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Lakeland University Japan News

A Rich Tradition in a Real Teahouse

A Rich Tradition in a Real Teahouse


A Rich Tradition in a Real Teahouse

On Monday, February 5, LUJ students enrolled in Chanoyu: The Way of Tea (JST220) visited an authentic Japanese teahouse. The tea gathering, or "chakai" (茶会) was a chance for students to put into practice what they have learned so far in classes. 

LUJ Professor Ruth "Sōshin" Lionberger organized the chakai event into two sections. From 11:30 to 1:30pm, eight students entered the teahouse, located near Moto-Sumiyoshi station, followed by another group of eight from 2 - 4pm.  

For Professor Lionberger, the location was ideal for students learning this traditional Japanese custom. "At this venue," says Professor Lionberger, "they could see for themselves a variety of sizes of real tearooms--from a real preparation room (mizuya / 水屋), to a large 10-mat formal room, and a charmingly small, rustic 3-mat room."

During the two-hour sessions, students spoke with "four experienced tea practitioners" about chanoyu, or "The Way of Tea."  After setting charcoal to boil the water, the practitioners did a thin tea procedure and served sweets and tea to the students. Before leaving, a few students were eager to also serve tea and sweets to the practitioners.

It was snowing in the afternoon, and the wintry atmosphere seemed just right as students were given a rare chance to observe "fresh black charcoal being set around red-hot charcoal in the sunken hearth." 

For the students who took part, it was a memorable cultural trip. "The immersive experience drinking tea and being served sweets," said one LUJ student, "has assisted me in understanding the formal procedures and proper customs of Chanoyu." Another student "really enjoyed the view we got to see with the snow for the day, and seeing a wagashi (traditional Japanese sweet) that corresponds with the season was beautiful."

One student reflected on the "Zenness of Chanoyu," and how going through the actual experience brought to life all the stories they'd heard or read in textbooks. "After Monday’s event," the student explained, "I now understand why people have described chanoyu as feeling like you’re outside of time itself. Being surrounded by greenery, bathed in warm light, and divorced from technology genuinely feels like a breath of fresh air."

One other student reflected on how a tea room's size affected their own state of mind, or the way they existed within it. "What surprised me the most was that there was not only a large chanoyu room as usual, but also a small room like Sen no Rikyu's chanoyu room that we learned about in class. It was dimly lit and dark, but I felt wabi-sabi, and this small room was my favorite in [the teahouse] and I can’t wait to have a tea ceremony in that small room now."

In March, Chanoyu students will take part in a larger, more formal event. Check back then for a report and pictures. 

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