Swanica explores Japan

Friday, February 09, 2007

Today, I went to the Keio department store and attended a tea ceremony "chanoyu".
This ceremony is a great art and is engrained into the Japanese culture. It signifies no more than the making and serving of a cup of tea, but the supremely important matter is that the act be performed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful and most charming manner possible.

When you enter the tearoom, you first proceed to the "tokonoma" alcove, where you admire the scroll, the "chabana" (the simple style of flower arranging used in "chanoyu") and other decorations. Then you seat yourself in "seiza" style on the "tatami mat" on a assigned place.

There is a long history, but in the 12th century the "matcha", powdered green tea, was introduced by Eisai, a Japanese monk returning from China. This tea was first used in religious rituals in Zen Buddhist monastaries, which started here in Kamakura. The samurai warriors had begun preparing and drinking matcha in a effort to adopt Zen Buddhism and the foundations of the tea ceremony were laid.

If no meal is served, the host will proceed directly to the serving of a small sweet "o-kashi". They are eaten from a special paper called "kaishi"

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan.Sen no Rikyu followed his master, Takeno Joo's belief that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings brought to full development "sado": the principles of harmony "wa", respect "kei", purity "sei" and tranquility "jaku", still central to tea ceremony today.

Tea equipment is called "dogu". A wide range of "dogu" is necessary for even the most basic tea ceremony.

The host poured hot water with the bamboo ladle from the iron kettle on the hearth to clean the "chawan". She turned the bowl slowly with very specific movements.

She poured hot water on the matcha.

Then she wisked the matcha and then presented the bowl with again very specific movements.
All the time you also bow in politeness with your two hands on the mat in front of you.

This bowl was presented to me with the matcha tea. You turn it around in your hand and find the front. Then you drink the tea. When you're finished, you admire the bowl.

This is an interesting website to start with if you would like to know more about the "chanoyu":


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