At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sense and Sensuality

Japan is one of the most sensual cultures I've ever lived in. The Japanese are incredibly focused on the visual presentation of things. You notice this in the way they wrap gifts, the way people focus on accessories, outfits, and their homes. Japanese architecture and its gardens reflect this same aspect. While Okinawa is less sensual in some ways than mainland Japan, there are elements of mainland Japanese culture where I live.
Today, I had the chance to experience one of these "imports": the traditional tea ceremony.

Today's ceremony was in honor of Tanabata. At the risk of seeming like a Japanaphile tourist, I will say that it was really a wonderful experience (apart from having to sit seiza for 20 minutes, which was nearly impossible for me).. There were so many rules to the ceremony itself and of course I didn't know any of them. The majority of Japanese people who haven't studied the art of the tea ceremony don't know much about these rules either. Two of the women I went with today today me that this was their second time attending a tea ceremony ever in their lives. And they were born and raised in Okinawa (and they are from my parents generation). Some people study tea ceremony their entire lives. It's a beautiful art form. The elements of Zen are in every movement and every visual aspect of the ceremony itself. It's very cleansing.

The cookie has a fan pattern imprinted on it.
Formally served 

Wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets beautifully designed) are served before the matcha and compliment each other (sweet and bitter). I couldn't eat the wagashi unfortunately.

Receiving the tea and then bowing in acceptance of it.

Hibiscus in the ceremony room.  Viewing the flowers is part of the performance.
Cleaning up after the ceremony.
There were two different rooms where tea was served (one was formal -- which required the seiza position and I couldn't take photos in this ceremony unfortunately). The other was informal and I was able to document this part of the ceremony. After the ceremony, I realized how much I want to continue to learn about tea ceremony. People had told me it was boring, but I didn't think it was boring at all. Can you believe that I've lived in Japan nearly 2 years and this was my first chance to attend a tea ceremony?    


  1. When you make it to mainland, you should attend a ceremony in Kyoto and write about the similarities and differences. I'd be super interested to find out what they are.

  2. Did you attend one when you were in Kyoto?