Monthly Archives: January 2017

Can We Ever Fully Achieve Peace?

I am ‘me’, because I am not ‘you’. His behavior is ‘bad’ because it is not ‘good’. There is ‘peace’, because there is not ‘war’. The things we define in life always co-exist with its opposing counterpart. Without this counterpart, or at least without it not being something else, we would not be able to define this item. And in effect, without its counterpart, certain concepts would simply not be able to exist.

We are only able to think in terms of peace, because there is war. And for us to be able to want peace, war has to exist. Both concepts go hand in hand. Inevitably, when we want something that is ‘good’, its ‘bad’ counterpart will always be present somewhere in this world.

As long as we keep looking for peace, war will continue to exist. Because it is only in opposing to what we perceive as bad, that we can make progress towards something that is good. But, we will never be able to fully achieve that which is good, for then we will loose our purpose.

Should we somehow as the human race be able to fully achieve peace in this world, and war has been eliminated, we must rid ourselves of the concepts of both war and peace, for as long as we continue to refer to something as peace, we will continue to acknowledge that war exists.

It may sound pessimistic to say so, but we will never be able to fully eradicate the possibility of war and evil. But my optimistic self believes that we together, as the human race have the power to at the very least minimize the necessity of evil by inspiring each other to do what is good.

We can’t change someone else, but we can change how we react and behave towards him or her. Do what is right and let it be the first step in creating a world in which peace takes precedence over war. Doing the right thing is always the right thing, and it may inspire someone to do the same. Little by little we can make our contribution to a brighter more beautiful world, and I feel it my responsibility to inspire through sharing what I have learned and gained as a tea person.

Tea ceremony Kyūgetsu

Our Tea ceremony initiations for foreign travelers in Kyoto will from now on be available from our renewed homepage www.tea-ceremony-kyoto.com, under our new name ‘Tea ceremony Kyūgetsu’.

For approximately one year now, I have conducted Tea ceremony workshops for foreign travelers in Kyoto. We regaled a variety of visitors from different places around the world, as well as Japanese guests and businesses seeking better understanding of Japanese culture by hearing about our views and understanding.

While our tea ceremony activities have until now existed only as an activity offered through The Tea Crane – my online tea store, I feel that the time has come to reposition and expand this sub-project into a separate Tea ceremony venture. In doing so, I seek to make our services better accessible to our guests, and keep a clear vision on what we in effect hope to achieve.

While The Tea Crane will remain as a brand of high quality naturally produced Japanese tea, Tea ceremony Kyūgetsu will focus on experiencing and learning the rite of tea from whichever angle, or however thorough you prefer. On our renewed homepage, we not only offer our extensive Tea ceremony initiation, we now also provide a shorter option for travelers with a limited time schedule, and a more thorough immersion into the depths of this rite. We also conduct actual Tea ceremony lessons for residents in Kyoto, and will add team-building sessions and lectures for businesses as well.

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Our goal is to continue offering the most authentic Tea ceremony activities available in Kyoto, and I feel that repositioning our services this way will aid in providing better services for our international visitors.

Take a look at our renewed homepage here: www.tea-ceremony-kyoto.com.

We also opened a new Facebook page specifically for our Tea ceremony workshops. Please like our page here: https://www.facebook.com/teaceremonykyugetsu/.

We will be looking forward to seeing you in Kyoto!

The Tea-area Constitutes an Area of Peace.

When you enter the compound that comprises the tea-area, you first pass through a rustic garden paved with stepping-stones, lined with moss and greenery. Next you step under the inner gate before reaching the primitive hermitage in which tea is served. This preliminary area serves as the boundary that simultaneously separates and connects the outer everyday world, and the inner rustic and sacred tea-area. Its meaning and purpose is as well symbolic as practical.

While such a tea-compound may most commonly be found in city centers, surrounded by bustling streets and office buildings, advancing through a tea garden symbolizes the transition a participant makes from the hectic everyday world into the unworldly and austere area of tea. Surprisingly somehow, the busyness of the mundane and the sounds of its immediate outer precincts are completely shut out in this enclosure.

Practically, the garden allows the participant to envision this journey as a means to relax, temporarily take distance from practical matters and for a moment is freed from worldly conceptions and boundaries. In the past, the rite of tea was mostly a practice enjoyed by the samurai warrior-caste. For them, being part of an uncompromising vertical hierarchy must have been burdensome. In this respect, the tea area provided a relief from the strict modes of conduct that were associated with their social status. Moreover, a tea-occasion accommodated interaction with persons whom the participant would otherwise not be able to speak face to face with, allowed for personal expression which would on the other hand be unacceptable, and constituted an area of peace in which even foes would be able to share a bowl of tea.

For the warrior, participating in a tea gathering meant that he would enter the area of tea unarmed. Considering that the tea-chamber is a peaceful establishment, this corresponds to the necessity to guarantee every participant’s safety. However, while in the secular world a warrior would never leave his sword unattended (not even when asleep), why would he agree to do so in the tea area?

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The sword rack outside a tea hermitage where a warrior would leave his sword and temporarily take distance from his social status.

In the materialistic world, the sword is not only the highest token of his warrior status; a warrior would care for it as if it were his heart and soul. Society implies that without it, his worth is nihil and that should he loose his soul, he would be no one. In the tea-area however, participants are temporarily freed from social shackles, and are allowed to be the person who they in essence are. When the warrior leaves his sword at the entrance, he symbolically parts from his material self and civil obligations.

What this illustrates is that the rite of tea is not only a means to relax and refresh ourselves; it also implies that we take up the burden of social roles and status to the extent that we suppress or try to cover up the human being we essentially are. Moreover, considering that the tea-chamber is constructed in a space that is explicitly unworldly, it suggests that ‘being who we essentially are’ is unacceptable or inconvenient for society, and that we are obliged to distance ourselves from social standing in order to have peace.

It is my wish that someday we no longer need to explicitly seek for remote environments in order to be allowed the freedom to be the human being we at our core are, and to be respected, and respect others for it. It is my belief that such a world, rich in understanding, compassion and empathy can constitute a peaceful and better world, just as it has proven to be possible within the compounds of a small tea hermitage. It is my dream that I can contribute to realizing this world by introducing the peaceful atmosphere of the exclusive tea-area into our daily lives.

A New Space To Share My Stories.

This is the first post after having fully transferred this blog to a different provider and blog server. From this point on I will be using wordpress for its functionality, readability and accessibility.

Personally, this transfer also marks a new chapter in writing this blog. When the blog was incorporated on The Tea Crane homepage, it mainly served as a source of information on the tea I sell under The Tea Crane brand, and a newsfeed for updates on the store. Now that the homepage/store and the blog are somewhat separate, I feel freer to write about a broader range of topics and more personal topics as well.

Japan has been my home for the past decade. Initially, I came here as a student because I wanted to learn about its tradition and related arts and crafts. After obtaining a postgraduate degree in Japanese 17th century literature, I gave up on my dream to get a Phd. in Japanese studies, and instead chose for a family life as a regular salary worker. This is where my culture shock (or better said ‘never ending series of culture shocks’) began.

In less than four years time, I got married, became father of two children, worked at two different Japanese companies, founded my personal tea business, obtained certifications in Japanese tea and tea ceremony, and as a teacher in tea ceremony, while simultaneously working as a consultant, I am day in day out struggling to keep head above water. I wouldn’t have thought that, when I started my first job in Japan things would go so fast, and that I would learn and experience what I have learned in the past few years.

Given the repositioning of this blog, I am happy to now also have found a space where I can collect and share stories of the experiences I had these past few years as a salary worker, as well as some of my thoughts on Japanese work ethics and company culture, in addition to articles on the subjects that I care about most; Japanese tea and culture. In the posts to come, I will give more precedence to writing about why I am in Japan, what I have experienced, the perceptions I have on certain cultural and social phenomenon, and what keeps me busy everyday.

I hope that you, the readers of this blog, may enjoy my entries, and will also give feedback or share your stories on subjects that I have written about.

Directions for 2017

Dear reader,

First of all, I want to wish you all the best of health and happiness for 2017.

 

2016 WAS THE YEAR OF TEA.

I have focused on assembling an assortment of the most reliable, natural and authentically Japanese teas and offered them through my web store.

I have also been active as an instructor in tea ceremony and have taught Japanese residents on a weekly basis, in addition to conducting introductory workshops for foreign travellers and tourists in Dutch and English.

During these sessions, I have experienced that merely translating information from one language to another is not enough. Where this is especially the case with tea ceremony, I have learned that cultural concepts inherent to one language are not evidently understood when translated to another. It takes deep understanding of the matter in the source language, and demands an understanding of cultural concepts in the target language in order to provide an understandable approach or explanation with familiar examples.

I believe that on most occasions the essence of information is not transferred sufficiently between languages, not because of a lack of translation, but due to a lack of understanding about the cultural background of either source or target language.

Especially when the number of foreign visitors to Japan is growing exceedingly each year, insufficient attention is given to localizing translated information. This leaves the target audience oblivious to the message’s central meaning, and thus fails to present an authentic representation of the conferrer’s intentions.

 

FOR 2017 I HAVE CHOSEN TO GROW.

I have rephrased The Tea Crane’s motto to: ‘Japan’s tradition in a cup of tea.

I strongly believe that tea is at the essence of Japanese culture and tradition. It also allows us a temporary relief from worldly stress and boundaries and provides a moment to relax. Therefore, I will continue to serve you as your main source of authentic Japanese tea.

From this month forward, I will in addition provide translation and localization services to foreign businesses and travellers, as well as to Japanese businesses and nationals looking to reach an abroad audience. In the same respect, I will also offer my services on language education, writing, localized design, assistance with accommodation of services locally, and related managerial activities for the benefit of travellers and businesses to Japan.

It is my belief that your target audience has the right to fully grasp the essence of your message, even when the cultural background or language is different. The services I provide are based on a cultural and linguistic understanding of Japanese, as well as English and Dutch, accumulated and nurtured over the years of study, residence and participation in cultural circles in Japan, and during my upbringing in Europe. Based on a thorough understanding of both cultures and languages, I aim to provide a localized approach to successfully convey the essence of your message.

 

Would you prefer a mere translation of your word from language to language? Or will you choose to convey your message from heart to heart?

 

—– Your Japan specialist, Tyas Sōsen