Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day 20 Urasenke

Urasenke, one of the two main schools of tea ceremony, or chanoyu, is located in the northern part of Kyoto, and there is a school and a museum in a temple area (but everywhere is temple area) surrounded by other Chanoyu type shops. Managed to find some great chawans. I didn't go inside the Urasenke school, because out came a line of perfectly made up young women in perfect kimono. There was something extremely scary about that sight, so I turned and ran. It brought back memories of sitting through chanoyu for an infernal amount of time, worse than the Bardo it seemed, while the hostesses, women with make up as thick as the brocade on their kimonos, appraised you with knitted brows should you even blink the wrong way.
I thought the matcha I had at Soren Sensei's place was brilliant, an extremely satisfying bowl, and an even more revelation, that chanoyu doesn't have to be long, or boring, or conducted by housewives.

Everywhere I went, if I kept the conversations very short, the shop owners do not catch on that I am not Nihonjin/Japanese. However, things fall apart when they ask me anything beyond if I want a bag with my purchase or is this a gift. They ask where I am from. I said the U.S., which is where I am FROM. But then they'll say, your face is Japanese or Chinese. So I'll say, the next time, I am Chinese. This produces some cold shoulders from the normally faultlessly polite Kyoto folks. One day, someone asked, China's big, where in China are you from? I then said, Hong Kong. Instantly, the man smiled, relaxed, and said, Hong Kong is not really China! It seems that the more close the ethnic groups are, the more they discriminate against each other. In some parts of the world, they are currently at war over it. Such nuanced parsing. I should just say I am from Berkeley-NY-Hong Kong-Hainan-Canton, in the sequence of where I have lived.

Did manage to go into the Urasenke museum, exhibiting some truly beautiful wabi sabi chawans and everything attendent. Even enjoyed a gold leafed mochi and some matcha on the house. Quickly took a picture of the classroom, where I can use to point out yet AGAIN that tetsubin cast iron pots are for HOTWATER (see how they sit on the burner) and not for making tea. This picture being from Urasenke headquarters, folks, I hope this is enough proof. Japanese green teas must be prepared at the exact temperatures in pottery, as they are even more fussy than China greens. The thought that Americans would pour boiling hot water into a cast iron teapot into a little metal basket of not enough tea leaves just churns our stomachs. I didn't tell the tea professionals in Kyoto about this part.

Enjoyed some really silky, ethereal yudofu for lunch. Tofu served either grilled, made with sesame, in hotwater served with sichimi, or as ground tofu soup. Delicious. I feel quite happy that at the very least, I eat extremely well here. At least one good meal a day. The rest are on the road at the 7 eleven, but the musubi are quite good enough.

1 comment:

56BSA said...

Hi Winnie
Your first paragraph is hilarious. It reminds me of the maboroshi in Cynthia Gralla's book about being a geisha. They were a nocturnal theater group of heavily made up geishas who terrified men on deserted streets.
I enjoy your writing,