Drawn together by diverse interests in Japanese culture, a group of people gathered at Toshin-an teahouse in Birmingham, AL., in 1999 to study chado the "way of tea", established by the great 16th century tea master, Rikyu.

The group officially became the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Birmingham Association in 2001. The inauguration ceremony in April, 2001 was presided over by Hisashi Yamada, then director of Urasenke Chanoyu Center of New York.

The association is intrinsically tied to the tea house, which is located in the Japanese Gardens at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The name Toshin-an was given by Matsumoto Daien, the abbot of Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. The suffix "an" is a hut or a retreat. "Toshin" literally means "light and heart", a homonym to the wick of a lantern. Thus, the name Toshin-an conveys a deep wish that people who get together in this hut light the wick of each other's heart.

Dr. Alan Atkinson, then a member of the art faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was the first president of this small chado group. In his words,
The garden path, the hut,
The host and the guest...
All are whipped together
In the tea and are without distinction

"The ultimate objective of the study of tea is to
create a unique aesthetic experience during which guests will feel the sincere intention of the host. The purpose of chanoyu isn't to display your skill with a tea scoop and hot water ladle, but to display your willingness to create a moment in time for the pleasure and enjoyment of your guests."

The group has been instructed and nurtured by Ritsuko Soritsu Asano, a third generation tea instructor. Thanks are extended to Ms. Asano's mother and teacher, Takako Soko Matsuura of Tokyo, for her generous support and guidance. The group strives to fulfill the spirit of Toshin-an and to contribute to the diversity of the Birmingham community.
( 燈心庵 )