Los Angeles

Event Announcement: Chasen Kuyo at the Zenshuji Soto Buddhist Temple

A perennial favorite among Slow Food members and friends is the annual Chasen Kuyo of the Zenshuji Soto Buddhist Temple. Many thanks to Lauren Deutsch for alerting us to this year’s details:

You don’t have to go to Kyoto for a real taste of authentic Japanese Zen Tea Ceremony culture. Zenshuji Soto Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles, invites the Slow Food members and friends to attend its annual Chasen Kuyo, the annual tea ceremony gathering centered around the offering of used tea ceremony whisks (chasen).

Chasen Kuyo Chakai (tea ceremony gathering) combines a unique opportunity to enjoy the preparation and taste of usucha (finely powdered green tea of the highest grades prepared “thinly”) and hand-made tea sweets in the temple’s tea venue as well as with a superbly prepared seasonal shojin riori (vegetarian temple cuisine) prepared for kaiseki (meal for tea ceremony). Zenshuji is renown for exceptionally beautiful and delicious traditional “home cooked” cuisine.

Outside Japan, the Tea Ceremony is not often enjoyed in its original context, that of a Zen Buddhist Temple. Zenshuji, is one of the oldest and most prominent ones in North America and possibly the only one that provides this event. The day begins with a ritual Buddhist service including solemn tea offering to bid farewell to the used chasen (tea whisks) in the hondo (main sanctuary). A talk about Zen and Chado (the “Way of Tea”) will follow chanting of traditional Buddhist sutras.

When: Sunday, November 2, 2008 from 11:00am until approximately 3:00pm
Where: Zenshuji Soto Mission, 123 S. Hewitt Street, Los Angeles
Cost: $40 per person (includes admission, lunch, sweets and up to two bowls of tea).

Chairs will be available. English language explanation of the events will be provided by Lauren Sochi Deutsch, a licensed instructor of Urasenke Chado.

Reservations: Reservations are limited and due with payment by October 28: No walk-ins are permitted on the day of the event. Payment in full by check should be made to Zenshuji Sado-bu and sent to 123 S. Hewitt Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. For more information, call 213.624.8658.

Zenshuji’s Tea Ritual organization is headed by Hiromi Sosei Yamashita, sensei, a senior student of the Chado Urasenke Distinguished Tea Master and USA / NEA National Heritage Fellow Sosei Matsumoto sensei, of Los Angeles. Both will participate, as well as will some 100 members of several local chapters of Kyoto-based Japanese Tea Ceremony “Schools”. The Zenshuji Sado-bu (tea ceremony teaching organization) presented chanoyu demonstrations at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and has been active for over 30 years.

A Note About Chanoyu
The act of preparing and drinking a bowl of powdered green tea (Chanoyu) is one small and simple event in our lifetime of activities. Yet, through this simple action the host and guest attempt to share the experience of “becoming one in spirit.” The result can be a very cleansing, purifying and enriching experience spiritually as well bringing satisfaction for all of the five senses. To appreciate and enjoy this type of activity, the guest must respond with sensitivity and open-mindedness. Guidance will be available for those unfamiliar with the ritual. Please do not wear any perfume.

A Note about Chasen Kuyo
Practitioners of chado treat utensils with deep respect shown through proper care, appropriate use and an appreciation for those who have made them. Some are utilized for many generations, each generation showing appreciation for which preceded by recalling and, thus contributing to the provenance of these items. Such is the case especially of utensils made of iron, ceramics, wood, lacquer ware.

In the case of the chasen, the tea whisk made of a single piece of bamboo split into 80 – 120 tines, longevity is not at issue. A new one is typically employed for each tea gathering and afterwards relegated for practice. A dilemma occurs when, after long hard use in bracing hot and cold water the tips the chasen begin to brake and the color changes. How can such a utensil – meticulously crafted and carefully used — be discarded with trash into a garbage can? What becomes of the chasen when its utility diminishes mirrors a signature aspect of Japanese spiritual culture: the kuyo. In appreciation of the effort it took to make this object formed of natural materials and for its “loyal” utility over the course of time in service to the heart of chado, the whisk is offered at the altar of the temple and at a later date burned in a ceremonial fire of purification. Kuyo, thus, also becomes a moment of renewal and rededication for practitioners of Chado.

A Note About Chaji / Chakai
Chaji or Chakai is basically the simple act of eating and drinking required in daily living for all human beings. That basic activity is elevated into an act which requires highly sharpened artistic sensitivity. Then the Chaji or Chakai becomes a total aesthetic experience.

Kaiseki (Tea Ceremony meal) is served in a manner or style of the daily meals for Zen monks; outside the temple it is not always vegetarian. The difference is, however, that the Tea Ceremony Kaiseki is served so that the guest can experience the joy of good living; therefore, however simple the meal may be, an artistic atmosphere, the beauty in serving and taste are important. Of significance is the selection, preparation and presentation. The composition of the menu as well as the design and layout of the serving pieces on the tray, must reflect as meticulous consideration of the tea master as the preparation of a bowl of tea itself.
We hope you will enjoy this special event incorporating many significant elements of traditional Japanese culture.