Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Yesterday I visited a tea ceremony club at an elementary school in Kochi city. It was for an article I’m currently writing for a magazine, and I had a great time there. (For those who are not familiar with the tea ceremony, here is some information.) 

As I wrote in my blogs before, my mom is a tea ceremony teacher. She made arrangements for me with her fellow teacher who teaches this club. (Thanks mom!) And the young and open-minded principal of the elementary school gave me permission to attend the club and take photos of the kids. He also asked the kids’ parents if it was OK to use the photos for the magazine article and got their permission for me. (There are more than 12 kids in the club. Did he make 12 phone calls?! Gee, what a kindness! I’m so grateful.)

Unfortunately, I told them about the magazine but not about this blog, so I didn’t get a permission to post the photos of the kids here. But let me tell you… They were so adorable! Anyway, here I posted a couple of photos that don’t include kids.

I have to admit that I had a stereotype about what a tea ceremony club is like. -- Serious atmosphere. Quiet and obedient kids who were told by their parents to join this club. -- They must be trying so hard not to say “Oh, bitter!” after drinking tea made by mixing matcha powder and hot water. But it was not like that AT ALL!

The teacher, who is about my mom’s age, brought more than 10 tea bowls, sweets and minimum tea utensils for kids to prepare and serve tea. They use a sort of Japanese-style multipurpose room at the elementary school, which is floored with tatami mats. After she laid the utensils and sweets out on a couple of low tables, kids came in one after another. No, they were not super-patient, serious students or anything… they were just cute, ordinary kids: three boys and seven girls. (I heard that the boys were also enthusiastic succor players!) The kids were rather quiet, but looked comfortable and relaxed being there.

The kids were broken into pairs and given the tasks of serving sweets and making/serving tea. They took turns to do the tasks. With the teachers’ help, they prepared tea, two of them at one time, on the low table near the wall, and brought it across the room to the kids who were given the task of being “guests.”

Most of the formal procedures were skipped, but they did bow and offer tea properly, sitting on the tatami floor. It was just so cute when they did that! And they were obviously having fun doing so. For them it was probably a fun part of the game rather than a rule they were forced to follow. Most surprisingly, the kids seemed to like the taste of the bitter green tea! The teacher said that when she started teaching this club, she made weaker tea for the kids, but soon they asked her to make it stronger, just like the tea that adults drink. After all kids drank tea once, the teacher asked, “Who wants second?” then almost all kids raised their hands with big smiles! @.@

The teacher was terribly busy throughout the practice. She made hot water (but not too hot for the kids’ safety) in the adjacent small kitchen and brought it in cute little tea pots to the low table where kids prepared tea. She was obviously trying to give each kid a chance to do all kinds of tasks, and give me more chances to shoot the photos. What was very impressive and even touching for me was that, seeing the teacher being that busy, some of the kids, including the succor boy, spontaneously washed the tea bowls in the kitchen to save the teacher’s trouble!

I felt that this simplified tea ceremony practice was successfully giving the kids the most important message of this traditional performance. The teacher said, “I don’t want to force these kids to memorize detailed rules, because it’s not what tea ceremony is really about. Tea ceremony is about enjoying tea.” I think the kids are so lucky to be in this tea ceremony club with this teacher.

They were talking about some kind of winter school festival in January in which the tea ceremony club members serve tea to visitors from the community. I’m thinking about visiting this, and if I managed to get their parents’ permission, I’ll post the photos of them doing tea ceremony. ;)
posted by obachan, 9/27/2006 11:00:00 AM


I was for the first time to a tea ceremony a week ago (Urasenke school, we have a teahouse built by Japanese teahousebuilders here in Fnland), and it was a very ceremonial business. I would have loved to see the children enjoying the tea ceremony, it souds so stress free when you describes it! Even if the ceremony I attended was highly ceremonial it was very realxing, and I felt very at peace with the word after it.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9/27/2006 2:08 PM  
How beautiful when such elegant traditions are carried on. Thank you for the post. Hopefully, we will get to read (and see pictures) more about it in the future.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9/28/2006 5:56 AM  
Lovely display.

Heh. I remember etiquette classes in school as a youngster. My parents had already drilled it into me but many of the other kids in my class had never had to handle more than three utensils. Not as spiritual as the tea ceremony but a fully formal place setting in the West can throw the uninitiated for a loop; see here http://www.emilypost.com/etiquette/everyday/table_settings_formal.htm.

Glad to see kids getting a good grounding in something they just might need.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9/28/2006 5:39 PM  
Honestly, I never expected to hear from Finland about a tea ceremony experience there! I’m so happy that you found it relaxing and peaceful. It is something really “Japanese,” but I believe it has something that can be appreciated by many people regardless of the nationality.

Thanks. I really hope to be able to post about their winter festival. The kids were sooooooo adorable.

Yeah, I can see some similarities between table etiquette and tea ceremony, and also a big, crucial difference. That is something I can address in the magazine article I’m writing. Thanks for the inspiration! :D
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/30/2006 11:56 AM  
Obachan shouldn't we be calling you Okami san?

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10/12/2006 2:37 PM  
Great post! Good luck with the article! I wish I had had somethign liek that when I was a kid! I love the teachers attitude of wanting the kids to enjoy the tea and tea making and not make them get serious about memorizing exact procedures. Very cool. I wish I could even volenteer as an adult to hlep out a kids club like that... hmmm i guess I should look into it.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10/13/2006 1:39 AM  
Oh, why? Okami-san usually means a married woman or a proprietress of a hotel or Japanese-style restaurant or something. Do I sound like one?

the wine makers wife
Thanks. I really want to do a good job writing this article for those kids and the nice teachers.
Volunteering for that kind of activity sounds like a good idea. Good luck! :D
commented by Blogger obachan, 10/14/2006 12:37 AM  

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