Becoming certified as sommelier, connoisseur, teacher, master of a certain skill, is for many their supreme goal, and the ultimate proof of success in their endeavors. In today's world, acquisition of some title or other is regarded as being of so great an importance that, without such, the justification for a person’s beliefs, or the validity of that person’s knowledge, will be questioned, and the latter remain likely to be disregarded, or even rejected out-of-hand. Without proof of acknowledgement by an accepted organization, it may prove nigh on impossible to be allowed to work (for better or worse) in certain areas of expertise. And, for many that have duly acquired certification, the latter can come to figure as a gold medal that now grants them a right to expound their convictions, and, in justification of these, cite their own experience.
Although it all too frequently happens that some form of certification does indeed become taken for a medal of honor, while the latter is properly a mark of approval for deeds already performed, a certification is mere proof of someone's aptness for acquisition of expertise and knowledge. In this respect, it is far less a final goal than it is the start of a whole fresh journey.
When I received accreditation as full Instructor in Tea Ceremony, I understood that this title wasn't an acknowledgement of anything I had already achieved, but rather permission, and also a challenge, to increase my degree of mastery, as both practicant and pedagogue. Far from such certification proving that I now possessed great skills as an instructor, it instead set me off on the path of learning how to nurture skills and understanding in others still neophyte, as I too had for so long been.
Now – and for a second time – I have received accreditation, and in a field that matters to me as much as does Tea Ceremony: Japanese tea as a beverage for daily life. Having enjoyed Japanese tea and Tea Ceremony ever since I first developed a fascination for things Japanese, in the middle of 2014 I realized that I wanted to take this passion much further, sought out a way of deepening my knowledge of tea – that is to say, learning very much more about such matters as its cultivation, its production, its evaluation, and its consumption -- and soon found that all of this was dealt with in a course offered by the Nihoncha Instructors’ Association.
For me this was an opportunity ultimately desirable; and, after completing that course and taking several subsequent Association tests, earlier this February I was delighted to receive news of having produced the required results in the final and most demanding of these examinations: thanks to having quite zealously studied every last detail the course-material I had received, I had now been acknowledged as someone who knows and understands Japanese tea from all possible angles.
For the Association course has taught me, among other matters, the history of tea in Japan, its cultivation and manufacture, the chemical constituents of tea, its health benefits, both the domestic and the international markets for it, the different types of tea and the manner in which properly to brew each of them, and how to evaluate the quality of any given tea.
Over the years, not a few wise persons have pointed out to me, “The end of one thing is always the beginning of another.” This now resonates for me quite distinctly: for, having at last received such certification, I am once again confronted with a new challenge; and the road ahead is long and arduous.
I want to take this opportunity of thanking all of you who encourage me so enhearteningly. For it does comfort me greatly to know that so surprisingly many of you – family, friends, and acquaintances – to whatever extent support me in working towards the goals I feel destined to espouse. Once, I would never have even dreamed that over 25% of my contacts on Facebook would “Like”, or that all of 64 of you would, in addition, take precious time in order to comment and congratulate me on my modest achievements. For me, this form of applause and appreciation is truly a great endorsement, which is lending me the strength and courage to move forward on this new path. I express my gratitude to each and every one of you, and earnestly hope that my future activities may likewise win your inestimably efficacious approval.
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