Shizuoka, the warm, sunny prefecture known for its peaceful hillsides where tea bushes grow, has always been home to Shizuo Mochizuki. His father kept a shop in Shizuoka where he sold Japanese cakes. Mochizuki says that neither tea bushes nor sweet cakes especially influenced him in choosing to make an avocation of the traditional Way of Tea. “I began to study when I was a student,” he said. “At that time I really had no idea why, but from childhood I liked special Japanese things such as kimono, kabuki, traditional music.”
He also liked Kyoto. “I loved the old buildings, the customs. It is very sad that so many old buildings have been destroyed, and replaced by new ones that do not fit the old city.” Even so, Kyoto remains a spiritual home because of his association with the Urasenke International Association.
Mochizuki graduated from Shizuoka University in 1970 with a BA in Japanese literature. “I was very interested in languages,” he said. “When I was young, I used to operate a ham radio, and talk on the radio free of charge. I learned English by myself.”
He entered the company Fuji Logitech and is still with this warehousing business. He has the title of secretary. Whilst pursuing his business career, he has been able to stay with the study and practice of the Way of Tea.
He received the tea name Soyu, and became a liaison officer for the Urasenke International Association. Last year he was promoted to representative liaison officer. The association advises some of the programs of the celebrated Urasenke School of Tea. Today’s grand tea master of the Urasenke School, Soshitsu Sen, is the 15th-generation descendant of Sen Rikyu, who in the 16th century perfected the aesthetic cult of tea in Japan.
Mochizuki tells a story that is so close to his heart he has built his life around it. He said: “During World War II, the young Soshitsu was a pilot in the navy. He lost many of his friends who were kamikaze pilots. After the war Soshitsu returned to Kyoto. It was then under American occupation, and Soshitsu knew that Kyoto had been spared wartime bombing because of American intervention. At the Urasenke house he saw American officers and men, who apparently were interested in Japanese culture, bowing to his father before accepting tea from him. Until very recently they had been enemies. The scene in the Urasenke house, on property owned by the Sen family since the 16th century, made a big impression on the young man. He realized the philosophy of peacefulness through a bowl of tea, and made up his mind to use tea as a medium for promoting peace all over the world. Tea was not only for Japanese people, but for everyone.”
Mochizuki continued: “Fifty years ago, with a tea bowl and very few other utensils, Soshitsu went to the U.S.A. After that he held a first seminar to train Japanese tea students to express in English the spirit of tea, that is harmony, respect, purity, tranquillity. Then he organized the Urasenke International Association to continue our training and to propagate the spirit of tea.”
Mochizuki is an assistant professor in the Urasenke Way of Tea, but normally, whilst he is still occupied with business, he does not teach. After he retires from his company, perhaps he will. “I do not speak of ‘tea ceremony.’ I prefer the term ‘Way of Tea,’ ” he said. “Also I do not like the word ‘foreigner.’ I say ‘non-Japanese,’ or ‘person from abroad.’ ”
He does additional voluntary service in his work as managing director for the Japan Secretaries Association. “We have many seminars and parties, that since I am a secretary I used to attend,” he said. “Then I was asked to be managing director. The Way of Tea is very useful training for secretaries, for whom communication and hospitality skills are important assets.”
Mochizuki says that Kyoto-Kan in Akasaka provides very good facilities for anyone wanting to know more about Kyoto. The free English-language seminars that it stages introduce the history of tea, its discipline and etiquette, and its philosophy.