What is the History of Tea Ceremony? How did the Tea Ceremony Start? The History of Tea ceremony

The tea leaves first arrived in Japan during the Nara period when there was so much influence from China. That is also the time when Buddhism was introduced from China and the social system was copied from the Tang Dynasty in China. In those times the tea was used mostly as a medicine and only available to the rulers and the noble families.

In 1187, Eisai, who was a priest, traveled to China and brought the tea seeds with him. He promoted the idea of grinding tea leaves which was different from how the tea was consumed in China. He said that green tea can cure many diseases including paralysis, loss of appetite and waterborne diseases. He also recommended drinking tea to not to fall asleep after a long time of praying and chanting in buddhist temples. Eisai is the founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism who popularized the sect in Japan. So the tea ceremony and the Zen have always been associated.

With the rise the samurai class who adopted the zen buddhism during the Muromachi period (1336~1600: this is the period when there were so many wars in Japan and Japan consisted of dozens of small states) the green tea became more and more common in Japan. Uji emerged as the most prominent tea growing town where the most delicious tea grew in in Japan. The samurai used to gather and drink green tea as a leisure activity and also play the game of correctly guessing the different types of teas grown in Japan. The culture of drinking from the same bowl is said to have been born during this period as there used to be a large number of samurai gathering in the same house with the limited number of bowls.

Most people agree that the tea ceremony as it is today was founded by Sen no Rikyu (1522 ~ 1591) who lived in the Sakai City part of the Osaka district. He is said to have built over 40 chashitsu (teahouse) and is also the grandfather of the founders of the three main tea schools that exist in Japan. He took the idea of the leisure tea drinking activity into a more ritualistic way tea drinking with the omotenashii spirit (subjugation of self for the guest) and the wabi-sabi philosophy (simplistic and minimalistic approach to life). Most of the tea ceremony elements such as alcove, the tea garden, small low-ceiling tearoom, scroll on the wall, seasonal flower decoration known as chabana and the four main principles of the tea ceremony were introduced by Sen no Rikyu. Unfortunately he was sentenced to death was Hideyoshi Toyotomi, then ruler of Japan, who himself was known as a tea fan.

During the Edo Period (1600~1868) the popularity of tea grew. Every year, 30 guarded horsemen used to carry the 8 baskets of the freshest tea from Uji Kyoto to to Tokyo that could only be drunk by the Shogun the emperor and a few nobles. The tea caddy was considered as one of the most important 3 things a samurai possessed (the other two were the katana and the scrolls). It was mostly the samurai class who knew and performed tea ceremony as an important protocol of meetings and receptions. The simplicity was kept but more decorations on the bowls and the tea room emerged.

Before the Meiji only the samurai, religious monks, the royals and few elites used to enjoy the tea ceremony. During the Meiji period (1868 ~ 1912), the government recognized the tea ceremony as an important cultural heritage. As the samurai system was abolished ordinary people and women also started enjoying the tea ceremony.  The geisha must have learned the tea ceremony as part of their training and the young women were supposed to study it along with ikebana to be eligible for marriage.

Today, most Japanese would have the experience of the tea ceremony practice at least once perhaps at the elementary school or high school. A number of universities and high schools have the tea ceremony student clubs actively participated by students. In the 1950s and 60s it was common for the marriage age women to go to special schools and learn tea ceremony, ikebana , etc to be ready for marriage and learn how to serve their husbands. In Japan elementary school students are taught the basics of tea ceremony to learn the consideration of others and turn taking. The biggest tea ceremony school Urasenke has hundreds of branches all inside and outside Japan. The elderly enjoy tea ceremony courses occasionally offered community centers.

Unlike what most foreigners think, tea ceremony is usually NOT held in teahouses. Generally speaking, people who are interested in tea ceremony go to a tea ceremony school or join a tea ceremony circle and do it periodically. Most tea ceremonies are held at tearooms in zen temples and there is usually no such thing like “today I want to drink tea, then, I will go to a teahouse and do a tea ceremony.”

Which tea ceremony school does Maikoya follow?

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.

Is tea ceremony always held in tea ceremony rooms?

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.

What kind of sweets are used for the tea ceremony?

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.

What Makes the Tea Ceremony Utensils Unique?

  • There is a hierarchy among the tea ceremony utensils. The tea bowl and the tea caddy are the most important ones while the kensui (waste water container) and the ash container (haiki) have the lowest level of importance. The high level utensils are brought to the room first and held by two hands all the time.
  • Tea ceremony utensils are usually not used in daily life and only used for tea ceremony. In that sense, looking at the tea ceremony tools is like looking at a museum exhibition that showcases the tools developed centuries ago.
  • Most tea ceremony utensils are made out of wood (tea caddy) or bamboo (tea scoop, tea ladle, flower case.
  • Each tea bowl (chawan) is hand-made without using the wheel which is uncommon in pottery. That is why each chawan is unique. The more old and withered the bowl looks the more valuable it becomes. The raku chawan is made by rested kiln laid by the grandparents of the chawan maker 70 years ago.
  • There are 10 different Senke families that have been making the tea ceremony tools for over 300 years.

What is the Sitting order of the Tea Ceremony Room?

Sitting order. The host (teishu) must face the hanging scroll. The folding screen must be placed in front and the left side of the host. The scroll must be on the right side of the guests (when there is a small group). The guest entrance usually faces the alcove. There is usually 1 tatami mat of separation between the host and the guests. The most senior guest (shokyaku) must be closest to the scroll. The shokyaku should make a comment about the utensils and the room. The other guests usually cannot ask questions or make comments.

When is the Japanese Tea Ceremony Held?

Tea ceremony is usually performed when guests are invited to someone’s tea room. Guests are invited to celebrate special occasions such as the cherry blossom, fall leaves, the arrival of the freshest tea leaves of the season and etc..
Nowadays most Japanese drink boiled tea leaves rather than ground matcha tea and most Japanese do not have a special tea ceremony room in their houses. Tea ceremony is mainly practiced by tea ceremony enthusiasts (less than %5 of the population) and the members of tea ceremony circles at schools. Many local community members and the elderly also gather at local temples to join seasonal tea ceremony events. While chakai can be participated by beginners, the formal tea ceremony followed by kaiseki meal (chaji) cannot be joined by amateurs.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

A tea ceremony is a ritualized form of making tea practiced in Asian culture by the Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and Vietnamese. The tea ceremony, literally translated as “way of tea” in Japanese, and “art of tea” in Chinese[citation needed], is a cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of tea. The Japanese tea ceremony is better known, and was influenced by the Chinese tea culture during ancient and medieval times, starting in the 9th century when tea was first introduced to Japan from China. (source: Wiki)
Tea ceremony
Tea ceremony
Tea ceremony
image source: JNTO

tea ceremony osaka
Osaka Tea ceremony

Tea ceremony in Osaka

Sakai Risho no Mori Tea Ceremony

Sakai Risho no Mori is a venue located in Sakai City part of the outer Osaka area. Sakai Risho no Mori is also known as Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko and has several displays and exhibitions about tea ceremony . The museum offers tea ceremony experiences but not a real experience since they are held in a cafeteria. For tea ceremony in Osaka, Maikoya would be the best option.
Sakai is the birthplace of Sen no Rikyu who introduced tea ceremony to Japan. Sen no Rikyu had a close relationship with Toyotomi Hideyoshi the shogun who ruled Japan for many years from Osaka Castle.  The relationship got sour and eventually Sen no Rikyu was asked to commit seppuku.
For those who have time, Sakai Risho no Mori is a good museum to visit to learn about the history of tea ceremony but it is not an ideal place to experience tea ceremony because of the fact that the ceremony is not held in a traditional tea ceremony room. Additionally, for those who want to experience the tea ceremony in English, the place does not have much to offer. To experience the traditional tea ceremony it is best to drop by Maikoya Osaka, the best rated tea ceremony venue in Osaka that has English speaking staff ready all the time.

Sakai Risho no Mori
Sakai Risho no Mori

Image Source: Saitoshika-west.com

Senrian Tea Ceremony

Senrian Tea ceremony Osaka
Senrian is a name of a tea ceremony venue that is permanently closed. Senrian tea ceremony was used to be held in a place next to a shopping mall in Expo Park. Maikoya Osaka is the only place in Osaka that holds traditional Japanese tea ceremony everyday in a traditional Japanese room. Maikoya is also the highest rated tea ceremony location in Kansai. If you are interested in Senrian tea ceremony then it is worth to check out Maikoya tea ceremony.
Reflections from someone who tried tea ceremony for the first time…
Today I learned a life lesson. No matter how fiercely life is, we need to be mindful, come together, put our differences aside and for this moment, at least, to reflect and speak in the same language to appreciate life. Only then, we can move forward- for the better.
和敬清寂 Harmony. Respect. Purity. Peace.
It’s a feast to the eyes, to your ears and mind when a person preparing the hot water. Listening as the water dancing against the hot cast iron. It’s like a river murmuring.
Incense would be lit and the smoke travels across your eyes like a silver dragon flying across the sky.
She paused briefly as she flexed her wrist signifying the end of cleansing the bamboo ladle. So beautiful and therapeutic to gaze at. Her every move freezes time, space in all dimensions. You forget all your earthly trivolous needs.
What can you expect in this Tea Ceremony Workshop? Maikoya shows off cultural activities with a difference!
Some Basic Information about Japanese Tea Ceremony
The Japanese tea ceremony has many names in Japanese: Chanoyu, sado or ocha. It has a long history of a thousand years and has ties to the tea traders in China. Japanese monks first brought back tea leaves during the Chinese Tang dynasty (618 – 907 AD) and only used them in their temples for religious services. A priest called Myoan Eisai spread the belief that green tea could be used for medicine and by drinking it regularly you were ensured good health. Samurai in particular followed this practice and spread its popularity. Later, another priest called Murata Shukou, called the father of the tea ceremony, added more significance and rituals by making powdered tea so others could enjoy it. His focus on aesthetics became well known and heavily influences the tea ceremony that we know today.

tea ceremony osaka private group
tea ceremony osaka private group