A Four Matcha Afternoon
My hands are arguing with my mind as I type this, because I can't type fast enough—too many experiences in too short a time. At 3:00pm, I arrived at Daitoku-ji Monastery for a monthly tea event. I chatted with the kimono-clad volunteer registration person, a young professional scroll mounter. He invited me to see his workshop. We event participants then entered the tearoom. Like other tea events regularly held at temples or shrines, a tea host brings treasured implements from his/her own collection to share with a group of art-loving tea devotees. This month, the host was Chiba-san, a tea teacher employed by Master Horinouchi, a member of one Japan's oldest and most illustrious tea family dynasties. As a young Zen monk in black robes ritually prepared the matcha for us, Chiba-san spoke of the implements that he had chosen for us today: the calligraphy scrolls, the black and red raku bowls, the single camellia-bud flower arrangement, the Ko Takatori glaze cold water jar, the iron kettle, the gold makie-trimmed lacquer hearth edge, the white dumplings filled with sweet azuki an, the crisp sesame wafers.
After 40 minutes of warm conversation and two bowls of matcha, we adjourned. I was about to leave when I noticed my friend, Moriya-san, a yuzen artist (hand painted original designs on silk), showing kimono and rolls of silk to some guests. "That's right! I remember now. Today is your exhibition here at the monastery," I said to him as I stepped onto the tatami floor. Three years ago, after a 40-year career, Moriya-san moved his yuzen workshop from Kamakura to just west of the Imperial Palace grounds in Kyoto.
I had two more bowls of matcha at the exhibition. I was just about to leave, when the Abbot saw me and invited me to meet the publisher of The Chugai Nippo, a Buddhist newspaper, and have a cup of hojicha tea. Otaka-san spoke fondly of his friend, Donald Keene, the West's foremost interpreter of Japanese culture and a leading translator of modern Japanese literature. I was, again, just about to leave when I was introduced to the Zen monk who had earlier performed matcha for us. His temple is located in the western part of Kyoto and is affiliated with Tenryuji, one of my favorite places. I was, yet again, just about to leave when I ran into an acquaintance of mine—a taxi driver whom I often coincidentally see around town. I arrived at the bus stop 3 minutes before my departure time. Round trip today took 2 hours and 15 minutes. Just another ordinary day in Paradise.