Soon after Kayo and I were married in Tokyo I was reassigned from Japan to Fort Rucker, Alabama. I sailed in about three weeks, but because of the mountain of paperwork and red tape, it was some three months before Kayo left Japan as a military dependent aboard a U.S. military transport ship.
Meanwhile, I was living on base and spent a lot of time in the post library reading everything I could find in the library that dealt with Japan, both factual and novels. Many years have passed between then and now, but for some reason I still remember the title of one of the novels.
The novel is about a U.S. Army officer who was assigned to go to a small village in Okinawa and help the people in the village construct an elementary school for the children, however the people had a higher priority – a teahouse, and cleverly made small changes as the construction moved along, ending up with a structure which suited their desire for a teahouse leaving the officer with a difficult task of explaining to his superiors how that happened.
I suppose it’s the title “Teahouse of the August Moon” which seemed sort of exotic and oriental at the time, but through the years words in the title have helped keep the memory somewhat fresh. The Japanese tea ceremony, one of Japan’s most important cultural events, very often takes place in a teahouse and annually across Japan there is an “August Moon Viewing Festival.”
I doubt that the teahouse in the novel met the standards that a true tea ceremony connoisseur might expect. Although the tea ceremony is often performed in a garden setting or elsewhere, the best place for atmosphere is in an authentic teahouse, not a spacious open room, but a traditional yojohan room. Yojohan means four and one-half tatami mats.
A tatami measures one meter in width and two meters in length so the room is quite small, only large enough for a place to store the needed utensils, and during the actual ceremony, room for the utensils, the one serving the ceremonial tea, and from one to three guests who will receive the tea. My wife Kayo’s oldest sister was a well-respected teacher of the tea ceremony for many years with her own yojohan where I’ve enjoyed taking part in the tea ceremony a number of times.
And during the two years we lived in Kameoka in the early 1990s we enjoyed going to the Moon Viewing Festival in August. We also enjoyed taking part in the tea ceremony during the festival. Whether those activities are what kept the “Teahouse of the August Moon” in the gray matter in my head all these years is something I’ll never know, but it’s a good memory.
Larry Jones is a member of the Stillwater Sister Cities Council.