Tokokazari - February 15, 2018

"The fisherman's life depends on the use of fishing pole." This word is from Ikkyuu, a famous Japanese priest. For serving and practicing tea, we do not need so many fancy things. We just need minimum Dogu and Kokoro, just like fisherman can make a living with a single fishing pole. We need to think of what our poles are. I sometimes feel jealous of other people who seem to be doing pretty well in their lives, and they have skills or knowledge I don't have, and I try to be like them. However, what is most important is to enhance what I already have and think about how to use it in various ways. With the even single piece of a bamboo fishing pole, the experienced fisherman uses it in some different flexible ways for different fish. Life should be creative. We should overcome difficulties in life by applying our own strength in various ways.

Also, to use the full power of what I have is connected to the other scroll of today, "Wherever you are, be your own master." I've been recently interested in theories for better performance in the workplace, and a certain book says to be responsible for your job and do everything you can for the task. It sounds ordinary, but can we always fully responsible for what we do? We sometimes think, "There is a problem, but someone else can solve it, or I can do it later." This type of thought is not responsible. So, the words of the scroll reminded me what the book said.

~ Shunto

Tokokazari - February 8, 2018

"Eshin" 廻心

When I saw this scroll, I felt that I should stop and take a deep breath to focus on myself and try to have a wider viewpoint. "Turn your mind around" sounds easy, but actually it is difficult to practice. This is because "kokoro" is sometimes changeable, unstable, and unpredictable. But I believe that we can change our kokoro. It depends on how we look at things or the situation.

"Yuki-bare" 雪晴 by Hideharu Mori

"Yuki" means snow and "bare" means sunny. When I saw this beautiful drawing, I felt anticipation for the warm spring. This drawing is very appropriate during the cold winter in Champaign. We should appreciate that for a moment that we can feel the spring even if the weather outside is very severe.

"Hakuun yuseki o idaku" 白雲抱幽石 by Sensho

"Hakuun" means a white cloud, and "yuseki" means lonely stone. As Gunji-sensei said, this is a juxtaposing metaphor. Two different feelings can be together. Sometimes we need to be flexible like a white cloud. Sometime we need to be stubborn like a lonely stone. The most important thing is that we need to consider our situation carefully and chose our appropriate behavior.

~ Tomoka


The characters for "Eshin" are translated as "Turn your mind around." The calligraphy strikes me as bold and playful, and different. It is in the spirit of the meaning of the words that invite us to think differently, to break free from our mental and emotional ruts. As Gunji Sensei explained, the second kanji is often seen on other scrolls we view at Japan House in the sense of "kokoro," meaning mind-body-spirit-heart. When the kokoro character is paired with other characters, it is pronounced "shin." The idea of Eshin is central to the practice of Chado. When we learn to practice and perform the tea ceremony we practice turning our minds around. For example, we learn different was of performing everyday activities such as walking, drinking, eating, and sitting. We learn how to use and handle familiar objects such as bowls, plates, and utensils not as common kitchen items but as works of art and tools requiring skill. It can seem counterintuitive at first to hold a tea scoop a certain way or to set the bowl down with this hand, not the other, but with practice the reason becomes clear.

After we have been practicing one style of tea ceremony for a while, the movements become more natural. The mind might even go on autopilot sometimes, executing the moves without thinking or intention. That is why it can be good to learn a new choreography of tea ceremony, e.g. tenchaban (a version of table style) or chabako (box style). With over 1,000 variations, the mind should never get dull; there will always be a new challenge to keep it sharp, keep it turning around.

Might practicing tea confer health benefits besides the oft-cited antioxidants and vitamin C in the matcha itself? Studies have shown that learning a new language or musical instrument may reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. One could argue that learning tea is like learning a new language, the body language of bowing for example; indeed, for some of us learning Japanese vocabulary for tea literally is learning a new language. Learning to "play" the water with the hishaku, to produce the staccato note of the scoop tapped on the side of the bowl, are something like learning to play a musical instrument. The tea ceremony is like these activities because it challenges our minds. It goes further by challenging our hearts and spirits as well.

~ Jennifer C.

Tokokazari - February 1, 2018

The statement "cultivation is endless" really stood out to me this week. Often, Gunji-sensei reminds us of this fact using the metaphor of a folding fan. When your fan is folded up, you may study it closely from top to bottom and feel as though you have a profound picture of the fan's essence. However, when one small portion of the fan opens up, you quickly realize there is much you have missed, and so you begin once more to examine it from top to bottom. Then, when you are satisfied with your understanding of the fan, yet another small section of the fan opens. Realizing once more what you have missed, you begin to study. This cycle continues, and the fan continues to open bit by bit, endlessly. Similarly, when when studying tea, we often feel as though we have gone through all the steps and learned everything, only to realize that we have so much left to learn. Throughout my experience as a college student, I have felt that I was working towards a single goal: finishing my four years and graduating. But now, as I near the last few weeks of my time in college, I am realizing that the cultivation of my studies, my work, and my growth really is unlimited. Though I may be ending this current chapter, the chapters to come will lead me to more learning and growth, endlessly.

~ Itamar

Tokokazari - January 25, 2018

The have the kokoro to enter the path is, indeed, to be your own master.

With the start of a new semester, our class is returning to the basics by going through warigeko. From relearning how to fold fukusa to how to properly clean and care for dogu, it is good to start fresh and remember that we are still new on the path of learning and must be earnest and humble. Humans are born with pure kokoro and as we grow, our kokoro are constantly changing. When it's time to enter Japan House for lessons, the first thing to do is use the tsukubai to purify oneself from the outside world. For a few hours, one's kokoro becomes one of determination in order to learn chado. Chado is a way of life, and while chado's purpose varies for people, its philosophies are carried to one's daily life whether they realize it or not. I feel this scroll is a reminder that one must put their whole kokoro into what they do in order to master it. When one becomes their own master, their kokoro changes - it is then that their world changes because they gain more mindfulness.

~ Diana

This week, one of the statements was "have tea." As I am entering my final semester of college, I find that this statement has more and more meaning for me every day. For the past four years, I have worked hard, spending countless days studying and worrying about many little things. Now, as I approach the end of this chapter, I realize with more clarity that it is alright to just "have tea." There are many details surrounding everything we do in life, but what really matters is what is at the core of it all. When studying tea ceremony, there are many rules and practices which must be memorized and understood, but it suffices to remember the reason that we all gather weekly: to have tea. Similarly, though there may be many tasks that I feel must be completed, and many loose-ends that need tying, I must remind myself the reasons that I am here, and I must never forget to have tea.

~ Itamar

Tatezome - January 14, 2018

For this year's Tatezome (the first tea ceremony of the year), we welcomed our honored guests: Shozo Sato - Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois, and Lindsey Stirek - Japanese Literature PhD student of Ohio State University.

Below is the Chakaiki (record of the tea gathering) as well as a small image gallery of the events throughout the day, starting with a kaiseki (light meal), followed by sumi demae (laying of charcoal), koicha (thick tea), and ending with usucha (thin tea).