Delving into Japanese culture

Different strokes for different folks

January 18, 2018 16:01
A GIRL participates in a calligraphy contest in Tokyo in 2016

A GIRL participates in a calligraphy contest in Tokyo in 2016. (photo credit: THOMAS PETER/REUTERS)


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Nan-in, a famous Zen master, loved nothing more than an arrogant disciple who came boasting of his great potential for success. To one who felt he knew it all, Nan-in posed a simple test – the teapot test. The master offered his visitor a cup of tea, pouring until the tea spilled over the sides while a look of shock spread over his visitor’s face. “If you are a cup full of ideas, a teacher can’t put anything into you,” the master offered as his first lesson.

This test continues to be the gold standard for acceptance into the rarefied world of Japanese art and culture. At first glance, one might think that the Israeli mind-set would be to stay away from the world of Japanese sensei (teachers, in Japanese), and learn to pour the tea for themselves.


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