The iEXPerience Program for iCLA’s exchange and non-degree-seeking students is a series of events and workshops designed to provide cultural learning beyond the classroom and enrich the experience of studying abroad in Yamanashi.
On October 26 2022, iCLA officially opened another iEXPerience season. This fall, exchange and non-degree-seeking students have an opportunity to learn about tea ceremony, Haiku poetry, and winemaking of Yamanashi. The first event in the series took the participants to the mysterious atmosphere of Erinji temple at nighttime. It is not the first visit of iCLA students to Erinji, but definitely a more unusual one thanks to the night light-up of the garden.
The garden is one of the National Places of Scenic Beauty of Japan and is said to be founded by a renowned landscape gardener Muso Soseki around 700 years ago, even before the temple itself. The surrounding darkness allowed visitors to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the garden as it highlighted every important detail and erased the background.
Inside the Main Hall, the students were greeted by Omotesenke tea ceremony master Maeshima Kotaro who started the Tea Ceremony workshop by introducing traditional tea room elements. He paid special attention to the “Kakejiku” scroll displayed in the “Tokonoma” alcove. Objects like these are usually picked for the occasion and help create the mood for the event. That day’s “Kakejiku” was a calligraphy scroll that said “Ichisoku-ta” which literally means “one and many”. Normally “one” and “many” are supposed to be the opposite things, but the Buddhist philosophy integrates and unifies contradictions making them whole, as in “many as one”. Just like people from different countries and backgrounds are connected and unified into one even if for a moment.
Maeshima-sensei talked in detail about the proper procedures from entering the tearoom to appreciating the scrolls and ikebana to enjoying the tea as well as the beauty of the traditional tea bowls. “Respectfully but swiftly” was the motto of the event as all the participants performed the tea room rituals one by one. After that, everyone made their own matcha (Japanese green tea) and enjoyed it with seasonal wagashi sweets (traditional Japanese sweets). Students also had a chance to ask their questions about tea ceremony.
A question raised during the event was, “Why is tea ceremony so important for Japanese culture?”
“You have probably heard of kanji 「和」 (WA). It is the original name of Japan but it also means ‘peace’ or ‘harmony’,” Maeshima-sensei says, “this is how you know that peace and harmony are of the utmost importance to Japanese since the olden times. In fact, the earliest recorded Law of Japan also emphasized social harmony over anything else. And I think tea ceremony is so deeply rooted in our culture because it represents exactly the same concept of peace and harmony. The tea room is a place of calmness, peace, and tranquility. It is a place of 「和」. “
Next, Maeshima-sensei, together with Professor William Reed, gave the students a tour of the temple grounds, including the Nightingale Hallway right in front of Takeda Shingen’s grave. The hallway is built to make chirping sounds when walked upon to ensure that no one can sneak through it undetected. The hallway leads to the sacred Fudō Myō-ō (The Immovable One), a statue of one of the Buddhist deities widely represented in Japanese Buddhism. The Immovable One is a fierce-looking protector of the Buddhist Law, with a sword and a lasso in his hands. The design of this particular statue is believed to be based on Takeda Shingen himself. Finally, on their way back everyone walked through the dark of Tainai Meguri corridor that symbolizes rebirth and purification. The program was concluded with a group photo back at the tea room.
“I enjoyed practicing tea ceremony for the first time and learning etiquette. The night view with the starry sky and the garden was also very beautiful.“iCLA Exchange Student
“I really liked to learn about the rituals and the way everything is done in such an organised manner in the temple. It’s very new and unique for me. I learnt about the Japanese religion and culture. I am very happy to explore it. It’s very beautiful! “iCLA Exchange Student
We sincerely thank the Administration of Erinji temple and Maeshima-sensei for their time and this unique opportunity. We also hope that the participants enjoyed this iEXPerience event and learned a lot about Yamanashi historical legacy and traditional culture.
More photos from the event: