On Wednesday night, Columbia’s Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture hosted Dr. Genshitsu Sen, the former Grand Master of the Urasenke school of the Japanese tea ceremony. Bwog, recognizing that there is such a thing as too much coffee, spent the evening in the audience at Casa Italiana, to learn about the Japanese tea ceremony, from the master himself.
An even more different kind of tea party
Some sense of the gravitas of the occasion was immediately conveyed when I walked into the room, full with people dressed in either traditional Japanese garb, or formal evening attire. Dr. Sen was warmly introduced with the endorsement for the next Nobel Peace Prize, and received sincere demonstrations of appreciation from the well-heeled crowd. His opening remarks consisted of courteous compliments and thanks to New York, Columbia, and the Keene Center, making the evening seem that much more decorous and sincere. Despite only understanding through his translator, it was obvious that he was far more youthful and vigorous than one might expect from his 87 years. Constantly gesticulating, grinning and cracking jokes, his presence was warm and inviting, alleviating any sense of alienation that could arise from such formalities.
Dr. Sen sketched a brief history of the culture of tea in Japan, (which they inherited from China), but spent most of the lecture explaining the timelessness of the tea ceremony, and the importance of the ritual in everyday, modern life. “It’s just a beverage, of course,” he said of matcha, the powdered green tea that is served, “but when I drink it, I look at the deep green tea, and the round bowl. I think of it as symbolic of our planet.”