2008 New Year's Tea

The 2008 New Year's Tea hosted by the Urasenke Head Family took place over the seven days of January 7-13 at the family's historical home, Konnichian (Kyoto), and then the five days of January 16-20 at the Urasenke Tokyo Branch. This felicitous annual event is called the Hatsugama-shiki or "First Kettle celebration," as it is the first formal occasion in the year for the family to put on the kettle for guests.
    The Totsutotsusai, where Iemoto Zabosai prepared koicha for everyone, had in its alcove the traditional looped willow branches draping down from its far upper corner, and the heirloom kaishi scroll featuring auspicious "Pine Poem" by Emperor Ogimachi (r. 1557-86). The other decorations also followed the annual tradition for the family's Hatsugama-shiki. Hanging on the alcove pillar was the slender bamboo flower container named Hashi-no-bo, attributed to SEN Rikyu, and in its bottom opening was an Akebono ("dawn") camellia and sprig of Uguisukagura ("warbler's sacred Shinto dance"), the name of which - like Akebono - is perfect for the celebration of the New Year. On the floor of the alcove, there was an antique Shinto bell instrument having colorful ribbon streamers attached to the handle, set upon a lacquered dais.
    Thirty-two guests were received at the very first seating at Konnichian. First, the guests were served the traditional Urasenke Hatsugama-shiki confection, Hishi Hanabira mochi ("diamond-shaped flower petal" rice cake). Sharing the first bowl of koicha prepared by Iemoto Zabosai were Iemoto SEN Sosa of Omotesenke, Iemoto SEN Soshu of Mushakojisenke, Kyoto Governor YAMADA Keiji, Kyoto Mayor MASUMOTO Yorikane, and Iemoto YAMADA Sohen of the Sohen chanoyu tradition.

    When the koicha service was finished, the men of the family entered the room to formally express their New Year's greetings, with Iemoto Zabosai as spokesman. The first seating at Konnichian ended with a performance of the noh chant entitled "Shikainami," by KONGO Hisanori, the head of the Kongo noh tradition. It is a classical noh chant for auspicious occasions, the lyrics of which celebrate the peace that prevails in the land.

    In a separate room, Mrs. Sen and other ladies of the family served the guests a festive meal, and personally poured saké for everyone.

    The various room appointments were much the same at the Tokyo Branch. Here, the top guests on the first day were Prime Minister FUKUDA Yasuo and his wife, followed by other government leaders.