Son parfum doux comme un secret

Cha Cha Club is a tea ceremony school teaching the almost-500-year-old Urasenke tradition with a "lesson style updated for the Heisei period" (平成版お稽古スタイル). For example, their FAQ sez:

Q: Do I have to wear a kimono?

A: No, of course not. Western clothes and even jeans are okay. However, on more formal occasions, jeans and other casual clothing are frowned upon.

Q: I don't think I can handle all that kneeling...

A: You can relax into a more casual posture if you like. [...] But you'll be surprised at how quickly you get used to kneeling as you practise.

Q: Aren't there lots of strict rules and things?

A: There is a "flow", but you'll pick it up naturally as you practise.

Ex-Urasenke director and current Right Angle chair 説田弘 (SETSUDA Hiroshi?) explains:

Things that Japanese people have valued for centuries are today being gradually lost. To ensure that the "Japanese soul" (和の心) is passed on to the next generation as it must be, those of us entrusted with transmitting it must conceive of new ways of doing so, appropriate to the modern age [...]

The question of whether you can jettison certain inconvenient and old-fashioned parts of a tradition and still call it the same tradition is somewhat philosopher's axe-y; I have never formally studied any beverage ceremonies of any kind, so I won't get into it here. It is interesting that they have two kinds of trial lessons, one for people who just want to experience an hour of pouring, rotating and sipping, and one that is "a trifle strict?" and includes, for example, guidance in how to sit when accepting the cup.

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This is a great example of "losing our soul" kind of argument. I wrote an old article about this phenomenon at the old blog Chanpon:



They're not jettisoning any traditions, they're just not scaring the s--- out of potential students on day one.
Students can't be expected to jump in and do seiza for three hours in a kimono while having every movement controlled by the Urasenke tradition. It has to be introduced gradually and with understanding.

I studied Urasenke for 2 years in Nagoya and my teacher had a similarly tolerant approach. The result was, after a slow start, she had a group of very proactive students who listened to all her suggestions eagerly after they realized that this is the only way to move forward.


But wouldn't some people argue that your teacher was jettisoning some traditions too, Denske? The ones revolving around the style of teaching, I mean. Maybe they're more like "meta-traditions".

It doesn't seem to me like a bad thing to have casual, tolerant teachers working as well as old-school, inflexible ones, anyway, and I think your personal experience illustrates exactly why.

(In any case, I don't think much of the idea that a tradition [or any kind] is only "authentic" if it stays frozen the way it was at a certain point centuries ago...)

Konrad: Thanks for the link!

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