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Tatezome; New Year Tea Gathering

• The Urasenke Chicago Association held the 56th “Tatezome” New Year Tea Gathering on January 16 at Hendrickson Room in the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
• Dean Raffaelli, President of the Association, explained that tatezome was a new-year presentation of tea where a group of students and teachers met together and practiced a way of tea, or chado.

• Omar Frances explained about the utensils and demonstrated a way of tea. After making a bowl of tea, he served it to special guests Consul Hisao Inagaki and his wife Yuki.
• Consul Inagaki was taught chado from his father, who had studied the way of tea in Kyoto. He spoke about a brief history of chado that was established by Sen-no-Rikyu in the 1540s and became a tea master of Oda Nobunaga, and then for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Both are well-known top samurai leaders.
• Inagaki said in his greeting remarks that many people in the U.S. have gained a rich cultural experience through the members of Urasenke Association and have gained a deeper appreciation of Japan. “This is so important for our friendship and our understanding.” Inagaki said.

• Everyone who attended the tatezome was served a sweet “hanabira mocha” and a bowl of tea. Hanabira mocha is a special sweet and served only in a new-year-tea ceremony. The sweet was cooked from scratch by the hands of the members.

• Joice Kubose explained about a “tokonoma” or alcove, which was the highest and most sacred place in a room. The tokonoma was decorated in a special way for tatezome.

• The center of the tokonoma was a kakejiku or scroll (see figure 1). The kakejiku was given to the Association from Urasenke’s Grand Master Sen Soshitu, the 15th generation, on its 50th anniversary. All the kanji characters were written by the Grand Master. The top kanji reads “kotobuki” and expresses the meaning of happiness and long life. The bottom kanji is flaming jewel. He will be 93 years old this year, but he is still active and has visited overseas every month.

• The flower arrangement of the tokonoma in tatezome occasion is usually a bunch of birch and a camellia, which expresses dawn.

• The incense holder was in a monkey shape that represented the year of monkey.

• The willow branches that drape down from the top of the alcove represent friendship, unity, and oneness.

• On the table in the tokonama was an offering tray, which had grains of rice and charcoal placed on a piece of paper, and urashiro leaves.
• The paper is a sign of purity. It also implies a god since paper is pronounced “kami” and in the Japanese language, kami also means god.
• The underside of an urajiro leaf is white, so the leaves represent truth of your life or two selves, or just being yourself.
• The rice on top of the paper and urajiro is the most precious food in Japan.
• The charcoal is very important for tea people to have hot water, so the charcoal is wrapped with a paper and decorated with mizuhiki, gold and silver ribbons, to show gratefulness to sumi, charcoal.
• Four pieces of food on the offering tray are kachiguri (losted chestnut); tazukuri, a type of sardine; kombu (kelp); and umeboshi (pickled plum). Their meanings are hoping for your success, good harvest, happiness or joy of life, and a long life until your skin becomes all wrinkled, respectively.

• After a tea ceremony, a special new-year-bento lunch was served, and a short general meeting was held to introduce board members and teachers, elected officers, as well as review of 2015 events and announcements of upcoming 2016 events.

Joice Kubose explaines about a “tokonoma” or alcove, which was the highest and most sacred place in a room.