Skip to content
Reading time: 4 minutes
man doing tea ceremony
Genshitsu Sen, 15th generation grand master

Japanese tea ceremony (chadō) courses have been offered on campus by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa since the 1970s. 15th generation Urasenke Grand Master Genshitsu Sen recognized around the world and nearing his 101st birthday in April, introduced this practice, also known as the “Way of Tea” to UH Mānoa in the early 1950s. At that time, Sen was studying at the university and shared his chadō expertise during evening classes for adult education. Although the initial number of students was small, more enrolled over time as Sen returned through the decades to teach and share his insights.

“While there are many Japanese-Americans in Hawaiʻi, what’s most important for me is that by teaching Japanese traditions, I hope to convey shared human values regardless of nationality or ethnicity,” Sen said.

Celebrating peace

man wearing lei and another man at a microphone
Genshitsu Sen will turn 101-years-old this April.

On February 14, Sen returned for a public lecture to share his knowledge and commitment to fostering peace through tea. Sen, recognized by UNESCO as an Ambassador of Goodwill, spoke at the free event hosted by the UH Mānoa Center for Japanese Studies (CJS) at the Campus Center Ballroom, which was attended by hundreds. He emphasized the principles of the “Way of Tea”: wa, kei, sei and jaku (harmony, respect, purity and tranquility).

Steeped in wisdom

3 people in crowd drinking tea
Hundreds attended the public lecture and tea demonstration.
person holding tea cups on a tray
Tea is served to members of the community after the public lecture.

Madeline Gilbert, a junior majoring in Japanese and theatre and dance at UH Mānoa, took the Way of Tea course currently taught by Akiko Ono Riley, a lecturer and chadō instructor at UH Mānoa.

“We’re just so lucky to be able to listen to him speak or hear someone of his age and intellect, and he has so many kind and interesting thoughts to give that it’s just an awesome experience,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert attended the lecture with fellow members of the UH Mānoa Way of Tea club, a student-run organization that has practiced Urasenke-style tea ceremony since 1967. Both the club and Way of Tea courses at UH Mānoa are held inside Jakuʻan, a traditional tea house at East-West Center donated by Sen in 1972. The chashitsu (authentic tea ceremony house), first constructed in Japan, was reassembled in Hawaiʻi by Japanese artisans who traveled here for the task. The tea house celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022.

Leading the Way of Tea

person doing tea ceremony
UH Mānoa student Yuma Tochika demonstrates chadō (Japanese tea ceremony).

Yuma Tochika, a UH Mānoa senior and the current president of the Way of Tea club followed in the footsteps of his parents who were both members during their university days, Tochika, a biology major, sees engaging in this ancient practice as a meaningful connection to his heritage.

“I think it’s sort of like meditation in some aspect. It’s really all about concentration, and even though you have to repeat these almost like choreography in some sense hundreds and hundreds of times, you still have room for improvement,” Tochika said. The Nuʻuanu native is preparing for a special year-long intensive program in Kyoto this April.

Legislative honor

On February 15, the Hawaiʻi House of Representatives held a special ceremony at the State Capitol to commemorate CJS’ Way of Tea Center, UH Mānoa Way of Tea Club members, Jakuʻan’s 50th anniversary, and Tea Master Sen’s 100th birthday. After House Resolution 11 passed unanimously, Sen and CJS Director Mark Levin were presented with a recognition certificate signed by all of the House members.

For more go to the CJS website.

large group of people
Genshitsu Sen and members of the UH Mānoa Way of Tea Center and club are honored at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol.
Back To Top