Tea ceremony Overview

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Tea ceremony, known as "sadō" (茶道) in Japanese, is a ritual/art form that involves boiling water to make tea and serving it to guests.
The history of the Japanese tea ceremony is ancient, and there are records of Kukai and Saicho bringing tea to Japan as early as the beginning of the Heian period.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), Eisai, who spread Zen Buddhism in Japan, began to cultivate tea, and gradually the custom of drinking tea spread throughout the country.
Following this, the rituals and manners, referred to as "茶礼" were gradually established as the samurai class served tea.
At the same time, pottery and tea utensils suitable for tea began to be produced in various regions.
During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), a games called "Tocha" was popular, in which players performed blind taste testing and had to guess the teas.

Tea ceremony was eventually popularized by Sakai tea master Takeno Jōō and his disciple Sen no Rikyu.
Sen no Rikyu also called tea ceremony "sukido" (数寄道).
Before Sen no Rikyu, there existed several schools of tea ceremony, including the Nara school, Higashiyama school, Sakai school, Shuko school and the Shino school.
Tea masters active at the same time as Rikyu, such as Furuta Oribe, Gamo Ujisato, Hosokawa Tadaoki, Shibayama Munetsuna, and several others, were called the Seven Disciples of Rikyu.
Each of these seven disciples established their own tea ceremony etiquette and spread the customs of tea ceremony to the world.
The following are some of the tea masters and schools that were around at the same time as Sen no Rikyu:

Rikyu school: A school that followed in the footsteps of Sen no Rikyu's pupil, Enjobu Souen.
Yabunouchi School: This is the school of Yabunouchi Kenchu of Kyoto, a fellow disciple of Sen no Rikyu.
Oribe School: This is the school of Furuta Oribe, one of the Seven Disciples of Rikyu.
Ueda Soko School: This is the school of Ueda Soko, one of the pupils of Furuta Oribe.
Kobori Enshu School: This is the school of Kobori Enshu, a student of the Furuta Oribe.
Uraku school: This is the school of Oda Uraku.

There are many other schools of tea ceremony in Japan in addition to those mentioned above.
Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, both famous warlords, loved tea ceremony and often held large tea ceremonies.
In particular, the Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto in 1587 was a very large and lively tea ceremony.
It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi held many tea ceremonies at popular spots in Kyoto and elsewhere to show his authority by showing off his grandeur to many people.
Hideyoshi was also noted for constructing a golden tea room inside the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

In the Edo period, tea ceremony culture spread further with the activities of the Omotesenke, Urasenke, and Mushakojisenke schools.

Omotesenke: The Omotesenke school was founded by Koshin Sosa, and takes pride in its reputation as the tea masters of the Kishu Tokugawa family.
It manages the Fushin-an Tea House (茶室不審庵).
Urasenke: This school was founded by Senso Soshitsu, who served the Kaga-Maeda clan.
It manages the tea house Konnichian (今日庵).
Mushakojisenke: Founded by Ichiou Soshu, who served the Matsudaira family in Takamatsu, Kagawa.
It manages the tea house Kankyuan (官休庵).

From the Edo period onwards, Sencha Tea Ceremony, which uses sencha tea, spread along with tea ceremony using matcha.
After the Meiji period, tea ceremony was considered to be the culture of nobility, and many families of businessmen and women learned it.
In recent years, many people casually try tea ceremony to enjoy the unique traditional culture of Japan.

Tea Ceremonies Held in Japan

Tea ceremonies and gatherings, where people gather to enjoy matcha in a tea room, are still held in Japan today.
Historical antiques and artifacts are often used for the dedicatory tea ceremonies held at historic shrines and temples to which high-ranking people are invited.
A tea ceremony where a few guests are invited to a small teahouse and entertained by the host is called "chaji" (茶事).
Other tea ceremonies include Oyose chakai (お寄せ茶会), in which tea is served to a large number of guests, and Kuchikiri chaji (口切り茶事), in which new tea leaves are tasted for the first time that year.

Instruments Used in Tea Ceremony

Methods of making matcha differs slightly from one school to the next, but the basic rules of the tea ceremony are the same.
First, the tea sets are set up in a tea room.
The following is a list of instruments used in tea ceremony:

Chawan: In the tea ceremony, a well-designed bowl is chosen to serve matcha.
Chasen: A bamboo tea whisk used to make matcha.
Chaki: These are often called "natsume" (棗) and are used to store matcha in powder form.
Chashaku: A bamboo tea spoon used to scoop matcha from a tea cup.
Fukusa: Used to purify tea utensils and tea spoons when serving tea.
Furo / Kama: In tea ceremony, a kettle called a "furo" (風炉) or "kama" (釜) is used to boil water.
Hishaku: A hishaku is a ladle used to scoop hot water from a furo.
Mizusashi: Water required for tea ceremony is placed in a vessel called a mizusashi.
Sensu: In tea ceremony, a sensu (folding fan) is placed in front of the knees when greeting guests.
Kaishi: This is tissue used in place of a handkerchief and is used for a variety of purposes. It is kept in the pocket of one's kimono.

Although all you need is a chawan and a chasen to make matcha, the real pleasure of tea ceremony is to carefully make matcha using various utensils and to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime encounter with your guests.
For this purpose, tea ceremony uses a variety of utensils, such as those described here.
In order to express the spirit of hospitality to guests, the host of the tea ceremony prepares well-designed teacups and tea utensils.
The most valuable tea bowls in tea ceremony, such as yohen tenmoku bowls, are priced at over 10 million yen each.
In 2016, a bowl called an "oil drop tenmoku" tea bowl, became a hot topic of conversation when it was sold at auction for a whopping 1.2 billion yen.

To entertain guests, tea room masters decorate their tokonoma with hanging scrolls, flower vases with seasonal flowers, and incense containers with fragrances to create a wonderful space for tea ceremony.
In the world of tea ceremony, it is considered good manners to pay close attention to every detail of the tea ceremony room and make thorough preparations for the reception of guests.

Terms Used in Tea Ceremony

Here, we'll go over some of the words specific to Japanese tea ceremony.

Ocha wo Tateru: In tea ceremony, "to make tea" is not "Ocha wo Ireru" (お茶を入れる, lit. "to put in the tea") used in daily life, but instead "Ocha wo tateru" (お茶を点てる, roughly "to perform tea").
Otemae (お点前): This refers to the manner and etiquette of making tea, as well as the etiquette of serving tea. A good cup of tea is described as having "good otemae."
Koicha (濃茶): Koicha: When tea is brewed with less hot water and slowly stirred, it is called "koicha."
Usucha (薄茶): When the tea is made thinner than koicha, it is called "usucha" or "ousu" (お薄).
Teishu (亭主): The person who holds the tea ceremony is called a "teishu." They wear a woven cloth around their waist to indicate this.
Shokyaku (正客): The guest of honor or person with the highest rank among those invited to the tea party is called a "shokyaku." Following that is the "jikyaku" (次客), "sankyaku" (三客), "yonkyaku" (四客), etc., and the final guest, or lowest ranking, is called "makkyaku" (末客).

How Is Matcha Made at a Tea Ceremony?

In Japanese tea ceremony, it is important to entertain guests by making matcha according to a certain style.
To make usucha, a small amount of matcha is first poured into the bowl using a chashaku (tea spoon).
Then, a small amount of lukewarm water is poured from the furo into the bowl and a chasen (tea whisk) is used to stir it.
When the tea is mixed, more hot water is added and the chasen is used to finish the process.
In the case of koicha, less water is used and the chasen is used to stir until the tea is an appropriate thickness.
Making a good koicha is considered skillful.

In a tea ceremony, usucha is served to each guest individually.
The fine foam in the thin tea leaves gives it a mellow and pleasant taste.
The general rule is to drink usucha in two to three and a half sips.
Unlike usucha, only one cup of koicha is served.
Koicha is drunk in order, starting with the shokyaku and continuing with the jikyaku, sankyaku, etc.
The jikyaku, sankyaku, and makkyaku must taste the koicha in order, so the tea is drunk in sips, shifting the part of the cup that is drunk from with each sip.
After the tea is served, the hostess will ask how the tea was.
It is customary to answer that their Otemae was superb.

Sweets Served at Tea Ceremony

To enhance the taste of matcha at a tea ceremony, the host of the tea ceremony often prepares sweets.
These sweets are usually eaten before the tea is consumed.
Omogashi, a type of traditional Japanese sweet, is prepared for koicha, and Higashi is prepared for usucha.
There are different kinds of sweets, such as Yokan and Manju, which are cut into pieces using a special toothpick called a confectionery toothpick.
There are different types of dry confectioneries, such as Rakugan and Kompeito as well.
The Japanese sweets prepared for tea ceremony are all beautiful and artistic in appearance.

Come and Experience Japanese Tea Ceremony!

The appeal of tea ceremony is that you can experience traditional Japanese culture while enjoying delicious tea and sweets in a space removed from daily life.
There are many places in Japan where you can experience authentic tea ceremony.
When you visit Japanese temples, shrines, or historical sites, you can stop by a spot where you can experience tea ceremony.
If you are interested in traditional Japanese culture, we recommend participating in a traditional tea ceremony, where you wear a kimono and sit on tatami mat floors to experience the full appeal of tea ceremony.
There are some tea ceremony services that allow you to participate in a tea ceremony in your own clothing and some that provide chairs for you to sit on, so even if you feel that the formalities are a bit daunting, you can still experience a tea ceremony without having to worry about all the formalities.
We recommend attending a tea ceremony class where even beginners can experience and learn the profound etiquette of tea ceremony.

You can also enjoy delicious matcha at home without having to attend a tea ceremony.
Tools for tea ceremony can be purchased at tea shops in Japan and also online.
We encourage you to purchase tea ceremony-related products and try out tea ceremony at home.
If you would like to learn more about tea ceremony, you can also check out videos on how to make matcha or learn the etiquette of the tea ceremony.
There are many videos on tea ceremony available on COOL JAPAN VIDEOS, so you're sure to find what you're looking for!