CHADO: a multifaceted living embodiment of Japanese culture: a conversation with Naomi Takemura
Sensei, what is your title and organizational affiliation?
I have received the teaching degree of Seikyoju, from present Grand tea master, Sen Soshitsu of Urasenke in Kyoto. Currently I am a Chief Administrator of Urasenke Tankokai Seattle Association.
What are your primary duties in this role?
One is to introduce and promote the Way of Tea (Chado) to the community and another is to maintain contact and communication between local members and Urasenke Headquarters in Kyoto, Japan..
How long have you studied the Way of Tea?
I took my first lesson when I was 10 years old. During high school and college, I really began to appreciate the atmosphere of the tea room. To me, this is a lifelong study, so there is no graduation day.
How much of this training was in Japan?
Most of my training was in Japan before I came to the US in 1966. I learn a great deal about Chado through teaching it to my students.
Is instruction in the Way of Tea approached differently in Japan, than from in the United States?
Even though the objective of instruction remains the same, certain aspects of the ceremony are modified in the United States since its lifestyle and customs are different from those in Japan.
It is a kind of meditation to me. It gives me time to reflect, and shows me the right path. Chado has taught me to appreciate what you have, and to make good use of the time you have now. It also taught me the importance of history and tradition. When you can concentrate on what you do in everyday life, as in the tea ceremony, you will find many discoveries and receive many benefits.
When one studies the way of tea what areas of Japanese culture does one get exposed to?
You should know the items necessary for the tea setting, such as tea utensils (metal, wood, and ceramics), calligraphy, and flower arrangements. As time passes, you develop the sense of appreciation and knowledge for these items. Proper etiquette and manners are essential at the tea gatherings. There they develop a sense of trust, respect, and understanding between the host and guest.
How much of the study of tea is experiential, rather than book based?
There are three basic aspects in learning tea; these are knowledge, discipline and practice. Even though you can learn much by reading books, the most important thing is practice. With practice, everything becomes part of you. With proper basic training, you can learn much from solo practice. It may take time, however, students will acquire these sooner or later.
Do you think that this kind of training changes the way we move, think, or see things?
Yes, I definitely think so. My life is so entwined with Chado that I cannot think of myself without associating myself with Chado. When I think of Chado, the following words come to my mind: tradition; manner; friendliness; kindness; thoughtfulness; humbleness; humility; truthfulness; concentration; discipline; appreciation; responsibility; dedication; consideration; sympathy; togetherness; congeniality; integrity; and simplicity.
Can you give me some examples?
Well, how to walk, hold a cup, greet guests, speak, eat and so forth.
The Way of Tea guides me to change me, not other people. It teaches me the importance of retreat from a self-centered way of life. To me, the most important quality for those who love Chado is omoiyari ( 思いやり) which in English is a mixture of kindness, sympathy, consideration, and thoughtfulness. I have met many people who have posses this important quality.
How might a garden visitor benefit from being exposed to this practice in a public tea ceremony?
Garden visitors would have chance to experience a very different kind of culture. Through their participation, it is my hope they will catch a glimpse of the essence of The Way of Tea, which is WA (harmony), KEI (respect), SEI (purity) and JAKU (tranquility).
Takemura Sensei, let me thank you for sharing your time and insight with us today.
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