The Return to One 

2017

2017 was a year of renewal and change; introspection and reinvention. 
A year that took us back to where it all began -- Japan. 
Journey with us as we develop a deeper understanding of the How, the Where and the Way of Tea.
 

 Yame Tea Tour

A large part of the reason a return to Japan became necessary was in order to gain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the evolution and process of tea and its cultivation. Where better to do this than in the country that birthed our love of loose leaf teas? 

So, on Saturday, May 13, 2017, we ventured up into the mountains of Southern Japan, to a town called Yame -- renown for its delicious green tea -- to learn more about the process of picking and preparing organic green tea. 

The Yame Region in Fukuoka Prefecture is blessed with ideal conditions for cultivating fine quality tea. In summer, fireflies flicker in the clear streams near the tea plantations, creating a picture-perfect landscape.


The ideal space for iyashi. 



 

Sado - The Way of Tea 

The Way of Tea -- Sado  [more popularly known as Japanese Tea Ceremony] is an intricate act of making and serving tea originally performed by Samurai warriors as a form of spiritual training. 

Since returning to Japan in 2017 we have dedicated our efforts to learning as much as we can about the Samurai Way of Tea. We do this in the hopes that we might one day in the future be able to introduce this practice to Jamaica and imbue it with aspects of our indigenous herbal culture. 
Our aim is to eventually create a new multicultural tradition of global healing i.e. iyashi.
 

Iyashi Herbs' Tea Ceremony Journal


Reflections on Japanese Tea Ceremony and the ritual and practice of learning the Samurai Way of Tea:

First Trial

Learning more about Japanese Tea Ceremony was very high on my list of things to do when I learnt that I was going to be getting the opportunity to live in Japan once again.

So, being a firm believer in #WORDSOUNDPOWER, when I arrived in Nagasaki Japan and the local community volunteer group asked me what aspects of Japanese culture I was interested of course my answer was Sado please! 

Finding a Teacher 

After getting a taste of Tea Ceremony I did some research and learnt that this region (in fact in a town very near to where I live) had its own special style of Tea Ceremony specifically performed by Samurai called Chinshin-Ryu. 

So the next mission was to find a teacher willing to take on a foreign student with limited Japanese language capabilities but an eager spirit.
 
With a little bit of luck, serendipity and another dose of #WORDSOUNDPOWER I found a teacher just around the road from one of my schools and just like that my Tea Ceremony Journey began. 

First Lesson

I am so excited to absorb all there is to know about this special Samurai way of Tea Ceremony. I have already learnt that the way of greeting and entering the room are slightly different from the more popular methods of Tea Ceremony. 
I still haven't figured out how to make a perfect bowl of tea but this is where training begins. 

I am intrigued and excited to learn and grow. 

Getting into the ritual 

Tea Ceremony is all about ritual; silencing the mind and getting into the movements and placements and all the intricate details of the present moment. Committing to a weekly Tea Ceremony (okeiko) ritual has become integral to developing not just physical and mental alacrity but also, and most importantly, spiritual discipline. 

I give thanks for all the lessons being learnt on this journey. 

The Seiza Challenge and Ryuurei Style 

As a foreigner living in Japan, one of the hardest things for me is sitting in seiza (i.e. the Japanese traditional formal way of sitting, with knees bent, legs folded under thigh and buttocks resting on the ankles.) I consider it the ultimate challenge to try to make it through the entire tea ceremony practice without my legs cramping or falling asleep. 
Lucky for me, my teacher -- ever sympathetic to my plight -- has offered me an alternative to sitting in seiza on the floor. It is the called Ryuurei style of Tea Ceremony where both host and guest sit on stools/chairs and the tea in prepared on a table instead of directly on the tatami mat. 

Give thanks. 
Training continues. 

Ichi go Ichi e

Serendipity is one of the driving forces in my life. So when I saw this sign -- Ichi go Ichi e -- at the entrance to my teacher's Tea Room it was only confirmation that I was in the right place at the right time. 

Ichi go Ichi e is my favourite Japanese proverb, so much so that I have it tattooed on my left arm. The concept of ichi-go ichi-e is the philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. It is said to have been an integral theme in the creation of Tea Ceremony in the 16th Century. 

Preparation 

I begin every Tea Ceremony (otemae) session a small room where the tea bowls (chawan), bamboo ladles (hishaku) and chasen (bamboo whisk) are cleaned, prepared and kept before and after each ceremony. It has a basin and a pipe for washing the utensils as well as shelves and hooks for storing them after use. 
Additionally, there is a specific way in which we must leave and enter this room before during and after each otemae. 

Tea Ceremony Utensils

These are just a few of the essential items used in a typical tea ceremony. 
Bamboo is a very popular natural resource used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The water ladle, Tea Scoop, Tea Whisk and sometimes even the water container is made from bamboo. 

Simplicity. 

Thick Tea vs Thin Tea 

For a while I thought that there was only one way of preparing tea for Tea Ceremony. 
Boy, was I wrong. 
Usucha (or thin tea) was the only method of preparation I had seen and it was the first type I was introduced to. 
Apparently, this was only the tip of the Tea Ceremony iceberg. 
There is so much more left for me to learn.
For example, koicha (or thick tea) is another method of preparing matcha for Tea Ceremony and is typical done before a full-course meal (kaiseki). 

Looking forward to expanding my knowledge of Tea and Tea Ceremony even more in 2018. 

In the world of Tea Ceremony I am still very much a novice.
 

Otsukimi - Moon-Viewing

During the Harvest moon in October, Japanese Tea Ceremony is typically performed while viewing the Autumn Full Moon. That is the premise of the Otsukimi which literally translates to mean Moon Viewing. 

The tradition includes decorations with rice dumplings called dango and stalks of grass along with imagery of a rabbit. 


Why a rabbit you ask? 

Well , have you ever heard the story of the rabbit in the moon (tsuki no usagi)? 


๐ŸŽ‘  In Japan, instead of seeing a man on the moon it is said that there is a rabbit pounding mochi/ rice with a mortar and pestle. The story goes: 


"Many years ago, the Old Man of the Moon decided to visit the Earth. He disguised himself as a beggar and asked Fox (Kitsune), Monkey (Saru), and Rabbit (Usagi) for some food.

Monkey climbed a tree and brought him some fruit. Fox went to a stream, caught a fish, and brought it back to him. But Rabbit had nothing to offer him but some grass. So he asked the beggar to build a fire. After the beggar started the fire, Rabbit jumped into it and offered himself as a meal for the beggar to eat.

Quickly the beggar changed back into the Old Man of the Moon and pulled Rabbit from the fire. He said "You are most kind, Rabbit, but don't do anything to harm yourself. Since you were the kindest of all to me, I'll take you back to the moon to live with me." The Old Man carried Rabbit in his arms back to the moon and he is still there to this very day exactly where the Old Man left him. Just look at the moon in the night sky and the rabbit is there."


In October 2017 we attended two Otsukimi; one at the Cultural Centre and another at a Buddhist temple. 

The Cultural Centre Ceremony was more of an exhibition while the Tea Ceremony at the Buddhist Temple was a bit more formal and included both thin and thick tea as well as a meal.

Both experiences were extremely enriching. 


 

Nagasaki Tea Festival 

The Nagasaki Tea Festival was held on November 11th and 12th in Sasebo City this year so we took the opportunity to go explore and learn more about tea in Nagasaki, Japan. 

Bulk Green Tea 

The drum used to mix/ dry the tea leaves.

Avocado-Matcha Smoothie

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