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Urasenke "The Way of Tea" Lecture at Rice University

Updated: Nov 25, 2018

With the generous sponsor, Rice University, Office of Multicultural Community Relations, the 25th commemoration began.

Professor Nancy Stalker lectured at Rice University

The first day of the three day commemoration started at Rice University, Grand Hall.

“The 25th anniversary started at Rice University, noted leader in higher learning and multicultural education.”


The teaching and learning started on Friday October 19th, with the intellectual segment of the Program at Rice University. Rice University is one of the top universities in Texas and a leader in international and multicultural relations. With the gracious sponsorship from the Office of Multicultural Community Relations, at Rice University, the 25 year Urasenke event was held at the Grand Hall near the center of campus. Mr. David Medina, Director of Multicultural Community Relations, attended the event to show Rice University’s support for cultural awareness and continued learning through the simple art of Japanese Tea. This Tea lecture was open to the public, students and faculty, VIP guests, as well as the members of Urasenke Tankokai Houston. Considering that Rice University is the hallmark of higher education in Texas and throughout the United States, the Urasenke lecture series had a perfect venue.

The Urasenke President kindly introduced the honored guests and special attendees including the Honorable Hideo Fukushima, Consul General from Japan to Houston and Mr. Kazuo Machida Soho, Gyotei, Representative for Oiemoto. Mr. Soho’s presentation was in Japanese, but graciously translated by Ms. Aki Shimada, Educational Program Administrator - Rice University, for the English speaking audience members.

The Consul General from Japan, Hideo Fukushima, spoke to introduce himself to his new post in Houston. Consul General Fukushima noted the significance of Urasenke Tankokai Houston as an important cultural bridge between Houston, the center of the United States, and Japan. He started this new assignment in Houston with great vigor and resolves to continue the sincere business partnership between Japan and Houston. Consul General Fukushima considers Urasenke to be a critical cultural representative locally, and appreciates the group’s mutual support for his duties as they unfold. Fukushima expressed great honor to be a part of this 25 year celebration of Urasenke, and will lend his helping hands to continue this tradition for many years to come.

Mr. Kazuo Machida Soho, Gyotei, spoke on behalf of the greater Urasenke organization worldwide, and was happy to join in the festivities of this commemorative program. Mr. Soho is both teacher and leader of the Urasenke group back in Japan. The Gyotei (which means Deputy in Japanese) spoke of the gracious hosts of the venue, and the friendly and hospitable organizers of this event. His experience with the well-organized local Urasenke chapter was beyond his wildest hopes. Mr. Soho thanked the Urasenke Houston members for assembling a premier event in the best of venues. His words of wisdom resonated with all the members of the local Urasenke Tankokai Houston members, showing that all their hard work paid off in exponential dividends. Mr. Soho being a top teacher in the Art, still believes he is a “student” and enjoys new experiences.

In the Japanese culture, a student never gives up the lifelong quest for learning, and even the highest teachers never stop to be amazed at new and interesting developments in the world. The Gyotei was amazed at the success of the local Urasenke group and praised their continued focus on CHADO.

The principal of “the love of learning”, has brought two lecturers from different aspects of Tea to the Rice University Grand Hall. Urasenke Tankokai Houston was proud to arrange the lectures of Dr. Nancy Stalker, Associate Professor and Sen Soshitus, Distinguised Chair Japan (20thCentury, Culture and Gender) University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Ms. Rona Tison, Executive Vice President – Corporate Relations and PR, ItoEn North America. The presentations helped the audience and general public to understand some of the critical aspects of CHADO and why the tea ceremony is so important to Japanese Culture.

The first lecture was by Dr. Stalker, and titled “Teaching Tea at University of Hawaii”. Her speech and Powerpoint presentation was a very interesting treatise of the history of Japanese culture, and how food, flower art, and tradition are related to the ancient Japanese Tea Ceremony. Dr. Stalker is a world renowned expert on Japanese culture and the transition into modern times. Her explanation clearly tied together CHADO with Ikebana (Japanese Flower Art) and the style and tastes of Japanese food flavor. Summarily all different aspects of these traditions highlight the peaceful and tranquil characteristics of Japan. In addition, Dr. Stalker tied together the old with the new traditions (mentioned in one of her many publications “Japan: History and Culture from Classical to Cool”) and how the focused Urasenke group has carried over the historical ceremony to modern times. She presented a fascinating look at the dramatic change pre- and post- world war II Japan, which threatened drastic changes to the classic culture. Through all of Japan’s political and cultural turmoil in the last century, it is true amazement that Urasenke Tankokai Houston and other groups keep the vibrant traditions sustained through present and future changes in the world we live.

The next extremely informative presentation was by Ms. Rona Tison, Executive VP, ItoEn, and titled “History of Tea with Urasenke and Tea Health Benefits”. Her lecture had surprisingly relevant details on the importance of Japanese green tea, not just in cultural significance, but through the health benefits as demonstrated by the latest scientific research. In addition, Ms. Tison had some amusing anecdotes on her various travels where she met dignitaries and celebrities as she promoted this surprising healthy beverage. In addition to her informative lecture, the audience was treated to video describing part of the processes involved in making Green Tea. The video transported the audience to the tea fields where harvesters delicately plucked the most tender tea leaves by hand or by a carefully crafted machine. The Japanese style of green tea involves the steaming of the fresh tea leaves to prevent fermenting. This induces the highest level of nutritional value to the tea, and most satisfying aroma and flavor to the partaker. The video content expressed the importance of temperature for the necessary tea flavor to “wake up”. The process of transferring boiling water into two separate containers in the process of making tea, ensures a consistent water temperature and favorable tea brewing environment. Ms. Tison’s company ItoEn was also a gracious sponsor and brought an abundant supply of ItoEn bottled green tea to the entire event.

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