A meeting in the sky[August 2016]

Fuden-An: Leaves from a Tea-Journal

A meeting in the sky[August 2016]

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

Summer has finally arrived. As I wrote last month, be careful not to get heat stroke. In a tea room, the furo, or kettle installed on the tatami, is heated with charcoal to boil water. The way charcoal is placed and the shape of the ash around the charcoal changes with the season, such as in May when the Furo is used for the first time in the year and again in July or August. In May, a large Furo is heated using a large amount of ash. In July and August, a relatively small furo is used and ash coals are placed so as to surround the furo in order to limit heat emission.

In this way, the furo, coals and ash change depending on the season and temperature. This is not a rule but it is about the host’s state of mind. When we practice the art of tea, we often conform to long established traditions, but once we reach a certain level it is important that we incorporate our own ideas.

On May 29th I conducted a tea ceremony in Matsuyama castle. As you may know, the city of Takahashi where the castle is located was where Enshu and his father worked for the government after the battle of Sekigahara. Today the castle is known for being "the castle in the heavens" as it is located in the highest part of Japan. The castle towers are accessible by driving part of the way by car and then walking the rest for about twenty minutes.

On the day of the tea ceremony, I took a walk towards the castle tower but for the last five hundred meters my knees began to feel the burden. During Enshu’s time this path would certainly have been more difficult. In fact, Enshu fulfilled his duties in a building called Onegoya which he used as his residence. Today, the location of this property is the Takahashi High school where parts of the Onegoya stone wall are still preserved.

Prior to settling in at Onegoya, Enshu lived briefly in Raikyuji temple, the garden in which is well known for being his design. The Hourai style garden with a view of Mt. Atago was his first creation and the Satsuki (Rhododendron indicum) in this garden is very famous.

Fortunately, our tea ceremony coincided with the blossoming of the Satsuki. The ceremony was dedicated to the successive lords of Takamatsu castle. What delighted me was that Mr. Shigenori Itakura, the 19th Chief of the Itakura family and last lord of the castle, greeted me. Our two families have relations going back many years - when Enshu served as military governor of Fushimi in Kyoto, the Itakura family was the top representative of the department of maintenance of security in Kyoto. The fact that our two families could meet again at this tea ceremony after 400 years made the day so very memorable and significant for me.