Monday, May 15, 2017

Ancient Spiritual Rituals: Japanese Tea Ceremony and American Ice Cream Ceremony

For Western folks whose cultures only go back a few hundred years, and whose attention spans barely reach a few minutes ago, the Japanese tea ceremony seems "ancient". In it's present forms and practice, it's barely a half millennium old.

In fact, to quote Carly Simon's "Anticipation" anthem, "These are the good old days." Many of the same secular and religious buildings in which tea was shared by Rikyu and his patron the Toyotomi Shogun Hideyoshi in the 16th century are still standing and used. My home tearoom is certainly not ancient, yet the same alchemical reactions of fire, water, air, metal and wood / earth is no less or more viable than those before.

The spirit of the moment is also ours to evoke.

So why do we have to make a fuss, to exoticize this practice? When I hear of the "secret temaes" that were only taught to initiates, I think of rituals and rites that belong to a privileged few for no other reason than to keep some people out or to make the members seem distinctive. There's nothing inherent in chanoyu that needs to be "secret". C'mon, guys!

Certainly, there is a shift in consciousness when one picks up a hishaku (water ladle) and prepares to draw boiling water from an iron kettle, but only if  consciousness was present a split second before. 

And, yes, while it is the host who is picking up the ladle, the shift can also be experienced by the guest who is in deep anticipation (if s/he knows what comes "next").

It's the simplicity of the temae that defies expectation, the extra falls off the ordinary to make the experience one that is nothing much but a deeply human experience.

I don't think that I can explain it further. It's not ancient. It's not mysterious.

Chawan "All-Stars" & Other Top Tea Toys @ Tokyo National Museum

Not since 1980 have chawan and other National Treasures that were used by / in the collection of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, Oda Nobunaga, Sen no Rikyu and Matsudaira Fumai been together in a single exhibition! 

Welcome to the 21st Century! We’re talking Tenmoku, Oido, Raku, Celadon, Mino, Raku, Shino, works by Chojiro, Hon’ami Koetsu. On exhibition together (with frequent rotation) for a few months at the Tokyo National Museum.

The new tea drinking practices of the Song Dynasty were learned by Japanese Zen monks studying in China around the 12th century and then spread among Zen temples, samurai families, and other members of Japanese high society. These people displayed their status by decorating tea rooms and serving tea with exquisite Chinese artworks called karamono. During the Azuchi-Momoyama period in the 16th century, Sen no Rikyu perfected a new style of tea called wabicha in which Chinese artworks were used together with humble utensils from everyday life, and the tea ceremony spread from the elite of society to lesser lords and townspeople. In this manner the tea ceremony developed over hundreds of years into a prominent and unique aspect of Japanese culture. This major exhibition will focus on how the arts of the tea ceremony evolved from Muromachi period to modernity. This will be the largest exhibition of its kind since Arts of the Tea Ceremony, which was held at Tokyo National Museum in 1980. We hope that by witnessing masterpieces of the tea ceremony from various historical periods, and attuning themselves to the sensibilities of the people who used them, visitors will be able to fully experience the “Essence of Japan”. 

Exhibition Highlights
1. Once-in-a-Generation “Great Chanoyu Exhibition
The exhibition “Arts of the Tea Ceremony” held at the Tokyo National Museum in 1980 (Showa 55) was the first exhibition to present tea utensils from famous collections as Japanese art. Thirty-seven yeas later, we look back at chanoyu, the symbol of Japanese culture, with a fresh eye from a 21st –century perspective.

2. Beloved Tea Bowls of the Famous Generals and Tea Masters
The famed tea bowls once beloved by noted military commanders and tea masters that captures the hearts of people of all periods will be brought together under a single roof. These are first-class ceramics that were made in vastly different regions of China, Korea, and Japan. It is extremely rare for so many masterworks representing every major historical period to be brought together like this in what willl be a truly momentous exhibition.
Vote on your favorite!!!!!
3. From Early Modern to Modern: early modern master who maintained the history of tea tradition
Several of the great industrialists who stood at the center of Japanese economic circles in the Meiji period loved antique arts and thoroughly mastered tea ceremony from a new perspective. Through the eyes of the four figures noted in this exhibition – Fujita Kosetsu, Masuda Donno, Hirase Roko and Hara Sankei – we introduce the new charm of a tea tradition brimming with creativity.


Part 1; Tea of the Ashikaga Shogunal Family: Solemnity and Refined Taste in Karamono
Around the 12th century, the new method of tea drinking involving whisking of powerdered tea (matcha) that had been brought from Song-dynasty China gradually spread among  Zen temples and the amurai class in Japan. Tea practitioners collected all manner of Chinese artworks they termed karamono (literally “things form Tang [China]”) and displayed them in interior spaces, as well as using them to enjoy tea in demonstrations of their own status. Then, in the Muromachi period, around the 15th century, the top class karamono objects were gathered together under the Ashikaga shogunal family, especially the 8th shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, where they were classified and appraised by individuals of discerning taste. This high valuation and admiration of imported Chinese karamono objects later came to wield a major influence on later tea taste.

Part 2.  The Birth of Wabicha: Pleasing the Heart
By the end of the 15th century, the townsmen class were rapidly gaining strength as the main contributors in the new era and came to enjoy and to master renga linked poetry and Noh drama, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, incense ceremony, and other cultural arts. Amidst this atmosphere, individuals such as Murato Shuko (1423 – 1502) and te practitioners in the Shimogyo area of the capital (Kyoto) came to value not only karamono exclusively, but also in combination with objects from daily life that suited their tastes. From this aesthetic a new tide was born. The spirit of rustic simplicity in tea known as wabicha spread to the next generations of tea masters such as Takeno Joo  (1502 – 1555) and continue to deepen. We trace the changing value system with respect to tea utensils through the eyes of these practitioners, as they shift from Chinese to Korean and then Japanese objects, and further exhibit the arts of wabicha that began to emerge in the transitional period of these times.
Part 3. The Development of Wabicha: Sen no Rikyu and his Time
In the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the practice of the Way of Tea finally came to permeate broadly and deeply from the rules of the land to the regional daimyos to the townsmen due to the influence of Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), who had succeeded to the tradition of wabicha. As tea master to the ruler of the land, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Rikyu carried on the tradition that had continued since Murata Shuko and not only discovered wabicha utensils that could stand shoulder to shoulder with karamono, but also created new utensils. By arranging such pieces together in innovative combinations, Rikyu infused new breath into the world of chanoyu. In addition to utensils adopted by and created by Rikyu, it turns to Furuta Oribe (1544-1615), the tea master who carried on Rikyu’s spirit, adn the tea ceramics that blossomed in his time. 
Part 4. Classical Revival: The Tea Traditions of Kobori Enshu and Matsudaira Fumai
With the extended peace in the Edo period, tea culture experienced a period of change. A number of movements arose and mutually affected each other, including a movement to revive the tea of the samurai form the Muromachi period centered around Kobori Enshu (1579-1647), a movement to establish an iemoto system of succession of the spirit of Sen no Rikyu’s tea through headmastership, and further a movement to create a new tide incorporating the refined world of the court nobility. From the first half of the Edo period, Kobori Enshu resusciateted the tea practiced by the samurai warriors and established a new style of tea known as kiri sabi (elegant simplicity). Matsudaira Fumai (Harusato, 1751-1818), of the later Edo, chanoyu is said to have become an empty shell. Fumai, who served as the daimyo of Matsue, traced tea tradition back to the classics and collected and appraised tea utensils.
Part 5. A New Kind of Creativity: The Eyes of the Modern Tea Masters
During the period of unrest that accompanied the end of the Edo period to the Meiji Restoration, treasures and celebrated objects were released out into the world form temples and old families. It was at this time that the famous industrialists, men of refined taste who were well known in Kansai and Tokyo, of great discernment, such as Hirase Roko (Kamenosuke, 11839-1908), Fujita Kosetsu (Denzaburo, !841-19112), Masuda Donno (Takashi, 1848-1938), and Hara Sankei (Tomitaro, 1868-1939), obtained first-rate utensils and constructed a new age of chanoyu from a new value system while still giving weight to tradition.
  • Hirase Roko (Kamenosuke, 1839-1908)             A leading authority in the Osaka financial circles who was also known as a man of culture. Devoted to waka poetry and the traditional practices of court and military households as well as Noh theatre and flower arrangement.
  • Fujita Kosetsu (Denzaburo, !841-19112)            Founder of the Fujita-gumi conglomerate of Kansai which handled construction, financing, spinning and other businesses. Collection formed the foundation of the present-day Fujita Art Museum in Osaka
  • Masuda Donno (Takashi, 1848-1938)                 The first president of the former Mitsui and Co., his knowledge of Buddhist arts and other otld Japanese arts. He was devoted to chanoyu in his final years.
  • Hara Sankei (Tomitaro, 1868-1939)   Based in Yokohama, he built his fortune from the raw silk trade. Known for cultivation of young artists such as Yasuda Yukihiko and others as well as for the creation of the Sankeien Garden in Yokohoma.