A red Japanese plum on a snowy day [April 2014]

Fuden-An: Leaves from a Tea-Journal

A red Japanese plum on a snowy day [April 2014]

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

This February, it snowed heavily throughout the country which is a rare occurrence in recent years. In the Kanto area, the amount of snow reached historical highs in many places. Some homes became isolated and there were some people whose lives were at risk.

Like other places, there were many cancellations and traffic delays when it snowed in Tokyo, like it does every time. Either because of being unfamiliar with life in the snow or being insufficiently prepared, there were many people who were injured from falling over and breaking bones and so on. I do not think I could argue with someone if they claimed men in city folk lacked a sincere fear of nature.

By the way, the title of this blog entry has often been used to explain simply the 'reason d’etre' of Enshu and Rikyu tea ceremony.

It is said that Rikyu who completed 'Wabi Cha' once said “No flowers on days of snow”. This means 'When it snows, the world is covered in white snow as far as the eye can see. There is no need to further decorate the alcove for guests whose minds are already purified from seeing this pure, dirt less landscape.' As described in this expression, 'Setsu Gekka (Snow-Moon-Flower) ', both the snow and moon are like flowers decorating the floor.

On the other hand, it is said that Kobori Enshu, who created “Kirei Sabi”, once said “A red Japanese plum on a snowy day'. When guests walk through a pure white alley and enter the tea room and then see a single red Japanese plum on the floor, the contrast of red and white is beautiful beyond that which words can express. And since the color of Japanese plums is red, like fire, people associate this with warmth. This is an interesting story which helps us understand how two tea masters thought differently about the beauty of snow.

On February 8th, a very snowy day, I visited Nagahama city, where Enshu was born, because I was invited to the 'Nagahama Plum Bonsai exhibition'. This exhibition has a long and distinguished history and it was its 63rd event. There were three hundreds bonsai on show. Each of these bonsai are being taken care of by Bonsai experts throughout the year. There were ones which were more than four hundreds year old and there were plum trees taller than two meters. It's difficult to understand unless you've seen it yourself but the exhibition was held in a building called Kei Un Kan which was astonishingly beautiful. This year, I was appointed to the role of naming the best Bonsai of the exhibition.

In the heavy snow, I managed to arrive at Nagahama from Kobe where I had been on business, and made it to the naming ceremony on time. I named the best Bonsai “Yae Kasumi” which means 'a multi layered flowing haze'. The name might remind us of cherry blossoms but this plum is one hundred and fifty years old and two meters tall. It had very Anzusho-like characteristics and had double-flowered plums and was a pale red color. That is why I gave it this name. I also hoped that the smell of the flower covers Nagahama for many years to come.
The first time it snowed during the exhibition was February 8th, the day I visited. No doubt it was Enshu's doing.