The Japanese tea ceremony is a unique Japanese cultural tradition which began in the 15th century. It has evolved and changed over the centuries, and today there are many different styles and schools of tea ceremony in Japan. Despite the differences, they all share the same overall philosophy which has been shaped by its origins in Zen Buddhism.
The guiding philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony rests on the principles:
- 'Wa'- Harmony
- 'Kei'- Respect
- 'Sei'- Purity
- 'Jaku'- Serenity
Sen no Rikyu
One of the key historical figures in the Japanese tea ceremony is Sen no Rikyu. He is believed to have emphasized these principles in the development of the tea ceremony. Sen no Rikyu is credited with developing all the steps in the tea ceremony and with turning it into a ritual which he passed down to his students. Sen no Rikyu emphasized the spirituality and the simplicity in the art of drinking green tea.
Japanese Tea Ceremony Today
Today the Japanese tea ceremony is studied by students of all ages. There are tea ceremony clubs in high schools, cities and the countryside. Although in the past the Japanese tea ceremony was restricted to the wealthy, today it is something everyone can take part in.
Apart from people studying the tea ceremony as an interest, they are also held to mark a special event such as a wedding, or time of the year (New Year). Most Japanese people have experienced the tea ceremony by being a guest at one.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony usually takes place in a traditional Japanese tatami room. A traditional tea room has a raised alcove at the front of the room, which is simply and elegantly decorated with a hanging scroll and a flower arrangement.
The hanging scroll usually has a simple poem written in Japanese calligraphy, which has been carefully chosen by the host to set the mood and atmosphere of the tea ceremony.
There are many steps which the host will carry out during the tea ceremony. The most important thing for the host to do is to create an atmosphere of tranquility and calm.
- Initially the host will greet the waiting guests by serving them some traditional Japanese sweets.
- The host will then bring in the tea and tea utensils to be used in preparing the tea There are many unique utensils used only in performing the Japanese tea ceremony.
- The host will then tell the guests to relax, and enjoy their sweets while the tea is prepared.
- During this time there are usually no words spoken, and the guest can observe the host preparing the tea.
- Once the matcha green tea has been prepared, it is served to the guest.
- The host will ask the guest 'How do you like the tea?', to which the guest replies, "It is very delcious."
- After all the guests have enjoyed and finished drinking the tea, the host cleans all the utensils and then invites the guests to hold and look at them. Each utensil including the tea container, the tea scoop and bowl are handmade by skilled craftsmen. At this time, the guest can ask the host questions about each utensil (artist, style etc.).
- Finally, the host will take all the utensils and tea out of the tea room and thank the guests for coming, marking the end of the tea ceremony.
Brigita Feltham is the creator and owner of Infusious Tea. After spending over 3 years in Japan, green tea became a part of Brigita's daily lifestyle as it is for most Japanese people.
Brigita began to study tea ceremony and found out that not only does green tea have wonderful health benefits, but it also has a rich cultural tradition in Japan. Brigita would now like to share her knowledge and love of Japanese green tea.
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