07. Creating a Pleasant Space Using Matcha as a Medium | Hiroyuki Kawakami, Iemoto Successor of Edo Senke tea school
In the town of Ueno, we met the heir to Chanoyu, Japanese tea ceremony. We asked him about his philosophy, which is to carry on the long tradition of the tea ceremony while striving to bring it to a new audience that has not been exposed to it before.
Hiroyuki is the successor to the Iemoto of Edo Senke tea school. Upon graduation from Waseda University, he trained at Mushanokoji Senke Kankyuan in Kyoto. Since returning to Tokyo, he has been engaged in activities to spread Chanoyu throughout Japan, including public lectures at Tokyo University of Science.
About Edo Senke
Edo Senke is a school of tea founded by Kawakami Fubaku (1719-1807). The current Iemoto is the 10th generation. Daimyo (feudal lords) who learned the Chanoyu in Edo brought the Edo Senke style back to their hometowns when they went on daimyo's missions, thus spreading the tea ceremony throughout the country.
The atmosphere of the school is said to be free and flexible.
Life as a tea master
- What are your days like as a tea master?
I am often asked this question, but it is certainly not well known. There are two main types of work for a tea master: on-site work and management of the school.
On-site work includes planning and organizing daily practice, tea ceremonies, and events, as well as maintenance of the garden and tearooms, and daily cleaning. The job of managing the school involves thinking about how to promote this entire organization, the Edo-Senke, and executing it. This is also an important job, as there are many people throughout Japan who study in our school.
- The tea ceremony may be relatively well known among traditional Japanese culture. But many people are wondering what it is really like.
It is a difficult question to answer simply, but when I am asked "what is Chanoyu?" I answer that it is "to create a pleasant time and space with matcha tea as the central medium.
Although what we do in the Chanoyu is diverse, it is basically "to plan and entertain guests at a place where tea is served.
A full-course tea ceremony is called a chaji, and if the chaji is the real event, then the practice is to make the tea ceremony as good as possible. In order to serve a delicious powdered green tea in a stylish manner, we practice etiquette and manners. We also improve our knowledge and insight into the classics and art in order to think about how to arrange and set up a tea ceremony.
In a full-fledged tea ceremony, not only is tea served, but food and drinks are also served. You may imagine it as a home party. A time-consuming tea ceremony can take up to four hours to complete.
In a tea ceremony, matcha (powdered green tea) is served at the very end. Tea is served only at the end of the tea ceremony. And yet it is named ‘chaji (lit. Tea-setting)' because matcha is the climax of the tea ceremony. So the sake and food that have been enjoyed over a long period of time are the prelude to make the climax of the tea ceremony, the matcha, a more pleasant time.
Creating by myself
- You started working in the world of Chanoyu after you graduated from university, but you have been involved with tea ever since you were born, right? What kind of presence did tea have for you?
Tea is a natural part of my daily life, and I have been making and drinking tea since before I can remember. For example, I used to make and drink matcha in the kitchen while eating snacks. My daily life itself was closely connected to tea. People who came from outside to attend tea ceremonies and practice were like distant relatives because they had been there for as long as I can remember. Even people who come now sometimes tell me about my childhood. That is how much tea has been a part of my life.
- Do you think that what you loved in your childhood is connected to what you now enjoy in your involvement with tea?
When I was little, I loved to hang out with my friends. I longed for things that were not in my own home, but in my friends' homes. In my parents' house, there is no TV in the living room. At mealtime, there would be a cartoon for kids on the air, you know? At school, everyone is talking about those cartoons, but I can't join that conversation. I was very jealous. Also, there were no video games. This is because my parents are really analog people, and my father doesn't even have a cell phone even now. It's a bit of a problem for people around him, isn't it? Haha
And in terms of what has led me to where I am today, I think it is the fact that I make things by myself. I liked arts and crafts and drawing, and I liked to create mechanisms. When I played with my friends, we created various games by ourselves from scratch. Now that I think about it, I think it is fun to create my own works, tea ceremonies, and work. It is fun, isn't it, to "make it yourself"? Even these days, I "make it myself" by making my own tea utensils, organizing tea ceremonies and study groups, and gathering people together, and that kind of thing is nice.
Tea Ceremony for a pleasant time
- Even though it was fun to "make it on your own," entering the world of the tea ceremony is a path that not many people take. Was it a big decision for you?
I thought about this at various times. As I mentioned earlier, practice and tea ceremonies are often held at home, and the world of tea is there. Although I have never been specifically asked by my father, who is the head of the school, to take over, there are many people who are not related to me by blood, but are related to me like relatives. I often thought about them.
I guess I made my decision when I was in college and job hunting. I had received job offers from several companies. But the deciding factor was that the people at our school told me that there was a job they wanted "Hiroyuki Kawakami" to do. I apologize if this sounds arrogant, but at least for a general company, it doesn't have to be me who joins the company. Someone else will do the job that I might have done as a new employee. But in the world of tea, of course, someone else could take over the style, but there was someone who was happy for me to enter the world of tea. I felt that I was so blessed to have someone who said, it has to be Hiroyuki Kawakami. When I told this to my father, he was very happy. I vividly remember the look on his face. I was happy too.
- What only you can do, that was the deciding factor for Mr. Kawakami, wasn't it? What is the best tea ceremony for you?
Is it "a tea ceremony where one can have a pleasant time?" One of the purposes of art and culture is to create a pleasant state of mind for someone. For example, I was a musician in college, and even music can provide a pleasant state of mind through performances and performances.
This concept of conducting tea ceremonies to "create a pleasant state of mind" for others is also connected to the guiding principle that I usually uphold. That is, "to spread the concept of tea in the best possible quality". Good quality means that people who come to a tea space for the first time with no prior knowledge of the tea ceremony will be impressed with the quality of the tea.
There is an assumption that the smaller the number of people at a tea ceremony, the deeper the experience, but that limits the number of people who can participate. But if the number of participants is too large, it is impossible to have a deep experience. I always try to find the right balance between the two.
A rich circle of people and serene solitude
- As I listen to you, I was reminded of the book "Japanese Tradition" by Taro Okamoto. In the book, he wrote, "Tradition is something that changes while inheriting the times". Is there any change you would like to bring about in the world of tea?
The essence of tea is to create a pleasant space with matcha as the central medium. I believe this will never change. Our ancestors "carried on" the tradition, but they also "created" it. Even if we copy only the form, if we cannot "create" or "change," I believe that we have not succeeded in passing on the action and spirit of the tradition, and that it has become a tradition in form only.
And what I go back to is to create a state of quality. When I do something new, I want to make sure that the people who experience it for the first time really feel good about it. I want to inherit it essentially by going back to that.
- Up to this point, I have mainly asked about tea. Lastly, can you tell us about yourself? I feel that you are always surrounded by many people and that you have a strong human relationship with them. What do you value in life?
What do I want to have for my own happiness? I think, I want a rich circle of people and calm solitude. I like meeting and talking with people. At the same time, I also like to be alone and silent. I think I want a balance between the two.
I think this comes from my baseball experience in middle and high school and my music experience in college. When you start working, it is difficult to get everyone in the studio at the same time, isn't it? That is why I started home recording.It is fun to record with a guitar connected to a PC. I like to stay up all night without sleeping and face the music. Even if it is not music, I also like making teacups and other things. I recently spent a week in the mountains. I took a week's vacation and brought my instruments and equipment. So for the first half, I was alone all the time and playing music. In the second half, my friends would come over and we would have barbecues and sessions. You see, I don't have any workmates. Maybe that's why I'm looking for friends and colleagues of my generation outside. I feel like there are people around me now who are a good match for me. With such friends, I feel that the pieces of my life are coming together. That's how I feel now, that "a rich circle of people and a calm solitude" is fulfilling.
Interviewer: Yuki Kitamura
Exploring lives of young practitioners of Japan's artistic heritage.
- List -
01. [Dance] Nakamuraryu - Ume Nakamura (Part1)
01. [Dance] Nakamuraryu - Ume Nakamura (Part2)
02. [Sing] Itchu-bushi - Ryochu Miyako
03. [Sencha tea] My Sencha Salon - Iga Michiho
04. [Flower Arrangement] Sekiso school - Shoko Okudaira (Part1)
04. [Flower Arrangement] Sekiso school - Shoko Okudaira (Part2)
05. [Urushi Laquer] Urushi artist - Tomoya Murose
06. [Glass art] Edo-kiriko Kobayashi - Kohei Kobayashi (Part 1)
06. [Glass art] Edo-kiriko Kobayashi - Kohei Kobayashi (Part 2)
07. [Tea] Edosenke - Hiroyuki Kawakami
08. [Tatami] Tanaka Tatami - Hiroyuki Tanaka
09. [Lacquer brush] The 10th generation of the original lacquer brush artisan - Torakichi Izumi