Teahouse of the Winter Moon: a Report

Saionji no Hanae (Lisa Joseph) of the West Kingdom reports of the recent Teahouse of the Winter Moon event which took place in the Kingdom of the Outlands January 7, 2006.

Saionji no Hanae writes:


I had promised a number of people a full report on my activities out of kingdom. If reading about people you don't know doing things you aren't interested in is not your cup of o-cha, kindly delete and pass on. Before you do, however, you should know that this traveler is awed, humbled and deeply honored at the hospitality she was shown by the people of the Outlands.

I arrived at the cavernous Denver International Airport Friday evening where Lady Medb ingen Imchada ui Fhlaithbertaig (hereinafter referred to as Mabbina or 'Bina) picked me up. We drove to the Adams County Fairgrounds where event set-up was in progress, then went to dinner with Furukusu-dono, his lady Momoko-hime (Branwen) and various other members of the Barony of Caerthe. We were waiting for a table at Hops when Lady Rivka Vladimirovna Rivkina lamented that she wanted to do something Japanese and period when she heralded her baron and baroness into court but that she couldn't write waka to save her life. So I said that if she would tell me something about them, I'd give it a shot and see if I could come up with something appropriate. Rivka told me Kronos, that is, His Excellency, Ramon the Chronologer - and I stopped her right there. A name like that was just the thing to work with. Then she told me how nice Katherine is and I found myself descending into the Hell of Cliched SCA Praise Poems. I wasn't getting any good images to latch onto until Rivka their dog just had fifteen puppies. I told her I'd sleep on it and see what I could come up with.

We got home to `Bina's pretty late, after a stop at Safeway for some last minute supplies, then we had to fuss over her dog and cat before crashing for the night.

As Mabbina was the merchant coordinator, we were up VERY early. In fact, we were the first people on site and enjoyed a rather spectacular sunrise. I had the ladies' room to myself as I darkened my teeth, whitened my face, and dressed in informal winter court attire: kosode, nabagakama, hitoe, uchigi (a reworked version of what I wore for Twelfth Night here in the West in 2003. http://www.wodefordhall.com/caerthe1.jpg

Walking in nabagakama (for those unfamiliar, they are trousers so long one walks on the trailing pant-legs) isn't as difficult as one might expect. Turning around in them is a little tricky. I coped by turning in a loop and toeing them around instead of trying to do an about-face. (No floors were quite smooth enough to attempt the "Old Time Rock 'n' Roll" slide in them.) Sitting in them without getting tangled up is a bit more of a challenge.  

The event theme was a Japanese teahouse, with classes offered on topics such as poetry, kite building, and hana fuda (a card game). I had wanted to check some of them out, but I never made it!  I did not know that Furukusu Masahide is a woodworking fool. Wooden site tokens resembling shrine fortunes were calligraphed, I believe, with "Winter Moon", and he'd made paper and wood lanterns for all the feast tables. Lit at feast time, they added cheer and atmosphere to a cavernous fairground exhibition hall.

Chronology herewith begins to go out the window - I met SO many people that I can't tell you in what order. I've met a few folks from the Outlands at Estrella and it was good to see Guernin and Elaisse and Ryokai-dono and Ruri-hime again. It was really fun to meet the ones I've bumped into on bardic and other e-lists and put faces and names together.

I hereby refuse to nitpick this event on the grounds of authenticity. Yes, there was a lot of post-period vintage Japanese clothing being worn. Yes, there was a lot of homemade, not-quite-there-yet Asian attire. Some of the modern kimono and furisode I saw making the rounds were well worth getting out of the closet to be worn that their embroidery and yuzen might be admired, damn the kitsuke and full speed ahead. It was so nice to see so MANY people who might not otherwise explore Asian culture getting into the spirit of the event even if they were a bit fuzzy on some of the details.

Xiao Mei (Lady Vivienne Fauconniere) gets a holy freakin' wow from me for her green Tang Dynasty swallow-tailed dress. Absolutely gorgeous. (At one point I declared that she and I were the hottest things at the event!) http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y232/fyrefalcyn/Projects/Asian/Kestreli...

A lot of the men looked quite good - there are fewer stylistically glaring differences between pre- and post- period samurai styles and most of the wearers remembered eboshi (hats)! Others chose to attend in namban finery, so we had a fair sprinkling of "Portuguese" in attendance.

I picked up my notebook and sat outside, musing on appropriate lines for Rivka's waka. I worked on these in separate stages over the course of the day, flagging her down for approval before moving on to the next.

A buffet lunch of noodles, steamed buns, chicken yakitori and other goodies was served midday. I was sampling mine when Nyanya (Mistress Catrin von Berlin, or Gwen Cat) appeared at my elbow with a plate of sashimi - as a gift. Mmmmmmmmmmmm, maguro! Homemade lavender and rosepetal soap from Xiao Mei, a candle from Guernin, Outlands stag belt bosses from Mistress Kate Holford, people kept showering me with goodies. Mistress Kate (in traditional white kosode and red hakama) had passed me several times during the day with an exchange of bows. She FINALLY introduced herself, and invited me to attend as she took a new apprentice (I am mortified I did not get the young lady's name!) and also presented me to His Majesty Hrorek (looking most fine in eboshi and a pallette of sober Zen colors). I didn't meet the Queen officially, but she snuck up on me at one point, before I could abase myself appropriately and said she admired my clothing.

We were treated to a spirited performance by the Denver Taiko Dojo. Ryokai-dono and I had front row (read "floor") seats among the children - he was grinning like mad and I was hard pressed not to be unladylike. We are contemplating some noisemaking projects for Estrella War. I promise it will not take place in the BC, however, that is all I can promise. You have been duly warned.

I selected a spot on the floor to the sides of the thrones for evening Their Excellencies of Caerthe processed in, Rivka reading my humble verse:

From her lofty perch,
Gazing at snow robed mountains,
Smiles the winter moon.
Caerthe's lanterns shine welcome
Though not hung as high as she.

Time has no master
Save in the hills of Caerthe:
A sage holds this land.
Unequaled Kronos divines
The fortunes of his people.

Auspicious fortune
Fortells the Year of the Dog
For Caerthe's Katherine.
Uzume's blessing brings luck
With fifteen loyal offspring.

It being Twelfth Night and the Outlands being a barony rich environment, I spent a long several minutes with my nose six inches from the ground, arms trembling as Their Majesties and the remaining barons and baronesses were individually announced and processed to their places. Their Excellencies of Dragonnspine were attended by two samurai who knelt at their feet for the proceedings. Ryokai-dono was one, I sadly cannot remember the other young man's name. Their deportment was most impressive. Their Excellencies of Unser Haven (who had left one of their beautifully struck coins at the arts display for me) were attended by a third, who stood behind them holding a namban great sword.

Attending court when one does not know the players is an interesting exercise. The AoA ceremony is pretty close to the one in the West, they say "Huzzah" instead of "Vivat," but they also have scrolls. And trolls, which reminds me of the East. And Aspens (which I take to be a service award) and something called The Dreamer's Cup, which was presented to a thunderstruck lady to huge acclaim by the populace.

I'd been in oshiroi and ohaguro (full makeup and tooth black) for seven hours. My eyes were burning from perspiration I had been unable to blot all day and I made a command decision to retire to the ladies' and remove my makeup and tooth black. Picking bits of black gunk out of lunch had been enough, I wasn't going to do it through five courses.

The feast was delicious, and possibly the healthiest one I've ever eaten. Edamame and suiji (broth), soy and ginger roasted swan (turkey with attitude), baked yams, onigiri stuffed with chicken and venison, cedar plank salmon, rice, vegetables, pickled daikon, fruit wontons. It was all excellent and I bow to the talents in the kitchen.

Owing to the size of the hall and its idiosyncratic acoustics, I delicately declined invitations to recite poetry - though I was most honored by the invitation. Jehanne MIGHT be able to make herself heard with something like "The Agincourt Carol," but I knew my storytelling abilities were not up to the challenge of that room. Murasaki-hime (Baroness Morgan Rowanwaif), did, however, visit our table and treat us to a chilling ghost story which I fully intend to steal!

It was quite late when we bid our farewells, but I had a glorious time. I am awed, humbled and honored by the hospitality and friendship I was shown by the people of the Outlands.

Sunday, Mabbina and I went out for breakfast and visited the Denver Art Museum. Famed for its collection of Native American art, it also has an impressive Asian art collection and I lament having forgotten to take my camera with me as their postcard selection did not begin to match it.

Despite a brief delay at the gate due to an unspecified security breach at the airport, I arrived back in San Francisco around 8 PM. Fujimaki, my old retainer from back East, is in town this week for the Mac World convention, so I met him for dessert at the Mel's Diner on Mission Street near the Yerba Buena Gardens. Some of you may remember him from Hanse and Yvone's March Crown.

Saionji no Hanae, sometimes known as Jehanne de Wodeford