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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 21, 2001

Japan-Hawai'i ties reinforced at tea ceremony

By Jessica Webster
Advertiser Staff Writer

Men and women from across the world closed oceanic divides to share peace through a bowl of tea in Honolulu this week at the 50th anniversary Urasenke Convention.

Grand Tea Master Sen Soshitsu conducted a tea ceremony yesterday before a group of 1,000 dignitaries and tea ceremony enthusiasts at 'Iolani Palace, as part of this week's Urasenke Convention in Honolulu.

Gov. Ben and Vicky Cayetano, Marquesa Kapiolani Ma- rignoli and her nephew David Kawananakoa, and Japan's Imperial Prince Norihito Takamodo and Princess Hisako were among the ceremony attendees.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

The highlight event occurred at 'Iolani Palace yesterday, where Grand Tea Master Sen Soshitsu conducted the austere ceremony before dignitaries and more than 1,000 traditional Japanese tea ceremony practitioners and enthusiasts representing 32 countries.

The ceremony marked a revival of the friendship between past leaders of Hawai'i and Japan.

"There's existed a close bond between Japan and Hawai'i beginning with King Kalakaua's visit to the the Meiji emperor in Japan," said Soshitsu, who started the Urasenke School of Tea 50 years ago. "I hope this special ritual tea ceremony will help strengthen that tie, and I'd like to offer my deepest heartfelt gratitude."

Japan's Imperial Prince Norihito Takamodo and Princess Hisako were at the ceremony, which included Kenko, a "sacred incense ceremony," and Kencha, a "sacred tea offering."

One bowl of tea was dedicated to King Kalakaua, whose voyage to Japan and resulting friendship with the Meiji emperor laid the foundation for Japanese immigrants to come to Hawai'i. The second bowl was dedicated to King Kamehameha I and the people of Hawai'i.

Attendees emphasized that Urasenke is not a hobby but a way of life.

Omar Lamar Francis, 28, from Chicago, said he started studying tea when he took an intense interest in Buddhism.

"I joined for spiritual ideas. Through the process of learning tea, I was improving myself. It never gets old, and I'm always learning about life. If it were just about tea, it wouldn't have as much value."