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Ueda Akinari (1734-1809)
Ueda Akinari (1734-1809) was a well-known waka poet and fiction writer in 18th-century Japan who penned two masterpieces, Tales of Moonlight and Rain (Ugetsu Monogatari) and Tales of Spring Rain (Harusame Monogatari). Strongly influenced by both spiritual and supernatural experiences in his childhood and youth, his stories weave in various elements of the paranormal and Japanese folklore.
In addition to being a well-known writer, Akinari was also a devotee of what is called Senchadō — the Way of Sencha, a more rustic style of tea using simmered (and sometimes roasted) loose-leaf tea rather than the powdered matcha tea that is employed in Chanoyu / Chadō, the more formalized, ritualized tea ceremony that was originally popular with Zen monastics and upper-class aristocrats.
Senchadō was made popular by a Wayfaring poet we will explore in the weeks to come in The Poet’s Dreamingbody podcast, namely, Baisaō (1675-1763) a.k.a. Gekkai Gensho, a.k.a. Ko Yugai, an Ōbaku Zen monk who abandoned monastic life to pursue the Way of Poetry and the Way of Sencha Tea.
As with so many verses we encounter of the Wayfarers of old, what may initially seem a simplistic thought, with further contemplation, reveals itself to be something of a “scent trail” that leads us down a path to a deeply profound practice, with deeply profound results.
As my late teacher, a practitioner of senchadō herself, used to say of these “scent trails” of the Wayfarers, “As before, so too now.”