2017 Summer in Japan and Korea: Onggi Ceramics with Master Anshi Sung

You might remember Anshii Sung, the Onggi Master, from this Guest post way back in 2012

Anshi Sung and Mr Hong

Anshi Sung makes his own clay, hand throws all of his pieces on a kick wheel, and wood fires them in a 250 year old climbing kiln built by the Jesuits.  His work is some of the highest quality ceramic I’ve used and he truly elevates functional onngi pieces into an art-form.

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2017 Summer in Japan and Korea: Tea and art with Mogu Sunim, Seonamsa Temple

Did I mention that I love having tea with monks?

Mogu Sunim is a professor of Buddhist Theology at Seonamsa temple, one of he most respected schools of Korean Buddhism and one of the few temples to send their students abroad to practice other forms of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma.

In addition to teaching, he is a tea-maker and an artist. We shared and enjoyed endless cups of tea made by Mogu and other monks, starting with green and end with padiocha.

As ever – the most striking thing about meeting a monk is the way they look into you;
the way some monks can read you.

In between tea sessions, I took a walk around the temple grounds. Relaxed and enjoying the mountain air, the feeling of the tea, and the sense of freedom that only long travel can bring, I received an email (heresy, I know) that caused me great concern. The topic isn’t important so much so as the emotion that it evoked – it tore me out of the moment, stole away the serenity of the tea and the monks and the mountains.

But Mogu knew. On returning to the tea room, showing no outwards signs of the concern, we had more tea, some rice snacks, and a melon. And then Mogu began to paint. Starting on paper, and then moving to fans. He turned to me and gave me a calligraphic fan that he had painted a tea cup with a lotus, and the Chinese characters for: “One cup of tea makes 100 problems float away”.

Pure joy with Mogu Sunim

And with that, I was OK. Mogu could see through my Façade and broke through it and re-centered me. Reminded me of where I was and that my worry doesn’t change a situation. It was my own small satori guided by a my very own bodhisattva.

I love having tea with monks.

2017 Summer in Japan and Korea: Maeda Shodo, abbot of Zuihoin, Daitokuji Temple

I love meeting with monks;

Some are kind, some are indifferent, some are focused on other things, and some are focused on you.

Years of meditation and practiced insight given certain monks the ability to read people. It is disconcerting to be read so easily by anyone, least a monk ready to correct your dissolution. Visitors are always in danger of being given advice that they may or may not be ready to hear.

A Christian Garden in Japan

Built in 1546 and used as a secret Christian temple, Zuihoin has since reverted into its Buddhist  origins. The gardens retain their original Christian symbolism.

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2017 Summer in Japan and Korea: Meeting with Mr Kanbayashi, the CEO of Kanbayashi-en Matcha Company

6 generations in...

My work with Analytical Flavor Systems has created some amazing opportunities that I would never have expected to be part of – like meeting Mr Kanbayashi, the CEO of the 450 year old Kanbayashi-en Matcha Company.

Introduced by the venerable Koike-sensei, we discussed collaborations and ways to bring matcha for a new generation of drinkers, and then shared tea in their original tea house from the late 1500’s.

Matcha is a traditional drink of the past, a historical product with antecedent rituals and practices, but it is also an ingredient, a flavoring, and a drink itself. The innovation for uses of matcha has never stopped, and the matcha of the future is going to taste great.