|In the afternoon of April 22, 2016, US Ambassador Caroline KENNEDY made a visit to Shoren'in temple in the southeastern hills of Kyoto, and had a bowl of tea in the open-air glass tea house named Kou-an [Abode of Light]. Her hostess for the tea, who conducted the tea-making (temae) in the see-through tea house, was SEN Makiko, the daughter of Urasenke Iemoto SEN Soshitsu XVI. It was the second time for Makiko to be on the hosting side for a tea gathering for Ambassador Kennedy; the previous time was when, in December of 2013, the then newly-appointed Ambassador and her family were guests of the Sen family for a tea gathering at Urasenke Konnichian, the historical home of Makiko's family. |
The striking tea house was designed by the internationally renowned designer, YOSHIOKA Tokujin. The model for it made its debut at the Glasstress 2011 exhibition held in conjunction with the Venice Art Biennale. The Kou-an has been on display on the observation deck of Shoren'n temple's Shogunzuka Dainichido, with its breathtaking panoramic view across the Kyoto basin, since April 9, 2015, as an exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the sister-city tie between Kyoto and Florence (Italy). For this visit by Ambassador Kennedy, Yoshioka was present, in partial connection with the fact that a "Water Block" glass bench of his design was to be installed at the ambassador's official residence at the US Embassy in Tokyo a few days later.
The previous day and night, it had rained heavily in Kyoto. Fortunately, the rain had cleared and the sun was shining intermittently through hazy clouds on the day of the tea gathering.
Ambassador Kennedy entered the little tea house through the nijiriguchi (small doorway for guest, requiring crouching low to pass through), and once the confection had been brought in to her by Konnichian deputy tea master (gyotei) KANAZAWA Soi, Makiko came in and prepared usucha for the ambassador. The two exchanged pleasant conversation, and there were moments of happy laughter between them.