Marines and Sailors learn the Way of Tea
CAMP SHIELDS, Okinawa — Marines and sailors from Commander, Fleet Activities Okinawa enjoyed a cultural experience in a very special way here Monday. SEN Genshitsu, former grand master of the Urasenke tradition of the Way of Tea, visited the camp, introducing them to the spiritual culture of Japan.
“The Way of Tea, to put it plainly, is the state of mind when you are in a tearoom with other guests,” SEN said to the 200 servicemembers in attendance.
In a small tearoom, he said, guests need to maintain peace of mind and care about each other. Being thoughtful of others and placing other people’s happiness first is the key to maintaining peace in the community. The Way of Tea is an ultimate form of democracy, he said.
A traditional tearoom has a very small entrance, called a crawl-through doorway, he said.
“To enter the room, you need to bend your body as low as you can, reducing your height,” he explained.
Also, no weapons should be carried, he said. “In the tearoom, everyone is equal and there is no discrimination.”
SEN, 82, a tall, dignified, yet unassuming former grand tea master, is the 15th-generation descendant of SEN Rikyu (1522 - 1591), who perfected the Way of Tea to the present form, which often symbolizes the spiritual home of the heart of Japan.
“The Way of Tea, or ‘chado,’ the underlying philosophy of the Way of Tea, is summarized in four words,” SEN explained to his American audience through an interpreter. “They are ‘wa,’ ‘kei’, ‘sei’ and ‘jaku.’” “Wa” means peace, “kei” means respect, “sei” means purity and “jaku” means tranquility, he explained.
Following SEN’s speech, a tea ceremony was demonstrated in an impromptu tearoom prepared on a stage. The alcove was decorated with a scroll, a celadon porcelain flower vase with a hibiscus flower and an incense case in the shape of a vessel, to pay respect to the Navy.
The CFAO leadership, Capt. Robert Wilson and Master Chief Kevin Haun, demonstrated a traditional tea ceremony for the audience. They were given a small piece of cake and then served green tea. Every detail of the ceremony was explained, from the unique tools used to prepare the tea to the correct way to admire the bowl in which the tea is served.
Once the ceremony was demonstrated, the entire audience was treated to cake and hand-prepared green tea.
“I thought it was great,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Melodie Perryman, CFAO security. “I never thought of a tea ceremony before but it was very eye-opening to culture. It seems very serene and detailed.
“That the tradition is old and they continue to carry on the tradition is great … there’s nothing like that in the States.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Oscar Mora, from CFAO Public Works, said having the grand master share the tradition was an honor.
“It’s a good experience,” he said. “It’s something I’ll probably never see again in my life.”