|The Japanese Tea Ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony is called Chanoyu, Sado or simply Ocha in Japanese. It is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one's attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests called the Shokyaku.
Summer & Winter Tea Ceremony
The main difference between preparing tea in summer and winter is that in summer the Kama or iron kettle is placed on a brazier and in winter the Kama is placed in a sunken hearth or Ro which is a square hole in the Tatami flooring. According to this the utensils used to prepare green tea are placed at slighly different locations. Also the Sumi-demae charcoal procedure is different in winter and summer. Because the placement of utensils is different during tea in summer and tea in winter, the way to finish the tea ceremony during Furo and Ro also differs.
Preparing for Guests
Before receiving guests, the teishu fills a stone basin (tsukubai) with fresh water and then purifies his hands and mouth. He proceeds through the middle gate (chumon) to receive his guests. The guests are welcomed only with a bow. No words are spoken. The teishu leads the assistant host, the main guest and then the guests, in that order, through the chumon. The chumon signifies the door between the harsh physical world and the spiritual world that is symbolized by tea. At the stone basin, the guests and host's assistant purify themselves and enter the teahouse through a sliding door that is just three feet high. To enter everyone has to bow, and this signifies that all are equal regardless of status or social position. The last person to enter puts the latch on the door
Inside the Teahouse
There are no decorations in the teahouse except for an alcove called a tokonoma, in which a scroll painting (kakemono) is hung. This hanging is carefully chosen by the host and reveals the theme of the tea ceremony. In turn, each guest admires the scroll, the kettle (kama) and the hearth. Guests are seated according to their respective positions in the ceremony. Once the host seats himself, greetings are exchanged between the host and the main guest, and then the other guests.
Each guest is served a meal called chakaiseki. Served on a tray with fresh cedar chopsticks, the meal consists of three courses. On the tray is cooked white rice in a ceramic bowl which will be eaten with other dishes, miso soup which is served in covered lacquer bowls and raw fish, plain or pickled, or pickled vegetables in a ceramic dish.
Sake is served. The first course is called hashiarai (rinsing the chopsticks). Nimono (foods simmered in broth) in separate covered lacquer dishes. Yakimono (grilled foods) are served in individual portions on ceramic plates. Additional rice and soup is offered each guest. At this course the host may eat, if he chooses. The palate is then cleared with kosuimono, a simple clear broth served in covered lacquer bowls.
The next course derives its name from the Shinto reverence of nature. It is called hassun which is also the name for the simple wooden tray that is used to serve this course. This course consists of uminomono and yamanomono (seafood and mountain food respectively) which signify the abundance of the sea and land. The host eats during this course, and is served sake by each guest. The position of server is considered a higher position and, to insure equality of all in the tea room, each acts as host if only momentarily.
Konomono (fragrant things) are served in small ceramic bowls, and browned rice is served in salted water in a lacquer pitcher, representing the last of the rice. Each guest cleans the utensils they have used with soft paper which they bring. A omogashi (principal sweet) is served to conclude the meal. The host then invites his guests to retire to the garden or waiting room while he prepares for tea.
The Tea Ceremony
In the tea ceremony, water represents yin. The fire in the hearth represents yang. A stoneware jar called the mizusashi holds fresh water and symbolizes purity and only the host touches it. The green tea called matcha is kept in a small ceramic container called a chaire that is covered in a fine silk pouch (shifuku) and is set in front of the mizusashi.
If tea is served during the day a gong sounds, or if it is evening a bell tolls five to seven times to summon the guests back to the teahouse. Everyone purifies their hands and mouths once again, and then re-enters the teahouse to admire the flowers, kettle and hearth before seating themselves.
The host enters carrying the tea bowl (chawan) that holds the tea whisk (chasen), the tea cloth (chakin) and the tea scoop (chashaku). The tea bowl represents the moon (yin) and is placed next to the water jar, which represents the sun (yang). The host goes to the preparation room, and returns with the waste water bowl (kensui), the bamboo water ladle (hishaku) and a green bamboo rest called a futaoki for the kettle lid.
The host purifies the tea container and tea scoop with a fine silk cloth (fukusa). He fills the tea bowl with hot water and rinses the whisk. He then empties the tea bowl and wipes it with a tea towel called a chakin. At this point the host lifts the tea scoop and tea container and places three scoops of tea per guest into the tea bowl. He ladles enough hot water from the kettle into the tea bowl and uses the whisk to make a thin paste. Additional water is added to the paste until it is the consistency of cream soup, returning any unused water to the kettle. The host passes the tea bowl to the main guest first who bows and accepts it. The main guest admires the bowl by raising and rotating it. He then drinks some of the tea, wipes the rim of the bowl, and passes it to the next guest who does the same thing.
The actual procedure involves several steps:
Bow when you receive the cup of tea which is called a chawan.
Take the chawan with your right hand and place it in the palm of your left hand.
Turn the chawan clockwise three times before you take a drink.
When the tea is gone, make a loud slurp to tell the host that the tea was truly enjoyed.
Wipe the part of the chawan your lips touched with your right hand.
Turn the chawan counterclockwise and return to the host.
When all the guests have tasted the tea, the bowl is returned to the host who rinses it, and cleans the tea scoop and tea container. The host offers the cleaned tea scoop and tea container to the guests for examination. Afterwards the group engages in conversation about the objects used in the tea ceremony and the presentation that took place.