By Beth Treffeisen
From a young age, Glenn Pereira – a Back Bay/Symphony resident – has been fascinated with Japanese culture. Originally from Fall River, Pereira comes from an immigrant Portuguese family.
During his younger years, his father’s brother was stationed in Japan after World War II and sent little nick-knacks to his grandmother. Pereira was intrigued by how different the objects appeared from what he normally saw in his community.
“I started to learn about the culture,” said Pereira. “I always wished that one day I would go to Japan.”
At the time, Pereira didn’t know his love for Japanese culture would eventually lead him to teaching the chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony to students from across the world in Boston. Pereira teaches both the role of host and guest at a tea gathering along with flower arranging, cooking and other tea-related subjects.
After pursing an education in chado, the way of tea in Japan, Pereira has continued to share his knowledge to his students in the Boston area.
This year, Pereira received the Japan’s Foreign Minister Commendation for the promotion of Japanese Culture in the U.S. One of 160 individuals outside Japan to receive the award, Pereira works to continue to promote friendship between the two countries and bring awareness to the Japanese culture.
“It’s not a religious life; it’s about spreading tea, and having tranquility throughout the world,” said Pereira. “It’s about building a life philosophy; learning, respect, and tranquility. It’s about being in the moment and aware of your surroundings.”
He continued, “It’s a good lesson in service to others. There’s good etiquette, manners…everything it stands for is healthy for society.”
Pereira’s love for the tea ceremony began after high school in the 1980s when he started work at Diego Hair Salon on Newbury Street in the Back Bay. Every day Pereira would travel in the morning to Channel 4 TV Station to assist Sharon King Hoge for her show.
In October of 1980, King held her show on the floor of Jordan Marsh (now Macy’s) in Downtown Crossing. The exhibition called “Orient Express” featured novelties from Asia including flower arranging to someone performing a Japanese tea ceremony.
Two months later, Pereira and King had become good friends. Knowing that Pereira loved Japanese culture, King thought it would be a great idea to give him ten free lessons of the Japanese tea ceremony as a Christmas present.
“I thought the gift was so clever,” said Pereira. “But I thought it was for women, so I never went.”
Pereira said he continued to make up excuses for not going but eventually ran out. About eight months later Pereira called the tea house hoping the lessons expired but, they didn’t. So he ventured out and went to his first class, thinking it would be his last.
After arriving and being greeted by a man in a kimono who explained how the Portuguese culture influenced the Japanese tea ceremony he was hooked for life.
Pereira went through 10 lessons in two weeks. Shortly after he took a 11-month leave from work and got on a plane to Japan for the first time in 1982. He received a scholarship to enter the Midorikai program of intensive tea study at the Urasenke Professional College of Chado in Kyoto, Japan.
Sen Genshitsu XV, Great Grand Tea Master of the Urasenke School of Tea in Kyoto gave the scholarship to him.
After his training in Japan Pereira returned to Boston where he continues his studies of tea along with teaching. You can find him doing lectures and demonstrations at many schools, universities, social clubs and art galleries throughout New England, bringing the way of tea to many people.
In November of 1997 Pereira received, junkyoju, an associate professor degree and in December 2002 he received, kyoju, a professor degree also from Sen Genshitsu XV.
Pereira said that he loved getting people together with various backgrounds and ages to learn about the tea ceremony.
“I had a 25-year-old student talking about tea with someone who is 55-years-old, and its like no age difference,” said Pereira. “That’s fabulous to me.”
But Pereira’s favorite part is that no matter how much he learns about the ceremony, there is always going to be more to learn.
“In the 36 years I’ve been doing this I don’t even know half of things there is to learn,” said Pereira. “It’s a passion that will never end.”