Monday, February 6, 2017

Carpe Diem #1146 Tea Ceremony

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Mu apologies for being late, but I am on the nightshift. Today I had planned an episode about the tea ceremony and of course I will use that, but in a different way.

Several years ago I wrote a haibun about the Tea Ceremony, it was part of a haiku book I had created in Dutch. That haibun I have tried to translate and that's what I love to share today. I love to challenge you (as in our special feature Kamishibai) to write a haibun or kikobun about the tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony is really awesome to see, but it is even better to experience it and that's what my haibun is about.



I am in classical Japan and Rykyu has invited me for a Tja-no- Joe. My heart beats faster, my mind runs. Finally I'm going to experience the tea ceremony and for sure it will be an experience.

a hand written calligraphy
for a Tjaji

I walk to Rykyu's home. A beautiful Japanese House surrounded by an even more splendid garden. Breathless, I look around me. ' Wow ', is the only thing I can bring out. I am deeply touched by this intense experience. Tears roll over my cheeks. Slowly I walk on. Enjoying the garden, the beautiful flowers, the rustling of the leaves of the ginkgo tree, the splashing of water.
Rykyu's garden breathes the atmosphere of haiku, it feels like I'm walking around in a haiku. The silk of my traditional kimono feels great on my naked skin. The straw sandals fit perfectly.

I feel the heat and try to cool myself with my fan.
On the porch of Rykyu's house I smell the scent of irises, lilies and honeysuckle. I knock at the door.

knocking on the door  
the host expects his guest –
first day of spring
Rykyu invites me inside. I pull off my sandals and put them next to the door jamb on the veranda under the Honeysuckle. Rykyu's house exudes peace and silence. His house is aesthetically decorated. Every detail, each piece is chosen with love and from the heart. I hear soft music. I see a young woman sitting in the conservatory with a Shakuhachi. The music is illuminating and soothing. Rykyu hands me a Koto. He nods. I hesitate to play the instrument. He encourages me to play. Than …, the heavenly music resonates in perfect harmony with the Shakuhachi. Serenity drops around me, only the music. Through the window I see that the sun changes the color of the sky. The night falls. This peace, this silence … This has to be the ultimate Japanese experience.
The music fades away, a last cord and then … deep silence. Only the wind and the song of cicadas.

sweet summer night
cicadas sing their song
deep is the silence
Rykyu bends and smiles at me. I experience it as a sincere thank you for the music. He beckons me.
I follow him into the garden. Finally I will experience the tea ceremony. We walk through the garden. The fragrances of the evening are overwhelming. I listen to the sounds of nature, the wind, the cicadas, the rustling of the leaves and the splashing of water. We reach a water basin. Rykyu scoops  water and washes his hands. I do the same. This is a moment of reflection, of cleansing and tuning in on the tea ceremony.

wooden spoon--
the cool water
flushes the world away  
full attention
I clean my hands –
the first step
We walk on. Rykyu has a beautiful tea house in his garden. Made of bamboo. The door is low and I have to crawl inside. This is equality and respect.
on my haunches
as all the guests
we are equal
In the Tokonama I spot a calligraphed Zen saying:
"Emptiness is not really empty, the spirit of emptiness there is always present “
I praise Rykyu with the choice of it. He bends and smiles.

As I look around, I see all the amenities for the tea ceremony. I am caught by the sight of the tea bowls. They are beautiful, aesthetically pleasing and perfect. They are not perfectly round, but more oval, here and there a little less deep, but ... great.  
And always the silence, deeper and more intense. One with the silence, one with each other, one with nature, one with the universe.
I admire the grace with which Rykyu prepares the tea ceremony. Every gesture, every movement is aesthetically pleasing and steeped in Zen.
cleaning the tea bowls
while the water is cooking
ah! that silence
While Rykyu is preparing the tea ceremony. I am invited by the young woman, who accompanied us, to go outside and admire the garden. The soft light of fire pits turns the garden into a fairy world. Breathtaking. We  walk through the garden. Each step is thought out and aesthetic. This is what excites me so in the  Japanese culture. Everything is thought out, every act you do is aesthetically pleasing and full of Zen. This is what I lack in the West.
in the garden
walking in silence –
Azalea in bloom
When we return in the tea house the calligraphed Zen saying in the Tokonama is replaced by a single Chrysanthemum in a beautiful vase decorated with a Sumi-e painting.
Sumi-e painting "Chrysanthemum" found on Pinterest
Rykyu invites me to come. He cleans the tea bowls, even in this I recognize aesthetics, his gestures, his movements all Zen.  
He puts the powder tea in one of the tea bowls and pours boiling water on the tea. A frothy mass is formed. “This is the “thick tea”, I think.  
bitter taste
the “thick tea” caresses my tongue
we share the bowl
“thick tea” as a source of contact
sharing unconditional love
The tea is drunk from one bowl that we share with each other. I take three sips, make the edge clean and turn the tea bowl three strokes while I have it on my palm. Then I give the tea bowl  to the young woman. She takes the tea bowl  with a bow and take three sips. She also makes the edge clean and turns the bowl three strokes before she gives it back to Rykyu.
Rykyu accepts the bowl with a bow and takes three sips, makes the edge clean and places the bowl in front of him. “Now the “thin tea” will follow”, I think.
“thin tea”
in earthen tea bowls
what a beauty

The tea ceremony is coming to an end. I admire the earthenware tea bowls. At the end of this experience we write a 36-verses renga together, “knocking on the door”.
As I say goodbye I am overwhelmed by emotions. This experience I will never forget.
© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... I hope you did like this episode, and I hope that I translated it all in the right way.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 11th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our next episode, Ise Shrine, later on.


  1. Fascinating, Kristjaan! Every single detail so beautiful - it was a true pleasure for me to read and enjoy.