In an ongoing effort to enliven the subject matter taught in history classes, Sierra Vista Junior High School hosted an authentic Japanese tea ceremony on Friday.
The event was part of the school’s monthly “Brown Bag Presentations,” where students are encouraged, often with the incentive of extra credit, to attend topical events that enrich their curriculum.
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On Friday, 75 students filled the campus library, all situated around a large fluorescent orange carpet and towering red umbrella.
The students, instructed to keep quiet during the solemn ceremony, were treated to a crash course in the history of tea ceremonies during lunchtime.
“We try to help good and stable relations between countries,” said Julian Ely, Information and Culture Advisor from the Consulate General of Japan at Los Angeles. “But when it comes down to it, there needs to be a friendship between people.”
Ely, who attended tea classes during an 18-month stay in Japan, said the ceremonies provided sources of insight to Japanese culture.
“Please observe carefully and just look at everything and think about how much went into everything you see,” he said.
The presentation was administered by Madame Fumi Akutagawa, her sister Madame Yaeko Hosobuchi, and Carol Hyland, representing the Japanese Edo-senke Kansetsu-kai school.
“Be in the moment and be focused being here, right now, because this moment will never come again,” said Hyland.
During the o-bon temae (served on a tray) ceremony, Hosobuchi prepared the matcha (powdered green tea) while Ely and seventh-graders Kassidi Smith and Diego Gonzalez waited respectfully on the mat to be served.
Shoes off, the guests on the mat ate traditional Japanese sweets per custom.
“The reason we always have sweets is because the tea is not sweetened at all and it really changes the flavor of the tea,” said Hyland.
“We’re focused on sharing with our friends,” she said.
After whisking the tea, Hosobuchi served the tea from an ornate pot to each of the kneeling guests, who bowed and turned their bamboo cups before sipping. Soon, everyone in attendance was treated to a small sample of the potent green tea.
“I felt really relaxed,” said Cassidy.