Germany: Japanese Tea Ceremony
by Jürgen Eck, UPF Germany
Our monthly event in Karlsruhe was held, not as usual on a Saturday and not in the county library, but this time on a Sunday-June 24-and in a small room rented from an early Christian community. The pre-event publicity by way of leaflets, telephone calls and e-mails, etc. resulted in a good attendance.
Rüdiger Gräber had chosen as his topic ‘the Japanese Tea Ceremony’ to give a glimpse into other cultures and traditions, and this was made possible by the support of Yoshiko Arnoldi from Stuttgart. Yoshiko was assisted by her husband Hubert and another Japanese woman, Yasuko.
The event started with greetings and thanks to the participants from Stuttgart and an introduction by Rüdinger Gräber. Then followed a 20-minute explanation by Hubert about the origin and significance of the Japanese tea ceremony.
Amongst other things, the audience was informed about this centuries- old tradition, about the interchanging historical influences of the Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures and about the closeness to Zen.
The tea ceremony directs one internally, ie one separates from daily life and can experience peace and self- reflection as the ceremony is conducted in almost total silence. Also the atmosphere in a Japanese tea house and the small number of participants allow one to become fully immersed in this special ceremony.
The participants could feel the deep meaning of the Japanese tea ceremony as Yoshiko, an experienced tea ‘master’ proceeded step by step with Yasuko.
Consideration was given to the Western’ participants who could sit on stools rather than kneel on the ground. Internal values such as respect, humility and serving others were highlighted, and an affinity with religious rites and ceremonies was obvious.
The meditative music in the background, the decorated room and the special utensils used for this ceremony along with an interested audience participation created a harmonious and peaceful atmosphere.
A special powdered green tea and Japanese sweets made out of sticky rice were offered. Yoshiko in her traditional kimono fascinated the guests.
After the ceremony had been demonstrated, the opportunity was extended to all who wished to participate to do so, and many took up the offer.
Yoshiko then answered the many questions posed by the guests about the tea ceremony, the Japanese national costume (kimono) and other Japanese customs.
Some final words from Rüdiger brought the event to an end at about 17.00. The participants returned home feeling enriched by the special insights gained into the depth and beauty of Japanese culture and values.