Tea Journal

Otsukimi - Moon-Viewing Autumn Festival

Posted on September 24, 2018 at 8:10 AM


As soon as September begins up until the Harvest moon in October, Japanese Tea Ceremony is typically performed while viewing the Autumn Full Moon. This is the season when the sky is said to be at its clearest and the moon at its most beautiful.

The word Otsukimi literally translates to mean (Otsuki) Moon (Mi) 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)?

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.





Moon and Tea Ceremony (Tsuki no cha)


The harvest moon is meant to be on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. On that night, plants are arranged and offerings of rice dumplings, persimmons, potatoes and sake. This is the way to view the bright moon. When this is incorporated in to tea, it is tsukimi no cha (tea while viewing the moon).

It is best to have this in a formal tea gathering. When and where to view the moon depends on how experienced the host is. It can happen upon entering the roji, in the middle of the tea or when stepping out into the moonlight on the way home.

In any case the rise of the moon should not be missed.


As a moon AND tea lover, this might be one of my favourite times of the year on the tea calendar. This year's tea ceremony events should be just as exciting. 

Ro - The Hearth of Sado

Posted on March 21, 2018 at 7:05 AM


Every three months the seasons change.


In the Northern hemisphere, around November (or even earlier), temperatures begin to drop and it starts getting colder and colder as the Winter Solstice approaches. 

With colder temperatures, a source of heat becomes even more necessary than usual.

The standard mode of heating during winter months are either using electric, a gas stove/heater or a good old hearth. 


If you spent the majority of your life living on a tropical island like myself, then you're probably not very familiar with what a hearth is. 


A hearth (pronounced \ ˈhärth \) is the floor of a fireplace or the stone area enclosing a fireplace. This is typically where people gather during winter months to keep warm from the harsh Winter weather. 


In Sado, Japanese Tea Ceremony, the hearth is called Ro, 炉. 





Essentially, the Ro is a square fire pit which has been sunken into the floor. It is situated between the tea host and the tea guests.


All authentic Japanese Tea Houses and Tea Rooms come equipped with one. It remains concealed below the tatami mat for the majority of the year. Until ritto (the start of winter) when the Ro is opened.

This happens in early November. 


During this time, the Ro serves a dual function.


Not only does it heat the water used in the tea ceremony but it also serves to heat the room and keep both the tea host and guests warm.

For tea ceremony the kama (cast iron kettle) can be placed in one of two ways: either sitting in the fire pit (see above) or suspended from a chain attached to a hook in the ceiling (see below).


As the days get warmer, the kama begins its journey from the Ro back up to the summer brazier.

About mid-March the Tsurigama, or hanging kettle is used. 

When hanging, it can either be suspended by a long chain hanging from the ceiling of the tea room or, similarly, by a long bamboo shaft with a wooden lever called a 'kozaru' (see image below). 




Additionally, since the Ro is situated in the floor, any temae (the procedure of making tea) involving the use of the Ro has to be conducted in seiza (the Japanese traditional formal way of sitting, with knees bent, legs folded under thigh and buttocks resting on the ankles.)


This position is a real challenge for me but I did manage to get through a few temae sessions even though my feet fell asleep on multiple occasions and I had to take a few breaks in between.

See pictures below. 


                                                                       


Opening the Ro changes almost everything in the way the tea ceremony is performed. It is very interesting to observe and experience the changing of the seasons throughout the practice of the tea ceremony.


With Winter officially coming to an end, I suspect the Ro will eventually be ritually cleansed and covered until next winter. I give thanks for the experience and I look forward to learning more about the way of tea and the various rituals for the Spring.



Stay intune,

the Tea Lady

Nadya Dee





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