) taught by the Urasenke school of tea ceremony. Out of the three major schools of tea ceremony in Japan -Urasenke, Omotesenke and Mushanokōjisenke – Urasenke has the biggest following.
Unlike standard Japanese tea ceremonies this one was a little more casual since it was intended to introduce both the Japanese and non-Japanese attendees about the basic procedures of the ceremony. Thus the hanging scroll of thematic calligraphy on a wall and pre-ceremony ritualistic self-purification of guests with water in a stone basin was omitted.
To begin the tea ceremony the Chajin lit the Chagama (steel kettle with charcoal) which was plugged in electrically. We were invited to eat the Wagashi, a sweet rice covered with red bean paste and smaller rock candy which was meant to lessen the bitterness of the Macha (Green tea) we would drink.
The chajin then began to perfom the procedures of the tea ceremony including ritually cleansing the tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop, adding the tea powder to the tea bowl, adding hot water, whisking the powder into a paste, and finally adding more water to create a soup like tea. With both hands attached to the side of the bowl the Chajin then presented the tea bowl to the guest nearest to her. The same preparation procedure was followed for the subsequent bowls with the guests carefully passing along the bowls until everybody in the circle had a serving of Macha (Green tea). Each time, the Chajin performed the movements with the same caution and grace.
Although this was a casual tea ceremony it still possessed the tranquil mood that Japanese tea ceremonies are meant to invoke. The cautious and graceful movements of the tea master influences the guests to relax their mind, locate themselves in their present surrounding, and appreciate the aesthetics and movements of the situation they are perceiving.
All in all, it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon and I think maybe next time I’ll take my mother along to experience the beauty and tranquility that is, the Japanese tea ceremony.