Japanese tea ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony
Tea ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea. In Japanese, it is called chanoyu (茶の湯) or chadō (茶道; also pronounced sadō?). The manner in which it is performed, or the art of its performance, is called otemae (お手前; お点前?). Zen Buddhism was a primary influence in the development of the tea ceremony.

Tea gatherings are classified as chakai (茶会?) or chaji (茶事?). A chakai is a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes confections, thin tea (薄茶 usucha?), and perhaps a light meal. A chaji is a much more formal gathering, usually including a full-course kaiseki meal followed by confections, thick tea (濃茶 koicha?), and thin tea. A chaji can last up to four hours.



The first documented evidence of tea in Japan dates to the 9th century, when it was taken by the Buddhist monk Eichū (永忠) on his return from China. The entry in the Nihon Kōki states that Eichū personally prepared and served sencha (unground Japanese green tea) to Emperor Saga who was on an excursion in Karasaki (in present Shiga Prefecture) in the year 815. By imperial order in the year 816, tea plantations began to be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan.[1] However, the interest in tea in Japan faded after this.[2]

In China, tea had already been known, according to legend, for more than a thousand years. The form of tea popular in China in Eichū's time was "cake tea" (団茶 dancha?)—tea compressed into a nugget in the same manner as Pu-erh. This then would be ground in a mortar, and the resulting ground tea decocted together with various other herbs and/or flavourings.[3]

The custom of drinking tea, first for medicinal, and then largely also for pleasurable reasons, was already widespread throughout China. In the early 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote The Classic of Tea, a treatise on tea focusing on its cultivation and preparation. Lu Yu's life had been heavily influenced by Buddhism, particularly the Zen–Chán school. His ideas would have a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony.[4]

Around the end of the 12th century, the style of tea preparation called "tencha" (点茶?), in which powdered matcha was placed into a bowl, hot water added, and the tea and hot water whipped together, was introduced to Japan by Eisai, another monk, on his return from China. He also took tea seeds back with him, which eventually produced tea that was of the most superb quality in all of Japan.[5][citation needed]

An open tea house serving matcha (ippuku issen 一服一銭, right) and a peddler selling decoctants (senjimono-uri ja:煎じ物売, left) in Muromachi period illustrated in 24th poem match in Shichiju-ichiban shokunin utaawase (ja:七十一番職人歌合, Seventy-one Poetry Matches on the (142) Occupations, a copy of Tokyo National Museum reproduced in 1846, originally compiled in 1500). Ippuku issen's monk clothing depicts the relationship between matcha culture, tea ceremony, and Buddhism.

This powdered green tea was first used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, when the Kamakura Shogunate ruled the nation and tea and the luxuries associated with it became a kind of status symbol among the warrior class, and there arose tea-tasting (ja:闘茶 tōcha?) parties wherein contestants could win extravagant prizes for guessing the best quality tea—that grown in Kyoto, deriving from the seeds that Eisai brought from China.

The next major period in Japanese history was the Muromachi Period, pointing to the rise of Kitayama Culture (ja:北山文化 Kitayama bunka?), centered around the gorgeous cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and his villa in the northern hills of Kyoto (Kinkaku-ji), and later during this period, the rise of Higashiyama Culture, centered around the elegant cultural world of Ashikaga Yoshimasa and his retirement villa in the eastern hills of Kyoto (Ginkaku-ji). This period saw the budding of what is generally regarded as Japanese traditional culture as we know it today.

The Japanese tea ceremony developed as a "transformative practice", and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of "wabi-sabi". "Wabi" represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives. Its original meaning indicated quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste "characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry[, emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials."[6] "Sabi," on the other hand, represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant "worn," "weathered," or "decayed." Particularly among the nobility, understanding emptiness was considered the most effective means to spiritual awakening, while embracing imperfection was honored as a healthy reminder to cherish our unpolished selves, here and now, just as we are - the first step to "satori" or enlightenment.[7]

Murata Jukō is known in chanoyu history as an early developer of tea ceremony as a spiritual practice. He studied Zen under the monk Ikkyū, who revitalized Zen in the 15th century, and this is considered to have influenced his concept of chanoyu.[8]

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyu and his work Southern Record, perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master Takeno Jōō's concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in architecture and gardens, art, and the full development of "the "way of tea". The principles he set forward—harmony ( wa?), respect ( kei?), purity ( sei?), and tranquility ( jaku?)—are still central to tea ceremony.

Many schools of Japanese tea ceremony have evolved through the long history of chadō and are active today.


While a purpose-built tatami-floored room is considered the ideal venue, any place where the necessary implements for the making and serving of the tea can be set out and where the host can make the tea in the presence of the seated guest(s) can be used as a venue for tea. For instance, a tea gathering can be held picnic-style in the outdoors (this is known as nodate (野点?)).

A purpose-built rooms designed for the wabi style of tea is called a chashitsu, and is ideally 4.5 tatami in floor area. It has a low ceiling; a hearth built into the floor; shoji screens; an alcove for hanging scrolls and placing other decorative objects; and several entrances for host and guests. It also has an attached preparation area known as a mizuya. A 4.5-mat room is considered standard, but smaller and larger rooms are also used. Building materials and decorations are deliberately simple and rustic in wabi style tea rooms. Chashitsu can also refer to free-standing buildings for tea ceremony. Known in English as tea houses, such structures may contain several tea rooms of different sizes and styles, dressing and waiting rooms, and other amenities, and be surrounded by a tea garden called a roji.


The ro season; a host rests a bamboo ladle on an iron pot that rests inside the ro).

Seasonality and the changing of the seasons are important in tea ceremony. Traditionally the year is divided by tea practitioners into two main seasons: the sunken hearth ( ro?) season, constituting the colder months (traditionally November to April), and the brazier (風炉 furo?) season, constituting the warmer months (traditionally May to October). For each season, there are variations in the temae performed and utensils and other equipment used. Ideally, the configuration of the tatami in a 4.5 mat room changes with the season as well.

Koicha and usucha

There are two main ways of preparing matcha for tea ceremony: thick (濃茶 koicha?) and thin (薄茶 usucha?), with the best quality tea leaves used in preparing thick tea. Historically, the tea leaves used as packing material for the koicha leaves in the tea urn (茶壺 chatsubo?) would be served as thin tea. Japanese historical documents about tea ceremony that differentiate between usucha and koicha first appear in the Tenmon era (1532–55).[9] The first documented appearance of the term koicha is in 1575.[10]

As the terms imply, koicha is a thick blend of matcha and hot water that requires about three times as much tea to the equivalent amount of water than usucha. To prepare usucha, matcha and hot water are whipped using the tea whisk (茶筅 chasen?), while koicha is kneaded with the whisk to smoothly blend the large amount of powdered tea with the water.

Thin tea is served to each guest in an individual bowl, while one bowl of thick tea is shared among several guests. This style of sharing a bowl of koicha first appeared in historical documents in 1586, and is a method considered to have been invented by Sen no Rikyū.[11]

The most important part of a chaji is the preparation and drinking of koicha, which is followed by usucha. A chakai may involve only the preparation and serving of thin tea (and accompanying confections), representing the more relaxed, finishing portion of a chaji.


Tea equipment is called chadōgu (茶道具?). A wide range of chadōgu is available and different styles and motifs are used for different events and in different seasons. All the tools for tea ceremony are handled with exquisite care. They are scrupulously cleaned before and after each use and before storing, and some are handled only with gloved hands.

The following are a few of the essential components:

  • Chakin (茶巾?). The "chakin" is a small rectangular white linen or hemp cloth mainly used to wipe the tea bowl.
A 16th century black Raku ware style chawan, used for thick tea (Tokyo National Museum)
Two modern "thin tea" bowls
  • Tea bowl (茶碗 chawan?). Tea bowls are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, and different styles are used for thick and thin tea. Shallow bowls, which allow the tea to cool rapidly, are used in summer; deep bowls are used in winter. Bowls are frequently named by their creators or owners, or by a tea master. Bowls over four hundred years old are in use today, but only on unusually special occasions. The best bowls are thrown by hand, and some bowls are extremely valuable. Irregularities and imperfections are prized: they are often featured prominently as the "front" of the bowl.
  • Tea caddy ( Natsume?). The small lidded container in which the powdered tea is placed for use in the tea-making procedure ([お]手前; [お]点前; [御]手前 [o]temae?).
  • Tea scoop (茶杓 chashaku?). Tea scoops generally are carved from a single piece of bamboo, although they may also be made of ivory or wood. They are used to scoop tea from the tea caddy into the tea bowl. Bamboo tea scoops in the most casual style have a nodule in the approximate center. Larger scoops are used to transfer tea into the tea caddy in the mizuya (preparation area), but these are not seen by guests. Different styles and colours are used in various tea traditions.
  • Tea whisk (茶筅 chasen?). This is the implement used to mix the powdered tea with the hot water. Tea whisks are carved from a single piece of bamboo. There are various types. Tea whisks quickly become worn and damaged with use, and the host should use a new one when holding a chakai or chaji.

Usual sequence of a chaji

Procedures vary from school to school, and with the time of year, time of day, venue, and other considerations. The noon tea gathering of one host and a maximum of five guests is considered the most formal chaji. The following is a general description of a noon chaji held in the cool weather season at a purpose-built tea house.

The guests arrive a little before the appointed time and enter an interior waiting room, where they store unneeded items such as coats, and put on fresh tabi. Ideally, the waiting room has a tatami floor and an alcove (tokonoma), in which is displayed a hanging scroll which may allude to the season, the theme of the chaji, or some other appropriate theme. The guests are served a cup of the hot water, kombu tea, roasted barley tea, or sakurayu. When all the guests have arrived and finished their preparations, they proceed to the outdoor waiting bench in the roji, where they remain until summoned by the host.

Following a silent bow between host and guests, the guests proceed in order to a stone basin where they ritually purify themselves by washing their hands and rinsing their mouths with water at tsukubai, and then continue along the roji to the tea house. They remove their footwear and enter the tea room through a small "crawling-in" door (nijiri-guchi), and proceed to view the items placed in the tokonoma and any tea equipment placed ready in the room, and are then seated seiza-style on the tatami in order of prestige. When the last guest has taken their place, they close the door with an audible sound to alert the host, who enters the tea room and welcomes each guest, and then answers questions posed by the first guest about the scroll and other items.

The chaji begins in the cool months with the laying of the charcoal fire which is used to heat the water. Following this, guests are served a meal in several courses accompanied by sake and followed by a small sweet (wagashi) eaten from special paper called kaishi (懐紙?), which each guest carries, often in a decorative wallet or tucked into the breast of the kimono.[12] After the meal, there is a break called a nakadachi, (中立ち) during which the guests return to the waiting shelter until summoned again by the host, who uses the break to sweep the tea room, take down the scroll and replace it with a flower arrangement, open the tea room's shutters, and make preparations for serving the tea.

Having been summed back to the tea room by the sound of a bell or gong rung in prescribed ways, the guests again purify themselves and examine the items placed in the tea room. The host then enters, ritually cleanses each utensil——including the tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop——in the presence of the guests in a precise order and using prescribed motions, and places them in an exact arrangement according to the particular temae procedure being performed. When the preparation of the utensils is complete, the host prepares thick tea.

Bows are exchanged between the host and the guest receiving the tea. The guest then bows to the second guest, and raises the bowl in a gesture of respect to the host. The guest rotates the bowl to avoid drinking from its front, takes a sip, and compliments the host on the tea. After taking a few sips, the guest wipes clean the rim of the bowl and passes it to the second guest. The procedure is repeated until all guests have taken tea from the same bowl; each guest then has an opportunity to admire the bowl before it is returned to the host, who then cleanses the equipment and leaves the tea room.

The host then rekindles the fire and adds more charcoal. This signifies a change from the more formal portion of the gathering to the more casual portion, and the host will return to the tea room to bring in a smoking set (タバコ盆 tabako-bon?) and more confections, usually higashi, to accompany the thin tea, and possibly cushions for the guests' comfort.

The host will then proceed with the preparation of an individual bowl of thin tea to be served to each guest. While in earlier portions of the gathering conversation is limited to a few formal comments exchanged between the first guest and the host, in the usucha portion, after a similar ritual exchange, the guests may engage in casual conversation.

After all the guests have taken tea, the host cleans the utensils in preparation for putting them away. The guest of honour will request that the host allow the guests to examine some of the utensils, and each guest in turn examines each item, including the tea caddy and the tea scoop. The items are treated with extreme care and reverence as they may be priceless, irreplaceable, handmade antiques, and guests often use a special brocaded cloth to handle them.

The host then collects the utensils, and the guests leave the tea house. The host bows from the door, and the ceremony is over. A tea ceremony can last up to four hours, depending on the type of ceremony performed, the number of guests, and the types of meal and tea served.

Types of temae

Each action in sadō— how a kettle is used, how a teacup is examined, how tea is scooped into a cup— is performed in a very specific way, and may be thought of as a procedure or technique. The procedures performed in sadō are called, collectively, temae. The act of performing these procedures during a chaji is called "doing temae".

There are many styles of temae, depending upon the school, occasion, season, setting, equipment, and countless other possible factors. The following is a short, general list of common types of temae.

Chabako temae

Chabako temae (茶箱手前?) is so called because the equipment is removed from and then replaced into a special box known as a "chabako" (茶箱?, lit. "tea box"). Chabako developed as a convenient way to prepare the necessary equipment for making tea outdoors. The basic equipment contained in the chabako are the tea bowl, tea whisk (kept in a special container), tea scoop and tea caddy, and linen wiping cloth in a special container, as well as a container for little candy-like sweets. Many of the items are smaller than usual, to fit in the box. This ceremony takes approximately 35–40 minutes.


Hakobi-demae (運び手前?) is so called because, except for the hot water kettle (and brazier if a sunken hearth is not being used), the essential items for the tea-making, including even the fresh water container, are carried into the tea room by the host as a part of the temae. In other temae, the water jar and perhaps other items, depending upon the style of temae, are placed in the tea room before the guests enter.

O-Bon temae/bonryaku

o-bon temae (お盆手前?), bon temae (盆手前?), or bonryaku temae (盆略手前?) is a simple procedure for making usucha (thin tea). The tea bowl, tea whisk, tea scoop, chakin and tea caddy are placed on a tray, and the hot water is prepared in a kettle called a tetsubin, which is heated on a brazier. This is usually the first temae learned, and is the easiest to perform, requiring neither much specialized equipment nor a lot of time to complete. It may easily be done sitting at a table, or outdoors, using a thermos pot in place of the tetsubin and portable hearth.


A woman holding a natsume performs a ryūrei style ceremony. Visible from far left to right are the red fresh water container (its lid is on the tana), the tea whisk, the tea bowl, the iron pot and the ladle (resting on the pot).

In the ryūrei (立礼?) style, the tea is prepared with the host seated at a special table, and the guests are also seated at tables. It is possible, therefore, for ryūrei-style temae to be conducted nearly anywhere, even outdoors. The name refers to the host's practice of performing the first and last bows while standing. In ryūrei there is usually an assistant who sits near the host and moves the host's seat out of the way as needed for standing or sitting. The assistant also serves the tea and sweets to the guests. This procedure originated in the Urasenke school, initially for serving non-Japanese guests who, it was thought, would be more comfortable sitting on chairs.

Tea ceremony and calligraphy

Calligraphy, mainly in the form of hanging scrolls, plays a central role in tea ceremony. Scrolls, often written by famous calligraphers or Buddhist monks, are hung in the tokonoma (scroll alcove) of the tea room. They are selected for their appropriateness for the occasion, including the season and the theme of the particular get-together. Calligraphic scrolls may feature well-known sayings, particularly those associated with Buddhism, poems, descriptions of famous places, or words or phrases associated with tea ceremony. Historian and author Haga Kōshirō points out that it is clear from the teachings of Sen Rikyū recorded in the Nampō roku that the suitability of any particular scroll for a tea gathering depends not only on the subject of the writing itself but also on the virtue of the writer. Further, Haga points out that Rikyū preferred to hang bokuseki (lit., "ink traces"), the calligraphy of Zen Buddhist priests, in the tea room.[13] A typical example of a hanging scroll in a tea room might have the kanji 和敬清寂 (wa-kei-sei-jaku, lit. "harmony", "respect", "purity", and "tranquility"), expressing the four key principles of the Way of Tea. Some contain only a single character; in summer, (kaze, lit. "wind") would be appropriate. Hanging scrolls that feature a painting instead of calligraphy, or a combination of both, are also used. Scrolls are sometimes placed in the waiting room as well.

Tea ceremony and flower arrangement

Chabana (茶花?) is the simple style of flower arrangement used in tea ceremony. Chabana has its roots in ikebana, an older style of Japanese flower arranging, which itself has roots in Shinto and Buddhism.

Chabana evolved from the "free-form" style of ikebana called nageire (投げ入れ?), literally "throw (it) in", which was used by early tea masters. Chabana is said, depending upon the source, to have been either developed or championed by Sen no Rikyū. He is said to have taught that chabana should give the viewer the same impression that those flowers naturally would give if they were [still] growing outdoors, in nature.

Unnatural and/or out-of-season materials are never used. Also, props and other devices are not used. The containers in which chabana are arranged are referred to generically as hanaire (花入れ?). Chabana arrangements typically comprise few items, and little or no filler material. In the summer, when many flowering grasses are in season in Japan, however, it is seasonally appropriate to arrange a number of such flowering grasses in an airy basket-type container. Unlike ikebana (which often uses shallow, wide dishes), tall, narrow hanaire are frequently used in chabana. The containers for the flowers used in tea rooms are typically made from natural materials such as bamboo, as well as metal or ceramic, but rarely glass.

Chabana arrangements are so simple that frequently no more than a single blossom is used; this blossom will invariably lean towards or face the guests.[14]

Kaiseki (Cha-kaiseki)

Kaiseki (懐石?) or cha-kaiseki (茶懐石?) is a meal served in the context of a formal tea function. In cha-kaiseki, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used, prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavour. Great care is taken in selecting ingredients and types of food, and the finished dishes are carefully presented on serving ware that is chosen to enhance the appearance and seasonal theme of the meal. Dishes are intricately arranged and garnished, often with real edible leaves and flowers that are to help enhance the flavor of the food. Serving ware and garnishes are as much a part of the kaiseki experience as the food; some might argue that the aesthetic experience of seeing the food is even more important than the physical experience of eating it.

The basic constituents of a cha-kaiseki meal are the ichijū sansai (一汁三菜?) or "one soup, three side dishes", and the rice, plus the following: suimono, hassun, yutō, and kōnomono. The one soup referred to here is usually miso soup, and the basic three side dishes are the following:

  • mukōzuke (向こう付け?): foods in a dish arranged on the far side of the meal tray for each guest, which is why it is called mukōzuke (lit., "set to the far side"). Often this might be some kind of sashimi. On the near side of the meal tray are arranged the rice and the soup, both in lacquered lidded bowls.
  • nimono (煮物?): simmered foods, served in individual lidded bowls.
  • yakimono (焼き物?): grilled foods (usually some kind of fish), brought out in a serving dish for the guests to serve themselves.
  • suimono (吸い物?): clear soup served in a small lacquered and lidded bowl, to cleanse the palate before the exchange of saké (rice wine) between host and guests. Also referred to as kozuimono (小吸い物?) or hashiarai (箸洗い?).
  • hassun (八寸?): a tray of tidbits from mountain and sea that the guests serve themselves to and accompanies the round of saké (rice wine) shared by host and guests. The name derives from the size of the tray.
  • yutō (湯桶?): pitcher of hot water having slightly browned rice in it, which the guests serve to themselves.
  • kōnomono (香の物?): pickles that accompany the yutō.

Extra items that may be added to the menu are generally referred to as shiizakana (強い肴?), and these attend further rounds of sake. Because the host leaves them with the first guest, they are also referred to as azukebachi (預鉢?, lit. "bowl left in another's care").

Courses are served in small servings in individual dishes. Each diner has a small lacquered tray to him- or herself; very important people may be provided their own low, lacquered table or several small tables.

Because cha-kaiseki generally follows traditional eating habits in Japan, meat dishes are rare.

Tea ceremony and kimono

Many of the movements and components of tea ceremony evolved from the wearing of kimono and, although it is not uncommon for students nowadays to wear western clothes for practice, most will practice in kimono at least some of the time, for this is essential to learn the prescribed motions properly.

For example, certain movements are designed with long kimono sleeves in mind; certain motions are intended to move sleeves out of the way or to prevent them from becoming dirtied in the process of making, serving or partaking of tea. Other motions are designed to allow for the straightening of the kimono and hakama. The silk fukusa cloths are designed to be folded and tucked into the obi (sash); when no obi is worn, a regular belt must be substituted or the motions cannot be performed properly. Kaishi and smaller silk cloths known as kobukusa (小袱紗?) are tucked into the breast of the kimono; fans are tucked into the obi. When Western clothes are worn, the wearer must find other places to keep these objects. The sleeves of the kimono also function as pockets, and used kaishi are folded and placed into them.

On formal occasions the host—male or female—always wears a kimono. Proper attire for guests is kimono or western formal wear. Most practitioners own at least one kimono suitable for wearing when hosting or participating in tea ceremonies. For both men and women, the attire worn at a tea ceremony—whether traditional kimono or other clothing—is usually subdued and conservative, so as not to be distracting.

Men may wear kimono only, or (for more formal occasions) a combination of kimono and hakama (a long divided or undivided skirt worn over the kimono). Those who have earned the right may wear a kimono with a jittoku or juttoku (十徳?) jacket instead of hakama.

Women wear various styles of kimono depending on the season and the event; women generally do not wear hakama for tea ceremony, and do not gain the right to wear a jittoku.

Lined kimono are worn by both men and women in the winter months, and unlined ones in the summer. For formal occasions, montsuki kimono (紋付着物?) (kimono with three to five family crests on the sleeves and back) are worn. Both men and women wear white tabi (divided-toe socks).

Tea ceremony and seiza

In that the Japanese tea ceremony is conventionally conducted sitting on tatami, seiza is integral to it. Unless it is the ryūrei style of tea ceremony, which employs chairs and tables, both the host and guests sit in seiza throughout.

All the bows (there are three basic variations, differing mainly in depth of bow and position of the hands) performed during tea ceremony originate in the seiza position.

Tea ceremony and tatami

Typical winter tearoom layout in a 4.5 mat tearoom, showing position of tatami, tokonoma, mizuya dōkō, hearth, guests and host.

Tatami are used in various ways in tea ceremony. Their placement, for example, determines how a person walks through the tea room, and the different seating positions.

The use of tatami flooring has influenced the development of tea ceremony. For instance, when walking on tatami it is customary to shuffle, to avoid causing disturbance. Shuffling forces one to slow down, to maintain erect posture, and to walk quietly, and helps one to maintain balance as the combination of tabi and tatami makes for a slippery surface; it is also a function of wearing kimono, which restricts stride length. One must avoid walking on the joins between mats, one practical reason being that that would tend to damage the tatami. Therefore, tea students are taught to step over such joins when walking in the tea room.

The placement of tatami in tea rooms differs slightly from the normal placement in regular Japanese-style rooms, and may also vary by season (where it is possible to rearrange the mats). In a 4.5 mat room, the mats are placed in a circular pattern around a centre mat. Purpose-built tea rooms have a sunken hearth in the floor which is used in winter. A special tatami is used which has a cut-out section providing access to the hearth. In summer, the hearth is covered either with a small square of extra tatami, or, more commonly, the hearth tatami is replaced with a full mat, totally hiding the hearth.

It is customary to avoid stepping on this centre mat whenever possible, as well as to avoid placing the hands palm-down on it, as it functions as a kind of table: tea utensils are placed on it for viewing, and prepared bowls of tea are placed on it for serving to the guests. To avoid stepping on it people may walk around it on the other mats, or shuffle on the hands and knees.

Interior view of a large tea room with tatami and tokonoma. Seen in the tokonoma is a hanging scroll, flower arrangement (not chabana style), and incense burner.

Except when walking, when moving about on the tatami one places one's closed fists on the mats and uses them to pull oneself forward or push backwards while maintaining a seiza position.

There are dozens of real and imaginary lines that crisscross any tearoom. These are used to determine the exact placement of utensils and myriad other details; when performed by skilled practitioners, the placement of utensils will vary infinitesimally from ceremony to ceremony. The lines in tatami mats (畳目 tatami-me?) are used as one guide for placement, and the joins serve as a demarcation indicating where people should sit.

Tatami provide a more comfortable surface for sitting seiza-style. At certain times of year (primarily during the new year's festivities) the portions of the tatami where guests sit may be covered with a red felt cloth.

Studying the tea ceremony

In Japan, those who wish to study the tea ceremony typically join what is known in Japanese as a "circle", which is a generic term for a group that meets regularly to participate in a given activity. There are also tea clubs at many junior and high schools, colleges and universities.

Classes may be held at community centres, dedicated tea schools, or at private homes. Tea schools often have widely varied groups that all study in the same school but at different times. For example, there may be a women's group, a group for older or younger students, and so on.

Students normally pay a monthly fee which covers tuition and the use of the school's (or teacher's) bowls and other equipment, the tea itself, and the sweets that students serve and eat at every class. Students must be equipped with their own fukusa, fan, kaishi paper, and kobukusa, as well as their own wallet in which to place these items. Though western clothing is very common today, if the teacher is in the higher rank of tradition, especially an iemoto, wearing kimono is still considered essential, especially for women. In some cases, advanced students may be given permission to wear the school's mark in place of the usual family crests on formal montsuki kimono. This permission usually accompanies the granting of a chamei, or "tea name", to the student.

New students typically begin by observing more advanced students as they practice. New students may be taught mostly by more advanced students; the most advanced students are taught exclusively by the teacher. The first things new students learn are how to correctly open and close sliding doors, how to walk on tatami, how to enter and exit the tea room, how to bow and to whom and when to do so, how to wash, store and care for the various equipment, how to fold the fukusa, how to ritually clean tea equipment, and how to wash and fold chakin. As they master these essential steps, students are also taught how to behave as a guest at tea ceremonies: the correct words to say, how to handle bowls, how to drink tea and eat sweets, how to use paper and sweet-picks, and myriad other details.

As they master the basics, students will be instructed on how to prepare the powdered tea for use, how to fill the tea caddy, and finally, how to measure the tea and water and whisk it to the proper consistency. Once these basic steps have been mastered, students begin to practice the simplest temae, typically beginning with O-bon temae (see above). Only when the first ceremony has been mastered will students move on. Study is through observation and hands on practice; students do not often take notes, and many teachers discourage the practice of note-taking.

As they master each ceremony, some schools and teachers present students with certificates at a formal ceremony. According to the school, this certificate may warrant that the student has mastered a given temae, or may give the student permission to begin studying a given temae. Acquiring such certificates is often very costly; the student typically must not only pay for the preparation of the certificate itself and for participating in the ceremony during which it is bestowed, but is also expected to thank the teacher by presenting him or her with a gift of money. The cost of acquiring certificates increases as the student's level increases.

Typically, each class ends with the whole group being given brief instruction by the main teacher, usually concerning the contents of the tokonoma (the scroll alcove, which typically features a hanging scroll (usually with calligraphy), a flower arrangement, and occasionally other objects as well) and the sweets that have been served that day. Related topics include incense and kimono, or comments on seasonal variations in equipment or ceremony.

Terminology of 道 (dō) with respect to tea

Translating the term 茶道 (chadō?) into English is a difficult translation task. A literal translation would be "the way of tea" or "the dao of tea". While "Tea ceremony" is the most commonly used translation, it is disliked by many practitioners.[15] While the term "lore" is usually not used in this context, another possible translation is "tea lore". Another term is "Teaism", yet some only associate this with Japanese tea. Similar terms are "tea arts" and "tea culture". The term "chadao" has two words, the word is tea and the second is Chinese loanword tao/dao/道, native suffix -ism, the term can be written as teaism.

Zen and tea

Zen Buddhism has been an influence in the development of the tea ceremony. The elements of the Japanese tea ceremony is the harmony of nature and self cultivation, and enjoying tea in a formal and informal setting.

Sencha Tea Ceremony

Senchadō: The Formal Art of Sencha Appreciation, like the formal art surrounding matcha, there is a formal art surrounding sencha. That surrounding matcha is commonly known as the Japanese tea ceremony in English, and is called "sadō" (茶道, the Way of Tea) in Japanese, while that surrounding sencha, although by rights it could also be referred to as a Japanese tea ceremony or Way of Tea, is distinguished as Senchadō (煎茶道). Generally it involves the high-grade gyokuro class of sencha.

See also


  1. ^ Entry for Eichū in Genshoku Chadō Daijiten, Tankōsha (ja:淡交社), Kyōto (2002), ISBN 978-4-473-00089-7
  2. ^ Entry for Eisai in Genshoku Chadō Daijiten
  3. ^ Han Wei 韓偉, "Tang Dynasty Tea Utensils and Tea Culture", Chanoyu Quarterly (Urasenke Foundation of Kyoto, Kyoto), no. 74 (1993). OCLC 4044546
  4. ^ Sen Soshitsu XV, V. Dixon Morris (translation) The Japanese Way of Tea: From Its Origins in China to Sen Rikyu, University of Hawaii Press, 1998. ISBN 978-0-8248-1990-3
  5. ^ Hiroichi Tsutsui (筒井紘一), "Tea-drinking Customs in Japan", paper presented at the 4th International Tea Culture Festival, Korean Tea Culture Association (Seoul, 1996)
  6. ^ "Introduction: Chanoyu, the Art of Tea" in Urasenke Seattle Homepage
  7. ^ Gold, Taro. Living Wabi Sabi (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Universal, 2004, ISBN 0-7407-3960-3), pp. 19−21.
  8. ^ Genshoku Chadō Daijiten, entry for Jukō.
  9. ^ Japanese online encyclopedia of Japanese Culture, "usucha" entry, by Japanese tea historian, Tsutsui Hiroichi
  10. ^ Japanese online encyclopedia of Japanese Culture, "koicha" entry, by Japanese tea historian, Tsuitsui Hiroichi
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ http://www.udgw.jp/logos/chado/chaji/kaiseki.html Japanese web page with sequential photos of kaiseki portion of an actual chaji
  13. ^ Haga Koshiro, "The Appreciation of Zen Scrolls," in Chanoyu Quarterly no. 36 (1983).
  14. ^ Embassy of Japan in the UK
  15. ^ Watanabe, Takeshi (2009). Breaking Down Barriers: A History of Chanoyu. Yale Art Gallery. pp. 47. ISBN 978-0300146929. 

Further reading

  • Freeman, Michael. New Zen: the tea-ceremony room in modern Japanese architecture. London, 8 Books, 2007. ISBN 978-0-9554322-0-0 [2]
  • Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, Vol. 3 (ISBN 0-87011-623-1), section "Azuchi-Momoyama History (1568–1600)" by George Elison in the entry for "History of Japan", and particularly the part therein on "The Culture of the Period".
  • Morgan Pitelka, ed. Japanese Tea Culture: Art, History, and Practice. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.
  • Okakura Kakuzo. The Book of Tea. Tokyo, Japan: Tuttle, 1977. [3]
  • Sadler, A.L. Cha-No-Yu: The Japanese Tea Ceremony. Tokyo: Tuttle, 1962.
  • Tanaka, Seno, Tanaka, Sendo, Reischauer, Edwin O. “The Tea Ceremony”, Kodansha International; Revised edition, May 1, 2000. ISBN 4-7700-2507-6, ISBN 978-4-7700-2507-4.
  • Tsuji, Kaichi. Kaiseki: Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking. Tokyo, New York, San Francisco: Kodansha International Ltd., 1972. Second printing, 1981. ISBN 0-87011-173-6. Excellent reading not only for cha-kaiseki but the Way of Tea altogether.
  • Prideaux, Eric. "Tea to soothe the soul". The Japan Times, May 26, 2002.
  • Honda, Hiromu; Shimazu, Noriki (1993). Vietnamese and Chinese Ceramics Used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195886078. 

External links

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