3) Tea master, Mr. Amae Dairiku 天江大陸
Since its arrival with monks studying Zen from China during China’s Song period (960-1279), tea has spread and taken on its own life in Japan (Surak, 68). Japanese tea ceremony began to take shape under the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (Okazura, 198). Tea masters started to become politically important during the warring states period (Sengoku Jidai) under the patronage of first Oda Nobunaga, then Toyotomi Hideyoshi, both of whom employed a particularly famous tea master known today as Sen No Rikyū (or just Rikyū, to those in the know) (Surak, 71). Rikyū (and other powerful tea masters) served as military advisors to shoguns and daimyos throughout this period (Surak, 71).
Even today, most of Japanese tea is controlled by people who either are or claim to be of Rikyū’s line, the Sen family. In particular, there are three schools of tea started by his descendents, Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushanokōjisenke. Urasenke is the most powerful and popular school in modern Japan, claiming 70% of tea practitioners (Surak, 121). Amae-sensei, whom we will be meeting, was trained in the Urasenke school. In addition to the Sen family schools, there exist around ten other schools, including Dainihon Sadō Gakkai, Yabunouchi schools, and Sekishū and Enshū styles, though the non-Sen schools in total make up less than 10% of practitioners (Surak, 121). Differences between the ceremony performed by the different Sen schools are very small and technical. Other schools broke off because of ideological differences with the Sen family. For example, Tanaka Senshō started Dainihon Sadō Gakkai in an attempt to bring the focus of tea ceremony back to Zen and spirituality (Surak, 91). The Sen schools operate on the iemoto system, which means that they have a head, an iemoto, who is the ultimate authority for the guidelines and regulations of the school and can usually claim some genealogy to the founder (Surak, 104).
While, historically tea ceremony was practiced by powerful political figures, nowadays the ceremony is primarily practiced by middle- and upper-class women (Surak, 142). While the gender of the ceremony has changed, thus changing the reputation of chanoyu in Japanese society, the class of practitioners has remained relatively high, though there is more diversity in class among male practitioners (Surak, 142). Additionally, the practitioners who face the international public are almost exclusively men, and often the iemoto themselves (Surak, 103).
In modern day Japan, tea ceremony has taken on the role of representative traditional art, as it combines attributes of many different art forms, including pottery, calligraphy and ikebana (flower arranging) (Surak, 117). Remembering and performing tea ceremony, then, becomes a way of remembering Japanese history and performing Japaneseness. As women often become receptacles of traditional values and rituals (a trend exacerbated by the “good wife, wise mother” ideology prominent in post-war Japan), the shift toward women can then also be seen as a shift in the way tea ceremony is viewed, from a potent political tool to a preserved traditional art form (Surak, 102).
However, there are various initiatives working to make the Japanese tea ceremony more accessible to a larger audience. Sen No Rikyū had a deep commitment to creating a tea ceremony with a culture of simplicity, equality, and integrity (Grudin, 9) and many of these initiatives are trying to incorporate those values in the context of modern day society. One big aspect of the tea ceremony that the initiatives are addressing are the tea room.
Sen No Rikyu had created the wabi-cha style tearoom with the intention of making it simple and intentional. The tearoom is plain, with a few carefully placed items inside, and the it even has a low door so that everyone (regardless of rank or status) must bend down to enter. Today, however, this tearoom is too expensive for most people to own or have access to, so there have been initiatives to adapt for the use of the common man.
For example, tea ceremony promoter Nozomi Tanida has created the “Tea Ceremony in the Office” which allows for salarymen and office ladies to take a mental break and enjoy each others company in an office hot water supply room (Eubank). Similarly, Amae-sensei has created the “Kamo-cha” series, where he goes to Kamo river and serves free matcha green tea to passerbys. Likewise, architect and designer Kengo Kuma created a tearoom in a Tokyo office building, but instead of the usual walls and pillars, he kept a floating helium balloon in the center which holds up a see-through fabric (Begin Japanology).
Many of these modern tea ceremonies makes us think about the purpose of a tea ceremony. With Sen No Rikyu’s vision, the tea ceremony is largely about a host welcoming a guest, showing hospitality, and giving a space for the host and guests to enjoy each others company. Everyone shares one bowl to drink tea and performs gestures of consideration for each other. Similar lessons are taught to children in Japan today, such as through functions they have in school where they invite a parent or grandparent, create sweets for them, and serve them the sweets and tea. Our meeting with Amae-sensei should help us better understand how the spirit of the tea ceremony imagined by Sen No Rikyu lives through all of these modern day variants.
Questions for Amae Dairiku:
Do you think that it is important to educate non-Japanese about tea ceremony? If so, why?
You have started many unorthodox initiatives like Kamo-cha, taking tea out of the tea room and bringing it to the masses. When you undertake initiatives like Kamo-cha, do you have a specific idea of the essence of tea ceremony that you want to bring to the people? If so, what is it?
Tea has been facing standardization through the Sen schools and their iemoto in the modern era. Do you believe that following the rules of standardized tea ceremony is essential or do you think that creativity and spontaneity should be reintroduced into tea practice?
Why did you become a part of the Urasenke school instead of other schools? What was the process like and how would’ve differed had you joined other schools?
In the Totousha interview, you mentioned that the tea room attracted you because it gave you a space where you can forget the stress of university and time, and it gave you a spaced where your head clears and you can concentrate. Do you think that this sense of peace is important to every tearoom? If so, how do you think an outdoor setting such that for your kamo-cha series affects the ability for a guest to feel this?
Do you believe that tea ceremony is accessible to all Japanese people? Do you believe it should be?
We have read about office hot water supply room tea ceremony, as well as other initiatives to make tea ceremony more accessible. What are some of your favorite historical and modern day initiatives to make the tea ceremony more accessible? Have there been common threads in strategies employed to increase tea appreciation among those who don’t have a background in tea?
In my experience, modern Japanese people still have a lot of interest in tea ceremony. The chanoyu exhibits at the national museums, for example, draw large crowds. Why do you think that Japanese people are drawn to tea ceremony today?
Do you think that tea ceremony has a future in Japan? Are younger generations still interested in it?
Sen No Rikyu is often thought of as being the most influential person for making the Japanese Tea Ceremony what it is today largely by his design of the tearoom (wabi-cha style). With the increase in modern day tea ceremony initiatives changing the venue of the tea ceremony, do you think that the philosophy of these tea ceremonies (such as the hot water supply room tea initiative) is in line with what Sen No Rikyu imagined. Do you think that it’s important that the intention for the tea ceremony that Sen No Rikyu had is important to be preserved or do changing times bring different priorities for society with regard to the tea ceremony?
Amae, Dairiku. Interview by Totousha. March 2014. http://www.totousha.com/dairik-amae. Accessed 6 January 2018.
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Eubank, Donald. “Japanese tea ceremony gets a 21st-century upgrade for office workers.” CNN, 10 September 2010. http://travel.cnn.com/tokyo/drink/japanese-tea-ceremony-gets-fresh-update-busy-salarymen-and-office-ladies-774458. Accessed 4 January 2018.
Grudin, Robert. “Sen No Rikyu and the Paradox of Innovation.” Design And Truth, Yale University Press, New Haven; London, 2010, pp. 3–9. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nq26z.3.
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