After sitting for several minutes with Yoko, getting acquainted over tea and crab cakes, my joy of finally being back in Japan and interacting with her rose to my upper body, resulting in me expressing how much I wish to learn Japanese. I am guessing that based on her culture and the fact that she does not know me and my verbal expressions, she proceeded with the first phrases, as if we were starting class 1, lesson 1 on the spot. This prompted me to ask a classical question – how do you say…?
Unexplainable to me, the first word that came out of my mouth was ‘…time’.
She moved face and hands trying to explain in words she could not immediately find that it all depends. First she said “jikan”, then proceeded to add “toki”. One refers to the time a clock tells, the latter to the unmeasurable, philosophically encircled time.
A couple of days later I went to Higashiya Ginza. With one hand behind her back and the right one holding the dripping vessel near to my cup, the tea server and I waited, or, better said, willingly watched until her experience told her that the very last tea drop was in my cup. Then she placed the cup in front of me and retired, soon thereafter to return with an ensemble of sweet things, accompanied by a syrup. This Shiratama anmitsu I ordered consists of mochi dumplings, sweet azuki bean paste, seasonal fruits, boiled peas and small jelly cubes. A different take on the concept of sweets, for one that spent most of his life understanding deserts known in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Spain, USA, Germany, Italy and Austria.
The philosophy of Higashiya is a harmonious celebration of confectionaries and tea, with the proper tableware and in the right space, allowing focus on details, as rooted in old Japanese traditions. This evidently includes the art and science of taste and texture. And all this is possible when toki has the most relevance in ones vocabulary.
I received three sievings of the Haruto 34– a pungent green tea, intense on the nose and to the palate. The host had initially brought a decorative tablet with fresh grapes and flower petals, accompanying three small glass bottles containing the tea I had to chose from with my nose.
Beauty surrounds everything here and everything here is beauty. The pots with hot water, the bamboo spoons to pour it over the tea, furniture pieces, lamps, menus hanging on wooden sticks like daily newspapers used to, the movements of the servers and of those preparing and placing the edibles, and all in a serene atmosphere – for eyes and ears serene.
Higashiya is vibrant proof that Japan understands coffee and tea cultures on the highest and finest level, with tradition, with innovation and with utmost respect to each product.
Respect is toki.
Before sieving the last pour, the server placed a token of gratitude in front of me, as much as a pleasant note for me to leave with. On a small wooden object were a little pick stick, legumes out of a light broth, a with sugar air-dried citrus peel, a tiny air-dried mushroom – also with sugar, and tiny sweet miso rolls. Before tasting any of these miniatures, I kept trying to decide which to eat last, wanting to let the most wonderful taste prevail the longest. Then there was the question as to what would be the taste and textures, not knowing in advance what the palate experience was going to be with each. With these small closing tokens I was suddenly in the middle of a second meal, while enjoying my last cup of green tea.
Things like these that transpire with highest level of attention for the eye, the palate and the mind, exemplify the minimal relevance of a watch, while they invite us to dwell only attentive to what occurs.
All photos – Camera: Motorola G4 / Sila Blume 2018