Tea Ceremony is one of the popular traditional practices here in Japan. Since time immemorial, Japanese conduct tea ceremony for official, business, or personal purposes. At present, it is one of the key factors that attract foreigners to learn and appreciate Japanese culture in and out of the country. Yesterday, I had the privilege to combine this tradition with Ikebana which is another Japanese culture. Ms. Kaori Watanabe, the owner of Gallery & Studio r_cafe, is also a licensed Tea Ceremony teacher. With her, we conducted an Ikebana and Tea Ceremony in English.
The workshop had two parts. First, we had an Ikebana workshop followed by the teaching of Tea Ceremony. All our participants are Japanese. Hence, we tried to balance English and Japanese language during the whole session. This is to make sure that the participants understand well the concepts behind the activities. At the same time, this is to encourage them to practice and speak English.
Learning Ikebana in English
Ikebana, the Japanese flower art, is another cultural tradition that is getting popular worldwide. However here in Japan, the number of young people practicing this art is decreasing every year. That is why, it was a great opportunity for me to teach this art to young Japanese with English as the teaching language.
We first identified the materials that we will use after introducing ourselves and a brief background of Ikebana. Then I asked the participants to choose the three materials which they think are beautiful and make them happy. These three materials serve as the main stems based on Sogetsu-style Ikebana: the Shin, Soe, and Hikae. After that, I showed them how to cut the materials and place them to the vase accordingly. And to complete their arrangement, I also asked them to put some Jushi or supporting materials.
Once we have completed their first arrangement, I asked the participants to observe each other’s works to see their similarities and differences. They were amazed by the uniqueness of each arrangement although they got the same set of materials.
And to see if they learned from the exercise, I asked them to make another arrangement on their own. For this activity, I also showed them how to form shapes using steel grass. They all had a great time playing and being creative with the steel grass.
Tea Ceremony from Start to Finish
Japanese Tea Ceremony is considered one of the complex tea practices. The whole process could take up to four hours. For this workshop, Kaori taught the participants a brief yet concise method. She first gave a brief summary of the whole activity and then instructed the participants how to properly enter the tea room.
When all are seated inside the tea room, the wagashi (Japanese sweet) was served. The participants got a Kumamon washi tissue paper to use as sweet plate. She told the participants how to get the sweet from the tray and then pass the tray to the next person. While they were enjoying their sweets, Ms. Watanabe prepared the utensils and water for the tea. After that, she asked each participant to take their cups and put the green tea powder. All of them had a great time mixing the tea powder and water with a bamboo whisk. The hot tea gave them a warm feeling from this season’s cold weather.
At the end of the ceremony, Ms. Watanabe asked the participants to open their small bamboo fans and place the fee envelopes on top. I have participated in several tea ceremonies before but this is my first time to learn about the use of the fans. Like the participants, I also learned a lot from this activity.
Before we said our final goodbyes to properly end the workshop, we asked some feedbacks from the participants. All of them enjoyed learning both Ikebana and Tea Ceremony. They were first a little shy to speak in English but after they happy to have the chance to practice it.