In November, the high school’s Art Spectrum classes visited the Japan Center to learn about the Japanese tea ceremony in preparation for making their own tea bowls. With the support of staff members, Nami Komaki (Purchasing Manager) and Erin Nelson (Director of Advancement), who are both licensed tea ceremony instructors, the Japan Center presented an authentic tea ceremony.
In the first half of the session, Rebecca Sentgeorge’s (HS Art Teacher) and Brendan Sarsfield’s (HS Art Teacher) students learned about the different styles and features of tea bowls, as well as the historic background of “Sado” or “The Way of Tea.” The students learned that a tea ceremony host carefully selects the bowl(s) depending upon the season, the occasion for the ceremony, the type of procedure being performed, the guests and the other utensils being used.
In the last half of the session, students had the opportunity to observe an actual tea ceremony demonstration and perform the steps of being a guest at a tea ceremony. They learned the Japanese phrases used before drinking tea to show respect to the other guests. They were also able to eat authentic tea ceremony sweets and drink matcha tea.
“I loved the matcha and it was very interesting to learn about how the shape, thickness, and length of the bowls vary by season. I also thought the different bows and addresses to the people around were very meaningful, and the politeness is a part of Japanese culture that I deeply respect.”
-Lucy Chi , Grade 12
Before the winter break, these same students will meet again in the Japan Center for the culminating experience of whisking and tasting matcha in their very own hand-made tea bowls! (Mariko Yokosuka, Japan Center Co-Director)
In addition to the Art Spectrum class’s visit, tea ceremonies were also held for anyone interested in the art. Vera Adams (ES Teacher) attended one of these sessions and offered the following reflection on her first tea ceremony.
It was the end of another busy school day and I still had much to do, but when I looked at my watch, I remembered that there was a tea ceremony starting in the Japan Center. The tea ceremony was something I never had the good fortune to experience, and I was curious to understand it. I rushed out of my classroom, ran up the steps of the CADC, slipped out of my shoes and let my knees drop into an empty cushion. I was welcomed with friendly smiles as I looked over the shoulders of other faculty, parents and students to a simple display of steaming water, bowls, a whisk and ladle.
As I watched the steam spiral and rise, the precise way to hold the ladle and turn the bowl was gently explained and my day started to slow down. I was served a bowl of hot matcha with a perfect, leaf-shaped sweet. I spent a moment just taking in the lovely design of the pottery and the thick froth on the tea before tasting the delicacies. “So this is the tea ceremony,“ I thought. It’s simple. It’s precise.
I was invited to take a turn, and as I settled on the cushion in front of the steaming water, it was then that I saw it. I saw that in all the simplicity was profound beauty, and it took my breath away.
The tea ceremony invites you into mindfulness, complete attention to the here and now. While watching the delicate swirls of steam rise, or listening to the trickle of the water as it’s poured, or feeling the texture of the woven tatami under your feet, everything else in our fast-paced lives falls away. “I understand now,” I thought. “I understand something more about my home, Japan.”