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January 1, 2019 update
On the morning of 1 January, Japanese families put traditional New Year foods called “osechi” on their dining tables. Osechi is made up of several auspicious dishes symbolizing perfect health in the New Year, packed in multitiered boxes. All family members get together to eat the colourful and delicious osechi, with gratitude for the arrival of a new year and a wish for the family’s fitness and prosperity in the future.
In the world of Sado (Way of Tea), the first tea lesson in a year called “hatsu-gama” is an important observance in January. It is the year’s first tea making event only attended by insiders like the teacher and the students, with no external guests.
Hatsu-gama is a formal Sado ceremony in which the participants taste kaiseki (tea ceremony cuisine) considered appropriate to the New Year, Japanese confectionery, and then tea, in an orderly sequence. It is a kind of New Year celebration in Sado. In a conciliatory mood, the students will sense the teacher’s will to urge them to study hard again this year, and brace themselves up.
Among many different Sado ceremonies throughout the four seasons, hatsu-gama is the one where disciples feel the freshness of the New Year and the joy of learning, as well as a sense of gratitude for the teacher and comrades.
January’s confectionery – Tokiwa Manju
The grass green filling will come out if you break up this winter-white manju (bun). It is just like grass sprouting inside the snow. This New Year confectionery tells us gently that spring is almost there.
Soka Nakaokubo, professor of the Omotesenke School