Urasenke grand tea master Dr. Genshitsu Sen honored the memory and contributions of the Gannenmono by performing a special kenchashiki tea ceremony at the Honpa Hongwanji Hawaii Betsuin on July 19.
The hour-long ceremony opened with sutra chanting by Bishop Eric Matsumoto of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii and the Rev. Toyokazu Hagio, rimban (chief minister) of the Hawaii Betsuin. Dr. Sen, Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito, former first lady Jean Ariyoshi and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and current Urasenke representative Kishichiro Amae all honored the Gannenmono by offering incense.
Dr. Sen said he was honored to perform the kenchashiki in memory of the Gannenmono at the Hawaii Betsuin.
“Whenever I visit, I can’t help but imagine the immense hardship the immigrants endured and appreciate the bridge they built between Hawai‘i and Japan,” Dr. Sen told those who attended the ceremony. He said he is immensely grateful to the descendants of the immigrants who assisted him when he came to Hawai‘i as a student in 1951. While studying at the University of Hawai‘i, he roomed with the Fujikawa family, living in an upstairs room in their home. He recalled that Daisetsu Suzuki, the renowned author of Japanese books on Buddhism and Zen, also lived in the same house and that he learned much from him.
Bishop Matsumoto welcomed the Daisosho (grand tea master) to the Hawaii Betsuin. He said it was an honor and a privilege to host the tea ceremony at the Betsuin. Matsumoto noted that conditions unfolded in just the right way so that the ceremony could be held at the Betsuin. Matsumoto also recalled that Bishop Yemyo Imamura, under whose leadership the temple was built, was very concerned about the welfare of the immigrants. He said the kenchashiki ceremony was an opportunity to reflect on the life of the Gannenmono. Matsumoto thanked all of the guests for attending the special tea ceremony.
Dr. Sen was in Hawai‘i to lead Urasenke’s annual summer tea seminar at the University of Hawai‘i. The seminar concluded with a dinner hosted by Dr. Sen at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel on July 20. He said he was happy to see so many longtime friends, including Consul General of Japan Koichi Ito and Mrs. Masako Ito, Jean Ariyoshi, former Hawai‘i Gov. John Waihee and former first lady Lynne Waihee, Bishop Eric Matsumoto, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and his wife Donna Tanoue, Hawai‘i Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, University of Hawai‘i President David Lassner, Hawai‘i County managing director Will Okabe, 11th generation Japanese potter Toshio Ohi and Honolulu Museum of Arts director Sean O’Harrow.
In the absence of Hawaii Urasenke Association president Gov. George Ariyoshi, Robert Huey, vice president of the Hawaii Association and UH professor of Japanese literature, thanked Dr. Sen for bringing everyone together. He said he hoped the Japanese visitors’ time in Hawai‘i was worthwhile. Huey noted that the Hawaii Association was formed more than 60 years ago. “We couldn’t have thrived without the support of Dr. Sen, Urasenke Japan and the Hawai‘i business leaders,” said Huey.
The kampai toast was offered by Consul General Ito, who said he met Dr. Sen for the first time while posted in Beijing, never expecting that they would meet again in Hawai‘i. He thanked Dr. Sen for helping to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Gannenmono by offering to perform tea ceremonies in their memory.
With the speeches over, the guests enjoyed the music and hula of kumu hula (hula teacher) Ed Collier’s Halau O Na Pua Kukui.