Tag Archive for Japan

Japanese Tea Ceremony in Practice

And now….we will take a look at how the Japanese Tea Ceremony progresses:

Before the ceremony begins, the guests wait in a waiting room called a machiai until the host is ready for them.  When ready, the guests will then wash their hands and mouths from water found in a tsukubai (stone basin) as a purifying step.

The guests enter through a small door, which requires them to bow in humility as they enter.  The host greets his guest with a silent bow.

The ceremony begins with the host cleaning and preparing each of the teas serving utensils.  When this step is finished, the host adds three scoops of matcha (green tea powder) into a tea bowl and a little water.  The host then uses a bamboo whisk to mix the tea into a paste.  Then more water is added until the tea is thick like a soup.

The host then presents the tea to a guest.  They exchange bows.  The guest admires the bowl, rotates it and then takes a drink.  The guest then wipes the rim of the bowl with a cloth.  The tea bowl is then passed on to the next guest who repeats the process.  This continues on to each guest until all have had a drink of the bowl.  The utensil is then returned to the host who will clean the bowl and refill it with.

During this time, the guests may carefully and respectfully examine each utensil using a cloth when handling them.  Once the guests have had their fill, the host will then gather the utensils and the guests will exit with a bow.  Then the ceremony is formally completed.

It takes years to master the art of this ceremony.  At first glance, it all seems so simple.  However, each movement is practiced over and over again until it is perfected with a graceful tranquility.  It’s awesome!

Japanese Tea Ceremony - Etiquette

Chanoyu Ceremony Etiquette

Chanoyu Ceremony Etiquette

Like any aspect of a Japanese Ceremony, every little detail has its own name and importance…let’s look at a guests’ etiquette:

There can be several guests in a tea ceremony; however for a small meeting the average is about four or five.  The first guest is considered a guest of honor and is called Shokyaku; the second guest is called a Jikyaku and the others are simply called Kyaku.  The last person also has a special name called Tsume.  These guests have a certain sitting order as well as special duties.  For example: the Shokyaku is the main person to communicate with the host (or Teishu).  Here’s information on the dialog between the Shokyaku and the host:


The Teishu would then have a bowl of sweets called a Wagashi.  The bowl is placed between the Teishu and Shokyaku and the Teishu will verbally indicate that the bowl is for the guests.  The Shokyaku then uses both hands to move the bowl to the right to the other guests.

The Shokyaku will then stand and walk to the tea bowl and sit in front of it.  The Shokyaku will then use his cloth or Dashibukusa in his right hand picks up the bowl and places it in the palm of his left hand.  The Shokyaku will then walk back to his seat and sit down.  Then bowl is turned clockwise two times.  Then the tea is drunk in only three little sips, leaving enough for the next two guests.

Then the rim is wiped with a Kaishi.  Then the bowl is passed to all of the guests until it reaches the Tsume.  The last guest will then return the bowl to the Shokyaku who will then inspect the bowl to be sure that there is no damage before returning it to the host.

The host will then ask the guests if they had enough to drink.  If this is so then the Shokyaku will ask the host to clean up and finish the ceremony.

Phew!  What a ceremony!  What do you all think??

Japanese Tea Ceremony - Utensils



When it comes to a simple Japanese Tea Ceremony, it is anything but simple.  Especially when it comes to the utensils.  There are a plethora of utensils, each with its own ritualistic important.  The tools as a whole is called a Dōgu (道具, literally meaning tools) Let’s take a look at each and every one, shall we?

Cha-ire (茶入) (tea caddy) – the shape is usually tall and thin.  The caddy is usually ceramic and stored in decorative bags called Shifuku.

Chakin (茶巾) (hemp cloth) – A chakin does not necessarily have to be made of hemp; it can also be made of linen.  The cloth is used to ritually cleanse the tea bowl after a guest has finished the tea and has returned it to the host.

Chasen (茶筅) (whisk) – this utensil is carved from a single piece of bamboo.  They are technically considered Dōgu; however, it is still necessary in mixing the tea.

Chashaku (茶杓) (tea scoop) – this utensil is also carved from single piece of ivory or bamboo.  This utensil is important because it allows for the correct proportions of the matcha or green tea powder.

Chawan (茶碗) (tea bowl) – This is the most important utensil because otherwise how else are you going to drink the tea?  There are different styles depending on the type of tea or the season.  For example, the host serves the tea in shallow bowls in the summer to allow the tea to cool faster.  In the winter, the tea is served in deeper bowls to maintain the tea’s heat.

Fukusa (袱紗) (silk cloth) – this is a silk cloth that is used in the ritualistic cleansing of the Chashaku.

Furo (風炉) (portable brazier) – This utensil is used primarily in the spring and summer seasons.

Hishaku (柄杓)(Ladle) – this utensil is made of bamboo and is used to transfer the hot water from the iron pot to the tea bowl.  There are various sizes depending on the ceremony and the season.

Kama / Chanoyugama (釜) (iron pot, or kettle) – This utensil is essentially in heating up the water needed for tea.  The Kama is made of iron or copper while the lid is made from cast iron (however, the lid can also be made of bronze, copper, brass, silver or even ancient bronze mirror).

Kensui (建水) (waste water receptacle/ bowl) – this is container where the waste water of recently rinsed tea bowls is held.  To dispose of it during the ceremony is as well as reusing the waste water is a huge ritualistic no-no.

Kobukusa (古帛紗) or Dashibukusa (出帛紗) (silk cloth) – this silk cloth is brought in by the guest.  This cloth is used if a guest would like to inspect a piece of equipment throughout the ceremony.  They are not allowed to touch any of the utensils with their hands; however, they are allowed to touch so long as it is with this cloth.

Ro (炉) (sunken hearth) – this hearth is used in the autumn and winter months.  The sunken structure helps insulate the pot so that it can keep the water hot.

Phew! What a rundown.  I have seen part of a tea ceremony before.  However, I have never seen all of these utensils used.  I find this subject fascinating and would love to find a tea house and see this ceremony in action.  What about you, dear readers?

Tea 201 - What is Matcha?

Pre-Whisked Dry Matcha

Pre-Whisked Dry Matcha

Whenever I walked into a tea shop, I had always seen the bamboo whisk pictured above but could never figure out what it had to do with tea…apparently it is all in the matcha.

Matcha is a powdered green tea of the highest quality in Japan.  This type of tea is traditionally used in chanoyu/the Japanese Way of Tea.  The directions on preparing the tea are simple: add the powdered green tea to hot water, use the whisk to thoroughly mix the powder and water, drink and enjoy.  No sugar is needed.  However, if you must indulge your sweet tooth, a sweet is allowed prior to drinking the matcha as long as it complements the tea’s flavor.

There are two types of matcha: koicha/thick tea and usucha/thin tea.  The names are quite self-explanatory.  For thick tea, more tea is needed in proportion to water.  The end result is a thick creamy soup.  On the other hand, for the thin tea it is more water needed in proportion to the tea.  Then the mix is whisked together to create a light and frothy beverage.

Matcha is grown in the Uji area which is southwest of Kyoto.   The leaves are picked in early May and lightly steamed in order to prevent fermentation as well as allowing the tea to retain its vibrant green color.  The leaves are dried then stored until November when the plants are stone-grounded when needed.

When storing your matcha, be advised that you should not store it like a normal tea.  Matchas should always be stored in a freezer in either an air-tight container or plastic bag.  When you are ready to drink your matcha, you must let the powder rose to room temperature and then strain it through a fine sieve.

So little did you know that not all teas come in leaf form! What do you think, dear readers?

Japanese Tea Ceremony - Sen no Rikkyu

Sen no Rikkyu

Sen no Rikkyu

Japanese Tea Ceremony – Sen No Rikkyu

photo reference[1]

Though many people drink tea,

if you do not know the Way of Tea,

tea will drink you up.

-Sen no Rikkyu

This man shaped what we know today to be the chanoyu, or the Japanese “Way of Tea” and Japanese Tea Ceremony.  He was born Yoshiro in the merchant city of Sakai in 1522.  He was trained at a young age on the art of the tea ceremony.   He had also trained in the art of Zen in the Daitoku-ji Temple in northwest Kyoto.  He took the name Sen from his family name. Not much else is known about his middle years.

His fame came in 1579 (when he was 58).  He was the tea master to Oda Nobunaga, who was the first to unify all of Japan.  When Nobunaga died, Rikkyu became the tea master for his successor: Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  Rikkyu quickly rose in Hideyoshi’s esteem and eventually aided Hideyoshi in a tea gather for the Emperor Ogimachi.  The emperor bestowed our tea master with the Buddhist lay name: Rikkyu Koji (利休居士).

According to Rikkyu, there are four important qualities of a tea ceremony: Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility.  Some of his contributions included:

  • A tea house that can accommodate five people,
  • A separate small room where tea utensils are washed
  • Two entrances, one for the host and one for the guests
  • A doorway low enough to require the guests to bend down to enter, humbling themselves in preparation for the tea ceremony


While Rikkyu was very close to his friend Hideyoshi, their friendship was not perfect.  Though the reasons remain unclear, Hideyoshi eventually ordered the ritualistic suicide of Rikkyu.  According to legend, it was because when Hideyoshi entered the Daitoku-ji temple (whose construction he funded), he saw that had to walk under a statue of Rikkyu which symbolized that he was beneath the tea master.  Our tea master complied but only after hosting an exquisite tea ceremony.  But before he did the deed, he wrote a death poem to his dagger:

I raise the sword.
This sword of mine;
Long in my possession.
The time is come at last.
Skyward I throw it up!


Talk about going out with style!