Chapter Number One: Seiza is Not the Only Proper Way (Part 1)

Transforming a Japanese Room

Since it came to be that I studied the ways Japanese move our bodies as handed down from old, it seems fate that this author began to study tea ceremony.
Just drinking tea is literally an everyday bread and butter [lit. tea] sort of thing, but has adopted all sorts of Japanese culture in to its sphere, extending its world to include kaiseki cooking, flower arrangement, fine art, incense listening, ceramics, gardening, sukiya style architecture, and so on. When first preparing to study tea ceremony, I studied Japanese culture well and efficiently. Thus was my impure motive as a beginner. Advancing along the road of research when I was first a student at graduate school, happening to have a chance to visit the temple affiliated with the tea master Katagiri Sekishu called Jikoin, the thin tea served while we gazed at the scenery of the wide plain of Nara was exceedingly delicious. Upon explaining that I wanted to study tea ceremony, I received an introduction from the wife of the previous head priest to a teacher in Tokyo who if I wanted to study Sekishu style tea I should definitely visit.
The person I was introduced to was in the nearby residential area of Setagaku in Todoroki Valley, and it being hidden without even a signboard, it had an air that the grand master was protecting this handed down tradition. Also, it didn’t have any spacious Japanese garden or tea house connected to the roji. Looking like a normal house, it merely had a small 6 tatami mat Japanese room with a hearth cut into it.
Sometime in summer, it was custom for the students to gather and practice the kaiseki. We divided the 6 mat room into two with a kekkai (a type of chadougu which is placed to show where a boundary is), made the chosen machiai, and were first treated to sakura tea in which cherry blossoms floated by our sempai who had the duty of being the hosts. Those on mizuya duty took away the kekkai on an organized signal, and then that place was changed into the main seating of the chaji. The six mat room, depending on how the kekkai or furo screen is placed, can be completely changed into a four and a half mat room or even into a two mat machiai. According to the goal of the practice, in short, according to the intimacy of the relationship between the host and guests, we can choose how formal it is.
Such a technique of transforming the scale of the open space at will, for myself who has become used to modern rooms, was at first astonishing. I was shocked. The space there I knew had instantly transformed into a different world. My body quaked at this tiny spectacle.
The location of a person is not defined merely by the walls and doors of the room encircling them all around. There where a person sits, when one or two division are placed in appropriate places, acquires a place which calms the heart. For those who practice tea, since there where the gathered guests and host is a thing at times subtly created, when there is an open space without any tables or chairs, the nature of the “seat” becomes a space where it is possible to create partitions at will.

変貌する和室
日本人が古くから伝え継いてきた「からだの使い方」を研究するようになってから、縁あって筆者は茶道を習いはじめた。
ただお茶を飲むだけの、文字通りの日常茶飯事ではあるけれども、その周辺に広がる世界には、懐石、生け花書画、聞香、陶芸、作庭、数奇屋建築など、日本文化のあらゆる側面が取り込まれている。当初は、茶道をやっておけば日本文化を効率よく学べる、という不純な動機で入門した。研究の道に進みはじめた大学院の学生の頃に、茶人片桐石州にゆかりのある「慈光院」という寺をたまたま訪れた折、奈良平野に連なる借景を眺めながら出された薄茶がことのほか美味しくて、茶道を学びたい旨を伝えたところ、東京で石州流の茶を学ぶのならぜひこの方に、と先代住職の奥様から先生をご紹介いただいた。
紹介された先は等々力渓谷にほど近い世田谷区の住宅街にあって、そこには茶道教室の看板があるわけでもなく、人知れず、お家元がその道を護り伝えているといった風であった。また広々とした日本庭園や茶室につながら露地などもなく、外観は普通の住宅の、六畳一間に炉が切ってあるだけの小さな和室で、石州清水流茶道の奥義が伝習されてきた。
いつからか夏には門弟の方々が集まって、懐石の稽古をするのが恒例となっていた。六畳の和室を結界(茶道具のひとつで、境界を示す置物のこと)で二つに仕切り、見立ての「待合い」がつくられ、亭主役の先輩方から桜の花びらを浮かせた桜湯がまず振舞われる。水屋の準備が整った合図とともに結界が取り払われて、今度はそこが茶事の本席へと変わる。六畳の和室は、結界や風炉先屏風の置き方によって、四畳半の和室にも、二畳の待合いにも様変わりし、稽古の主旨に応じて、つまり主客の交わりの親密さによって、どのような格式にでも見立てることができるのだった。
空間のスケールを自由自在に変質させるこのような技は、近代的な空間に慣れきっていた自分には、まず驚きであったし、衝撃だった。自分がそこに存在している空間が、瞬時に別の世界へと変質してしまう。その小さなスペクタクルに、身が震えるようだった。
人の居場所とは、壁とドアに四方を囲まれた部屋ばかりを意味するのではなくて、そこに人が坐り、適当な位置にひとつ二つ仕切りを置けば、心の落ち着ける居場所が得られる。茶人にとっての『座』のあり方は、そこに集う客と亭主が時々の機微に応じてつくり上げていくもので、椅子やテーブルのない無の空間であればこそ、自由自在な間仕切りが可能となっている。

Advertisements