Trip to Vilnius, Lithuania

In June, the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania asked us to help them celebrate the opening of a new Japanese garden within their botanical gardens in Vilnius.

(The Japanese garden has been in the works for nearly ten years, the botanical garden itself is a part of Vilnius University

Krzysiek, Ula and Aaron made the trip in order to share tea at this festive occasion.
(With the additional bonus that this would be the first time to visit Lithuania for any of us.)

The drive was pleasant and not overly long. We took a day for driving each way and two days in Vilnius.

At the garden we were shown around and chose a nice spot outside where we made tea for the special guests who were there to view the garden the day before the official opening.

After the VIP group was served all the attendees were invited to sit with us and share the beauty of the garden.

That night H.E. Ambassador Shiraishi invited all of us who had come to help to a fine dinner.

The grand opening was the next day and several hundred guests wandered the gardens,

listened to koto music,

watched ikebana (flower arranging) presentations,

listened to us talk a little about tea culture in Japan

and settled in to share a sweet and tea with us.

Everyone seemed interested in hearing about Japan and tasting the tea, we noticed several people mentioning magic and “reading” the remains of the tea in the bowl, it seems Lithuanians might be living close to nature and open to powers beyond the physical realm.

Luckily we had a helper from the Japanese Embassy in Lithuania who helped us serve all those guests. Thanks to Ambassador Shiraishi and all her staff who made this a great event as well as a fantastic memory of a rare chance for us in Poland. Vilnius was a pleasure to visit with a wonderful old-town full of friendly people. We hope to share tea in Lithuania again and recommend a trip there to everyone.

Senshinkai Hatsudate in Kraków

In January, seven of us piled into the car and made our way down to Kraków for their group’s first tea celebration of the year.

As always it was great to see, visit with, and share tea with our sister group Senshinkai.
(Facebook: Group and Community)

This was the first time many of our members had the chance to have tea in Kraków and our hosts made it fine and memorable for us all.

The pleasure of going to another group’s tea gathering and fully enjoying the role of guest is unmatched. Being the recipients of such generosity always reminds us that we should be making this trip more often.

Many thanks to all our friends in Senshinkai. Here’s to another year filled with chanoyu.

Kyūdō Group First Shot and Tea Presentation

We were asked to share tea in order to commemorate the first kyūdō competition of the year.

In Japanese arts there is an old tradition of holding “the first of the year” celebrations. Following suit in kyūdō, the First Shot of the New Year is practiced. In chanoyu we indulge in the First Chasen (chasenzome) celebrations.

Once the competition ended the archers gathered and sat in two rows so that they could easily receive their tea.

Everyone was served dark and light sweets preparing them for the tea.


Krzysiek and Ula made tea simultaneously. One with dark, one with light utensils.

The forms used allowed the hosts to make tea in a nearly mirror-image manner, placing the tea out for the guests without getting in each other’s way.

The form with the dark utensils is called hongatte (standard, with guests on the right of the host)

That with the light is called gyakugatte (guests seated on the opposite side than standard)


It was indeed a pleasure to share a bowl of tea with other practitioners of the Way. All the best for the New Year to all kyūdō practitioners!



Hatsudate: First Tea Gathering of the Year

“First tea event of the year” is a bit of a misnomer since technically we had classes and practices prior to this; however, Hatsudate means more than just what the word itself stands for. Hatsudate is the first time each year we have the opportunity to thank all of our supporters and friends, welcoming guests to participate in a tea gathering (chakai) celebrating them while ringing in the new year.

We needed to divide the group into four in order to manage in the space.


The fare was rather simple



Guests each had a tray of food, sake,





and a bowl of soup




before trying the main sweet.


Once the food was finished the guests entered the tearoom and watched as the charcoal fire was prepared.

The green utensils on the daisu this year were made in Poland and have a fish scale pattern along the upper edge which many of the guests likened to dragon scales.

The fire was built and rebuilt over the day and into the night.

Once the fire was ready the guests shared a bowl of koicha (thick tea), had a different sweet, and lastly had a bowl or two of usucha (thin tea).

All in attendance seemed to have a good day and we enjoyed being able to share the New Year celebration.  Thank you to everyone involved!  We look forward to sharing chanoyu with you all again many times in this and every new year.

Joyagama: the last kettle of the year

We intended to share one last bowl of tea today. But before the year ends we like to make sure the tea spaces are well cleaned, and to that end, today there was a lot of cleaning. Many of our members came and went during the big day of cleaning (osoji), such was the group turnover and length of the cleaning that we nearly abandoned the idea of having tea. Perhaps it was the draw of the clean room or the charm of tea by candlelight that we found irresistible, but either way, we couldn’t help ourselves.

We had soba noodles as the idea of eating toshikoshi soba seems to have become our tradition at this event.

The first guest shows appreciation for the tea.

The host prepares the tea caddy (natsume) and tea scoop (chashaku) along with a candle so that the guests can have a closer look at them.

You can’t see much without the candle but everything takes on a magical quality with it and the entire evening turned out to be a unforgettable way to wind up our tea activities for the year.

After a short break we will begin looking forward to the first kettle of 2012.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this year so wonderful.    See you all in the year of the dragon.

Presentation in Bielsk Podlaski

In December we got out of Warsaw a little. On one occasion the Museum in Bielsk Podlaski welcomed us and chanoyu with heartwarming hospitality during their Japanese exhibit.

Here is their site:

Surrounded by two large groups of curious friendly guests it was easy to transmit Rikyu’s principles: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility…

even after the kids took over.

It was great to have so many interested people, especially the children, with which we could share this aspect of Japanese culture.

At the same time there was a ritual towel exhibition at the Museum.

Ula became so inspired that she later tried her hand at embroidery and made her own towel like those in the exhibit. So it was a true exchange of cultures and another memorable meeting.

Thanks again to the staff at the museum for having us.

Robiraki: Opening of the Winter Hearth

Every year as the weather turns colder in November we put the brazier away and open the sunken hearth in the tearoom.

This time of year is celebrated as New Year for people involved with chado for it is now that the present year’s new tea is first opened and shared.

The guests gather and eat zenzai, a traditional sweet made of azuki beans and mochi…and a lot of sugar.

The tearoom is prepared for the first charcoal fire to be lit in the hearth.

Guests gather around and watch as the fire is built.

Once the fire was built everyone had the chance to drink both thick and thin tea. There were several great groups of guests throughout the day making this another joyous occasion for sharing time and tea.

As the last guests left, those of us who had been serving during the day got a chance to join our friends and enjoy some tea as well. Always a treat.



Celebration of Leaves at the Botanical Garden

Once again we teamed up with Ścieżka (, this time for an outdoor festival dedicated to the beautiful leaves at the Warsaw Botanical Garden.

Although the garden is closed to the public starting in November, we got to get inside and celebrate what must be the best season to view them.

Paintings were hung around the garden and the guests were left to wander and wonder at the beauty of nature as well as the fantastic art.

It was a great joy to be outside in such a splendid environment.

Some guests stopped at our table to watch or to partake some tea.


This style of procedure , called chabako, is especially nice in an outdoor setting.


After some question and answer guests continued walking the gardens…

made prints of leaves they found…


ran into friends…

and were invited to join us for sweets and tea.

Before the tea everyone was offered a bowl of warm zenzai (a traditional Japanese sweet, like a sweet soup of beans and mochi) it’s hard to describe, but tasty, really.

We all stayed busy preparing the sweets and tea, to try and forget how cold it was.

We had a great team and managed to supply the demand for warm food and drink.

By the end of the day everyone had their chance to have some tea.

Although chilly, you couldn’t have asked for better weather or better people to spend the day with. Thanks to everyone for coming out and an extra big thank you to all who helped serving our guests and yet again to Ścieżka for working with us once more.

”Japan Days” at Warsaw University

Near the beginning of every school year the Japanese Studies Department at Warsaw University hosts a two day event full of presentations called Japan Days. Several of our members gave presentations and we also held a tea presentation once again with Ścieżka for the opening of the event.  At the same time we hosted tea gatherings in Kaian (the Japanese tea room in the Warsaw University library) both days for all comers as well as for the guest lecturers visiting for the event, Zivka Serper and Hirano Keiichiro.

Ścieżka art included ikebana, ceramics, paintings and caligraphy.


Our utensils, besides the table and kettle, were Polish and American.






We dressed in Western clothes for the presentation at the misonodana (pictured black lacquered table)


Guests trying the sweets and tea



Making tea for some membes of Ścieżka


In Kaian with theater specialist Zivka Serper


Students enjoyed the chance to drink tea in an authentic Japanese tearoom and setting