by Dr. Sen Genshitsu, Hounsai Daisosho
Uemura Shôen, one of the most renowned female
painters of recent times, left behind numerous masterful paintings,
many of which had as a theme that essence of the sixth month,
the firefly. Among them, I am drawn particularly by the one entitled
New Firefly [shinkei], executed in 1932. It seems to concern firefly
hunting along the banks of a stream. Her painting captures the
image of a mother and daughter tenderly gazing at a firefly within
an openwork basket. Perhaps what we may call the animating spirit
of the work is a sense of pure and refreshing stillness.
The very glow of fireflies cleanses the hearts of
those who gaze at them. When one is able to view from close up
this pure light, a glow radiating indistinct beauty, it hovers
with a mysteriousness that suggests a star fallen to earth.
As you know, fireflies can sustain their existence
only in streams without impurities, streams that do not have quantities
of agricultural chemicals running in them, currents whose pure
flow does not cease, streams supported by grassy earthen banks.
I truly hope that this June, fireflies will flourish in rivers
and streams over the entire country of Japan.
Speaking of fireflies, the thirteenth generation
Head Master of the Urasenke Tradition of Chanoyu, Ennôsai,
produced a utensil known as the Firefly Basket Sumitori (hotaru
kago sumitori). Taking the idea of the openwork baskets for fireflies,
this container for charcoal has a square, footed frame of vermilion
lacquer over which is stretched forest green silk gauze subtly
figured with two phoenix. The design suffuses refinement with
gorgeousness. If this utensil is adapted for use as a container
for serving sweets, then it is as if fireflies had danced into
the tearoom itself.
each year in June a Firefly Light Tea Gathering is held on the
grounds of Tadasu no Mori, a wooded site within the Shimogamo
Shrine renowned from ancient times in Kyoto. The gathering is
hosted jointly by the Tadasuno Mori Kenshô Foundation and
Urasenke Konnichian. The gatherings are part of an effort to re-establish
fireflies along the Mitarashi Stream that flows through the shrine
precincts and to reclaim the purity of the stream. The fruition
of these efforts over the past five or six years occurs at dusk
in the sixth month. Here and there fireflies wing about. Yearly
the number of persons who come to view them increases.
Starting from around six o'clock in the evening,
the Firefly Light Gathering attracts not only firefly aficionados
but also many who come seeking a few moments of tranquility.
In the same way that fireflies cannot live without
the flow of beautifully pure water, tea that elicits gratitude
from the heart's depth cannot be partaken of if there are no sources
of crystal pure water. For the task of ensuring the purity of
flowing water, each individual must expend his or her energy.
Let us join together in creating a world environment that encourages
gazing upon the light of fireflies and sharing a delicious bowl
Firefly Basket Charcoal Container
A design in the taste of the
thirteenth generation Head Master of the Urasenke Tradition of Chanoyu,
Ennôsai, this work contrasts the strong geometrical lines
of a vermilion frame with delicate walls of green silk gauze figured
with patterns of phoenix. The floor is in amber-colored lacquer,
with the cipher of Ennôsai’s son, Tantansai, on the
obverse. Whether used as charcoal container or sweet container,
the Firefly Basket Container captures the essence of summer chanoyu.
Translated from Tankô Magazine by Christy