Learn chanoyu now

In 10 easy lessons. OK, 9.
Beginning this Saturday–OK, last Saturday–you can take a beginner’s course in Japanese Tea Ceremony at Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.  It’s not too late to start on May 15.  May 22 would be too late to start.
Email info@shofuso.com.
Rudimentary details here.

The Philadelphia chapter of the Urasenke school of chanoyu was started by Brother Joe Keenan of LaSalle University, who was intrigued by the parallels between chanoyu and the catholic liturgy.  The school continues at the “Japanese House” in West Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park.  Classes are taught by Morgan Beard and Drew Hanson.

I encourage you to experience this singular phenomenon.  I took a few of these lessons several years ago, and I’m starting again this year.  It’s a mix of tea, church, and martial arts.  During my first lesson, I was struck by the amount of physicality involved.  The first hurdle is high: Westerners will have to put in lots of time getting used to seiza posture.  This prompted me to realize that there’s a large first stage of difficult, deliberate work that’s a prerequisite to the “chilled out” state that Americans recognize as Zen.

So check out the school’s website and blog.  Drew also has a tea house in NJ that’s open by appointment.

One thing you won’t see on those websites: the Uransenke program used to be conducted in an outbuilding on the LaSalle University Campus.  Brother Joe set up this amazing space, which boasted two tea ceremony rooms and a preparation area.  In 2007, LaSalle started demolishing this building, thinking it wasn’t in use, thereby ruining a cultural treasure valued at $1 million.  Apparently the school moved into the Japanese House without batting an eye; their websites say diplomatic things like “in 2007, LaSalle ended the tea program.”  If you’re going to college in Philadelphia, please consider someplace other than LaSalle.  I’m not so Zen about it yet.

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