Chawan: Tea bowl
Fukusa: red cloth
Chakin: White tissue
Chasen: Tea whisk
Chashaku: Tea scoop
Kensui: Dirty water container
Mizusashi: Water container
Kama: Tea pot
Furosaki byoubu: Folding screen
Natsume: Tea caddy
Kakejiku : Hanging scroll
Chabana: Tea ceremony flower arrangement
There are 3 main tea ceremony schools each of which was founded by the descendants of Senno Rkyu.
The biggest and most popular school is Urasenke school followed by Omotesanke and Mushanokoujisenke.
The procedures tend to be similar excep a few minor differences. Urasenke school and omotesenke school can be contrasted as follows. Urasenke school’s main priority is the satisfaction of the guest while the Omotesenke school focuses more on the simplicity. Urasenke school thinks it is OK to have the guests sit on stools because the guest’s satisfaction is the most importanrt thing. Urasenke school also strives to use the high quality and unique utensils to impress the guests.
Urasenke school proposes folding the fukusa by two hands while the Omotesenke school recommends using one hand. Uransenke school uses an untreated yellow bamboo whisk (chasen) versus the dark chasen used by the omotesenke school. Finally the Urasenke school makes the tea more frothy and bubbly.
Wabi-Sabi. Wabi means seeing beauty in imperfectness and impermanence of the nature. Sabi means things that are old and covered are more appealing than new things or things that stand out. Together, wabi-sabi usually refer to beauty in simplicity. “Elegant simplicity” is present in all aspects of the tea ceremony. At the same time, one must note that tea ceremony is not only appreciating simple things (e.g. a simple cup) but also simple routines (e.g. cleaning the cup).
The founder of tea ceremony Sen no Rikyu stated that tea ceremony can be explained by this simple phrase: ichi go ichi e : one time – one meeting. Tea ceremony is not about the taste, it is all about enjoying the moment and remembering that this moment will never come back again.
We have to forget about everything and just focus on drinking tea in harmony. In this sense, tea ceremony is quite similar to meditation. The tea meeting, which may seem like a simple routine, should be deeply enjoyed as that particular moment will never come back again.
Wa: harmony. The whole process is how a host and guest beautifully enjoy a bowl of tea in harmony. It is extremely important in the Japanese culture that the kanji character of Japanese (和) is the same with the kanji character of harmony (和). Harmony is the foundation of Japanese culture and Japanese people believe harmony is not limited to humans, it can be between humans and objects and humans and nature.
Kei: respect. Tea ceremony may look simple but during the whole procedure the host does everything to please the guest and the guest responds with continued appreciation. Every little thing from the flower arrangement to the scroll on the wall indicates the utmost attention paid to the preparation for the ritual. One of the many aspects of the tea ceremony that the foreign guests may not realize is the ritualistic way of showing appreciation by the guests. For instance, the person that is sitting close to the hanging scroll must make some positive comments about the room design prepared for that day. After drinking the tea, the guests should put their bowl on the floor and then pick them up and take a close look and then make some positive comments about how interesting and unique the bowls are. This is all to show the respect and appreciation. As stated in the book cha no yu “The guest must fully realize the pains taken by the host, to give him as little trouble as possible. The ideal relation between them is a mutual understanding and appreciation that needs no words to express.”
Sei: purity. Even though the utensils used in tea ceremony are usually prepared and cleaned in advance one goes through the tedious process of cleaning the utensils in front of the guests over and over again. The guests wash their hands before entering the tea room purifying themselves from the worldly things. The host purifies his heart and mind while cleaning the tea utensils. Everything must imply purity from the sound of hot water pouring into the bowl to the smell of freshly powdered matcha. The tea ceremony in general is heavily influenced by Zen buddhism but the ritualistic purity aspect has no doubt been influenced by Shintoism as well.
Jaku: Tranquility. Jaku is not an effortful process, it is the natural result of practicing harmony, respect and purification that leads to peacefulness and calmness that give people the power of controlling their worldly desires. The zen philosophy suggests that simple actions in daily life (e.g. carving the wood, brushing a script, etc.) leads to awakening. When performing tea ceremony, a simple action of preparing tea with the clear mind paves a way to the awakening of our souls. One does not have to think about intricate processes of tea ceremony and smoothly moves with nothing in mind that creates inner peace the realization of self. We should remember that the ultimate rule of awakening is the “presence” at the moment and understanding the true “self.” Thus, tea ceremony helps individuals deepen their connection to their inner spirit.
The main purpoase of tea ceremony is improving the bonding between the host and the guest and also gaining a peace of mind in our busy daily lives. Tea ceremony has many deep meanings and implications, it would be an understatment to just mention a simple purpose.
Reading the books and studies on tea ceremony one realizes that the meditation aspect of tea ceremony is the most common followed by the bonding. This is a good summary take from Fling’s Psychological Aspects of Tea Ceremony “First is to “realize tranquility in relation with others within the environment” (Sen Soshitsu, 1979). In regard to tranquility, it is like a moving meditation, having been compared to T’ai Chi Ch’uan (Cohen, 1976), and thus more appealing to some than sitting still meditation. Secondly, it is usually practiced in relatedness with others rather than in solitude, and, thirdly, in an environmental context of both nature (divine creation) and art (human creation), rather than withdrawing the senses as in some forms of meditation. Fourth, this Grand Master, who has spread chado internationally, also speaks of its purpose in terms of bringing peace to the world through a bowl of tea prepared and received with all the heart, which certainly is another appeal to many. Fifth, he has also said its goal is “to build one’s personality and character” (Sen Soshitsu XV, 1970, p. 6), and the most revered tea master of past history Sen Rikyu is quoted as saying, “The most important purpose of tea…is…to arrive at spiritual enlightenment” (Tanigawa, 1976, p. 37) or, in another translation, “Chanoyu is above all a matter of practicing and realizing the way in accord with the Buddha’s teaching” (Okakura, 1991, pp. 153-154).”
Maikoya has teachers coming from both Urasenke and omotesenke schools. However, Maikoya staff are trained in a way very similar to the Urasenke school, the most popular way of tea ceremony all around the world. Although the process (temae) we follow is very similar to the Urasenke style, we focus more on the meditation and mindfulness aspects of tea ceremony as Urasenke focuses more on concept of “the best taste and best service for the guest.”
Maikoya staff are consistently trained on the many unique elements of tea ceremony. We should remember that it is not easy to become a grand tea master. Only the senior family members from the Sen no Rikyu family are usually given the title of the grand tea master after 30-40 years of service. There are many rankings and various tea ceremony certification processes by Urasenke, the shortest being 3 years of intensive training that gives the ranking of tea ceremony trainer where the participants can stay in dorms managed by the tea ceremony school.
The tea ceremony is usually held in small chashitsu which is located near a small pond, a green Japanese garden and path with tobira ishi (stone path). The most typical tea ceremony room is Tai-An built by Sen no Rikyu in 1582 in the Myoki An temple of Kyoto.
The tea ceremony is not always held in chashitsu. Almost all Budhist temples occasionally organize tea ceremony gatherings in their Japanese style rooms called hiroma.
Ryurei style rooms. The tea ceremony rooms do not always have to be in Japanese style tatami rooms. If there is a misonodana (a desk-like set up that has the tea boiler) the tea ceremony can be held in a Western like room where the guests are sitting at a table.
Naodate style tea gatherings. Especially in the spring and summer large tea ceremony gatherings are held outdoors. This type of tea ceremony is called naodate.
There are two kinds of sweets used in the tea ceremony.
Dry sweets (higashi). They are made out of sweet rice powder pressed in the wooden molds that are made out of the cherry tree. Higashi sweets always change by season particularly in the spring (sakura flavors) and the fall (maple-leave shaped sweets). These kinds of sweets are only used in chakai informal gatherings.
Moist sweets (omogashi). These sweets tend to have the mixture of flour and rice powder on the outside and the red bean paste inside. The most common type is called nerikiri which are very colorful. Like higashi, the seasons are always reflected on the omogashi sweets. These sweets are used at the end of the formal tea ceremony meetings and also in informal gatherings.