Aung San Suu Kyi Visits Konnichian

On Monday, April 15, 2013, Dr. Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the Burmese National League for Democracy and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, made a visit to Urasenke Konnichian. Among her small entourage was her personal assistant, Dr. Tin Mar Aung. They were accompanied by Ambassador Mikio NUMATA and Second Secretary Katsuyuki MATSUOKA of the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar.

Dr. Sen greets Dr. Suu Kyi at the Kabutomon. Dr. Sen guides the guests in.

Dr. Suu Kyi and group were warmly welcomed at the Kabutomon by Dr. Genshitsu SEN, who guided them to the recently completed Heisei Chashitsu's Chofu-no-ma, where his daughter-in-law Mrs. Masako SEN and grand-daughter Miss Makiko SEN -- respectively, the wife and the daughter of Iemoto Soshitsu Sen XVI -- were awaiting them.

Miss Sen performed the tea-making on this occasion, while Dr. Sen conversed with Dr. Suu Kyi and the other guests. He explained about the scroll, which bore the words Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku (Harmony, Respect, Purity, Tranquility), representing the ideals of the Japanese Way of Tea. He also mentioned his one visit to Burma, which was in 1958, to initiate a Chado class at Rangoon University.

While eating the sweets which had been served to her, Dr. Suu Kyi commented in Japanese that she liked traditional Japanese sweets because they are so beautiful. The cherry blossom season arrived earlier than usual in Japan this year, and therefore it was nearing its end by this time. However, in the knowledge that Dr. Suu Kyi had expressed in earlier press interviews that she looked forward to seeing the cherry blossoms, the sweets for this occasion, including a main sweet named "Sakura-no-sode" (kimono sleeve with cherry blossoms) and several candy-like sweets, focused on the theme of cherry blossoms.

Mrs. Sen serves the tea to Dr. Suu Kyi.Dr. Suu Kyi comments on the taste of the tea.

The first serving of usucha, which was in a red Raku tea bowl, was carried to Dr. Suu Kyi by Mrs. Sen, and when Dr. Suu Kyi had taken a sip and Miss Sen inquired about its taste, Dr. Suu Kyi, who mentioned that she had taken lessons in chanoyu during her days as a research student at Kyoto University 28 years ago, responded that it was an acquired taste, but she liked it very much.

She expressed interest in whisking a bowl of tea herself, and so, seated at her guest table, she prepared usucha with Miss Sen there to coach, and when it was ready, she personally carried it to Dr. Sen and, as they both sat on the tatami, she offered it to him. Dr. Sen drank it with zest, saying that he was very happy to drink tea prepared by her.

Dr. Sen raises the tea in gratitude before drinking it.

Before it was time to go upstairs, where a simple kaiseki-style lunch would be served, Dr. Sen introduced Dr. Suu Kyi and all the other guests to some of the bamboo implements and other articles used in chanoyu, and lifted the kettle out of the sunken hearth, for them to see the beautifully glowing charcoal fire. At the close of this warm and pleasant time sharing tea and conversation and many bits of information about various aspects of chanoyu, Dr. Suu Kyi said that she wished she could have had the chance to learn Chado from Dr. Sen.

Dr. Suu Kyi receives the Sakai Peace Contribution Award from
Sakai City Mayor Osami Takeyama.

In the afternoon, following the lunch, a ceremony was held in the Chofu-no-ma to present Dr. Suu Kyi with the esteemed Sakai Peace Contribution Award, a biannual award given by Sakai City, Osaka. Dr. Suu Kyi had been unable to attend the official awards ceremony held in October, 2012, in Sakai, and so it was arranged for her to receive the award during her visit to Kyoto, at this special ceremony at Urasenke's Heisei Chashitsu. Mayor Osami TAKEYAMA and members of the screening committee for the award, including Dr. Sen, were in attendance.