TANGO TANIMURA AND THE HEART OF CHASEN
Witness the 500 Year old Secret Art of Tea Whisk Making
The Art of Contrast
The 500-year-old art of chasen, or “tea whisks” from Takayama, Nara.
One house of chasen masters, the Tanimura family has upheld this intricate art for five centuries.
When Tango Tanimura was announced as the 20th-generation successor to the family line, history weighed heavy on him, but he was buoyed by gratitude to his forebears.
The Tanimura family is devoted to making sturdy and easy-to-use chasen.
Easy usage is defined by elastic and flexible tips, while sturdiness refers to the whisks’ durability.
However, these two elements seem to contradict each other. In order to create flexible tips, the wood needs to be cut very thinly, but the thinner the wood, the less durable it becomes.
Maintaining a meticulous balance between these two elements is the secret to the art that the Tanimura family has honed for more than half a millennium. “Art” is indeed the right word, because this process of creating balance, for which Tango Tanimura relies solely on the intricate feeling in his fingertips, cannot rightfully be called anything else.
The User in Mind
Although many chasen masters in Takayama sell to wholesale dealers, the Tanimura family has for generations delivered their products directly to the head families of the various schools of tea ceremony. Direct interaction with the actual users of their chasen provides a line of praise and criticism, which in turn serves a basis for improvement and goals to work towards.
In today’s interconnected world, is it quite easy to buy cheap, foreign tea whisks.
Most of these whisk makers do not really understand how their whisk is going to be used, nor do they have any means to communicate with users.
Simply carving and shaping bamboo like a whisk does not really justify calling it a chasen, does it?
When Tango Tanimura works with his bamboo he only has its user in mind.
His primary concern is how to create something that is easy to use.
For him, a chasen is a vehicle to make people happy by contributing to a wonderful tea ceremony.
Today, as he does every day, Tango Tanimura is in his workshop, pursuing his quest to produce ever-higher quality chasen.
The Heart of Hospitality
The heart of hospitality beats at the core of the tea ceremony, one of Japan’s most celebrated cultural phenomena.
It is a mindset that derives happiness from making others happy.
That is why the tea ceremony, is the ideal way to experience the Japanese “heart of hospitality.”
Because the chasen is a perishable tool, it is the only utensil in the tea ceremony not engraved with its maker’s name. Yet it has a vital influence on the taste of the tea. Tango Tanimura is dedicated to making chasen that allow people to integrate the pleasure of the tea ceremony into their daily lives, for instance as a means of entertaining guests and relaxing alone.
Each Tanimura chasen is one of a kind, and imbued with a desire to enable everyone to understand the pleasure of serving tea to guests.