Daisosho in Los Angeles: Lecture and Raku Exhibit
“PEACEFULNESS THROUGH A BOWL OF TEA”
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Reported by Iris Friedlander, New York
May 24, 2015 — On a sunny afternoon at the downtown Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Dr. Genshitsu Sen, 15th Grand Master of Urasenke, presented an offertory Tea (kencha-shiki); followed by his 40-minute lecture/demonstration, and a dedicatory Tea. These events, free and open to the public, began at 1 pm, and ran over 2 hours. They were held in conjunction with the extraordinary exhibition, “Raku: The Cosmos in a Tea Bowl,” in the museum’s Pavilion for Japanese Art.
The 600-seat auditorium was packed. Special guests in the audience included Kyoto potter, Atsundo Raku, 34-year old son of Kichizaemon Raku XV. Dr. Robert T. Singer, Curator and Head of Japanese Art at LACMA, opened the program with a charming musical prelude: Japanese ladies performed duets on koto and harp, of the traditional melody “Sakura,” followed by Irving Berlin’s “America.” Daisosho, looking fit and spry at 92 years, presented a ryurei-style offertory Tea, in a somber, slow-paced temae. Driven by his intense desire to contribute to the realization of global peace, he has devoted his life to spreading Chado, the Way of Tea, around the world. Fittingly, this Tea commemorated the end of World War II in 1945.
His on-stage hanging scroll, “Wa Kei Sei Jaku”, represent Chado’s four key principles: harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Daisosho then prepared Koicha for 10 dignitaries, including Consul General Harry H. Horinouchi, who spoke briefly, Mrs. Horinouchi, Dr. Glenn T. Webb, and others.
His talk wove together threads about Tea, Raku, and his personal experiences, which were expertly translated by Gretchen Mittwer. Daisosho’s smile lit up the large room, as he related that his first tea lesson from his father, Tantansai, began on the 6th day of the 6th month of his 6th year. To accommodate his small hands, Seinyu Raku XIII (1887~1944) was commissioned to make a child-size chawan. This was his first experience with Raku ware – 86 years ago! He explained that in Chanoyu the pottery hierarchy is: ichi Raku, ni Hagi, san Karatsu.
We were reminded that the spectacular Raku exhibit next door was a unique event. Dr. Singer had been planning the show and Daisosho’s visit for five years, in celebration of LACMA’s 50th anniversary. He went to Japan to personally request from Daisosho the loan of ‘Tarobo’ by Chojiro I (?~1589). Another temae demonstrating usucha thin tea was given for three guests. The shokyaku was Christy Soei Bartlett, Director, Urasenke Foundation San Francisco.
After this wondrous program, I chatted briefly with Atsundo Raku, who is now closely studying the pottery of his 16th century ancestor, Chojiro I. How lucky he is!