On December 13 and 14 (Fri. and Sat.), we held tea ceremony lessons on the second floor of Murin-an’s main building. The temperature has grown much chillier since Thursday night, but we could feel the warmth coming from the iron kettle nearby during step-by-step lessons in how to behave at a ryurei (table and chair) tea ceremony. For lessons in bonryaku temae (a simplified version of the tea ceremony), our instructor carefully showed students how to remove one’s tea cloth (chakin) from a cylindrical tea bowl (tsutsu).
To the side of the garden path, there are shrubs with little black beads closely packed together on them. Now’s the perfect time to see the fruits on these Japanese euryas. Sometimes there are little green beads on the tips of their branches. These are buds for the spring that have already borne fruit. Japanese euryas have both male and female species, and the males are the ones without black fruit.
Another name for the Japanese black pine (kuromatsu) is omatsu, meaning male pine. This name is given to it because both its needles and branches are tougher and firmer than that of the Japanese red pine (akamatsu). Here are some pictures of our head gardener removing its needles by hand and clipping unnecessary branches with pruning clippers, just as you would for a red pine. When plucking these needles, pine sap from the removed areas comes out and slowly hardens as it comes into contact with the air. This is a defense reaction not unlike the scabs of human beings. Pruning and caring for trees while taking care not to damage them significantly is part of this work.
The haigoke moss (hypnum plumiforme Wilson or “carpet moss”) that grows in Murin-an like a green carpet is very soft and thus there are areas of it where the dead leaves that get stuck in its gaps cannot be removed with a whisk broom. In these places, we remove each leaf by hand, one at a time. In the area around the Shinto shrine-style fence (tamagaki) where the grass lawn changes into moss, there are parts where haigoke moss grows straight upward, so we check the moss’s growth condition as we work.
On December 7 (Sat.), we learned about Kyoto’s annual events with Setsuko Sugimoto of the Naraya Memorial Sugimoto Residence Preservation Society, which preserves and informs the public about the Sugimoto Residence and Garden. Everyone was fascinated by the Saichu Oboe (Memorandum on Annual Events), an historical document held by the Sugimoto family, and its annual events for each month of the year and dietary customs.
This lecture used video images to show us the dietary culture of an Edo period (1603-1868) merchant family, including points such as eating to save time and the necessity of having a course menu, and also taught us the importance of using time effectively.
On December 6 and 7 (Fri. and Sat.), we held tea ceremony lessons in Murin-an’s tea room. Here are some scenes of step-by-step lessons held in the chilly season of December. While each student receives their instruction in turn, the others continue learning through observation. In this quiet space, the steam rising from the hearth made the lesson’s atmosphere feel even more dignified.
With the arrival of December, the wind blowing from the Higashiyama mountains now feels frigid. We have installed a stove heater in the 10-tatami mat space of the main house’s first floor so that you can enjoy looking out at the garden from inside more comfortably.
We actually consulted with Kyoto City and the Kyoto Fire Department before finally installing this stove heater. As the designated manager of one of Japan’s cultural properties, we give sufficient consideration to safety in our operation of Murin-an.
Relax at our cafe as you enjoy looking at Murin-an’s winter scenery.
This week, we recommend trying our yuzu (citron) tea.
The fruit on the coral ardisia plants growing in different parts of Murin-an’s garden have started turning red. One of the characteristics of these fruits is that they hang downward from the plant’s branches and are thus an important food for wild birds in winter. There are now lots of fruits on the coral ardisia growing in areas with good sunlight exposure. Be sure to come see them.
On December 4 (Wed.), we held a lecture on the Copper Pheasant. This is an endemic species living only in Japan characterized by its males’ long pheasant-like tail. They live in the dim light of the Higashiyama forest and have long been cherished birds in Japanese tanka poetry and in the famous Ogura Hyakunin Isshu poetry anthology. Today we discussed the Copper Pheasant’s various charms, including how it beats its wings as a mating call.
Murin-an’s weekly Wednesday “Wild Bird Mini-lecture” is held from 2:00-2:30 PM in the 8-tatami mat space in the main house of the first floor. We choose a wild bird species and discuss interesting characteristics about it and its ecology while also looking out at the garden and explaining any wild birds that happen to fly by.
Our first twenty participants get an original postcard featuring the Murin-an wild bird discussed that week! Feel free to drop in.
Spreading its wings out widely over the stream, an absolutely white little egret landed in Murin-an’s garden. Moving to the stream, it shook the bottom of the water, skillfully sticking in its beak to eat the creatures that had been hiding underneath the dead leaves.
The are four species of egret that visit Murin-an’s garden. Those with yellow toes are little egrets, the big ones with black toes are great egrets. The ones that are bluish-gray all over are herons and those with deep bluish-gray backs and red eyes are night herons.