Friday, October 12, 2012

Time For Tea!

October has been sucking up all my extra time lately.  This is both good (quiet deployment evenings go by faster) and bad (less time to blog).  My tea instructor hosted a small tea gathering for me and another student a couple weeks ago, and I've been meaning to post some photos ever since.  So, without too much commentary, here they are.  :)

A wealthy family donated the land and money to build two tea houses in a neighboring town.  These tea houses are available for the community to rent.  We usually practice in a tatami room on the base, which is nice, but when our instructor hosts tea parties, she rents one of these tea houses.  For us to actually enjoy tea in a real tea house is a huge treat!  I still can't quite believe we've gotten to enjoy tea here.
Sado (or Chado), Tea Ceremony, is much more than just tea.  A full ceremony lasts several hours and includes a kaiseki meal, flower appreciation, decorative scroll appreciation, multiple bowls of tea, delicate treats, and...
...sake. Tea Ceremony just got a whole lot cooler!  Participants pour each other's sake into the shallow, red bowls and enjoy only after eating the fish portion of the kaiseki meal.
Post-meal, a small container of warm, flavored water is used to rinse off the chopsticks, and then the water is drunk by the guests (one container per guest).  I'm still getting used to drinking the water I used to rinse my chopsticks.
Then comes the portion we practice in class every week...eating yummy wagashi and preparing and drinking tea.  This pink wagashi's name is just as cute as it looks- "Princess Chrysanthemum."
This is the bowl of thin tea.  To Americans, this may seem a bit of a misnomer, as this tea is much thicker than anything we are used to.  The frothier the better!  The bowl is patterned with gnarled pine branches.  Pine are usually symbols of winter and the new year, but can also be used for a happy occasion (which our tea parties always are!).  Note the pattern on the inside of the bowl.  A pattern on the inside of the bowl marks this as a tea bowl, as opposed to some run-of-the-mill bowl that I'd find in my kitchen cupboard.  Be careful when handling tea bowls...they usually cost hundreds of dollars!

Disclaimer:  I do my best to make sure all my information is accurate.  However, details may change or I may just be flat-out wrong.  Please let me know if something needs a correction.  Thank-you!

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