Fuden-An: Leaves from a Tea-Journal

The way that leaders always ought to be

KOBORI Sojitsu (the 13th Grand Master of the Enshu Sado School )

While feeling some relief and drawing a sigh after having embraced successful Tatezome events in Tokyo and Fukuoka, I noticed that March has already started. Speaking of New Year’s first tea ceremony in Fukuoka, it was the fifth year to be organized and held at the Enshu School’s Tea Ceremony Cultural Hall. For this year, due to snowing weather for both 2 days, we, organizers, had been much concerned about transport service for those who would attend the ceremony, but it turned out to go well and filled with participants as usual.

At the period of disciplinant long ago, I learned that it was essential for hosts to well prepare for a tea ceremony at least one hour earlier than usual, when it snows. First of all, we added charcoal to the fire and boiled the water, which was, of course, an aim to warm up rooms. Then, each of us worked on snow shoveling for a fixed amount of time and came back to the tea room in order to carry out a normal type of preparation. When it was completed, we were back outside once again for snow removal. This is how it works for a snow day. You see how important it is to conduct these preparations with a good teamwork by just a limited number of assistants.

When this is made just by one person, preparation must be carried out in an orderly and effective manner, as if you move spontaneously without thinking, unless it will fail to make it on time. To reach the level, it considerably requires a great amount of training and practice. As Grand Master Sen no Rikyu advised “Prepare for a rainy day even if it is fine weather”. We must not forget this mentality and mindset all the time. When snowing is forecast from the previous day, we put lid part of straw rice bale (called “Sandawara”) on stepping stones in the adjacent garden. For one thing, this is protection against snow, and that also becomes beautiful scenery after ceasing to snow, for another. To perform the tea ceremony means to learn how to deal with these unexpected matters. It is all about ready-wittiness and spirit.

Well, I assume that a lot of people are aware that I participate in midwinter training of Kendo club of Gakushuin around this period every year. This year, as my son, Masahiro, also attended this training together so that his presence seemed to make me get a hustle on training harder than usual without being aware. Nevertheless, I had attended all day for one-week training, and made it safe and sound. Forty-two years have passed since I started to practice Kendo. When I was in the 5th grade, I asked my father if he made me take Kendo class. He told me, “You should continuously pursue them all your life, once you decide to start whatever you want”. Probably, it is the only commitment that I have delivered on until now among the old promises I made with my father in my childhood.

This midwinter training of Kendo is a large scale of event with a wide variety of attendees, not only from elementary school kids through university students and even fellow alumni of Gakushuin, but also from some Imperial Guard and other schools. Among the participants, I noticed to become rather senior members so that I was seated at 5th highest position for most of cases when lining up before practice. One day, when one participant, coaching Kendo at another university, joined the training, I treated him with respect and invited him to take a higher seat, which he reserved. I pressed a bit further and it turned out that he knew me during my school days and he also knew that he was one year younger than I. However, I thought that he was the master and I was merely older, so that he should be seated at a higher position, but he persisted in saying no. In this kind of situation, even in tea ceremony as well, things easily quiet down for me to take a higher seat. When attendees don their mask and started practice, he was next to me in order of precedence as mentioned above. While practicing kendo and seeing how it worked next to me, I recognized his thorough coaching performance. He stooped to elementary students and offered advice to pupils of junior high school and high school or female sworder, according to their level. His intention and spirit drove me home, even though I spent just a short time to practice together with him.

“To lead someone is to have affection for them”. That’s what he showed me. It is such a good opportunity for me to go back where I started and think about the implication to become leaders.