2017 New Year's Commencement

New Year's 2017 saw Iemoto SEN Soshitsu XVI and his family observing a period of mourning at the passing, on the 27th of October, 2016, of His Imperial Highness Prince Takahito Mikasa, father of Iemoto's wife, SEN Masako. Due to this, the usual Hatsugama-shiki celebrating the arrival of the New year, which the Iemoto and family host at Konnichian (Kyoto) and at the Urasenke Tokyo Branch, was substituted by a formal event called Keiko-hajime, or "lessons-and-practice commencement." The invitees for this were basically limited to Urasenke chado teachers.

The recently restored Kabutomon front gate to Konnichian. Photo taken on January 7, 2017.

Keiko-hajime took place over the four days of January 7 - 10 at the Iemoto's homestead, Konnichian, and had an attendance of approximately 1,520 licensed Urasenke chado practitioners mainly from western Japan. The main room, where Iemoto SEN Soshitsu XVI personally prepared koicha (thick matcha), was the Chofu-no-ma within the Heisei Chashitsu. In its alcove hung a scroll with calligraphy, Banri ichijo no tetsu (A ten-thousand-mile iron track), by Genpaku Sotan, the 3rd generation in the Sen family.
The Chofu-no-ma room arrangements for Keiko-hajime.

The attendees who led the guest list at the very first seating were Urasenke disciples who receive training directly at the Urasenke head house. The sweets served were "Hishi hanabira," a special Urasenke sweet served at New Year's that originated with the 11th Urasenke iemoto, Gengensai. These were brought in by SEN Takafumi and other men of the family. Once the guests had partaken of the sweets, Iemoto entered and conducted the tea-preparation to make koicha tea for the guests. In making the tea, he used a set of stacked tea bowls jointly created by the 14th Urasenke iemoto, Tantansai, and Tantansai's wife, SEN Kayoko.

Scene at the very first seating.

Following the koicha tea service, Iemoto and the other men of the family entered as a group, and Iemoto expressed their New Year's greetings, saying: "We are hoping that this year, too, even more people will be able to come in contact with the spirit of Harmony, Respect, Purity, Tranquility - the path, the learning, and the actual practice of chado. We want to work hard at this, joining our strength with yours."

The Kangetsu-no-ma room on the second floor of the Heisei Chashitsu was the venue for a light meal and saké served by SEN Masako, SEN Makiko, and other ladies of the family.

SEN Masako, daughter SEN Makiko, and other ladies of the family
greet the guests in the Kangetsu-no-ma.

Members of the Konnichian corps of deputy tea masters welcomed all the attendees for usucha (relatively thin matcha) on the second floor of the nearby Chado Kaikan.

Urasenke Tokyo Branch
Front entrance of the Urasenke Tokyo Branch. Photo taken on January 16, 2017.

The Tokyo Keiko-hajime took place over the three days of January 16-18 at the Urasenke Tokyo Branch. The approximately 1,750 attendees here were mostly licensed Urasenke chado practitioners from eastern Japan.

The implements and decorations were almost all the same as had been used at the Konnichian Keiko-hajime, having been carefully transported from Konnichian. Also, as at Konnichian there was the main koicha venue which Iemoto and the other men of the family handled; the venue for food and saké, at which the ladies of the family provided the hospitality; and the venue for usucha, handled by members of the Konnichian corps of deputy tea masters.

Iemoto SEN Soshitsu XVI watches as his son, SEN Takafumi,
serves the koicha tea to the first guest at a koicha tea service seating in Tokyo.

Iemoto and the other men of the family enter as a group,
and Iemoto expresses their New Year's greetings.

SEN Masako, SEN Makiko, and other ladies of the family
welcome the guests for some food and saké.

Following the Konnichian deputy tea masters' venue for usucha,
the guests view the exhibit of tea bowls and other implements
listed on the official record of articles used at this venue.