It Gets More Profound the More You Know! The World of the Japanese Tradition of Tea Ceremony

One of the most popular parts of traditional Japanese culture is "sado," or "way of the tea." Many tourists love to try tea ceremony when they visit Japan. Please learn about the charms of the tea ceremony through its history and etiquette.

The History of Tea Ceremony

The tea ceremony is a traditional part of Japanese culture where one prepares tea according to certain rules. This ceremony has often been called "chado" since the early Edo period up until the present.
The dawn of the tea ceremony in Japanese culture was during the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333) when Zen priests from China brought fruit tea to the country. During the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573), tea houses became prevalent and extravagant tea parties would be held within high society. The most famous tea master, Sen no Rikyu, emerged during the Azuchi–Momoyama period (1573 to 1603). He established the "wabicha" (lit. poverty tea style) which focuses on the spirit of "omotenashi" (hospitality) which ensures that the other person has a pleasant serving of tea, along with "wabisabi," which is finding the beauty in something simple. This was how the tea ceremony performed even at present was founded.

The Tea Room

The tea room is an empty space where one invites others and prepares tea for them. The entrance of the rustic tea house is called "nijiriguchi" and what is typical about this type of tea house is that you must bend your body over to enter. There is high importance placed on the hanging scrolls as well as the seasonal flowers that adorn the "tokonoma" (recessed alcove) found within the tea house. Near the "temaeza" (place where the host makes tea), you may find a hearth where one would find the tea kettle.
The garden called "roji" (lit. dewy ground) is not just for visual purposes but serves as an open space leading toward the actual tea ceremony. Before taking a seat in the tea house, you must wash your hands at the washbasin at the roji.

※ There are two kinds of tea houses, the shoin-style tea house and the rustic tea house. The former is built as a single room while the latter is a separate entity.

About the Utensils and Art Work

A kettle is used to perform the ceremony, while a dipper is what is used to take the hot water out of the container. On the other hand, a tea caddy is where one would place the matcha. The beauty of each utensil plays an important role. Each utensil has its own shape, color, and design. Whichever design or combinations the host picks in order to entertain the guest is an important element in creating that atmosphere of hospitality.
The same thing can be said about the hanging scrolls and flowers that decorate the tokonoma. The Japanese paintings on the scrolls and the content of the writing encompass the theme of the tea ceremony, which serves as the message of the host to the guests.

About Wagashi and "Kaiseki Ryori"

Wagashi, which is traditional Japanese confectionery and is used to bring out the taste of the tea, is a necessity in the world of the tea ceremony. A usual motif of the confectionery is the different flowers of the seasons. The real charm of the tea ceremony is looking forward to the presentation of these treats as well as their taste.
Furthermore, before one drinks the "koicha" (opaque matcha), a ceremonial meal called "kaiseki ryori" is usually served. This dish is served to lessen the strong effect of the "koicha" on the stomach and to help the person enjoy the taste of the tea. The basic set-up of this meal is made up of soup and three side dishes. You may also enjoy some Japanese sake along with the food. This meal usually has an extravagant image to it as something served at Japanese restaurants, but the name has traces its origins to the tea ceremony.

※ There are two types of tea - "usucha" (weak or light brown tea) and "koicha" (thick or opaque matcha).

About the Necessary Etiquette

There are, of course, certain manners one must follow when making and drinking tea. For example, one must eat the confectionery before drinking tea. Once the tea is brought in front of you, you must place the cup on your left hand and hold it with your right. You must then bow your head slightly and say "thank you for the tea." As the front part of the cup is facing you, you must rotate it twice clockwise and avoid the front part when placing your mouth onto it. It is ideal to drink the tea within 3 and a half mouthfuls. Once you have finished drinking, you must remember to wipe the rim using a napkin. Furthermore, you must remove your coat and hat upon sitting down. You are not allowed to step on the border of the tatami mat or that of the sliding door.

The world of "wabisabi," which speaks about beauty in simplicity, is what makes up the world of the tea ceremony. The necessary etiquette may differ slightly depending on the school, but the instructor will make sure to teach you these manners during the trial class, so that you may engage in the ceremony worry-free.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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