Our Tea Journal

 

Here you will find a compilation of all the stories we have to share about our experiences with herbs, teas, the Japanese Tea Ceremony and so much more. 

Please feel free to peruse them all and don't forget to like and leave a comment. 😊



My first experience with formal herbal medicine was while living in Japan.

Of course, we all have our own personal herbal home remedies handed down throughout generations which are now classified as "alternative"; as if subordinate to conventional Western medicine.

Nevertheless, whenever we are inflicted with common illnesses such as a stomachache or the common cold it is still our home herbal remedies that we go to first for relief. Conventional medicine is only considered if the situation seems excessive, severe, dire or chronic.

Personally, I only find myself seeking out conventional solutions to my illness issues when my immune system becomes compromised -- which generally occurs during the change of seasons and its accompanying temperature fluctuations.

Being tropical means that I have spent a large percentage of my life at a somewhat steady temperature, only experiencing cold (actually chilliness) when at high altitudes or during extreme weather patterns. So it is no surprise that I have yet to acclimatise to the idea of seasons changing, as beautiful and significant as experiencing these transitions may be and I probably never will.



That is why, over the past month, in spite of a steady supply of Vitamin C and Elderberry I found myself once again afflicted with the dreaded incurable common cold.


This is where Kampo comes in.


What exactly is Kampo?

Kampo, also known as Traditional Japanese Herbal Medicine, is a standardised multi- herb therapeutic tradition developed uniquely in Japan over 1400 years; Its roots are in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This particular medical system is organised based on the reactions of the human body to therapeutic interventions.

The fundamental knowledge of herbal medicines came to Japan via buddhist monks who travelled to China in the sixth and seventh centuries. Interestingly, similar pilgrimages to China by buddhist monks form the genesis of the Japanese tradition of tea consumption and tea ceremony as well.

Traditional Chinese Medicine even lists the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) as one of the top 50 fundamental herbs along with cannabis sativa.

The tradition of herbs and tea are one and the same.

What drew me to Traditional Japanese Herbal Medicine was the fact that Kampo Therapies are personalised for the individual and they focus on restoring balance to the entire organism.

In Japanese thought and language, the mind and body are considered to be inseparable and interrelated. This means that in order to restore balance and harmony both mind and body require attention.

What I also find fascinating about Kampo is that it presently enjoys wide support by the public who see it as a reliable therapy for its scientific evidence and flexible therapeutic approaches.

The legitimacy of Kampo medicine is further evidenced by its inclusion in educational programs for medical students and its practice by medical doctors who have profound and scientifically based understanding of both conventional and Kampo medicine, which brings great benefits to patients.


My experience with kampo so far has been limited to treatment for a stomach bug almost a decade ago and the average cold once or twice a year. Nevertheless, I am encouraged by how acceptable herbal medicine is over here and I look forward to unearthing and sharing more about Japanese Herbal remedies and traditions.

Herbal Blessings,

Nadya Dee

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Every year, from the beginning of September until the Harvest moon in October, Japanese Tea Ceremony events are typically performed around the theme of 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.


Otsukimi [お月見] literally translates to [月 -tsuki] Moon [見-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.


Nadya "Moon" Dee

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In Japan, Golden Week (a collection of 4 national holidays in late April/ early May) is the ideal time to go exploring so, during Golden Week Heisei 30 nen (i.e. the year of our Lord 2018 ) I decided to take a solo trip to the first capital of Japan, Kyoto.

Kyoto was Japan's capital for a little over a millenium, from the 8th Century until 1868 when the seat of government and the Emperor's residence was moved to Edo (modern-day Tokyo) during the Meiji Restoration.

Kyoto is also the centre of the world of Sado, or the Way of Tea, as it is home to Omotesenke, Urasenke and Mushakojisenke (the most popular branches of Sado) as well as multiple tea houses -- two of which are located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Nijo-jo Castle.




As it so happened, while perusing a Kyoto Visitors Guide I came across an announcement for an upcoming Citizen's Tea Party which was being held while I was still in Kyoto.

Lucky me!

So after spending the morning exploring the popular Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine I made my way to Nijo-jo Castle to experience what I thought was going to be a simple tea ceremony event.

However, it was so much more that I could have imagined.


Upon my arrival at the entrance of the castle I purchased my ticket for the Citizen's Tea Party which also included entrance to the Castle and the popular Ninomaru-goten Palace.




First of all, let me tell you...Nijo-jo Castle is HUGE and it took me some time to eventually make my way to the Seiryu-en Garden which is where the Citizens Tea Party was being held.




This particular staging of the Citizens Tea party was the 64th and with good reason, as the location is absolutely breath-taking; beautifully manicured trees amidst a serene water feature.

Although I thought I'd be attending a Chado Tea Ceremony (which is what I have been practicing) it turned out that this particular Citizens Tea party was actually a SENchado Tea Ceremony.


Now, you're probably thinking...


'What's the difference between Chado and Senchado, Nady?'

Well, in a nutshell, whilst chado involves whisking powdered green tea (aka matcha) senchado involves the preparation and drinking of sencha green tea, especially the high grade gyokuro type.

I was in for a first-time once-in-a-lifetime experience.




One of the main differences I immediately noticed was the cutest little teacups I have ever seen. Unlike Sado, the process of Senchado requires pouring small amounts of slightly-bitter high grade tea into small cups. Like a cross between wine-tasting and tea-sipping.


Two Ceremonies

Incidentally, the ticket actually included TWO Senchado Tea Ceremonies. One in the Koun-tei teahouse and the other in the Waraku-an.

Both teahouses were separated by a beautiful garden complete with its own pond and mini waterfalls. While both ceremonies were Senchado they each had different styles of preparation (from what I observed) as well as different teapots and cups.

The tastes were also distinctly different as well.

The Seiza Situation

As if being the only foreigner present was not enough to make me stick out like a sore thumb, both teahouses were equipt with tatami mats which meant that I had to sit in seiza (legs folded under butt).

That lasted for all of 5 minutes before I had to give in and sit cross-legged (much more comfortable) to the amusement of the old Japanese ladies near to me.

Speaking of old Japanese ladies, there were quite a few persons dressed in traditional Japanese kimono for the event. Most were seated nearest to the tea master in the position of the "lead guests" and were typically the first to be served.

The vast teahouses set amidst the serene gardens and waterfalls with women in kimono seated patiently on tatami mats drinking tea was almost like a scene straight out of Oshin.

Which I was blessed to experience first-hand.




All in all, my time spent at the Nijo-jo Citizen's Tea Party was an enriching one and has given me greater insight into the significance of the Way of Tea to the rich history of Japan.




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