Saturday, September 6, 2008

Los Angeles: The way of tea from Mrs. Sosei Matsumoto

Thanks to LA Observed for linking to a recent AP story in the SF Chronicle on one of L.A.'s living cultural treasures: Mrs.Sosei Matsumoto a teacher in the way of tea. Here's some excerpts from the story I wrote on the delightful octogenarian (she's now 88!) for the sadly defunct East West Magazine:


Entering Mrs. Sosei Matsumoto's traditional Japanese-style tearoom is a journey to another time and place: one that is serene and ordered, where people are impeccably polite and respectful of each other. Here the 86-year old sensei (teacher) continues to meticulously instruct students in the 450-year old, Urasenke tradition of Chado or way of tea.

Preparing and serving a perfect bowl of tea sounds simple enough but the Japanese way of tea is a truly complex discipline, one that incorporates the most exquisite Japanese arts and crafts and exemplifies ideal Japanese etiquette and taste. At the heart of the ceremony is the Zen Buddhist principle that enlightenment can be achieved even in the most mundane task.

The diminutive but spirited octogenarian doesn't see herself retiring, "until life retires." Many tea masters are 99 or 100 years old, she declares. If anything, she wants to be reborn, so she can do it all over again until the entire world has Urasenke tea. However, the appeal of the way of tea remains a mystery, an almost magical wonder. To Mrs. Matsumoto, her vocation is 'a beautiful feeling, no enemy, everybody beautiful people."

1 comment:

Douglas said...

Dear Ms McDonald, I really enjoyed this post and have since been finding many great things re: Mrs. Sosei Matsumoto. Do you have any contact information for her? I'm very interested to see whether she is still teaching...

Thanks!
Douglas