By Kaili Ayers
There are a myriad of details that must be adhered to when preparing and conducting a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Details that range from the articulate placement of utensils to the appropriate choice of content for the hanging scrolls must be catered to. Generally, there are several names that can be used to identify traditional Japanese tea ceremony; among these are Chado (茶道), Sado (茶道, same characters, different pronunciation), or Chanoyu (茶の湯). Though China and Korea also have their own forms of tea ceremony, Japan has the most well known.
The main focus of the ceremony is surprisingly almost unrelated to the actual tea itself. Rather, most of the emphasis is put into the aesthetics of presenting the tea to the guests through a predetermined process of movement. Though, it isn’t just about memorizing the sequence of steps in your mind. The art of tea ceremony also incorporates a spiritual component. Sensho Tanaka, the founder of the Japan Association of the Tea Ceremony, experienced firsthand the potential of attaining a certain state of consciousness comparable to that which is acquired in Zen meditation and therefore believed that practicing temae, or the ritual of preparing tea, would be a good chance for anyone to look at his inner self, enabling him to understand and enjoy the spiritual aspects of the tradition of Japanese tea ceremony. This is what is called the Zen Theory in the study of Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Depending on the season, preparation for the tea ceremony changes. In effect, two distinct ways to prepare tea have been developed; one being the Furo Temae (風炉点前) or preparation during the warm seasons and two being the Ro Temae (炉点前) in the cool seasons. The main difference between the two is that the Kama (釜) or iron kettle is placed on a brazier (風炉) in the warm season, and in the cool season it is placed in a sunken hearth or Ro (炉), which is a square hole in the tatami flooring. In accordance to this, the positioning of the utensils changes; and it is because of this that the method of finishing the tea ceremony during Furo and Ro slightly differs.
The time of day, time of year, and where the venue is at can be variables in the small altercations that occur to suit which type of tea ceremony takes place. A typical cool season tea ceremony occurring at noon with one host and up to five guests is considered of the most formal of tea ceremonies. Typically, the procedures are intensely systematic and require patience and appreciation for the art. A tea ceremony may last up to four hours depending on the type of ceremony performed.
It starts of with the guests entering a waiting room where they prepare for the ceremony by taking off their coats and storing their belongings. Normally, they are served some sort of hot water beverage: most commonly a type of tea. Next, they purify themselves by washing their hands and mouths.
Prior to entering the tea room, guests remove their footwear. Upon sitting down, guests sit according to rank or prestige, and then the host enters. The guests are served a meal in several courses accompanied by nihonshu (日本酒, or what we call “sake” in English) and wagashi (和菓子) or Japanese confectionary. After the meal, the guests leave the room to wait for the host to sweep the tea room, replace the hanging scroll with a flower arrangement and prepare to make tea.
Before reentering the room, guests once again purify themselves and sit in the same order. The host places all of the tea-making utensils in an orderly and predetermined fashion, and then prepares the thick tea (Koicha 濃茶). A series of bows are exchanged and the cup of tea is passed down from the highest ranked guest to the last, each taking a sip of the tea and admiring artistry of the tea cup. The host then cleans up (in a systematic way), and then leaves the room only to come back and rekindle the fire, signifying that the ceremony has shifted to a more casual atmosphere or portion.
More tea and confections are served and casual conversation ensues. Before the host puts the utensils away, they are passed around from highest ranked guest to lowest so that they may see them up close. The host collects the utensils, and as the guests leave the tea house, the host will bow from the door.
“The Japanese Tea Ceremony.” Japanese Tea Ceremony. Web. 28 May 2012.
“Japanese Tea Ceremony.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 May 2012. Web. 28 May 2012.