$n$ MARQUEE - Tea room keeps alive centuries-old tradition

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Under the watchful eye of Professor Akira Takemoto, Bridget Snow practices the centuries-old art of preparing tea for a Japanese tea ceremony.

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Dressed in traditional a Japanese kimono, Noriko Omoto practices the centuries-old art of the Japanese tea ceremony in Whitman College's new tea space, located in Olin Hall's east wing.

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Senior student Bridget Snow, left, Noriko Omoto and Professor Akira Takemoto in Whitman College's new tea space located in the east wing of Olin Hall at the college. Dedicated in October, the space reflects the aesthetic concerns of a style of serving tea that is now has bridged centuries.

A centuries-old tradition has found a new home at Whitman College.

Dedicated in October, a traditional Japanese tea room in Olin Hall is now the nexus for those who wish to learn an art well over 400 years old.

Incorporated into the college's new Japanese language classroom, the elegantly simple space was designed by Professor Akira Takemoto, chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. It is the latest in a number of tea spaces Takemoto has designed and built on the college campus since coming to Whitman in 1983.

In creating the new room, Takemoto said he worked closely with architect James Stenkamp and his wife, Susie, to include such details as a cedar shingled roof and a preparation and storage area called a "mizuya." The Stenkamps were also designed the outside pathway leading to the new room.SClBTakemoto said other key participants have been Larry Dimino and his assistants who translated Stenkamps' drawings "to prepare and put together the materials that grew into this tea room," as well as Jim and Jane Robison whose "generous gift" allowed the purchase and shipping of the tatami mats from Kyoto, Japan, that completed the space.

The new space encompasses a six and a half tatami mat area where tea is prepared and served to guests during a ceremony and a formal three-quarter tatami mat alcove space for the display of scrolls and flowers.

This semester, in addition to teaching a class on Japanese Aesthetics that focuses on ideas central to the tradition of the tea ceremony, Takemoto and his assistant Noriko Omoto have been conducting private lessons for seven Whitman students.

"I've had the privilege of working with a lot of students," Takemoto said, "but having this space has allowed me to teach students in an entirely different way."

About The Tea Room

According to Professor Akira Takemoto, the Whitman College tea room reflects the aesthetic concerns of the Yabunouchi style of serving tea that began with Yabunouchi Kench?ordm; (1536-1627).

Kench?ordm; and subsequent grand masters of the Yabunouchi family sought to bridge two important aesthetic ideas in Japan, simplicity and elegance. Those sensibilities are embodied in the grand Sh?ordm;kido tea room located on the grounds of the Yabunouchi family residence and that is the room that inspired the design of the Whitman College tea room.

The Sh?ordm;kido tea room is also where Takemoto began his training in 1976 and where he received his certificate to teach the Yabunouchi tradition from the current and thirteenth generation Grand Master, Yabunouchi Jochi.

At the dedication in October, the son and heir of the grand master, Yabunouchi Joyu, prepared and served the first bowl of tea prepared in the room.

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