Today we met Dairiku Amae (Derek), who taught us a bit about tea ceremony and the way that he goes about teaching it. When we first began, everything seemed very formal. The zaputon were arranged neatly around a hearth embedded in the floor of the room. The alcove on the wall had a some kind of dry vegetable looking ornament hanging from it. aside from those to features, the room didn’t actually have anything in it at first. It’s hard to believe that this was actually Derek’s house. Eventually, he explained to us that he keeps the room empty on purpose to preserve the flexibility of the room. If guests are coming over, he moves a table into the room. If he’s hosting a tea ceremony, he uses the hearth and brings the instruments for tea making into the room. He made a special note of the fact there was no clock or TV in the room which he said forces you to be present in that room. Perfect for meditation as we would soon find out. We took our seats around the hearth and watched as he set the kettle down into the hearth.
At this point he began to talk while performing his craft, a simultaneous demonstration and narration of the processes inherent in a tea ceremony. However, he wasn’t really talking about the processes themselves but the deeper significance of tea ceremonies, the different ways that people go about them, and his personal thoughts on the subject. this nonchalant talk created an interesting dichotomy. One that takes the usually strict practices of tea ceremony, evidenced by his meticulous handling of each instrument, and breaks tradition with conversation not usually part of the ceremony. I think that this reflects some of the removal from tradition that occurs naturally with time. Of course he knows all of the traditional practices but with modernity comes less stringent practices in a lot of these traditional arts. Personally, I’m glad that the ceremony was not particularly strict because it allowed me to not have to sit seiza for the entire time.
Before we continued the ceremony, we had a short meditation section. Apparently, you are not actually supposed to sleep during meditation.
When we finished, he served the tea and washed the bowls when we were finished. We then began to talk about his work in revolutionizing tea. Specifically, he’s been working to increase the accessibility of tea people who might not want to or don’t have time to sit through an entire ceremony. He also experiments with different types of tea ceremonies, like dark room ceremonies and such. I think this is interesting as far as the feeling that one might get from the tea ceremony. I imagine that people receive different feelings from drinking hot tea in a hot room v.s. in a cold room. After a few questions, we left the house and proceeded on our way. Overall the tea ceremony was informative and enlightening. My favorite part may have been the gong and meditation but the Derek’s explanation of the tea ceremony was informative, engaging, and enlightening, and I’m glad we had this experience.