December 26, 2010

Daily life and Tea

Only recently I started to notice the relation between the Japanese tea ceremony and daily life in Japan. It is frequently said that by studying the tea ceremony we'll learn many valuable lessons which can help our functioning in the Japanese culture.
Basic things such as greetings, bows, and properly timed apologies are a must to master when living in Japan. We also learn appreciation for objects through the Haiken (viewing of) certain utensils.

This month I noticed two very basic thing we learn during our tea ceremony classes in my daily life. The first one was when me and my colleagues we out on business and we were presented with a traditional wooden Japanese lunch box. As the eldest of our group finally sat down and told us to start having our lunch, every one just yanked off the lit and started digging in. I was so surprised that nobody knew how to properly and respectfully remove a lit from a Bento (lunch) box. That's when I was glad to know that the correct way to remove the lit from a Bento box is to use both hands to take the left and right side at the same time, then flipping it vertically so that the left side comes up and can be held by the right hand while the left hand moves to take the lower side to make the flip complete. The the lit is placed to the right side of the Bento box before saying Itadakimasu (grace).
Second thing I noticed was when there was a ceremony at my high school where some kids were called on stage to receive certificates from the principal while facing the back. After that they would turn to face the other students and take a bow while receiving a round of applause. But it was the turn which was so terrible, they just swung around like monkeys. I was reminded by the way we stand up and turn to walk back to the Mizuya (back room). For a clockwise turn we first pull our right foot back and diagonal behind the left, then sliding the left foot in front of the right foot facing to the right and then stepping with the right foot in the direction we want to go. This is a nice formal turn which looks smooth and elegant.
These two points add to the really simple things such as handling the Ohashi (Chopsticks) and holding a cup of tea with both hands. I feel really blessed to study the Japanese tea ceremony and hope it will learn me many more valuable life lessons.