The shape of ash[Aug 2013]

Fuden-An: Leaves from a Tea-Journal

The shape of ash[Aug 2013]

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

Even for the peak of summer it is truly hot these days. The weather these days has been more and more unseasonable and even during the rainy season, there were dry spells followed by sudden heavy rain, sometimes as much as several centimeters per hour. We must all be cautious of our health when the weather is this way.

From May to June, over the course of several days, for the first time in the year, I organised tea ceremonies using a wind furnace at Jyoshuan. I will forgo the details here but it has been a long time since I last used a Unryu wind furnace. The ash is deliberately shaped into a shape called Unryu, passed down from ancestors in the Enshuryu school, which is used specifically for this Unryu furnace.

We usually arrange the ash into different shapes for use in the furnace during the seasons of its use. Each tea school arranges the ash in its own unique way. In Arima in Hyogo prefecture there is a mountain called Haigata (the Japanese for 'ash shape') and it is said that the former tea masters would often look at the mountain and discuss the shapes of ash.

In Enshuryu, we use moistened ash. This ash has been passed on down over the generations and within the grains of ash, there exist grains which originated from more than fifty and hundred years ago. Every year, with the greatest possible care we create new ash to ensure that the amount of ash stays the same. Since we use this ash to create various shapes, we can't allow a single grain to be wasted.

There are two reasons why we decided to use the Unryu furnace this year. The first was because it was the most suitable and easiest to combine with the other tools used on this occasion and second was to create the Unryu ash shape.

As mentioned earlier, we do not create this ash shape all the time and due to the complexity of and difficulty in creating the shape, we do not normally make it in public. The only people who ever saw my father create this ash shape was only myself and Mr. Ando and this was because it was necessary to pass the tradition down to others.

While it was possible to record how this shape is created, in the past this would have been sketched down but today it would be easier just to take a photograph, there is much that can't be learned unless one actually tries to create it firsthand. It is important that it is the body, not the eyes or the mind, learns how to do it.

It had been more than ten years since we had seen my father create the shape so Mr. Ando initially had trouble remembering the shape. Over time, through repeated practice and tea ceremonies, he was able to create the most beautiful ash shape. This shape and the occasion where it was created were unique and would never recur.