Saturday, March 11, 2017

Visiting Tea Ceremony Club

Continuing on my visitation rounds of after school club activities, another one that had long on my list is tea ceremony club. Japanese Tea Ceremony is a time honored tradition that dates back 1,000 years and has its roots in Zen Buddhism. 

When watching tea ceremony performed one can notice its zen-like nature. It is a process of preparing a small cup of matcha tea for a guest in a series of deliberate and time preserved movements. The result is a relaxing experience for both the preparer of tea as well as the guest and getting to enjoy a cup of tea made from the heart. 

This ceremony can be observed in tea houses given by long practiced women and men, dedicated to preserving this tradition. Its influence permeates the culture so broadly that many high schools, including mine, have an after school club dedicated to it. 

When I entered the special room used for this club, many of the club members looked on me with excitement that I would be joining their activities. I saw many students that I teach in class and many other students that I didn't already have a relationship with. We sat down on our shins to listen to the instructor's opening lesson. The two club advisers were not teachers in my school so they were not acquainted with who I was. With the whole room looking on I introduced myself, as I didn't exactly blend into the background of the activity going on. 

Watashi wa Alex desu. "I am Alex". The whole room up-roared in astonishment! One of the few rare moments my students have heard me speak Japanese. Throughout the entire ordeal I heard many girls squeal kawai'i!  or cute all aimed at me. 

From what I could glean from the adviser's opening statements (the bits she said in English) is that tea ceremony is about peace, respect, and tranquility. All these girls (and one boy) were learning an art that takes years to perfect, not only the movements, but the atmosphere as well. The students went through a few rounds of practice serving tea to one another, including me. Being served tea in this way almost feels a bit like being pampered. 
The teacher seemed rigid with the students, correcting mistakes in movements as they came up. I had actually been to a tea ceremony class before, for adults, and the strict teaching atmosphere seemed a bit tense. While this atmosphere was also a teaching one, it was clearly a safe space for high school students. At one point a girl dropped her bamboo whisk into her tea bowl. As she froze in shock the rest of the room, including the adviser and me, all looked at each other and burst out laughing. 

Some of the utensils used in tea ceremony