Saturday, July 04, 2009

Tea ceremony in the City

The queue was long but thank God the line went fast. I didn't think the after-hours mixer at the Asian Art Museum was this popular. Could it be that the tickets to the museum was a bargain at ten bucks considering it already includes the The Lords of Samurai exhibition? Or was it because art loving singles of the city flock to these events in order to see and be seen? Maybe going to these mixers is just plain cool?

It was already 6:30p when I got in and it was packed. At first I didn't know where to go. I glanced at the programme but it made things even more overwhelming. Should I see the Samurai exhibition first or head straight to the sake tasting? What about the tea ceremony upstairs? There was even a pottery making section. What a relief I felt when I saw mijo waiting at the lobby but it turned out he did not know where to start either.

We went to a section where a lot of people were congragating. It was the pottery section where everyone in line was given a packet with wet clay and paper. I thought I could do this at home so I took mine to-go.

Next, we went to see the Samurai exhibition where I learned about the different intricate armors and how they were designed for warfare and how it eventually evolved into ceremonial pieces. I wonder how could a samurai wear such a heavy outfit and still go to battles? The swords' craftmanship is impressive it is hard to imagine how they were made without the use of modern machineries. The calligraphy and paintings are equally impressive.

My favorite, this was where we spent most of the evening, was the tea ceremony. At first we didn't know where to begin. There were three tables and a platform in the middle which was an obvious venue for the tea ceremony. I managed to choose a table where tea whisking demonstrations were being held. I especially like the sweet rice cake rolls they passed around before the actual tea whisking. I said oishi with a bad twang but it still made the Japanese lady giving the demonstration smile. I learned how to clean a bowl, check the bamboo stirrer for splinters and how to evenly whisk a matcha tea without leaving it lumpy.

Thanks to mijo, I was able to get a seat to the tea ceremony. We were told it was a shortened version, about 20 minutes from start to finish, of the real one that can last for hours. It incorporated the tea whisking skills I had learned earlier but it also included some other careful steps in preparing the tea and the rituals with the handling of the utensils included in the ceremony.

I realized there are no random actions in putting on an armor, making a sword or serving tea during those days. Everything had a purpose or meaning and was done with art in mind. No matter how slow or impractical these maybe, I sort of liked the idea.

That evening, I once again became a fan of the Japanese culture.


(The photo above was taken while on queue for a tea whisking demonstration at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA)

No comments: