I’ve served in an all-day tea event before at Ichibata Yakushi Temple by carrying the tea and sweets (o-hakobi), but the Matsue Castle Grand Tea Ceremony is one of the Top 3 (all three share this title, no one thing is chosen as Number 1) tea gatherings in Japan. Although I had done part of the preparing of the tea (o-temae) for my tea school’s private Hatsugama (New Years tea ceremony), this was my first time doing it in front of strangers–up to 50 of them at a time, though we served hundreds of people in one day.
We had three Omotesenke schools all working together on Sunday (other schools were in charge on Saturday), so in rotating out between a large handle of people performing o-temae, we had arranged for me to go somewhat early so as to have a higher chance of getting a second turn in the afternoon. That second chance just came much, much sooner than expected.
For as many mistakes as I have managed to make in practicing tea, this was the biggest mess I had ever made after having put the matcha in the tea cup. When I poured the hot water in, a bunch of matcha splashed out against the tatami, and there was a thick, paint-like layer of green around the cup above the tea itself–the tea probably was full of clumps, too. The majority of guests are served tea prepared by an assembly line in back, including people wiping the cups to make them look prettier–unfortunately for the shoukyaku (guest in the seat of honor) this time, he probably had the worst of thousands of cups of tea served that whole weekend!
I’ll recap my serving experience a bit first, and then share a little about when I just went around as a guest the day before and tried out some other schools of tea!