Suppose you are visiting a foreign country… for instance, mine. And suppose you were recommended to attend an outdoor tea party being held at a 350-years-plus-old garden, which used to be part of a cottage for the heads of my country (including the royal family) until it was handed over to the municipality about seventy years ago.
You are told it would be a great opportunity to get to know the spirit that is at the heart of our culture. If you decide to attend it, what would you wish to get out of this experience?
Seeing beautiful traditional tea sets and hosts and waiters dressed in gorgeous traditional wear? Maybe.
Learning how to eat and drink them “the proper way”? Maybe. (Mind you, there are countless schools of tea with differing rules and instructions, so what you learn as proper in one school could be improper in another!)
Having pretty-looking sweets and tasty bowls of tea? Maybe.
Or maybe you would instead want to know the meaning of preserving this tradition and the difficulties in keeping it alive through ever changing times.
Maybe you would rather be told the reasons why our traditional tea is served the way it is, and why it can bring about peace and tranquility in those who take part.
Maybe you would prefer to gain insight on the thoughts behind the choice of sweets and bowls you are served.
But before anything, maybe you would like to be informed of how long you will have to wait in line and at what time the service will end, so you will have enough time to take a walk around the entire garden…
Quite a different scenery, is it not?
… and maybe find something else from which you could get to know the spirit that is at the heart of our culture.
Juniper Bonsai trimmed in a shape similar to the pottery of a house placed next to it… I was told one way to enjoy the tree is with its surroundings / backgrounds, and I personally liked this combination the most, the way the tree stretches itself to watch over the house so lovingly (at least that’s the way I saw it)!
For many who come to visit our little land in the Far East, it is their once-in-a-lifetime experience. That means, it is our once-in-a-lifetime experience to have them get to know our culture, and in turn ourselves, as much as possible. Maybe we need to think a little more about what it is about our culture and ourselves we want them to take home – a simple nice memory of a tea party that can also be experienced anywhere with the same kind of tea sets, or an unforgettably heart-felt hospitality at a traditional event they will never experience elsewhere?