We began our morning at 9:25 when we headed out to meet Mr. Amae Dairiku, the tea master who would perform a tea ceremony for us later in the day. Although the ceremony itself wouldn’t take place until the afternoon, we met Mr. Dairiku early because he wanted us to see the entire process of the tea. For this purpose, we began the day at a Shinto shrine where he draws the water that he uses to make his tea. We then proceeded to a tea shop to purchase the matcha before we headed on to his house where the ceremony would take place. En route, he suddenly stopped and took a single flower bud from a bush that we passed — this would also feature in the ceremony. It was really cool to be able to see this process after reading a bunch about the tea ceremony. The flower that he chose especially struck me. The bud looked so beautiful. It was simple and tightly furled — a gorgeous deep pink.
When we first arrived at his house, he explained the tea ceremony to us. This was not an explanation of what occurred the tea ceremony particularly, rather it was an explanation of the purpose of the tea ceremony as he saw it. He told us that he uses the tea ceremony as a form of active mediation, explaining that the term that they have for the tea ceremony in Japanese doesn’t even include the word tea — rather that emphasizes meditative focus on one fixed point. This, in his words, characterized the tea ceremony. After this short lecture, we took a short break for lunch. We all walked to a really cozy cafe that was set up in an old bathhouse. Along with lunch, I tried hot milk with maple syrup and it was wonderful. I’ve never tried it before, but that’s one thing that I’ll be able to bring home with me!
After lunch we split into two groups. (The tea ceremony is meant for a smaller crowd.) I was part of the second group and went over to Daitoku-ji again with Frankie, Si Hou, CJ, and Kagaya-sensei. We were able to visit another beautiful Zen garden. It was amazing to see Daitoku-ji on a rainy day today. I’ve always loved rainy days, but here they are even more pronounced. Everything green — trees, moss, bamboo — was so incredibly vivid that I thought I’d have to come up with new words to describe how beautiful it was. This is the first rainy day that we’ve had since we’ve been here, but part of me feels that Japan must have been meant to be experienced in the rain.
We then made our way back to Mr. Dairiku’s home for our turn with the tea. The atmosphere in the tea room was incredibly peaceful. The room was pleasantly shadowed, lit with warm candlelight. It smelled like the quiet incense that had been burning earlier and was filled with the quiet sound of water boiling. He served us some delicious tea sweets before fixing the tea itself. The sweets were warm and smelled of citrus. He then turned to his implements, and with practiced and measured motions, made us each a small cup of tea. The tea itself was delicious, but I treasured the peaceful atmosphere more. All in all, it was a beautiful experience that I am very grateful to have had.
After leaving Mr. Dairiku’s home, we made our way to a Shinto shrine just down the road from his house before heading back to our hostel. The shrine was beautiful — the moss on the trees was so captivating that I was tempted to just stop and stare for hours. I’m really glad that it was raining today. I’m heading to bed tonight completely at peace, and ready and excited for what tomorrow may hold.
See you tomorrow!