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Japanese Tea Ceremony Timeline

Japanese Tea Ceremony Timeline

Japanese tea ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony (known as sadō/chadō ( 茶道 , "The Way of Tea") or cha-no-yu ( 茶の湯 ) ) is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha ( 抹茶 ) , powdered green tea, the art of which is called (o)temae ( [お]手前/[お]点前 ) . [1]

Zen Buddhism was a primary influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony. Much less commonly, Japanese tea practice uses leaf tea, primarily sencha, a practice known as senchadō ( 煎茶道 , "the way of sencha") in Japanese, as opposed to chanoyu or chadō.

Tea gatherings are classified as either an informal tea gathering (chakai ( 茶会 , "tea gathering") ) or a formal tea gathering (chaji ( 茶事 , "tea event") ). A chakai is a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes confections, thin tea, and perhaps a light meal. A chaji is a much more formal gathering, usually including a full-course kaiseki meal followed by confections, thick tea, and thin tea. A chaji may last up to four hours.

Chadō is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement, along with kōdō for incense appreciation, and kadō for flower arrangement.

A Quick History of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

At present, tea ceremonies are associated most with Japanese culture. However, an interesting fact is that it actually originates from another neighboring nation - China. The presence of tea in China, in fact, dates back to thousand and thousands of years. Drinking tea became popular due to its medicinal properties. However, it became more and more popular later on as a leisurely drink. Much of ancient Japan&rsquos fundamental beliefs regarding the tea ceremony dates back to Lu Yu, a Chinese author who was a staunch supporter of Zen Buddhism. At the time, he wrote a guideline which established the standards for tea cultivation and preparation.

Looking at records made by Japanese historians, the tea ceremony is believed to have been first practiced during the year 800&rsquos. The ceremony itself did not originate from Japan but was rather practiced by a Buddhist monk who has learned about it from his travels to neighboring China. History records claim that the year 815, said Buddhist monk prepared Japanese green tea called &ldquoSencha&rdquo to Emperor Saga, while he was visiting Shiga Prefecture - then called Kawasaki.

In time, many of the aristocracies began practicing the Japanese tea ceremony. It became really popular in Japan, that the imperial court even issued an order to increase in tea plantations so that more tea may be cultivated and made available for the tea ceremony. It was a good moment for the tea ceremony. However, the popularity of tea at the time soon enough died down.

It was around the 12th century when another Buddhist monk who has returned from an excursion in China brought with him what was considered to be the best tea seeds in the world. These seeds produced what is now called &ldquomatcha&rdquo, which is considered to be a finer level of green tea. In China, matcha was already being used in the tea preparation style called &ldquotencha&rdquo. This involved the matcha green tea in powdered form to be dissolved in hot water before the two components are stirred together.

The tea seeds that were brought to Japan were cultivated in Kyoto to yield the best quality green tea called matcha. Originally, the matcha was used exclusively by Buddhist monks during their tea ceremonies. However, drinking tea soon enough became popular again among the aristocratic class. The high-quality matcha was regarded as a symbol of luxury that was representative of the warrior class. There are even festivals held among the elite to celebrate matcha. The popularity of matcha continued to rise between the 1500&rsquos and the 1300&rsquos, alongside the budding cultural development in Japan. Much of the Japanese culture that is now known to the outside would have stemmed from this period. During this period, the tea ceremony evolved from a practice that was primarily ceremonial, into something that was cultural.

The History of Japanese tea ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony originally came from China. It was Chinese style then. Many Japanese tea masters have developed it and completed it. If you would learn about the history of Japanese tea ceremony, you might get close to the world of Japanese tea ceremony.

Matcha coming to Japan

Matcha, which is used for Japanese tea ceremony, came to Japan about eight hundred years ago. At that time, Japan was in the period of Kamakura. It is said that Eizai (Eisai), Zen master, told about matcha.
Eizai went to China and learned Buddhism. At that time, he brought the seeds of matcha to Japan. He offered matcha to the General of Kamakura government who was suffering from hangover as he knew drinking matcha would ease the hangover symptoms. Eizai wrote a book about how to drink matcha and its effects. People got to know matcha from the book.

Matcha has spread among monks

Eizai presented the seeds of matcha to a disciple who worked for a temple. The disciple planted the seeds and made matcha. Monks of temples started to drink matcha. Matcha has spread among monks.

In the period of Muromachi, "Toucha" became trend among samurai. Toucha was a game which came from China. The game was played according to rules and a lot of money was bet sometimes. Since Toucha became trend, matcha was spread among the general public as well. However, Toucha was banned by the General at that time.

The birth of Japanese tea ceremony

In the period of Muromachi, "Shointsukuri" became famous among samurai. Shointsukuri was one of styles of home. The culture of Japanese tea ceremony developed with Shointsukuri. There were paintings, tea ware, and utensils from China in the home of Shointsukuri. People welcomed guests and offered matcha in one of rooms.
Japanese tea ceremony has developed originally since then and the influence of China has reduced gradually. At this time, a master made matcha in another room then moved to the room where a guest waiting and offered it there. Nowadays, a master made matcha in front of a guest.

Wabicha by Juko Murata

In the period of Muromachi, Japanese tea ceremony used expensive utensils called "Karamono"(唐物). Karamono is a thing from China. People tried to show off things and compete with others in Japanese tea ceremony. Against the Japanese tea ceremony which value expensive utensils, Juko Murata, who was a Zen monk, established "Wabicha" of Japanese tea ceremony. Juko put the mind of Zen into Japanese tea ceremony and add simple Japanese tools to the ceremony instead of expensive Karamono. Juko wrote a book about Japanese tea ceremony. In this book, he sees Japanese tea ceremony as a tool to polish one's mind and taught harmony of Karamono and Wamono, which is made in Japan. The book said that the worst thing in Japanese tea ceremony is to make fool of other person and to be selfish. It also said that you should be kind to a person who learns Japanese tea ceremony for the first time. Many Japanese tea masters were influenced by his book.

Sen no Rikyu

After Juko passed away, his disciple, Jouou Takeno, had learned and developed Wabicha. Jouou taught his disciple, Sen no Rikyu, about Wabicha. Sen no Rikyu tried to establish Japanese tea ceremony which gets rid of aspect of play and values the interchange of people's heart. Sen no Rikyu also asked a craftsman to make new matcha bowl and other utensils for Japanese tea ceremony.
He learned Zen as well and reached the mental state of "Chazenichimi" (茶禅一味). Chazenichimi means that Japanese tea ceremony and Zen are united as one. Zen training requires calm and peace mind and its goal is to purify one's mind. Sen no Rikyu adopted the teaching of Zen to Japanese tea ceremony.
Juko started Wabicha and Sen no Rikyu completed it. Japanese tea ceremony of Sen no Rikyu has still passed on nowadays.

Japanese tea ceremony became politicized

Between the 16 century and the 17 century, Japanese tea ceremony became glorious. In this era, Nobunaga Oda became the ruler of Japan. He collected "Meibutsu"(名物) which is valued utensils from ancient time. Meibutsu became the symbol of power and wealth of the ruler. Nobunaga used Japanese tea ceremony for politics and gave permission to have Japanese tea ceremony for specific samurai. Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who was the next ruler of Japan after Nobunaga, pushed forward Japanese tea ceremony politically.

Sectionalism of Japanese tea ceremony

In the period of Edo, some sects of Japanese tea ceremony were born. Three grandchildren of Sen no Rikyu made Sansenke, Omotesanke, Urasenke, and Mushanokoujisenke. They established "Iemoto" system that Iemoto plays a central part and take a leadership role in the development of the style. Sansenke is major sect of Japanese tea ceremony now.

Japanese tea ceremony in modern era

In the period of Meiji, samurai who supported Japanese tea ceremony had disappeared. In addition, Japan tried very hard to adopt Western culture. So, the momentum of Japanese tea ceremony declined at this time.
However, woman's education adopted Japanese tea ceremony and many women began to learn. Nowadays, Japanese tea ceremony is recognized as one of major traditional Japanese culture.

Japanese Tea - Tea History in Japan

This week, our journey through the history of tea takes us across the East China Sea from the birthplace of tea to the land of the Rising Sun. We’ll discover how the famous Japanese tea ceremony was developed, how Japan’s isolation helped a unique tea culture thrive, and discover some of Japan’s most famous and widely loved teas.

Japan – The Art of Tea

While tea culture began in China, it soon spread throughout Asia. Everywhere Chinese sailors went, tea followed. And across the Yellow Sea, tea found a people who wanted to embrace this drink and build a whole ceremonial culture that survives to this very day.

This week, we’re discovering the history of tea in Japan.

The History of Japanese Tea

History credits the monk Saisho as being the man who first brought tea leaves from China to Japan buring the Heian period, but while Saisho and other travellers brought leaves, it would take another visionary to sow the seeds of Japan’s true tea culture.

Japan's true tea culture only really started when the monk Eisai (1141-1215) brought back tea-tree seeds from a pilgrimage to China. He planted these seeds on the island of Kyushu and around the monasteries of Hakata, and Japan’s path to the way of tea began in earnest.

Eisai and his contemporaries used tea mainly as a medicine, and used the same preparation methods as were common in China in that time. Monks and other wise tea drinkers would grind the tea leaves before pouring hot water over them in a calming, zen process.

Eisai’s zen lifestyle and ideas definitely contributed to the ideas of the Japanese tea ceremony, and they are still a key part of this ceremony almost a thousand years later.

Tea would then be planted on Honshu, near Kyoto, where monks would cultivate and use the plant in the belief it helped with meditation. Later on, statesmen and intellectuals added tea into their daily routine as well, followed by the famed Japanese Samurai.

In the 16th century, shading the tea plants from sunlight with Tana canopies began – a process which is the origin of today’s Matcha and Gyokuro teas. In the 17th Century, the travelling Chinese Monk Yin Yuan spread the way of loose leaf tea infusion in Japan, but this link between China and Japan couldn’t last forever.

Between 1641 and 1853 Japan embraced a famous policy of isolation, preventing any contact between Japan and the outside world, including the tea producing regions of China.

This forced Japan to discover its own way of tea which remained separate from Chinese culture. Japanese teas such as Matcha and Gyokuro became more and more popular, and Japanese tea makers began to innovate new ways of preparing tea.

In 1738, Soen Nagatani created the steaming method for green tea that is still being used to this day, to capture the freshness of the tea leaves. Even in 2018, this method is still widely practiced all around the world.

To this day, almost all Japanese tea is drunk in Japan itself, casually in restaurants (Bancha, Kukicha), in smaller, more formal Groups (Sencha, Gyokuro), and in the tea ceremony (Matcha).

However, as a global, modern country, Japan also imports a wide range of teas from all over the world.

The Japanese Way of Tea

Around the world, the most widespread technique used today to prevent the tea leaves from oxidizing is to heat them by placing them with a heated surface, as if they were in a big frying pan.

Tea growers all over the world need to ensure that the leaves do not oxidise. From China to India and beyond, most growers heat the leaves on a large heated surface, almost like a large frying pan. But in Japan, they do things differently.

Unlike other tea growing nations, the Japanese focus on green teas (99.9% of the tea grown is green tea), and they prepare it in a special way. They steam the leaves.

When you choose a Japanese green tea, you may see it described as one of the following:

Asamushi “shallow steam” or “lightly steamed” - a quick, usually 20– 40-second steaming

Chumushi “medium steam” or Futsumushi “normal steam” - a 40–80 second steaming

Fukamushi “deep steam” - a longer steaming of 80 seconds or more

These exact time spent steaming leaves varies from farmer to farmer, which is why terms go from shallow (asamushi) to deep (fukamushi) instead of giving an exact steaming time.

Once steamed, rolled and dried, the tea leaves are called Aracha, and only need to be sorted before they can be packed, distributed and enjoyed.

Japan’s Famous Tea Regions

Shizuoka is the biggest tea producing region of Japan and is responsible for about half of Japan's tea production. The region’s proximity to the ocean creates harsher weather conditions which are believed to produce better tea. Its speciality is sencha but Shizuoka produces all kinds of tea.

Kyoto is located in the middle of the island of Honshu. Kyoto is quite mild in climate and is known as one of the original places where Eisai first planted tea in Japan. It is famous for its high-quality teas, especially matcha and gyokuro.

There are four famous tea regions on this island, Kagoshima , Saga , Miyazaki and Fukuoka .

The climate is subtropical, allowing farmers to grow a wide range of teas sencha, bancha, kukicha, kabusecha and gyokuro, as well as the famous local speciality kamairicha.

Kyushu is also home to two up and coming regions which make some small quantities of high-quality tea: Miyazaki and Kumamoto.

Less famous than other Japanese tea growing areas, teas from this region are mainly grown on the Yamato Plateau at an altitude between 200m and 500m. They mostly make sencha, bancha and kabusecha.

The Aichi prefecture in Japan is located on the southern coast of Honshu and bordered by Shizuoka to the east and Mie to the west. Although it produces a smaller total volume of tea, and is less well-known than Mie and Shizuoka, Aichi is still very important, especially in producing matcha.

Sencha : this is the most widespread kind of Japanese green tea, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the tea produced in Japan.

It is produced almost everywhere in the country, and a broad range of Sencha is available, from very cheap to the most expensive of tea leaves. After the steaming process, the tea leaves are rolled and dried to remove humidity and give the leaves their characteristic needle shape.

The result of these processes is called Aracha, which is not yet a finished product. After a final preparation, the Sencha ready to be enjoyed and will be distributed using one of the following descriptions:

Gyokuro, the Jade Dew : the pinnacle of Japanese tea art. Less than one percent of Japan’s tea production is Gyokuro, and the small amount that is made is grown mostly in Kyoto. What makes Gyokuro different is the way it is treated just before being picked. The plantation is covered for two to four weeks before the tea leaves are picked.

This produces tea leaves that have more theanine and amino acids which causes the sweetness and umami unique to Gyokuro.

Matcha : the powdered Japanese green tea used in the famous Japanese tea ceremony. First brought to Japan by the Zen monk Eisai, Matcha has a very long and storied history.

Matcha is obtained by stone-grinding a tea called Tencha to produce a powder. Tencha itself is almost never drunk without first being ground into Matcha. Like Gyokuro, this is grown in the shade, before the leaves are steamed and dried.

Kukicha (Bocha), the twig tea : mainly made from the stems, Kukicha is a nutty tea which is often considered a side product from Sencha, Kabusecha or Gyokuro production. It contains a lower amount of caffeine and is easier to brew than other green teas.

A special kind of this tea is made from the stems of Gyokuro, making it sweeter and more tender. This kind of tea is also called Karigane.

(Bancha) Hôjicha : Japanese green tea, made from the roasted leaves and ferns of the tea plant. It is usually thought of as an everyday tea but if the best tea leaves are used it can be of excellent quality comparable to many of the more special teas.

Genmaicha : a green tea combined with roasted brown rice, this is historically a cheap and affordable tea. The rice was essentially used as filler for those who couldn't afford pure tea, making it the tea of choice for the common Japanese consumer.

Today this tea often contains matcha and is appreciated for its unique grassy flavour and roasted aroma.

Tamaryokucha : a tea from Kyushu known for the curly shape of its processed leaves. Tamaryokucha has a distinctive tangy taste and citrus aroma, and can be steamed or pan fired during preparation.

Arcaha : a tea that has not been sorted. This refers to all sorts of leaves which are then sorted and split up into Sencha, Kukicha, Bancha or other varieties. Matcha and Gyokuro are usually separated and sorted before processing.

Shincha: the first flush tea, picked earliest in the season during the first few days of the first harvest. This tea tends to be sweeter than later flushes, and is usually very minimally processed to ensure an incredibly fresh taste.

It should be consumed in the first few weeks after harvest before the famed freshness begins to fade and the quality of the tea drops.

Kabusecha : a variant of sencha that is shaded for one to two weeks before harvest. Essentially this tea is half way between Sencha and Gyokuro.

Kamairicha : a tea which is pan-fired in the Chinese style, this tends to be less bitter than steamed teas. Kamairicha is known for its curved shape, instead of the more usual needle-like form of Japanese tea.

Mecha : another “side product tea,” Mecha is made from the buds and tips of the tea plant early in the spring.

Konacha : this is typically a low-grade tea made from dust and leftovers from Sencha and Gyokuro processing. Konacha is often served in sushi restaurants.

Tencha : unfinished Matcha or Gyokuro (high quality dried leaves from shaded plants) ready to be rolled into Gyokuro or ground into Matcha.

Japan’s teas can challenge China in terms of quality and variety. Have you tried many of the Japanese teas we stock? Do you prefer them to Chinese teas? Share your experiences in the comments section below, and feel free to ask any questions.

The Burgeoning of Wagashi in Japan

The demand and production of Wagashi exploded during the Edo period (1603-1867), due to the widespread commercialization throughout the country and significant improvement in agricultural productivity. Sugarcane from Okinawa and Shikoku, and processed white sugar became available in the capital (Edo) and Kyoto. This spurred the development of new Wagashi specialty stores. In parallel, the culture of tea ceremony also flourished, where serving delicious sweets became one of the most important aspects of the ceremony.

Edo period booklets depicting various types of Wagashi (Source ).

With the fierce competition among Wagashi confectioners to meet their hungry customers’ demand, different styles with intricate designs became popular. Kyoto-styled Wagashi called Kyo-gashi (京菓子) was the beautiful pieces of edible art for tea ceremony, whereas the middle-class Edo (Tokyo) craved for the more simple and approachable Jyo-gashi (上菓子).

The term Wagashi was born during the Meiji era (1868-1912), during the era of rapid modernization and westernization. Like how Washoku (和食) was a term to distinguish from foreign food cultures, Wagashi – wa (和 Japanese) and kashi/gashi (菓子 sweets ) – was born.

History of Tea in Japan and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

According to Brown, tea is classified among the most significant non-alcoholic beverage across the globe. It has gained fame as a result of its benefits. Tea is an inclusive aspect of the daily life of the Japanese individual attributable to its ceremonial and ritual characteristics. It has been treated as a cultural beverage and consumed in a refined atmosphere. Tea drinking in Japan has undergone refinement under the support of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. He was the regarded as the first ruler-patron of the tea ceremony. Since historical times, tea was incorporated as an element of an independent secular ceremony. Over the past 5,000 years, the Japan have consumed green tree which acts as a beverage and a medicine (121). This paper focuses on tea in Japan, with various subtopics and its relevance among the Zen.

According to De Bary, Keen, and Tanabe, the history of tea in Japan dates back to the early Heian period, after it was introduced by monks including Kukai and Saicho. In 815, Emperor Saga permitted the production of tea in several provinces of Japan. During this period, tea drinking was normally admired and adopted by two elite classes in Japan. First, the nobles at the emperor’s court who copied their Chinese counterparts. They commended the tea’s taste and the stylish methods of its preparation and service. Second, the monks, in Buddhist temples valued tea as a result of its medicinal value (388). Hara asserts that the Chinese were responsible for introducing tea in Japan, probably during the eighth century. In the early 7th century, Japanese monks travelled to China for educational purposes of studying Buddhism. The Chan School, which was referred to as Zen in Japan, incorporated extensive medit.

. es of Japanese Tradition: From Earliest Times through the Sixteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001. Print.

Deal, William E. Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Ellington, Lucien. Japan. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009. Print.

Gleason, Carrie. The Biography of Tea. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007. Print.

Hara, Yukihiko. Green Tea: Health Benefits and Applications. New York: CRC Press, 2001. Print.

Kleiner, Fred. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Global History (13th ed). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

Martin, Laura. Tea: The Drink that Changed the World. North Clarendon, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing, 2007. Print.

Japanese Tea Ceremony Procedure and History

Japanese Tea Ceremony Procedures

The steps to the ceremony are quite simple: clean the serving bowls, boil a pot of water, serve a sweet treat to guests before the tea, mix powdered bitter green tea (Matcha) and water to make a frothy tea, serve the tea to guests. [ The flavors of the sweets and bitter tea compliment each other. This is a sign of harmony. ]

  1. Bow when you receive the cup of tea which is called a chawan.
  2. Take the chawan with your right hand and place it in the palm of your left hand.
  3. Turn the chawan clockwise three times before you take a drink.
  4. When the tea is gone, make a loud slurp to tell the host that the tea was truly enjoyed.
  5. Wipe the part of the chawan your lips touched with your right hand.
  6. Turn the chawan counterclockwise and return to the host.

Japanese Tea Ceremony History

In the middle of the 16th century the first Westerners, the Jesuits, arrived in Japan, and at that same time a Japanese man named Rikyu was developing a new approach to the ancient practice of serving tea with some food. It did not take long for the Jesuits to discover and develop an admiration for tea practices and to incorporate them into their everyday life in Japan. But the relationship between western civilization and the tea ceremony came to an abrupt halt when Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Shogun, forced Westerners out of Japan and shut the doors on them for almost 300 years. Although the doors re-opened in 1868, it took almost 100 years for Westerners to develop an interest in the tea ceremony to the extent that they would begin to practice it and not simply view it as a quaint, inscrutable custom of the Japanese.

The experience of a tea ceremony can have 3 dimensions to it:

  1. it is a social event
  2. it stresses aesthetics very much
  3. it can have a religious dimension.

That it is a social event is obvious. Guests gather at an appointed time to be served food and drink. This can be an informal tea which consists of serving a sweet and some tea, or even a small meal with the sweet and tea. This is called a chakai and can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or so. The number of guests for this sort of tea can be as small as one, and the highest number of guests is determined only by the limitations of the host's facilities. Guests also can be invited to a much more formal gathering called a chaji which involves highly structured gathering rituals, the serving of a meal in multiple courses, an intermission in a garden, and then a solemn thick tea ceremony followed by the less solemn thin Japanese tea ceremony.

A chaji will last from 3 to 5 hours and only 5 guests at most will be present. Both the chakai and the chaji have the same purpose which is to serve food and drink to guests. Sometimes different diet or healthy food will be present, possibly purchased with Medifast coupons or at health food stores. The difference lies in the quantity of food and drink, and the increased amount of ritualized movement that is necessary when you are serving more and doing it in your finest fashion. As with any serving of food and drink in the world, a sensible host will invite people who are compatible, for no one sits down with enemies to share a meal. In English we have the word "companion" which means a friend who does things with you. Etymologically "companion" came from 2 Latin words, cum which means with, and pan which means bread. Thus the original meaning of the word was the one with whom you were willing to share food. I believe that all nations can readily associate the sharing of food and drink as a symbol of friendly acceptance. The Japanese tea ceremony is definitely this sort of social event.

Let's turn now to the aesthetic dimension of tea. All great cultures in the history of civilization take care to serve a meal in a proscribed manner, and that prescription will always involve a certain amount of beauty. The appearance of the food, the utensils used in serving the food, and the decoration of the eating place should be quite appealing to the eyes. This is common throughout the world. In the tea ceremony this concern for beauty is so deeply pursued that tea can truly be referred to as an art form. Body movement is completely choreographed, even down to finger positions. Tea utensils can be of such a high quality that you will find them in art museums throughout the world. This is true also of tea architecture. (The Philadelphia and Los Angeles museums have complete tea house complexes which they display with great pride.) The arrangement of food in a chakai or a chaji can be so striking in beauty and so subtle in choice and form that it is almost on the level of poetry. The Japanese say that food must be tasted with the eyes before it is tasted with the mouth.

People frequently ask, "How long does it take to learn the tea ceremony?" This is like asking, "How long does it take to learn to play the piano? "If you are a fast learner, you will be able to play a simple tune within 10 weeks, but if you really want to play well, count more on 10 years. There is an old Latin saying, Ars est celare arlem. This means that true art is so subtle that it looks quite natural and simple -- it does not look contrived. This is true of the art of tea also, and thus it takes years of study and practice in order to master it. People are surprised when you tell them that it takes years to learn tea, but think about how long it took you to learn proper table manners, and these, though refined, are certainly not on the level of an art form. And think too about the many years any good cook has spent in developing the ability to gracefully prepare and serve a good meal.

The tea ceremony as an art form cuts through a whole spectrum of Japanese culture because it embraces many art forms such as architecture, gardening, ceramics, textiles, Japanese calligraphy, flower arrangement, and Japanese cuisine, plus a few rather arcane art forms such as the sculpting of ashes and the building of a beautiful fire. Certain arrangements of ashes on which charcoal is placed can take as long as two hours to prepare. Other than the Japanese tea ceremony, where else can you find humble ashes raised to such a level of refinement and beauty? Indeed, they are the finest ashes in the world. A story is told about three tea masters who had a magnificent tea room with much valuable equipment. One day the house caught fire and the 3 tea masters rushed in to save what they could. The first thing they saved was the ashes! The point being made with this story is that everything involved in a tea ceremony has been given careful aesthetic attention, even the ashes. Going to a high quality tea ceremony can be every bit as much of an aesthetic experience as going to an art museum or the theater.

The third dimension of tea is the religious dimension, and it is optional. I would compare this to meals in Muslim or Jewish, or Christian homes, and many other religious homes. Pious people in these religious traditions will bring a religious mentality to meals and thus experience the meal as a religious event. The religious mentality which is frequently brought to a tea ceremony is that of Zen Buddhism. Zen people talk about the whole universe being experienced in the drinking of a bowl of tea. This experience comes from giving yourself over totally to the here and now and fully participating in the tea with a heart free from selfish desires. But this is up to the individuals participating in the tea. As Mr. Yamada, the director of Urasenke in New York, says, "Zen people (particularly of the Rinzai sect) are often interested in tea, and tea people are often interested in Zen, but tea is tea and Zen is Zen." One could just as easily bring a Christian or Islamic mentality to a tea ceremony, and in fact Soshitsu Sen XV, the present Grand Master, highly encourages just this sort of thing. Giving oneself over to the here and now with a heart free from selfish desire is a thought quite acceptable to all the major religions of the world. Christians speak about experiencing Christ at the supper table he can also be experienced at tea. Jews speak of living out their covenant with God by keeping his law. Tea can be quite kosher. And Muslims can accept the will of Allah while sharing food and tea. Tea is for all nations, all cultures, and all religious traditions.

S_A_k_U_r_A’s zasshi

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. [1] However, the interest in tea in Japan faded after this. [2]

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 “brick tea” ( 団茶 , dancha ? ) . 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. [3]

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. (This form of Buddhism is known as Chan in China and Zen in Japan). His ideas would have a strong influence in the development of the Japanese tea ceremony. [4]

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. [5]

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.” [6] 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 – harmony ( 和 , wa ? ) , respect ( 敬 , kei ? ) , purity ( 清 , sei ? ) , and tranquility ( 寂 , jaku ? ) – are still central to tea ceremony.

Many schools of Japanese tea ceremony have evolved through the long history of chanoyu, and are active today.

Sado - Tea Ceremony

There are several schools of Sado, or Japanese tea ceremony, also known as Chado or 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.

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 Silver 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 in time.

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 Tea."

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.

Origins of Chanoyu

The tea ceremony—called chanoyu, or chado if you prefer, or even sado—was brought to Japan from China along with myriad other elements of Chinese culture that was crammed onto a cargo boat. It’s incredible when you think about all the stuff the Japanese brought back with them from China: kanji (Chinese writing characters), calligraphy and the tea ceremony being just a paltry few. We imagine Japanese Buddhist priests such as Eichu and Kukai (after having imported Buddhism) walking through the vast country of China and pointing to various things: “We’ll have some of that Shingon Buddhism, and a bit of the Bodhidarma, and by the way, give us some of that tea ceremony with a bit of calligraphy on the side!” Only after the tiny boat was full did they declare, “Anchors away!” and bring all their bounty here to Japan.

Even the “Seven Lucky Gods” came to Japan from China. They managed to all fit on a tiny vessel called a takarabune (pictured above), destined for the 800-kilometer (500-mile) journey that we presume terminated at the port of Nagasaki.

The Japanese tea ceremony eventually developed into its own version: a four-hour event of absolute propriety, performed while wearing a traditional kimono and kneeling seiza style. It’s impressive that the interminable ceremony has endured to this day, despite this proclaimed age of instant gratification.

But luckily, we now have a shorter Way of Tea. The abbreviated version came about, no doubt, because just having a cup of tea in the morning was enough to prevent people from getting to work before noon. So, the tea ceremony now has a more casual and endurable version for those who don’t want to risk losing their lower limbs by sitting for long periods of time in seiza, or for those who have a busy schedule to keep like the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, pictured above.

These shorter tea ceremonies, called chakai, are a good introduction into the world of matcha, Japanese powdered green tea. If after this abridged version your legs have survived the pins and needles and are still very much attached to your body, then by all means, try to sever them completely in the four-hour rendition. Try to go for one that includes a high-class kaiseki ryori meal. Good food is known to make leg pain more endurable.

Watch the video: Japanese tea ceremony. Beyond beautiful behavior. 茶道 (January 2022).