Monday, January 30, 2012

New Gamelan Classes

Gamelan Sekar Sequoia

Sunday mornings,
Feb 5, 12, 19, & 26, 2012,
9:30-10:30 am
11th & D in Arcata, near HSU
$25 for the 4-week session. For more info email or call Sharon at (707) 502-7904

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Omizuya (water house), detail
Toshogu Shrine, Nikko, Japan

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tea Ceremony Demonstration, Jan. 2012

We welcomed 17 people to the Ink People Center for the Arts for our first demonstration of 2012. We demonstrated ro-usucha-temae.  

Harvey-sensei welcomes our guests and gives them an introduction to Cha-no-yu.

Pia and Kristin working hard in the mizuya
After the demonstration, Pia, Kristin and I quickly made many bowls of tea in the mizuya and took turns taking them out to guests while Harvey answered questions about procedure, equipment, culture. My favorite question was from a self-posessed pre-teen who asked, "What is your position on Lemon Zinger?" As she left, she commented to her mother that she had a great time.

If weather permits, we will enjoy cherry blossom viewing at our next demonstration.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō


Thirteen prints from Hiroshige's famous series of woodblock prints, "The 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō," are on display at the Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka, Calif. The exhibit, which is in the Youth Gallery, is aimed at educating young people about Japanese history and culture with maps and timelines, a biography of Andō Hiroshige, and explanations of how the prints were created. Each print is accompanied by a facsimile of the wood block and a poster detailing features of the print, such as the landscape, weather or articles of clothing.

The exhibit will be on display through February 26, 2012.

The Morris Graves Museum of art is located at 636 F Street, Eureka, Calif. Open Wed. through Sunday, noon to 5:00 p.m. An admission donation of $4.00 is suggested, but admission to the museum is free during Arts Alive!, February 4, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. For more information, call (707) 442-0278.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Of Okiro and Encouraging Friends

Some time ago, I had an email conversation with a Facebook tea friend, Rebecca Cragg, owner of Camellia Teas of Ottowa. I lamented that our chashitsu didn't have a proper ro, or sunken hearth. Our grand chashitsu plan is to raise the floor so that we can have a sunken hearth, but that is several years and many dollars away from realization.

"Make an okiro!" she said.

I confess, I had never heard of an okiro. So I did a little homework and learned that okiro are "above-ground" hearths that sit on top of the floor or tatami for rooms that can't accommodate sunken hearths.

Rebecca encouraged me by sending me photos, descriptions and diagrams of okiro she had constructed. With her crafty skills and a little help from Home Depot (they cut her lumber to specification), she assembled and finished two okiro. Most clever of all, she lined them with a cement compound so she could practice sumitemae. (Some okiro have electric inserts, much like electric furo.) We planned to make our okiro using an old ro-buchi (the top frame of the ro), an electric element from a broken furo and a metal ro insert that Harvey-sensei believed was somewhere in storage among many boxes of assorted tea equipment that we had been given stewardship of several years before.

We came to the Tea Ceremony in 1986 while in college at Humboldt State University. We enrolled in "Zen Cultural History," taught by Dr. Lloyd Fulton and his Sensei, Hirose-sensei, of Tokyo. We were hooked. For many years, Hirose-sensei returned each spring to co-teach the course with Dr. Fulton until her health interfered with her ability to travel. Even then, some of her students would come from Japan to help teach Cha-no-yu in her stead, and after several years of study with Hirose-sensei and her students, Harvey was also teaching Cha-no-yu.

As a tireless champion of Japanese culture and architecture, Dr. Fulton had built several tea rooms, a tea house modeled after Tai-an (Sen no Rikyu's tea hut in Kyoto), a portable tea pavilion, and amassed a diverse collection of equipment for the Tea ceremony. One of the tea rooms he built had a raised floor which accomodated a ro, complete with an electric element. It was this this ro that Harvey remembered having the metal insert that he believed we could convert into an okiro.

In 2001, Dr. Fulton unexpectedly passed away. After his estate was settled, his son entrusted us with Dr. Fulton's dogu and related equipment so that we could continue to teach and share Japanese Tea ceremony. With the help of the Ink People Center for the Arts, an arts and culture non-profit organization (NPO), we created Horai Center for the Study of Pacific Culture. At the time we lived in a small two-bedroom house, and we didn't have the space for a tea room at our home, let alone for storing all the dogu, tatami, books and assorted curiosities. Items were inventoried and moved into a storage unit, and we kept out only a few items that we needed for weekly Tea practice.

Several years later, we moved into our current home, a larger house with space for a tea room. We still had to store many of the large items -- such as tatami -- in the infrequently-visited, seldom-tidied storage unit. My nose itched at the thought of digging through dusty boxes in search of this mysterious metal ro insert, but I was encouraged by the thought of practicing ro-temae on a regular basis and anticipated creating an okiro similar to those made by Rebecca. After a surprisingly short and not-too-dusty search -- and to my everlasting delight -- I discovered that although we did not have the metal insert we had two electric okiro! Both units are functional, but one wooden frame needs repair.

 Thank goodness for inspirational friends!

One okiro, no waiting!

This little okiro needs repair.

Oshogatsu Osoji

What Christmas is to Americans, Oshogatsu, the New Year holiday, is to the Japanese. Families gather, gifts are exchanged, businesses close for several days. In preparation, homes are cleaned top-to-bottom and then decorated. There is a frenzy of cooking mochi and other special New Year foods.
"Preparations for Oshogatsu begin in mid-December. Two Kadomatsu are placed in front of the main gate of the house. They are very elaborate ornamental arrangements of pine with bamboo intermingled wth the longer bamboo upright section in the middle. The Kadomatsu stand on the ground like gate guardians. Because of its hardiness, the pine tree stands for long life, and the bamboo for constancy and virtue -- a pun on its name. Shimenawa, or rice straw rope, hangs from the lintel of the entry door, a sacred rope from which hang wisps of gohei, white paper. Another arrangement of pine branches and bamboo adorns the main room withing the house to which blossoming plum is added. ... 
"... Kagami mochi, a large [mochi] surrounded by small ones, is placed on the stand in the main room's tokonoma, or alcove, next to the pine, bamboo and blossoming plum arrangement. ...
"To receive the New Year properly, each household must have susu barai, or cleaning day. It was a formerly hearth hearth exorcism. Even though I have lived away from my homeland for many years, I still practice this ritual at each year's end so that I have a very fresh start at the beginning of the new year."
-- Kimiko's World, Kimiko Sugano

Another word for pre-New Year cleaning is osoji.

In our home, we prepare for Christmas with a thorough cleaning in anticipation of visits from family and friends. Then after Christmas we then turn our attention to the chashitsu, the tea room, in observance of the Japanese tradition of cleaning the home and hearth for the New Year. 

Even though the tatami are swept and wiped each week during okeiko and the rest of the room gets cleaned as needed, dust and cat fur accumulates in the corners and under the mats. It's a chore to lift out the heavy tatami, vacuum and wipe them -- it used to take the two of us all day to clean the room, but our chore has since evolved into a cleaning party. Harvey-sensei's students come to help and the whole process goes so quickly that we're done in a couple of hours. Afterwards, we relax with sake and a bowl of miso or soba, and look forward to the New Year.

Laura and David moved tatami mats from the tea room
and stacked them in the hall.
Tatami removed from tea room,
Harvey dusts the window sill.
Photo by David Luckhardt

Laura dusts screens, tatami and the tea room
with her handy portable vacuum.

Photo by David Luckhardt

Holly washing the windows.
Photo by David Luckhardt

Laura adjusting extensions cords for the okiro.
Photo by David Luckhardt

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Fly to Japan!" Project Not Approved for Funding

We have been following the "Fly to Japan!" project in the news since October. I had mixed emotions about the promotion, but would have seriously considered it if given the chance. Here is the most recent update (Dec. 26, 2011):
The project titled Fly to Japan! (to offer flight tickets to 10,000 foreigners with high potential to communicate Japan’s attractions), which had been covered in a number of media in autumn this year, was not approved as a governmental draft budget of FY 2012. ...
Read the full story here:

The ten million or so dollars that would have flown in tourists should go a long way to restoring the earthquake-damaged regions of Japan. Here's hoping they make it count.

New Year's Day Earthquake

The Japanese people received an ironic gift this New Year's day: another strong earthquake. The epicenter of the magnitude 6.8 temblor was about 600 km (370 miles) south of Tokyo and so deep below the ocean floor that there was no danger of tsunami.