The Japanese tea ceremony is called chanoyu (茶の湯, lit. "tea hot-water") or also chadō or sadō (茶道, "the way of tea") in Japanese. It is a multifaceted traditional activity strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism, in which powdered green tea, or matcha (抹茶), is ceremonially prepared and served to others.
The get-togethers for chanoyu are called chakai (literally "tea meeting") or chaji (literally "tea function"). Usually the term chakai is used to refer to a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes the service of confections, usucha (thin tea), and perhaps tenshin (a light snack), while the term chaji refers to a more formal course of hospitality usually including a special kind of full-course meal called kaiseki (懐石) or more specifically cha-kaiseki (茶懐石), followed by confections, koicha (thick tea), and usucha (thin tea). A chaji may last up to four hours.
According to the "Latter Chronical of Japan" (日本後記; Nihon Kōki), drinking of tea was introduced to Japan in the 9th century, by the Buddhist monk Eichū (永忠), who had returned to Japan from China. This is the first documented evidence of tea in Japan. The entry in the "Latter Chronical of Japan" states that Eichū personally prepared and served "simmered tea" (煎茶, sencha) to Emperor Saga who was on an excursion in Karasaki (in present Shiga Prefecture) in the year 815. By imperial order in the year 816, tea plantations began to be cultivated in the Kinki region of Japan. However, the interest in tea in Japan faded after this.
In China, tea had already been known, according to legend, for more than a thousand years. The form of tea popular in China in the era when Eichū went for studies was . The brick tea was made by steaming and pounding tea leaves, pressing this into moulds, and drying this until hard. This then would be ground in a mortar, and the resulting ground tea decocted together with various other herbs and/or flavorings.
The custom of drinking tea, first for medicinal, and then largely also for pleasurable reasons, was already widespread throughout China. In the early 9th century, Chinese author Lu Yu wrote the Chá jīng (茶經, the Classic of Tea), a treatise on tea focusing on its cultivation and preparation. Lu Yu's life had been heavily influenced by Buddhism, particularly the Zen-Chán school.
Around the end of the 12th century, the style of tea preparation called "tencha" (点茶), in which powdered tea was placed in a bowl, hot water poured into the bowl, and the tea and hot water whipped together, was introduced by Eisai, another Japanese monk returning from China. He also brought tea seeds back with him, which eventually produced tea that was of the most superb quality in all of Japan.
This powdered green tea was first used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, samurai warriors had begun preparing and drinking matcha as they adopted Zen Buddhism, and the foundations of the tea ceremony were laid.
Tea ceremony developed as a "transformative practice," and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of wabi. Wabi, meaning quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste, "is characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry [emphasizing] simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and [celebrating] the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials. Ikkyū, who revitalized Zen in the 15th century, had a profound influence on the tea ceremony.
By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyu, perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master, Takeno Jōō's, concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in Japanese architecture and gardens, fine and applied arts, and the full development of chadō, "the "way of tea". The principles he set forward - , , , and - are still central to tea ceremony.
Many schools of Japanese tea ceremony have evolved through the long history of chanoyu, and are active today.
Tea equipment is called chadōgu (茶道具; literally "tea tools"). A wide range of chadōgu is necessary for even the most basic style of chanoyu. A full list of all available tea implements and supplies and their various styles and variations could fill a several-hundred-page book. The following is a brief list of some essential components:
All the tools for tea ceremony are handled with exquisite care. They are scrupulously cleaned before and after each use and before storing. Some components are handled only with gloved hands.
Because of its base in Japanese traditional culture, the host -- male or female -- almost always wears a kimono. Proper attire for guests is kimono or subdued formal wear. Chanoyu functions generally take place indoors, traditionally in an independent structure designed for this purpose, or a traditional-style Japanese room; in either case, a room having tatami covering the floor. However, they may take place outdoors, in which case they are referred to as nodate (野点; "tea-making out in the field"), or in just about any other type of space. In other words, chanoyu can be conducted nearly anywhere, and where it is held will depend on the occasion, circumstances, and ingenuity of the host.
Although rooms for teaching chanoyu are generally at least six tatami in floor space, which makes it possible for the students to practice the various group training exercises, tea rooms (chashitsu) that are designed specifically for use for the wabi style of chanoyu, as developed by Sen Rikyū, are usually small, a typical floor size being 4 1/2 tatami. The smallest tea room can be as little as one-and-a-half tatami in floor space. Large rooms in which the tea ceremony may be conducted are almost inevitably general reception rooms, which may loosely be referred to as chashitsu on the particular occasions when they are used for a tea ceremony. Building materials and decorations are deliberately simple and rustic in wabi style tea rooms.
If the tea is to be served in a separate tea house rather than a tea room, the guests will wait in a garden shelter until summoned by the host. They ritually purify themselves by washing their hands and rinsing their mouths with water from a small stone basin, and proceed through a simple garden along a roji, or "dewy path," to the tea house. Guests remove their shoes and enter the tea house through a small door, and proceed to the tokonoma scroll alcove, and are then seated seiza-style on the tatami in order of prestige.
The host may build the charcoal fire in the presence of the guests, to heat the water for making the tea. This is done in a prescribed manner.
Guests may be served a light, simple meal called a "tenshin", or a special kind of full-course meal called "kaiseki" or "chakaiseki". The full-course meal comes with sake, Japanese rice wine. They will then return to the waiting shelter until summoned again by the host.
If no meal is served, the host will proceed directly to the serving of a small sweet or sweets. Sweets are eaten from special paper called kaishi, which each guest carries, often in a decorative wallet or tucked into the breast of the kimono.
Each utensil - including the tea bowl, whisk, and tea scoop - is then ritually cleaned in the presence of the guests in a precise order and using prescribed motions. The utensils are placed in an exact arrangement according to the particular style of tea-making procedure (temae) being performed. When the ritual cleaning and preparation of the utensils is complete, the host will place a measured amount of green tea powder in the bowl and add the appropriate amount of hot water, then whisk the tea using set movements. When the tea is ready, the host places it out and, depending on the circumstances, an assistant takes it to the guest or the guest comes after it.
Bows are exchanged between the host and guest of honour. The guest then bows to the second guest, and raises the bowl in a gesture of respect to the host. The guest rotates the bowl to avoid drinking from its front, takes a sip, murmurs the prescribed phrase, and then takes two or three more sips before wiping the rim, rotating the bowl to its original position, and passing it to the next guest with a bow. The procedure is repeated until all guests have taken tea from the same bowl, and the bowl is returned to the host. In some ceremonies, each guest will drink from an individual bowl, but the order of serving and drinking is the same.
If thick tea (koicha) has been served, the host will then prepare thin tea, or usucha, which is served in the same manner, but in a more relaxed atmosphere. For example, during the thick tea serving, guests are not expected to have conversation except a ceremonial one between the first guest and the master. In the thin tea serving, after a similar ritual conversation, the guests are expected to switch to more casual and occasional conversation and smoking occasion is offered.
Traditionally both thick and thin tea is expected to be served, except fuji no chakai or chakai in occasion, which is held only with usucha, for the convenience of the unexpected guest. Today it has been developed to ooyose chakai (chakai with many people) where only usucha with cake is served. Nowadays commonly only usucha is served in most of chakai.
After all the guests have taken tea, the host cleans the utensils in preparation for putting them away. The guest of honour will request that the host allow the guests to examine some of the utensils, and each guest in turn examines each item, including the tea caddy and the tea scoop. The items are treated with extreme care and reverence as they may be priceless, irreplaceable, handmade antiques, and guests often use a special brocaded cloth to handle them.
The host then collects the utensils, and the guests leave the tea house. The host bows from the door, and the ceremony is over. A tea ceremony can last up to four hours, depending on the type of ceremony performed, the number of guests, and the types of meal and tea served.
There are many styles of chanoyu, depending upon the occasion, season, and countless other possible factors. Note that the word temae (roughly, "ceremony" or "procedure") can be written 点前 or 手前. At Urasenke, when it pertains to a procedure for laying the charcoal (sumi) to build the fire, it is written 手前; otherwise, it is written 点前.
Chabako temae (茶箱点前) is so called because the equipment is removed from and then replaced into a special box (chabako, literally tea box). Chabako developed as a convenient way to be prepared with the necessary equipment to make tea outdoors. There are various styles of chabako temae. The basic equipment contained in the chabako are the tea bowl, tea whisk in a special container, tea scoop, caddy containing the powdered tea, and linen wiping cloth in a special container, as well as a container for little candy-like sweets. Many of the items are smaller than usual, to fit in the box. This ceremony takes approx 35-40 minutes.
Hakobi temae (運び点前). The name comes from the fact that, except for the hot water kettle (and brazier if a sunken hearth is not being used), the essential items for the tea-making, including even the fresh water container, are carried into the tea room by the host.
Bon temae (Omotesenke, Mushanokojisenke: 盆手前, "tray ceremony"; Urasenke: 盆略点前 bonryaku temae), is a simple procedure for making usucha (thin tea). The tea bowl, tea whisk, tea scoop, chakin and natsume are on a tray, and the pot for the hot water conventionally is a spouted and handled iron pot called a tetsubin, heated on a portable hearth like a hibachi. This procedure originated in the Urasenke school. It is usually the first temae learned, and is the easiest to perform, requiring neither much specialized equipment nor a lot of time to complete. It may easily be done sitting at a table, or outdoors, using a thermos pot in place of the tetsubin and portable hearth.
In the Ryūrei (立礼, literally standing bow) style, the tea is prepared at a special table. It is possible, therefore, for Ryūrei style chanoyu to be conducted in non-tatami-floored rooms, and even outdoors. The guests are seated either at the same table (one guest)
Chabana (茶花, literally "tea flowers") is the simple style of flower arrangement used in tea ceremony. Chabana has its roots in ikebana, an older style of Japanese flower arranging, which itself has roots in Shinto and Buddhism.
Chabana evolved from the 'free-form' style of ikebana called nageire ("thrown in" method), which was used by early tea masters. Chabana is said, depending upon the source, to have been either developed or championed by Sen no Rikyu. He is said to have taught that chabana should give the viewer the same impression that those flowers naturally would give if they were [still] growing outdoors, in nature. Unnatural and/or out-of-season materials are never used. Also, props and devices such as frogs are not used. At its most basic, a chabana arrangement is a simple arrangement of seasonal flowers placed in a container, referred to generically in chanoyu as hanaire (花入). Chabana arrangements typically comprise few items, and little or no "filler" material. In the summer, when many flowering grasses are in season in Japan, however, it is seasonally appropropriate to arrange a number of such 'flowering grasses' in an 'airy' basket-type container (籠花入; kago-hanaire). Unlike ikebana (which often uses shallow, wide dishes), tall, narrow hanaire are frequently used in chabana. The containers for the flowers used in chanoyu are typically made from natural materials such as bamboo, as well as metal or ceramic, but rarely glass.
Chabana arrangements are so simple that frequently no more than a single blossom is used; this blossom will invariably lean towards or face the guests.
The kanji employed for the chaji meal may be translated as "breast-stone cuisine." This derives from the practice of Zen monks of placing warmed stones in the breast of the robes to stave off hunger during periods of fasting.
In cha-kaiseki, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used, prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavour. Exquisite care is taken in selecting ingredients and types of food, and finished dishes are carefully presented on serving ware that is chosen to enhance the appearance and seasonal theme of the meal. Dishes are intricately arranged and garnished, often with real edible leaves and flowers which are to help enhance the flavor of the food. Serving ware and garnishes are as much a part of the kaiseki experience as the food; some might argue that the aesthetic experience of seeing the food is even more important than the physical experience of eating it.
The basic constituents of a cha-kaiseki meal are the ichijū sansai (一汁三菜) or "one soup, three side dishes", and the rice, plus the following: suimono, hassun, yutō, and kōnomono. The one soup referred to here is usually miso soup, and the basic three side dishes are the following:
Hereunder is a description of the additional items mentioned above:
Extra items that may be added to the menu are generally referred to as shiizakana (肴), and these attend further rounds of saké. Because the host leaves them with the first guest, they are also referred to as azukebachi (預鉢; lit., "bowl left in another's care").
Courses are served in small servings in individual dishes. Each diner has a small lacquered tray to themself; very important people may be provided their own low, lacquered table or several small tables.
In that cha-kaiseki generally follows traditional eating habits in Japan, meat dishes are rare.
While a kimono used to be the common attire for the Japanese, and thus was the standard attire for participants in chanoyu, this is no longer the case. Still, it is traditional, and on formal occasions most guests will wear a kimono. Consequently, the study of kimono is an essential part of learning chanoyu, and most practitioners will own at least one kimono which they will wear when hosting or participating in chanoyu.
The kimono used to be mandatory dress for students of chanoyu, and while this practice continues, many teachers do not insist upon it; it is not uncommon for students to wear western clothes for practice. This is primarily born of necessity: since most people cannot afford to own more than one or two kimono, it is important that they be kept in good condition. Still, most students will practice in kimono at least some of the time. This is essential to learn the prescribed motions properly.
Many of the movements and components of tea ceremony evolved from the wearing of a kimono. For example, certain movements are designed with long kimono sleeves in mind; certain motions are intended to move sleeves out of the way or to prevent them from becoming dirtied in the process of making, serving or partaking of tea. Other motions are designed to allow for the straightening of the kimono and hakama.
Fukusa (silk cloths) are designed to be folded and tucked into the obi (sash); when no obi is worn, a regular belt must be substituted or the motions cannot be performed properly.
Kaishi (paper) and kobukusa are tucked into the breast of the kimono; fans are tucked into the obi. When Western clothes are worn, the wearer must find other places to keep these objects. The sleeves of the kimono function as pockets, and used kaishi are folded and placed into them.
For tea ceremony, men may wear a combination of kimono and hakama (a long divided or undivided skirt worn over the kimono), but some men wear only kimono. Wearing hakama is not essential for men, but it makes the outfit more formal. Women wear various styles of kimono depending on the season and the event; women generally do not wear hakama for tea ceremony. Lined kimono are worn by both men and women in the winter months, and unlined ones in the summer. For formal occasions men wear montsuki kimono (plain, single colour kimono with three to five family crests on the sleeves and back), often with striped hakama. Both men and women wear white tabi (divided- toe socks).
While men's kimono tend to be plain and largely unpatterned, some women's kimono have patterns on only one side; the wearer must determine which side will be facing the guests and dress accordingly. Both for men and women, the attire worn at a tea ceremony -- whether traditional kimono or other clothing -- should be subdued and conservative, so as not to be distracting.
In that the Japanese tea ceremony is conventionally conducted sitting down on the floor, seiza is integral to it. Unless it is the style of tea ceremony employing chairs and tables, both the host and guests basically sit in seiza style throughout. All the bows (there are three basic variations, differing mainly in depth of bow and position of the hands) performed during tea ceremony originate in the seiza position.
Shoes or other such footwear are taboo on tatami. Unfresh socks (or tabi), as well as unwashed feet, are a breach of etiquette. The tea bowl and other items that should be perfectly clean may be set directly on the tatami, and so the tatami need to be maintained in a perfectly clean state.
Inasmuch as chanoyu conventionally takes place in a traditional style of Japanese room, tatami are an integral part of it. The main areas of traditional style tea rooms and tea houses have tatami floors, and the scroll alcove (tokonoma or toko) in tea rooms often has a tatami floor as well.
Tatami are used in various ways in tea ceremony. Their placement, for example, determines how a person walks through the tea room. When walking on tatami it is customary to shuffle, to avoid causing disturbance. Shuffling forces one to slow down, to maintain erect posture, and to walk quietly, and helps one to maintain balance as the combination of tabi and tatami makes for a slippery surface; it is also a function of wearing kimono, which restricts stride length. One must avoid walking on the joins between mats, one practical reason being that that would tend to damage the tatami. Therefore, chanoyu students learn to step over such joins when walking in the tea room.
The placement of tatami in tea rooms differs slightly from the normal placement in regular rooms, and may also vary by season (where it is possible to rearrange the mats). In a 4 1/2 mat room, the mats are placed in a circular pattern around a centre mat. Purpose-built tea rooms have a sunken hearth in the floor which is used in winter. A special tatami is used which has a cut-out section providing access to the hearth. In summer, the hearth is covered either with a small square of extra tatami, or, more commonly, the hearth tatami is replaced with a full mat, totally hiding the hearth.
It is customary to avoid stepping on this centre mat whenever possible, as well as to avoid placing the hands palm-down on it, as it functions as a kind of table: tea utensils are placed on it for viewing, and prepared bowls of tea are placed on it for serving to the guests. To avoid stepping on it people may walk around it on the other mats, or shuffle on the hands and knees.
Except when walking, when moving about on the tatami one places one's closed fists on the mats and uses them to pull oneself forward or push backwards while maintaining a seiza position.
There are dozens of real and imaginary lines that crisscross any tearoom. These are used to determine the exact placement of utensils and myriad other details; when performed by skilled practitioners, the placement of utensils will vary infinitesimally from ceremony to ceremony. The lines in tatami mats (畳目; tatami-me, referring to the weave lines) are used as one guide for placement, and the joins serve as a demarcation indicating where people should sit.
Tatami provide a more comfortable surface for sitting seiza-style. At certain times of year (primarily during the new year's festivities) the portions of the tatami where guests sit are covered with a red felt cloth.
In Japan, those who wish to study tea ceremony typically join what is known in Japanese as a "circle," which is a generic term for a group that meets regularly to participate in a given activity. There are also tea clubs at many junior high and high schools, colleges and universities.
Most tea circles are run by a local chapter of an established tea school. Classes may be held at community centres, dedicated tea schools, or at private homes. Tea schools often have widely varied groups that all study in the same school but at different times. For example, there may be a women's group, a group for older or younger students, and so on.
Students normally pay a monthly fee which covers tuition and the use of the school's (or teacher's) bowls and other equipment, the tea itself, and the sweets that students serve and eat at every class. Students must provide their own fukusa, fan, paper, and kobukusa, as well as their own wallet in which to place these items. Traditionally students also provided their own kimono and related accessories, though western clothing is very common today. On the other hand, if the teacher is in the higher rank of tradition, especially an iemoto, wearing kimono is still considered essential, especially for women. In some cases, advanced students may be given permission to wear the school's mark in place of the usual family crests on formal montsuki kimono.
New students typically begin by observing more advanced students as they practice. New students are normally taught mostly by more advanced students; the most advanced students are taught exclusively by the teacher. The first things new students learn are how to correctly open and close sliding doors, how to walk on tatami, how to enter and exit the tea room, how to bow and to whom and when to do so, how to wash, store and care for the various equipment, how to fold the fukusa, how to ritually clean tea equipment, and how to wash and fold chakin. As they master these essential steps, students are also taught how to behave as a guest at tea ceremonies: the correct words to say, how to handle bowls, how to drink tea and eat sweets, how to use paper and sweet-picks, and myriad other details.
As they master the basics, students will be instructed on how to prepare the powdered tea for use, how to fill the tea caddy, and finally, how to measure the tea and water and whisk it to the proper consistency. Once these basic steps have been mastered, students begin to practice the simplest ceremonies, typically beginning with O-bon temae (see above). Only when the first ceremony has been mastered will students move on. Study is through observation and hands on practice; students do not often take notes, and some schools discourage the practice of note-taking.
As they master each ceremony, some schools and teachers present students with certificates at a formal ceremony. According to the school, this certificate may warrant that the student has mastered a given ceremony, or may give the student permission to study a given ceremony. Acquiring such certificates is often very costly; the student typically must not only pay for the preparation of the certificate itself and for participating in the ceremony during which it is bestowed, but is also expected to thank the teacher by presenting him or her with a gift of money. The cost of acquiring certificates increases as the student's level increases.
Typically, each class ends with the whole group being given brief instruction by the main teacher, usually concerning the contents of the tokonoma (the scroll alcove, which typically features a hanging scroll (usually with calligraphy), a flower arrangement, and occasionally other objects as well) and the sweets that have been served that day. Related topics include incense and kimono, or comments on seasonal variations in equipment or ceremony.