This year marks the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Seattle Association’s 40th Anniversary. Chado, also called Chanoyu or Sado is Japanese Tea Ceremony or Way of Tea.
Chado in Seattle began in the 1930’s when Madam Kiyomi Otani began teaching in her home. Then during WWII, the Japanese were sent to internment camps. But that didn’t stop Madame Otani and her group of students, who continued to study tea while being interned. They substituted the equipment with whatever they had on hand, for example they used a man’s shaving brush in place of a chasen, which is a bamboo whisk used to mix the tea. After the war, she continued to teach and upon retirement she and her husband returned to Japan in 1969. A handful of her students continued to teach, passing on the traditions of tea ceremony.
At the 40th Anniversary, there were five wonderful women who were recognized for their contribution over 40 years to spread and preserve the tea culture in Seattle: Chieko Becker, Aiko Fujii, Mitsuko Gale, Reiko Mihara and Florence Sumida. From all of us at the Chado Urasenki Tankokai Seattle Association, we say thank you and gokuro sama. I am most fortunate and grateful to have three these five women as my teachers. The women I have met through tea all continue to stay connected to the culture of Japan, as it’s a part of who they are and a part of their life. I sincerely hope that the next generation will continue the traditions. In this fast paced lifestyle of the information age, tea ceremony is a slow quiet process, a yin to the yang. Maybe more people will come to appreciate this wonderful culture of the past.
Growing up in a time of peace, it is so hard to comprehend the suffering that many of these first and second generation Japanese went through. My parents are from Hawaii, so again, their experience of WWII is very different from the Japanese who lived on the West Coast. I am just amazed at the strength of these men and women who were so innocent yet were interned, but they never gave up on who they were and kept their culture and traditions even in such circumstances. Over the last few years I have had the pleasure to get to know many of these elderly Japanese who have shared their interesting life stories with me. Each and everyone of them have a special story of immigration and how they grew up. I hope to share some of their stories with you on my blog in the near future. To all of them, thank you.