Cultural Literacy

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Way of Tea

The Tea Ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a traditional Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea. In Japan, the tea ceremony is called chanoyu or chadô/sadô.

The formal Japanese Tea Ceremony is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one’s attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is about preparing a bowl of tea from one’s heart.

The Japanese tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice,” and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of “wabi-sabi.” “Wabi” represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives. Its original meaning indicated quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection and asymmetry, emphasizing simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and celebrating the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials. “Sabi,” on the other hand, represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant “worn,” “weathered” or “decayed.”

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyu, perhaps the most well-known and still revered historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master Takeno Jōō’s concept of “Ichi-go Ichi-e,” a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in architecture, gardens, and art to the full development of the Way of Tea. The principles he set forward – harmony (和 wa), respect (敬 kei), purity (清 sei), and tranquility (寂 jaku) – are still central to the tea ceremony as it is performed today.

Japanese Martial Arts


Like Karate, techniques are practiced to handle attacks of both an armed or unarmed nature. The techniques in Aikido contain mostly blocks, locks and takedowns by the proper use of grappling techniques that are applied by trying to harmoniously get in tune with the attacker’s efforts.

Aikido stresses that fighting and endless conflict is never an answer. Rather, peaceful resolution of conflict, without causing harm, is the greater path. So ‘Ai’ (harmony, love, collaboration) ‘Ki’ (power, energy) ‘Do’ (way or path) is used to provide a way of cultivating and practicing the ‘art of peace’.

Aikido techniques are purely defensive, force is never met with force. Practitioners learn to redirect an aggressor’s attack, leading to a peaceful resolution. Size or physical strength is far less a factor in Aikido than it may be in other martial arts; so, anyone, large or small, young, or old, can practice effectively.

In aikido, as in virtually all Japanese martial arts, there are both physical and mental aspects of training. The physical training in aikido is diverse, covering both general physical fitness and conditioning, as well as specific techniques. Because a substantial portion of any aikido curriculum consists of throws, beginners learn how to safely fall or roll. The specific techniques for attack include both strikes and grabs; the techniques for defense consist of throws and pins. After basic techniques are learned, students study freestyle defense against multiple opponents, and techniques with weapons.

The school participating in the aikido demonstration and workshop is Aikijuku Dojo, Neil Segal.
An aikido demonstration is also provided by William Perkins.


The art of Kendo derives from sword skills developed by the samurai of the 12th century called Kenjutsu. During the 14th to 16th centuries, accomplished swordsmen opened schools to teach the art of the sword. The more peaceful Edo period (1600-1868) saw the moral and spiritual elements of the practice come to the forefront, and the art of Kenjutsu continued.

Kendo practitioners train using a bamboo sword called a shinai. They wear a helmet and body armor called bogu that allows for full-contact sparring with low risk of injury and gives the practitioner the ability to dynamically adjust to real speed attacks to a limited number of targets in a competitive environment.

Kendoka (people that practice kendo) use spirit, sword, and body in unison to successfully complete an attack against the opponent under strict adherence to proper technique. This attention to detail in the technique accompanies the action of meeting the opponent at full intensity but striving to develop character at the same time.

The school participating in the kendo demonstration and workshop is the Kansas City Kendo Club, John Drakey.


Iaidō (居合道) is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes being aware of and capable of quickly drawing the sword and responding to sudden attacks. Iaido consists of four main components: the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard (or saya), striking or cutting an opponent, shaking blood from the blade, and replacing the sword in the scabbard.

While beginning practitioners of iaido may start learning with a wooden sword (bokken) depending on the teaching style of a particular instructor, most of the practitioners use a blunt-edged sword called an iaitō or mogitō. More experienced, iaido practitioners use a sharp-edged sword (shinken).


Kenjutsu is the umbrella term for all (koryū) schools of Japanese swordsmanship, in particular those that predate the Meiji Restoration. The modern styles of kendo and iaido that were established in the 20th century included the modern form of kenjutsu in their curriculum, also. Kenjutsu, which originated with the samurai class of feudal Japan, means “the method, technique or the art of the sword.” This is opposed to kendo, which means “the way of the sword”.

Likely the first iron swords were manufactured in Japan in the fourth century, based on technology imported from China via the Korean peninsula.  While swords clearly played an important cultural and religious role in ancient Japan,  in the Heian period the globally recognized curved Japanese sword (the katana) was developed and swords became important weapons and symbolic items.

One of the more common training weapons is the wooden sword (bokuto or bokken). Many schools make use of very specifically designed bokuto, altering its shape, weight, and length according to the style’s specifications. For example, bokuto used within Yagyū Shinkage-ryū are relatively thin and without a handguard. Kashima Shin-ryū practitioners use a thicker than average bokuto with no curvature and with a rather large hilt. Some schools practice with fukuro shinai (a bamboo sword covered with leather or cloth).

The school participating in the Kenjutsu demonstration and workshop is the Jinmukan Japanese Sword School, Charlie Williams.


Japan Karate Do Ryobu-Kai (JKR) is a professional, international, karate organization founded by Yasuhiro Konishi, and developed by his son, Yasuhiro (Takehiro) Konishi, 10th Dan. JKR branches are located all over the world and are currently under the leadership of Kiyoshi Yamazaki, 9th Dan, who serves as Kaicho (President).

The JKR also has a lineage dating back to the 16th century traditions of Takenouchi Ryu Jujitsu.

Training in the JKR is conducted in the traditional Japanese method, stressing discipline, consistent attendance, etiquette, and hard work. Karate instruction is life-long, and can be continued regardless of age. Modern training in Shindo Jinen Ryu karate-do incorporates elements of karate, aikido, jujitsu, and kendo in the formal curriculum, with an emphasis on philosophy and education. The curriculum also emphasizes Zanshin (the ability of an exponent to gain dominance over an opponent through an alert state of mind) and the maintenance of proper physical posture.

The school participating in the Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai demonstration and workshop is
Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai, Fabio Rodriquez.


Okinawa-kenpo is a karate style which has been developed based on ancient Okinawan martial arts called “Ti”. Okinawa-kenpo is the name of karate style. Okinawa-kenpo teaches a variety of defense techniques. All techniques, blocks, hitting, and joint locks are derived from Kata and technical foundations.

Okinawa-kenpo training is designed to avoid injuries and support the overall development of the body. Besides caring for health and life, it also provides the opportunity to focus on a person’s spiritual and physical well-being. Training has a positive effect on fitness, health, physical fitness, coordination, well-being, and self-confidence.

Our presenter, Hanshi Greg Lindquist (10th Dan), is Taika Oyata’s (a master of Ryukyu Kempo in Okinawa) longest continuous student. With over fifty years of study in Taika’s art, Hanshi Lindquist, was one of only two people presented with a Nin Tei Sho scroll from Taika stating that he was licensed to teach and give rank in Taika’s art.

The school participating in the Okinawa-kenpo demonstration is Okishikan, Hanshi Greg Lindquist.


Sōjutsu (槍術), meaning “art of the spear”, is the Japanese martial art of fighting with a Japanese spear (槍, yari). Although the spear had a profound role in early Japanese mythology, where the islands of Japan themselves were said to be created by salt water dripping from the tip of the spear Ame-no-Nuhoko (Heavenly jeweled spear), as a weapon the first spear prototypes were brought from mainland Asia. These early versions were not seen as suitable by the Japanese, who later redesigned them once technology permitted.

The yari was a popular weapon throughout the feudal period of Japan, being cheaper to produce and requiring less training than other contemporary battlefield weapons, and lending itself to close formations of ashigaru troops, in conjunction with firearms upon their adoption in Japan. The height of Sōjutsu’s popularity was immediately after the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, who themselves used spearmen in great numbers.
The Japanese ultimately modified the heads of their spears into several different variations, leading to the use of the spear both on foot and from horseback, and for slashing as well as the primary use of attacking with thrusts.
Both the demonstration and the workshop on will be presented by the Tosa No Shugyo Dojo, which is based in Wichita, Kansas and is a Sōjutsu (Spear) and Kenjutsu (Sword) school promoting Kochi/Tosa culture as well as arms, armor, and culture of the samurai class of Japan.

Training spears (no steel) are 7 to 9 feet in length and are used in a linear manner. Senior members of Tosa No Shugyo Dojo will work with festival attendees and will give hands on instruction in the etiquette and handling of the Japanese spear.


Tessenjutsu (鉄扇術), “iron fan technique” is the martial art of the Japanese war fan (tessen). It is based on the use of the solid iron fan or the folding iron fan, which usually had eight or ten wood or iron ribs.

The use of the war fan in combat is mentioned in early Japanese legends. For example, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a hero of Japanese legend, is said to have defeated an opponent by parrying the blows of his opponent’s spear with an iron fan.

The practitioners of tessenjutsu could acquire a high level of skill. Some became so skilled, in fact, that they were able to defend themselves against an attacker wielding a sword, and even kill an opponent with a single blow. Like so many other Japanese arts of combat during this era, tessenjutsu reached a high level of sophistication.

Apart from using it in duels against enemies armed with swords and spears, the skilled wielder could also use it to fence and fend off knives and poisoned darts thrown at him. Like a sword, the tessen could be dual wielded to parry with one hand and attack with the other.

Lori Bushner is presenting the tessenjutsu demonstration and workshop.

Anime & Manga


Anime (ah-knee-may) is Japanese animation that uses colorful images, strong characters, and action-packed stories. For decades, anime was produced by and for Japan exclusively. In the past 40 to 50 years, it has become popular internationally and is translated into many different languages.


Manga are Japanese comics and are a huge part of Japanese culture. Unlike in America, manga is not relegated to children; it is read by most people in Japan. The artists and writers of manga are well respected for their work, much like the writers of literature in America.


Cosplay, literally means “Costume Play.” It is a performance art in which participants (“cosplayers”) dress up and pretend to be fictional characters (usually sci-fi, comic book or anime characters). Cosplay can also define any costumed role-playing that is unstaged. The rapid growth in the number of people cosplaying as a hobby since 1990 has made the phenomenon a significant aspect of popular culture, mainly in Japan, some other parts of Asia and in the Western world. Cosplay events are common features of fan conventions and there are also dedicated conventions and local and international competitions, as well as social networks, websites and other forms of media centered on cosplay activities.