2 hours ago
Sunday, November 8, 2009
It thrashes and fights
To rush back to the current
Taken from the stream
The sign hanging on the fence outside reads お茶屋, 'Tea House'. The small structure hides meekly, across the alley adjacent to the Uji tourist center. A reservation and modest fee for tickets will secure your personal tea ceremony. There are no crowds to follow, no hustle of people lining up for a seat. The only presence is the hesitation and anticipation when crossing the threshold from the known to the unknown.
Just inside the gate of Taiho-an you are greeted by a the formal trappings of a Tea House. It is a small courtyard with greenery and the crunch of stone under foot. A footpath of flat rock brings to mind an endless parade of Tea Ceremony scenes from your favorite Samurai drama. Suddenly you feel uncomfortable in Western clothing, wishing you had at least worn your Ryokan's meager yukata.
Through the doorway the now familiar sent of Tatami greets you as your eyes adjust to the truly Japanese trappings. A toconoma, tetsubin, bamboo ladle, whisk, and chawan sit comfortably waiting for your acquatance. As your feet touch the Tatami you are reminded that you have already instinctively taken your shoes off. The tatami is soft and warm on your feet but your knees reel as you fold into seiza.
Your hostess arrives in a flowing wave of Kimono and Tabi socks. Your ears struggle with your mind to catch up to the rapid Japanese of a new dialect. Its hopeless and you struggle to remember the ins and outs of Tea Ceremony. First bow to my host or was it to my neighbor?.... What was I going to say again... is it 「Osaki-ni」 or 「Arigatou」?
Suddenly it all stops, your hands wrap around the small bowl of lush green tea and you focus on calm, quiet, and nothingness. Twice you turn the bowl, enjoying its beauty, the contrast between the glaze and the tea. A small pattern within the lines of the bowl draws your eyes to focus. Somewhere in your periphery the colorful Kimono contrast to the earthen walls. The black strokes of the Sumi-e contrast against the bare toconoma.
Touching the tea to your lips you share the faint remnants of a divine whisper the history and magic of a place. As the tea fades to the bottom of the chawan your heart beats again. Your eyes and ears and mind reel again. Was it bow then pass the bowl or should I have said, 「Arigatou」 again? A struggle breaks as your mind tries to drag you back to stillness but your eyes and ears lurch you into the present. Its over and you are once again lost in the rush of being.
Slowly, after the flurry of pleasant bows and cautious smiles you revive your legs and draw yourself to your feet. Walking out of the gate the rush of plans and destinations drag you onward and that last look back, your last chance for a memory of a thing is forgotten. Suddenly your only connection to the place, the feeling, the taste, and the essence are a few hastily shot photographs.
Taiho-an is a formal and traditional Tea-house in Uji. It sits next to Byodo-in. Its name is reference to Byodo-in's Phoenix Hall and means, "Tea-house across from the Pheonix." The ceremony you will experience at Taiho-an will be unlike any other tea you take in Japan. The only experience you will find that is closer to a true ceremony is if a friend invites you to one of their own.
-The link to the Kyoto Travel Guide
-The Japanese link to Taiho-an
Talking with my dog
I find that he knows it well
Slurping his water bowl
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