Detail of Img 25

The Yankee-suwari of Samurai
When I was searching through photographs from late Edo Japan, I had a rather large shock when I found image 25. The scene is at the entrance of a samurai family’s mansion. The scene is of a self-important looking warrior traveling to a castle in an extravagent palaquin decorated with black and gold lacquer.Those surrounding the palaquin wait upon the lord’s presence with lowered heads. What is that seated position called? All of the retainer-like warriors are in a position similar to “yankee-suwari”: this can’t just be my imagination. And not just this single picture either. I searched for other examples of the same thing, and there were! (Img. 26)

Img 26

A swarthy faced man is sitting on a stump wearing a crested haori coat. He holds an upright fan at his left knee and a book in his right hand. And indeed, he is looking self-important. Squatting down with both knees up is a person who appears to be like a townsman with his head lowered. This is the position called “yankee-suwari”.
I don’t think there are many people who feel this position similar to “groveling (hai-tsukubaru)” on the ground is artistically beautiful. Incidentally, the modern position of “seiza” was formally called “tsukubau”. About this, let me point out that the stance of seiza includes the implication of “groveling” or “submitting” by those inferior to oneself.
In image 25 which shows the same crouching position. While the warrior wearing a haori with his upper body erect isn’t very yankee-ish, the attendants without hakama who are leaning their chest against their thighs are most certainly doing what we now call “yankee-suwari”. Guessing from their dress, it seems possible they are townspeople employed as attendents by retainers not financially well off. This isn’t an established style of sitting, but has an air of nobody caring really how the feet are as long as the head isn’t held high.
To make this comparision is bad, but the posture of samurai waiting thier turn when attending at the imperial court is stylish and good-looking.
Image 27, from “Kasuga Gongen Genki-e”, is a scene at Fujiwara no Norimichi’s mansion. Among the retainers in front of the ox cart which Norimichi rides to serve at the imperial palace are four warriors sitting near the ox cart, with lacquered bows in their right hands. They readied in a position called “kata-shouza”, with their left knee standing up in contrast with their right knee spread open wide. Most likely skilled archers I suppose. The four men aligned and standing ready in tate-hiza like this has a majestic and magnificent feeling indeed. This position seems to endow those serving at the imperial court, no matter what duties they have, with an appropriate dignity.
It isn’t the signature phrase of the drama “Mito Komon”, but if an official said “You head is too high! Wait your turn!”, at once people lowered only their heads and took the position of “tsukubau” before them. If we assume this spread within warrior-class society, this way of sitting, which is used unchanged in any way by these commoners gambling at the crossroads (Img 28), was probably estalished. Even if that is so, when we look at the submissive flavour of this position (Img 25, 26), we can imagine how popular the low class samurai were of which old school rakugo often made fun.

Chapter Number One: Seiza is Not the Only Proper Way (Part 3)

My Naive Question About Seiza

Currently, we practice the tea procedure of Sekishuu style tea in seiza the same as the other schools. Even when attending a tea meeting organized by the teachers of the area, I have never seen tea done in a position other than seiza. Since a tea procedure can take a long time, often stretching close to an hour, everyone has their feet fall asleep when practicing, so it is even trying to stand that their feet will not move. This author has experienced this himself countless times.
Since the movements the temae already has itself are good, it might be that when participating in a tea seating as a guest, it is rather difficult for the feet one seated on. Occasionally, when I have at times been present in the seat of honour, I have told “dozou ohira ni” and been advised to relax my sitting position. For men, relaxing their position to agura (cross-legged) is not difficult because they wear hakama. But women, wearing kimono, can’t easily relax thier position. Attending a chaji and kaseki meal together, it is not rare to have to sit in seiza for three hours. Because of this, an elderly person doesn’t have such a kind chat as “my feet fell asleep”, but rather the knee joint becomes impaired and people give up on practicing tea are not a few.
As I advanced in my practice, it soon occured to me that I wanted to try and read the books written by the founder. When I perused the one volumn of the “Sekishuu Sanbyaku Kajou” that I received from the oiemoto, the first naive question that rose was about the feeling that one musn’t relax one’s position even enduring any pain in the knees, since wasn’t it that seiza was not the original position for chanoyu?
Doan, who felt the correct form of tatehiza obstructed a corpulent stomache should not be done, relaxed the form and went to a more convenient version of tatehiza. After that, even if one’s feet fall asleep, even if one’s knee joints are impaired, the idea became that “it is proper etiquette to not relax from seiza”. I am afraid that I have to say that the strong feeling in the age of Rikyu and Sekishuu was different.



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.


Chapter Number One: Seiza is Not the Only Proper Way (Part 2)

Tate-hiza of Teamasters

The number one hurdle when one decides to study the procedures of tea, is for everyone one’s feet falling asleep. In deciding to study traditional Japanese ettiquette, because there are many people who think, “It won’t do if I can’t endure seiza” even this modern common sense to prepare to cultivate the bodily ability to be able to do it at least temporarily is safer. However, pursuing the (course of) the history of the ettiquette of ritual tea, it appears that seiza was not always the correct basis. I hope we can have a correct appreciation of this thing.

Sekishuu-ryuu tea ceremony’s founder, a man called Katagiri Sekishuu, was once the shogun’s tea ceremony instructor. In the 5th year of Kanbun (1665), in the age of the 4th shogun, Ietsuna, one the chance of being invited as the tea ceremony instructor to the Shogun’s house, he presented an instruction book about chanoyu. Entitled “Sekishuu Sanbyaku Kajou (300 articles)”, the beginning this book in article 2 was dedicated to an item about the body’s arrangement and posture when making tea called “Mi no Kane (The Standard Position)”.

Not considering (things) from the modern common sense of tea ceremony, the proper way of sitting during chanoyu in those days was in “tate-hiza”: sitting with the the right ankle under the behind on the tatami and the left knee standing up. The tea of Sekishuu was handed down to Kuwayama Souzen from Doan, the eldest son of Sen no Rikyu, and article number three in the “Sanbyaku Kajou” has the next sentence about sitting.

(This is) is my objection about the sitting posture of Doan.

About this one article, according to Seki-shuu School Mito Karou Convention, in “The Teachings of Tanaka Sohaku, Sekishuu Sanbyaku Kajou” that was published, this summed up the explanation:

As for the posture of the temae and also the proper position, rather than doing the temae in a stiff posture that captures a (formal) form, it is better to do the temae in a posture that matches your own body, that is to say, a natural posture.

Because the person called Doan was a person attentive to nutrition, he said that (rather than?) sitting in tatehiza where the stomache presses the knee to the extent it grows fat (we should) sit in the position of tate-hiza with the right foot in tailor fashion to do the temae. Because now as in the past there are all sort of instances where people can’t cannot easily subdue to correct position, especially because (it was) in the instruction book of the shogun’s company, it won’t do if we don’t have the concern that it won’t work to make (someone do) the impossible. In there, even if (we) temporarily decide the proper way of sitting, we can easily realize the thing of being broad-minded concerning sitting in a different way.







この一条について、石州流水戸何陋会によって刊行された『田中素白師伝 石州三百箇条』には、



道安という人は栄養が行き届いた人で、「立て膝」で坐ると腹が膝につっかえてしまうくらい太っていたらしく、右足を胡坐のようにした「立て膝」の姿勢で点前をしていたという。正しい型に容易には従えない人それぞれの事情があるのは今も昔も同じことのようで、とくに将軍相手の指南書では、無理をさせてはいけない という配慮もしなければならなかったことだろう。そこには坐り方の作法を一応定めながらも、容易に応じて ちがう坐り方をも 柔軟に許容する懐の深さがあったことがわかる。