The Way of Tea
Recently I had the privilege to photograph inside the Toshin-an Teahhouse in the Japanese Gardens inside the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. My friend Ann is a member of Chado Urasenke Tankokai Birmingham Association. According to their website, the teahouse was "designed and built by Mr. Kazunori Tago of Maebashi, Japan, who is an eighth generation Miyadaiku (temple and shrine builder). Toshin-an is an example of a 16th century Soan style teahouse, made completely from materials brought from Japan and built using only traditional tools and techniques. The construction was completed in 1994. The materials were donated by the citizens of Maebashi."
Here is another quote from their website: "The association is intrinsically tied to the tea house... The name Toshin-an was given by Matsumoto Daien, the abbot of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. The suffix "an" is a hut or a retreat. "Toshin" literally means "light and heart", a homonym to the wick of a lantern. Thus, the name Toshin-an conveys a deep wish that people who get together in this hut light the wick of each other's heart."
Chabana is a simple style of flower arranging used in Japanese tea ceremony. It is rooted in Ikebana, an older more elaborate form of arranging, which is rooted in Shinto Buddhism. Chabana uses only seasonal materials and unlike Ikebana, which is uses mostly shallow vases, Chabana containers are taller and more slender and usually made of natural materials such as bamboo or ceramics, but rarely glass. The arrangement is meant to look as if the flower were simply plucked from its natural environment and simply thrown in the vase. Often the faces of the blooms will be placed in such a way as to lean toward the teahouse guests. You can see this simple style in one of the photos above. I like its simplicity and form and the way that it makes use of the negative space around it.
I hope you will enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed my visit. I recently bought a new film camera I'd been coveting for months and this was my first all film outing. I was really nervous to use only film but it seemed fitting to be using the more traditional photographic technique to capture the beauty of such an old tradition.