Thursday, 1 April 2010

Floating above the Japanese clouds

If you haven’t noticed already, I’m a bit of an Orientalist. Well, to be more specific, I’m crazy about Japan. Nuts. If I acted on every thought, it’d be an obsession. I think when I was moaning about the winter several weeks ago and daydreaming about going to the Nuwara hills in Sri Lanka, my real thoughts were of going to pre-modern Nippon.

Maybe it’s because I went there when I was young and impressionable. Maybe it’s my fascination with Japanese history and custom. It’s very fashionable to be into China right now. I have absolutely nothing against China. Nothing.

But it just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe if I went there and met the people and saw the tea plantations and drank tea and ate Chinese shish-ka-bob (a la Kevin Rose) out of a rickshaw bar-b-que cooker…maybe then I could become more interested in China.

But as of now, I’m on the way to Japan in my thoughts. I’m above the clouds and flying through the air. It’s not enough to go to modern Japan. In my mind I’m floating back in time as well. To the time when tea ceremony wasn’t yet an institution. If we go back that long ago, this is the thirteenth century and we are Japanese monks.

Our brother monk, Dai-o, has been on a long journey to the Chinese monasteries where he observed and learned about the way the Zen monks in China prepare their tea. It’s so much more than the practical aspect of dunking leaves in heated water. He has shown us that the harmony between the people drinking the tea and the tools or implements that we use to make the tea is very crucial.

There are three things he referenced about the tea ceremony that were true back then and are still true today. Respect, cleanliness and tranquility. There’s no way that I can cover everything about this this in one simple blogpost. Am doing quite a bit of research about tea ceremony and might write an article on the topic soon. Stay tuned. Am enjoying this immensely.