10. Enhancing a Sense of Happiness | Yuki Okamoto, The 10th generation of Hosokawa Onryu Tea School and Hosokawa Mishoryu Ikebana School Successor of Headmaster
We heard that there is a former soccer kid who now works as a tea and flower entrepreneur. We interviewed him about why he was attracted to those practices and what he would like to convey in the future.
The 10th generation of Hosokawa Onryu Tea School and Hosokawa Mishoryu Ikebana School Successor of Headmaster.
He has a unique career path of playing soccer in college, working at the Japanese largest HR technology company, and becoming a tea and flower artist. He operates, practices and manages events under the theme, "Delivering the best emotional experience of your life through tea and flower". He has held tea ceremonies in New York, Kyoto, and at the United Nations Conference. His own practice classes are held in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and online. He is also involved in marketing operations based on his previous work and experience in tea ceremony management. He is in charge of marketing operations for several businesses, including a yoga studio in Tokyo and a salon in Gion area in Kyoto. He aims to help people and things that have value but are stagnant to be properly communicated to the world.
I want to make people smile with my creations.
- Please tell us about Hosokawa Onryu Tea School and Hosokawa Mishoryu Ikebana School.
We are the head of a tea and flower house that has been in Kyoto for 170 years. My great-grandmother was the ninth generation, and the next generation will be the tenth. Generally, tea ceremony and flower arrangement are practiced by separate schools, but the Hosokawa Onryu Tea School and Hosokawa Mishoryu Ikebana schools have been practicing tea ceremony and flower arrangement simultaneously since the first generation, making them a rare school.
- Were you aware that your great-grandmother was Iemoto (the headmaster of the traditional practice) since you were little?
My family was in Nara, and my great-grandmother was a tea and flower teacher in Kyoto, or so I thought. I myself was devoted to becoming a soccer player, and I thought that tea and flowers were something that had nothing to do with me.
- How did you go from feeling like you had nothing to do with the world to deciding to take over as Iemoto?
Since my childhood, I have always had a strong underlying desire to make people smile with something that I have thought up and created myself. One of the major turning points for me was when I saw a parade entertaining men and women of all ages at Disneyland when I graduated from high school, and I was struck by the idea that I wanted to be the one to create such a parade. When I entered university, I took a break from soccer, which I had been involved in up until high school, and reexamined who I was, which is when I decided to start practicing tea ceremony and flower arrangement seriously, as they were the two things that were closest to me. I started by eating sweets in the tea room and just relaxing, and then I practiced in between university classes. I was so happy when everyone commented on how delicious and relaxing the tea was. I realized that I could recreate that feeling I had at the Disney parade with tea and flowers.
How we should translate traditional culture to today
- Is there any difficulty in conveying traditional culture to young people?
It is difficult to translate for each recipient. For many people, traditional culture is a distant world that has nothing to do with them, just as I felt that way when I was a child. It is important to find out how to make people who think so think, "Actually, it might be relevant to me, too". I try to break down their interests, understand what they want to achieve and what they are looking for, and then tell them what they can do through tea and flowers, and make suggestions on how to integrate them into their lives. In order to do this, I try to keep the same sense of myself as everyone else through my lifestyle and work. I am currently involved in 60-70% tea ceremony and flower arrangement, and 30-40% business planning and marketing, but I also value the sensations I feel every day. I also try not to focus too much on tea and flowers on social media, which is a trial and error process, and collaborate with various events such as yoga and DJ events to create the first point of contact and interest.
- We heard that you have experience studying abroad. How was the reaction abroad?
When I was an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in New York for a year. The tea parties I held several times were attended by local people and students from various countries. However, since all of them were interested in Japan but did not know much about it when it came to Japanese culture, I would get blank stares if I did not adequately explain the virtues and values that are taken for granted and held as common knowledge in Japan. For example, why it takes so much time to drink a cup of tea, or why old or unfinished things are considered beautiful, etc. I had a hard time successfully expressing these unique Japanese sensibilities.
- Is it the result of that trial-and-error process that led you to propose that "the tea ceremony is a spa?"
In thinking about how to convey a uniquely Japanese sense of beauty that is not universal, I thought about various ways to compare it to something that would be easy for others to understand. One of them is the analogy of a spa. Winter in New York is very cold. When I arrived in an unfamiliar place and soaked in hot water for the first time in months at a hot spa in the backyard of my homestay family, I realized that this feeling of relaxing my whole body, or rather relaxing from the bottom of my heart, was similar to how I feel when I drink a cup of tea. Since then, when I use the spa analogy when talking with people from overseas, I often get a sympathetic "I see" from them.
Familiar examples are necessary not only for people from overseas, but also for Japanese who do not have the opportunity to experience traditional culture. Especially in Japan, people often have a preconceived notion that traditional culture is difficult because of the forms and manners involved, but I would like people to know more about the feeling of relaxation and forgetting time that lies beyond that.
I want to spread happiness from my reach
- How have your values changed due to the pandemic?
I have always had a consistent desire to be a creator, to support the conveyance of attractions, and to create excitement and joy for others. However, after the pandemic, I began to think more about "for whom". It is a change that has made me want to expand the circle of happiness, starting with my own surroundings and then to those around me, starting with those within my reach. I also began to think about a new definition of happiness. I believe that there are two types of happiness: one is caused by external factors and the other is caused by internal factors. The former is staying in a luxury hotel or eating a delicious meal. Of course, these are also happiness, but in the latter, even when you eat the same meal, happiness can be unlimited by enhancing your mood and using your imagination.
- What are your plans for the future?
I would like to spread the concept of enhancing a sense of happiness through the tea and flower. For example, the act of focusing on each action of drinking tea is connected to the concept of mindfulness, and I would like to organize events that go beyond tearooms to offer this experience in a variety of locations. I am looking forward to organizing offline events as soon as possible, as online cannot replace the experience of direct contact.
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