Early on a cold Sunday morning, as the sun was rising over the mountains and the frost still clung to the fields, Molly and I drove into the countryside. She's been taking lessons in Japanese tea ceremony since she arrived in Japan and the women in the class have been most welcoming each time I've visited. This time, instead of dropping in on a class, my trip coincided with one of the big annual events, hatsu gama, first tea ceremony of the year.
The room is all ready.
Some come in full regalia while others come carrying furoshikis containing their kimonos. The back room bustles as we dress...
...or are dressed!
I had a hard time taking my eyes off this ensemble, a lovely neutral plaid kimono with an Indian style embroidered obi. The narrow tie around the front was woven in an arrow pattern, one side in maroon...the perfect accent!
Another lovely obi.
Lots of fussing ensues, tending details and setting up the sign-in.
Each takes her turn,
and then slips on woven sandals to go out into the garden to purify hands from a lovely water spout. Which no doubt has a special name. Everything in tea ceremony has a special name or designation.
Then we dash back (It's winter! It's freezing out!) through the garden and enter the tea ceremony room from outside. We enter in a special way, on knees, bowing, doing a little hop-scoot. I'm sure you could study the art of Japanese tea ceremony for 20 years and not yet get to its finer points. This group, however, is relaxed and fun. Always fun.
The ladies are mostly wearing the proper hatsu gama kimono style of muted, solid colors. Molly's sensei (teacher), however, has chosen our brightly colored kimonos from her large collection. They are from her younger days and several times she tells us how happy she is to see us wear them as they remind her of events to which she wore them...a daughter's graduation, among them.
We sit around the perimeter of the room, each receiving her individual bowl of tea in turn. With so many participants, tea ceremony was rather lengthy this time. Most of the Japanese women can sit seiza for an eternity (hours plus). I can do it for about 10 minutes. 10 minutes on a good day.
Thank goodness for my little cheater mushroom stool. Even with this aid, my feet still fall asleep and my legs cramp periodically. But it's some relief.
It was my fourth visit to the tea ceremony group and probably my last. A little poignant, especially as Molly made my tea for the last time, but I had little time to dwell on that as I concentrated on shifting my feet to avoid making a scene.
All in all, a lovely day and lots of good memories!