I attended my first Japanese Tea chakai yesterday. The advanced students at the Issoan Tea School put on this event to celebrate Tanabata, and to welcome the newer students. I felt very honored to be invited!
Tea ceremonies are built around a theme, with clues and nods to the theme revealed throughout. Our theme was the story of the stars Vega (Orihime) and Altair (Hikoboshi), separated by the Milky Way. The two lovers are allow to meet only once each year (on the seventh day of the seventh month).
The team that prepared this chakai worked for weeks to plan in great detail. They decided upon the theme, thoughtfully selected the utensils, prepared the stories that go with the utensils, chose the foods and the poetic names, planned what kimono they would wear, made the sweets, and put their creative powers together for the extra-special touches and surprises throughout the event, all tied into the theme. On the day of the event, they cleaned (an important part of the process), prepared the food, laid out the utensils, selected and arranged the flowers, hung the scroll, readied the matcha and the water, got dressed in kimono, and many other things of which I am unaware, all in time to greet us calmly. (Note: I am leaving out some of the specifics here, as it seems appropriate to leave the intimate details to the group that gathered.)
My experience of this tea ceremony was like opening a special gift wrapped in many beautiful layers, the entirety being revealed slowly and deliberately.
I was so captured by the matcha tea-making (iced, imagine that!), and the stories, that I forget to do a few things. I will forgive myself for the blunders. Eventually my learning will integrate (practice, practice) and I will be able to both listen and move. One of the most beautiful parts of this chakai was that regardless of the inexperience of the guests, we were made to feel special, welcome, and not at all awkward.
My sincere gratitude to the Senpai (the advanced students who put on the event), the First Guest who cheerfully guided us through, and to Margie-Sensei, for the use of her tea room and the depth of instruction she offers.