First we went to a sub temple, Zuiho-in for an informal tea ceremony with the Abbot. It was another couple and me and our tour guides. My guide Kiyo interpreted.
Here is a photo of the Abbott. No photos are allowed during the tea ceremony.
Besides the historic, cultural, beautiful and spiritual aspects, well probably because of the spiritual aspects: it is fun.
The Abbott is totally present and humorous. After serving us our tea sweets that he made with a nattokinase center, he told us about his daily routine. He rises early and chants for half an hour, then he does housework for two hours and then tea cermony and Abbot duties.
He suggested we get rid of our couches. Kiyo told me he is against them. I guess to prevent ‘couch potatoism.’
I told him if I got rid of my couch, my husband would be sitting on it.
He said I needed to make sure my husband took ten deep breaths before I served him breakfast. I didn’t tell him that I don’t serve him breakfast. He told me that I wield the ‘stick’ in our relationship. You could have fooled me.
I know what stick he is talking about. Once before when I was there, the Abbott showed our group the stick they use to whack monks who fall asleep during services. He showed us how placing the stick at your back induces good posture.
Now this Abbot he looks terrific. He asked how old I was and I gave him the age I felt, (jet lag and all), 135.
He is in his 80’s. He attributes it to the respiratory benefits of chanting and all that exhaling.
He admired my Japanese mulberry socks. I told him my grandchildren wanted them but I said no and kept them for myself.
Kiyo told me, he suggested that she take me to a certain temple. We went there but it was closed. Kiyo told me they serve a special Japanese desert there. I never got back to try it but I did buy some chocolate mochi on Saturday, in case that took care of whatever experience the Abbot suggested for me.
Zuiho-in has beautiful gardens, including this dry garden.
The gravel is meant to simulate water.
And a new bathroom with a toilet seat that lifts up as you enter. It has all the amenities and even an uneven floor to massage your feet as you walk on it.
And fragrant plants outside the window.
The Abbot chose a blue lacquered tea bowl for my matcha. He picks a unique bowl for each participant. Usually it is tied to the seasons.
It was a deep navy blue color. I never have seen one like it. The Abbot asked me why I was there and I said I wanted to return to Japan before I was too old to get back there. My trip was consumately satisfying. I am content.