There are several schools of Sado, or Japanese tea ceremony, also known as
Chanoyu. Tea, in this case O-cha (green tea), is as integral
to culture in Japan as coffee is in the US (more so, in fact) or 'a cuppa'
is in the UK. Also, its health benefits are widely touted and generally
accepted worldwide. And study of the tea ceremony is still considered
part of the 'proper' education of any aspiring young 'lady'. All these
factors ensure that this ancient art form thrives even in modern-day Japan.
Sen no Rikyu
The Shokintei teahouse
The earliest rituals involving tea came to Japan as a part of
Buddhist meditation in the 6th century. Later, in the
Kamakura Period (1185-1333),
a Japanese priest named Eisai introduced tea seeds
which became the source of much of the tea grown in Japan today.
A century later the priest Eizon and the monk Ikkyu further promoted
the tea ceremony. Shuko, a pupil of Ikkyu, became tea master to
the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa at whose villa (now known as Ginkakuji
or the 'Temple of the Siver Pavillion' in Kyoto) the first purpose
made tea room in Japan was built.
The roots of today's major schools can be traced to tea master
Sen No Rikyu (1522-1591). Over the course of later generations,
the tea ceremony was refined and acquired a more Japanese rather than
Chinese aesthetic. The sons of Rikyu's grandson Sotan founded their own
schools: Ura Senke for commoners, Omote Senke for aristocrats
and Mushanokoji Senke, which highly values the principle of
wabi. (Wabi can be described as a moral and aesthetic principle which
emphasises a quiet life free of worldly concerns). The Ura Senke
school continues to thrive today and encourages cultural exchange
abroad through the tea ceremony.
The chaji, or tea ceremony is usually held in a cha-shitsu
(tea-room). In grander times, this would have consisted of a
seperate, small building set in a picturesque and tranquil corner
of a traditional garden. These structures can most often be seen
today in parks or castle and temple gardens. The Shokintei teahouse
at the Katsura Detached Palace in Kyoto is a good example.
Guests enter the tea-room through the nijiriguchi, a tiny door
which forces them to crouch, thereby foregoing their
worldly status. In a formal chaji many factors are considered
to celebrate the uniqueness of the moment: the guests invited,
the season, the calligraphy scroll hanging on the wall, the flowers
on display, the utensils, the food served before the tea and so
on. The chaji itself has several stages, each with a depth of
meaning difficult for the outsider to grasp but ultimately based
on a reverance for nature and the creation of a perfect moment
The following is a message from Sen Soshitsu, Ura Senke Grand Tea Master XV:
"Chado, the Way Of Tea, is based upon the simple act of boiling
water, making tea, offering it to others, and drinking of it ourselves.
Served with a respectful heart and received with gratitude, a
bowl of tea satisfies both physical and spiritual thirst.
The frenzied world and our myriad dilemmas leave our bodies and
minds exhausted. It is then that we seek out a place where we
can have a moment of peace and tranquillity. In the discipline
of Chado such a place can be found. The four principles of harmony,
respect, purity and tranquility, codified almost four hundred
years ago, are timeless guides to the practice of Chado. Incorporating
them into daily life helps one to find that unassailable place
of tranquility that is within each of us.
As a representative of this unbroken Japanese tradition of four
hundred years, I am pleased to see that many non-Japanese are
welcoming the chance to pursue its study. This growing interest
in Chado among peoples of all nations leads me to strive even
harder to make it possible for more people to enter the Way of
A celebrant of the tea ceremony holds a chasen (bamboo brush) used to
stir and mix the tea.
Other utensils used during the ceremony include: the cha-ire, a ceramic
container used for the powdered tea; the kama (kettle) used for boiling
water over a charcoal fire; hashi (chopsticks) made of cedar wood used
for eating the simple food; the cha-wan (tea bowls) and many others.
Koicha (thick tea) is served first and later usucha (thin tea). During
the course of the ceremony, a kaiseki light meal, sake and higashi (dry
sweets) are also served.
On another note, one of the key indicators of Japan's progress
(or lack thereof) in the field of gender relations is whether
office ladies (OL's) are required by a given employer to make
and do the rounds with the tea during the working day. It is the
cause of probably the most often voiced grievance among the long
list of sexist behavior engrained into Japanese corporate society.
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