2003 Student-Faculty Fellows: Whitman College

Mentor: Akira R. Takemoto, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Japan
Student: Diana Kusunoki ’05; Lisa Johnson ’05; Christine Yang ’05; Lindsey Hayes ’03

Research trip to Japan postponed to Summer 2004 because of 2003 SARS Crisis

Abstracts of Reflections and/or Research

Akira R. Takemoto

The study of tea has been an important part of my life since 1978. Professor Meiji Yamada served as my first instructor, and after training with him for a year, he introduced me to Mr. Yabunouchi Jochi, the current Grand Master. The ASIANetwork project that started in the spring of 2004 afforded me with the opportunity to share my interests with four students who committed themselves to the practice of tea ceremony movements and tea aesthetics, the Yabunouchi world of tea. In addition to training for a formal thin-tea ceremony, I wanted to introduce them to the people who support and populate this traditional art. We met and spoke with a person who makes bamboo tea utensils, a potter dedicated to producing Yabunouchi tea utensils, a lacquer ware craftsman, a maker of tea sweets, a flower arranging and tea teacher, a weaver of kimono sashes, a Buddhist scholar, a Shinshu Buddhist priest in Gifu, a Zen priest at Daitokuji in Kyoto, a seller of ceremonial and other kinds of fine tea, various students who study Yabunouchi tea and Sogetsu flower arranging, and of course, the 13th and 14th Grand Masters of the Yabunouchi Tradition. By meeting and talking to these people who are well-known in the Kyoto world of tea, I was able to give them a sense of the tea history of Kyoto, but perhaps more importantly, a sense of the people and the places that have influenced my life. Their experience included the initial physical practice of movements and procedures, the preparation for a formal tea ceremony, the performance of a tea ceremony for selected guests, and the clean up of the tearoom.

Diana Kusunoki
Courtly Elegant:
On the Tea Rooms and Gardens at the Yabunouchi Residence

I had been looking forward to this trip for about a year and a half preparing, studying, and practicing in Kyoto, Japan and the Whitman College campus. It was amazing to see how all of our hard work paid off in July when I explored the sites that I lived around for a whole year while I was abroad, but with a different intent and focus. I found out the intricacies of the incredible network of people who are associated with the Yabunouchi school of tea within Kyoto. Many of these people whom I met only briefly, but had no idea that they specialized in things such as lacquer ware and owned a well know tea store patronized by our tea teacher in Kyoto. Above all I think the best part of my experience in Kyoto studying the tea ceremony was that we saw first hand how different disciplines are integrated in tea and focused some time on each individual art as a component.

My eyes were opened to the world of tea that I had not been earlier aware of even after studying tea when I was in Japan for the year. The opportunities that we were presented with were definitely once in a life time experiences. Visiting the home of a tea whisk making family “factory” was very interesting to me because it shows that Japan still continues to preserve most of its important traditional arts such as the tea ceremony. The same goes for hand making tea bowls in the mountains and seeing the hand-made kiln of earth that it is to be fired in. It makes me feel important that I am able to revive the tea ceremony in an indirect way and then make opportunities for myself to teach others for years to come. It makes it clearer to me that conserving traditional arts are absolutely necessary and it doesn’t matter what culture it is. My heritage lies in the Japanese culture and I find a special bond to the tea ceremony because it incorporates so many of the arts that I am interested in and would like to continue to share in my family and with other people who share the same interests.

Lisa Johnson
Courtly Elegant:
On the Tea Rooms and Gardens at the Yabunouchi Residence

Academically and personally, this trip served as both the culmination and the beginning of many years studying the Japanese culture and a year of life in Japan. I never felt more comfortable with the Japanese language and culture than the last month of my study abroad experience and the few weeks of the grant trip. In tea ceremony too, I feel I accomplished a goal: after two years of study, I gave a performance for my friends and teachers, and although I made a fantastic number of mistakes and felt nervous the entire time, I felt so proud when I finished and saw the smile on the face of Yabe-sensei, my tea teacher who taught me in Japan.

However, on the heels of one journey’s completion, another is beginning. My interest in Japan is still strong, and the tea ceremony still holds excitement and new things I long to discover. I will further delve into the tea ceremony with my senior thesis which will explore the contributions of a daimyo and tea master named Furuta Oribe on Yabunouchi tea. My journey into the culture of Japan does not end with this trip, and I know in some way or another, it will always be an important part of my life. Thanks to this generous grant, this trip provided me with many things: an opportunity to meet new and exciting people and learn about their lives, to delve into a beautiful art form and all its aspects, and also to close one chapter of my life in preparation for a new one, hopefully filled with many more beautiful discoveries in the Japanese culture.

Christine Yang
Asian Studies, Elegantly Simple: On the Practice and Performance of the Tea Ceremony in the Yabunouchi Tradition

I have taken many trips to Japan in my life. A great number of them are family vacations and a significant trip in my junior year in college was for studying abroad. However, I have never experienced Japan as complete and fulfilling as I did with the ASIANetwork grant. The three weeks I spent in Kyoto in the summer of 2004 is, by far, the best Japanese experience I have ever had. Kyoto was not a new city to me, as I had been stationed there during my study abroad. When I traveled back for this grant, it was as if I never left. But little did I know that I was to experience a whole new world within the familiarity of the city: Tea.

Due to the special nature of my stay in Kyoto, I was able to engage in several activities that local Japanese people might never be able to do. Visiting a sweetshop and making the Japanese sweets in the sweetshop kitchen is just one of the many things on the list. To top it all off, however, would be the trip to the Yabunouchi Iemoto, or the headquarters for the Yabunouchi School of Tea. We were treated to tea and sweets and allowed to stroll through its beautiful garden looking at the different tea rooms. Because many of the items in the garden – the well, the stone paths, the pagodas – were from the times of the initial Yabunouchi tea practitioners, I felt more connected to the Yabunouchi tradition. Being there definitely brought out the aesthetic sense of tea and put me in a serene state of mind.

I think my research team tried to touch upon as many things related to tea as possible and came out pretty successful. As much as I try not to be cheesy, I think of my three weeks as living and breathing tea. It was amazing how every single day of the trip exposed me to new people, places, and ideas. Furthermore, it was a study that made me more interested in the subject the deeper we dug. I never thought I could get such a rush from an academic endeavor but even when I tell my friends about my summer studying tea I get excited all over again. Although I would not call the three weeks the cliche “life-changing experience,” the trip has certainly changed me – rather, connected me to the life-size concept of tea.

Lindsey Hayes
Asian Studies, Elegantly Simple: On the Practice and Performance of the Tea Ceremony in the Yabunouchi Tradition

It is hard – perhaps impossible – for me to put to words exactly the impact of our ASIANetwork trip to Kyoto, Japan this summer. In fact, I may not fully realize for many years how I have changed. I imagine snippets of conversations, an image of a shaft of light hitting a temple wall, the precise smell and sound of matcha being whisked in a tea bowl, the feeling of falling into bed after a long day of understanding almost nothing said around me all coming back little by little as I try to digest the experiences.

Part of what we researched was the way that every small thing, every moment, shapes you and your worldview. Every person I met in Japan touched me in a certain way and I them, until our experiences blur and suddenly I realize who I am and cannot separate that from each of the minutes that came before. I have been abroad several times before, but never have I encountered such a language barrier. I spoke next to no Japanese, and yet found it relatively easy to connect with people through a smile, a bow, or simply learning to enjoy the company of another in silence.

The importance of living with deliberation and care whether I am in a kimono practicing or performing tea or at work dealing with students in the residence halls came out every day while we were in Kyoto. I am excited to continue extracting the lessons we came upon in Kyoto and find relevant ways to live my life with more care. This was an amazing opportunity that forced my worldview wider and then brought it all back home to the small spaces in my life and the ways I care for the things in them.

Venues for Sharing

In the Fall Semester of 2004, we plan (1) to coordinate our schedules to prepare text for the three pamphlets and revised catalogue and (2) to host five tea ceremonies in Chikurakken, the Whitman College Tea Room. Each student will serve as the main host at one of the five gatherings. We have planned two ceremonies in mid-October, two ceremonies in November, and one ceremony in December. We hope to schedule at least three more ceremonies in the spring semester. But our focus in the spring will be to teach the fundamental movements to new tea students. Finally, our goal will be to finish the pamphlets on tea and sweets so that we can present to the Grand Master and to Mr. Yamaguchi (Suetomi) next summer.