There are a lot of traditions that the Japanese have been practicing from ancient times up to the present. They make sure that all the traditions are well preserved and passed on to younger generations so that they respect their roots and practices that teach them good values and show how unique they are. One of these well-preserved traditions is the famous Japanese tea ceremony. The Japanese tea ceremony or as otherwise called in Japan “Cha no yu” is said to be influenced by the Zen Buddhism. It actually originated in China before the Japanese had acquired it in the ancient times and it gradually had evolved into a cultural ritual that is now indeed a unique part of the Japanese traditions that they continue practicing.
The tea is said to promote both physical and spiritual health to all its drinkers and the Japanese tea ceremony itself actually involves harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility between all the people who are participating in the ceremony. The tea ceremony can be performed at home, in a special tea room, in a tea house, and even outdoors. The tea room itself doesn’t have any fancy or colorful decors except for an alcove that is called “Tokonoma”. Hanging there is a “kakemono” or a scroll painting which shows the theme of the ceremony that was chosen by the host.
Some say that the tea represents balance of yin and yang. The water that is used in the ceremony represents yin and the fire that is used in the hearth represents yang. The water used is held in a jar that is called the mizusashi. This stoneware jar contains fresh water that also symbolizes purity, and should only be touched by the host. Matcha is kept in a small ceramic container that is called “cha ire” which is covered by a fine silk pouch that is called “Shifuku” which is then set in front of the mizusashi.
Four guests is the ideal number but sometimes it varies from one guest only to 6 and more.
The steps of this traditional ceremony begin with cleaning of all the utensils and the bowl, and the preparation of the tea itself and the utensils that will be used in serving the tea. Next host will prepare the tea by adding strictly three scoops of matcha green tea powder per guest into the tea bowl. And then hot water will be ladled into the bowl and will then be whisked gently until it turns into a thin paste. More water is gradually added as needed so that tea texture becomes soup-like. The host will then carefully and graciously hand the hot tea over to the first guest and they will exchange bows as a sign of respect to each other. The guest will then admire the bowl and then he or she will rotate it before drinking, later this guest will wipe the surroundings of the rim and will then hand it over to the next guest who will repeat the same movements. This gets repeated up to the last guest in the ceremony. After all the guests had sipped the tea, the host will then gather all the utensils and the bowl and will clean them. The guests will also inspect all of them carefully and respectfully. After all that is done, the host will collect everything and then the guests will be ready to exit the tea room, but not before bowing to the host.
The bow to the host marks the end of the ceremony. The guests will then eventually leave as the host watches them from the door of the tea house until all guests are out of sight.
It indeed takes a number of years to perfectly master the tea ceremony. Some people even take classes or join clubs at some of dedicated tea schools that are located all over Japan. They actually learn all common hosting duties and all the expected appropriate behavior of guests that are going to participate in the ceremony. They will later on get certificates as proof that they are equipped with the skill of this art before they are allowed to perform the ceremony.
This ceremony is indeed an art in itself and is very tedious to perform. Everyone interested to perform this ceremony should learn from a dedicated school. This practice shows respect and gives us an insight on how Japanese people would traditionally treat their guests and serve them nothing but the best. This is one of the traditions that the Japanese take pride in and that is known all over the world!
All About Tea Ceremony