The Japanese tea ceremony, known Chanoyu in Japanese, is a ritual preparation and presentation of matcha tea grounded in the aesthetics and principles of Zen Buddhism.
It is a high choreographed ritual with a series of symbolic movements and structure, designed to lift the experience from the mundane to the spiritual, creating a shared intimacy between host and guests. Each action by the host is carefully considered from the guest’s perspective from the choice and layout of the utensils to the seasonal decoration of the space.
A tearoom is traditionally a separate space or room in the house, around 3m square with an alcove at one end to display a hanging scroll or ikebana arrangement. The floor is covered with traditional tatami mats. The doorway is low, requiring each guest to enter with their head bowed encouraging humility. If separate from the house, a roji, path with stepping stones traditionally leads to the Chashitsu, or teahouse. Guests will purify themselves at a tsukubai, water basin made from stone and bamboo by washing their hands and sipping water from their palm. The guests are greeted at the door by the Teishu, host and presented with sweets.
During the tea ceremony each utensil is brought into the room by the Teishu. The first of these is the Mizusashi, the water container. Next comes the Chawan, tea bowl and the Natsume, tea caddy. Held within the Chawan are the Fukin, a hemp cloth used to clean the Chawan after use, the Chasen, tea whisk and the Chashaku, tea scoop. Lastly the Kensui, wastewater bowl is carried in with the Hishaku, bamboo ladle and Futa-oki, lid and ladle rest.
The utensils are then cleansed with a strict procedure and the tea is likewise prepared, with each step in the ceremony embedded with meaning and philosophy, the tea is prepared from the heart. The intent is to create a heightened atmosphere which leads to easy and relaxed conversation and deeper understanding and connection between host and guest. A tea ceremony is designed to be a unique experience, set apart from the everyday, to promote harmony and wellbeing. The utensils are carefully chosen to reflect the guests invited and the same combination is never used more than once.
There are four guiding principles that are woven through each element of the tea ceremony. They are:
Harmony (wa) the embodiment of oneness, with nature, host and fellow participants.
Respect (kei) mutual respect between participants and of the utensils used.
Purity (sei) of intention, the simple setting of the tea ceremony allows and encourages the drinking of tea to be a spiritual practise.
Tranquility (jaku) the forth principle naturally arises when the first three are followed.
Photography: Aphrodite Kondos