The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony is called Chanoyu, Sado or simply Ocha in Japanese. It is a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving Japanese green tea, called Matcha, together with traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea in this ceremony means pouring all one's attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart. The host of the ceremony always considers the guests with every movement and gesture. Even the placement of the tea utensils is considered from the guests view point (angle), especially the main guests called the Shokyaku.

tea ceremony room with alcove
Tea Ceremony History

The Japanese tea ceremony history goes back more eisai history of teathan 1000 years. The first tea leaves were brought back from China by Japanese priests and consumed only at temples for religious purposes.
Tea Equipment Glossary

Most equipment which is used to perform a Japanese tea ceremony is listed here in alphabetical order.
Etiquette for Guest

Since the Japanese tea ceremony requires a particular etiquette, it might be useful to read-up about this if you are planning to attend a Chakai or Chaji.
Guests Equipment Glossary

When attending a Japanese tea ceremony as a guest, one guests equipmentneeds to bring some items to perform required actions.

Tea Ceremony Chronology

Important events, people, and places for the evolution of Chanoyu, the way of tea.
Tatami Flooring

Traditional Japanese flooring. Tatami mat dimensions etc.

System of successive familial bloodline. Used in most Japanese traditional arts.
Hanging scroll

Kakejiku hanging scrolls are important to the tea ceremony since they describe the theme of the Chaji or Chakai.
Utensils Glossary

Glossary of utensils used tea utensilsduring the Japanese tea ceremony. The Same (or less valuable) utensils are used during Keiko.
Tea Ceremony Types

Every season calls for a different type of tea ceremony. kuchikiri tea ceremonyTime and location can also bring slightly different objects and atmosphere to a Chashitsu.
Books On Tea

Go here when you need to find a book about the japanese tea tea ceremony booksceremony. Book covers are displayed with a brief description. Books are linked to an online bookstore for your convenience.
Ranking System

Guidelines and rules applied to tea utensils, decorative items, and people to properly place them in a Chashitsu.
Tea Schools

There are three main schools of the japanese tea ceremony fushinan Omotesenke school of teaand numerous smaller ones. Omotesenke and Urasenke have the most practitioners and students.
Preparation Procedures

Preparation in summer and winter. Starting and closing a tea ceremony.
Preparation steps

Preparation of a bowl of green tea needs more than just remembering the sequence of the steps in your mind. Any tea tea ceremony preparation stepsteacher will probably tell you that it takes more than 10 years. Here is the basic ritual explained step-by-step to help you get started.
Common Words

When studying or attending a Japanese tea ceremony, one japanese vocabularymight need a certain Japanese vocabulary to communicate with other Kyaku and a Teishu. Here's a list with the most commonly related to Japanese expressions.
Charcoal Procedure

Before and during the Japanese tea ceremony, charcoal sumitemae glossarycharcoal is changed to relight the fire under the Kama. Various specific utensils are needed. Most Charcoal utensils are listed here.

Humble Japanese for communication with the Teishu. Most phrases and expressions needed are listed here in Romanized Japanese.
Chashitsu Tea Rooms

Description of Tokonoma and other elements of a Chashitsu.
site map

Useful list of all links on this site. Contact information for comments or questions.

What is the Japanese Tea Ceremony?

The Japanese tea ceremony is an artistic pastime unique to Japan that features the serving and drinking of Matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea. Though Japanese green-tea had been introduced to Japan from China around the 8th century, Matcha powdered green-tea did not reach Japan until the end of the 12th century. The practice of holding social gatherings to drink Matcha spread among the upper class from about the 14th century. Gradually one of the main purposes of these gatherings, which took place in a Shoin (study room), became the appreciation of Chinese paintings and crafts in a serene atmosphere. (See Japanese tea ceremony history)

Having witnessed or taken part in the Japanese Tea Ceremony only once, one will come to understand that in Japan, serving tea is an art and a spiritual discipline. As an art, The Tea Ceremony is an occasion to appreciate the simplicity of the tea room’s design, the feel of the Chawan in the hand, the company of friends, and simply a moment of purity.

As a discipline, aesthetic contemplation of flower arranging, ceramics, calligraphy, and the roots of the Tea Ceremony which go all the way back to the twelfth century is required. The ritual preparation requires the person hosting a tea party to know how to cook a special meal (Kaiseki), how to arrange the flowers which will be placed in the alcove (Tokonoma). When choosing utensils and other vessels, the host (Teishu) has to consider the rank and type to make sure that they will stand out.

Videos on the Japanese Tea Ceremony

videos of the japanese tea ceremonyNEW!! Videos of the Japanese tea ceremony videos of the japanese tea ceremony

Objective of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony toolsThe objective of the Japanese tea ceremony is to create a relaxed communication between the host and his guests. It is based in part on the etiquette of serving tea (Temae), but is also includes the intimate connections with architecture, landscape gardening, unique tea utensils, paintings, flower arrangement, ceramics, calligraphy, Zen Buddhism, and all the other elements that coexist in harmonious relationship with the ceremony. Its ultimate aim is the attainment of deep spiritual satisfaction through the drinking of tea and through silent contemplation. On a different level, the Japanese tea ceremony is simply an entertainment where the guests are invited to drink tea in a pleasant and relaxing room. The bonds of friendship between the host and guests are strengthened during the ceremony when the host himself makes and serves the tea.

Theories on the Japanese Tea Ceremony

theory and theories of the Japanese tea ceremony

The Way of Tea

Outside of Japan, the preparation of powdered Japanese green tea is known as “The Japanese Tea Ceremony”. The Japanese refer to it as “Chanoyu” which can be translated literally as “hot water for tea”, Chado or Sado translates to "the way of tea" as in devoting one's time totally to the study and practice of the Japanese tea ceremony.
The western understanding of "a ceremony" is a set of formal acts, often fixed and traditional, performed on important social or religious occasions. However, rather than fixed, the Japanese Tea Ceremony does have flexibility since every occasion and different season calls for special and unique preparations, choice of utensils, choice of flowers for arrangement, a hanging scroll to describe the kind of tea-meeting and objective of the host. And rather than religious it could be better explained that the host will do the best he can by studying all related aspects such as calligraphy, flower arrangement, cooking, the wearing of a kimono, ceramics and much more. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to call it “The Way of Tea” since this would refer to a way of life, or a life style in devotion of preparing the best possible bowl of powdered green tea for the guests. The Way of Tea is a subtly variable way to commune with nature and with friends. Deeply rooted in Chinese Zen philosophy, it is a way to remove oneself from the mundane affairs of day-to-day living and to achieve, if only for a time, serenity and inner peace.

Tea Philosophy

wa kei sei jaku harmony respect purity tranquility
Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku - “harmony, respect, purity, tranquility.”

Wa” stands for harmony. As there is harmony in nature, the Teishu will try to bring this quality into the tea room and the garden around the tea house. The utensils used during the tea ceremony are in harmony with each other, so the theme is the same as well as the colors. The tea garden should be an extension of the natural flora surrounding it.

Kei” stands for respect. The guests must respect all things, all matters without involving their status or position in life. They must crawl trough a small entrance called Nijiriguchi to get into the room. In the room they will all kneel down and bow to the hanging scroll, they will sit next to each other in Seiza position on the Tatami. Respect is also shown by carefully handling and observing the tea bowl and other objects during Haiken.

Sei” stands for purity. Crawling into the tea room, one is to leave behind all thoughts and worries of daily life. The tea room or Chashitsu is a different world where one can re-vitalize, slow down, and enjoy the presence of friends. The gesture of purity is enhanced by the ritual cleaning of the Chawan, Natsume, Chashaku, and Kensui lit by the host. The real grand master of tea does not perform the Japanese tea ceremony from memory but from a pure heart.

Jaku” stands for tranquility. Only after the first three concepts (harmony, respect, and purity) are discovered, experienced and embraced, can people finally embody tranquility. This was one of the teachings of the Japanese tea ceremony master Sen no Rikyu (1522 – 1591).

Wabi appreciation in the tea ceremony
Wabi - “Appreciating the beauty of things that are simple and natural,” the old meaning is “the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society.”

The tea room’s interior will seem imperfect and rustic. The wall might be unpainted and visible wooden pillars and beams are untreated, just as it would look like in nature.

Contrary to western houses, the tea house is not a small museum with lots of collectibles, there is only the essential needed for a unique meeting with the Teishu or host. There is only one hanging scroll in the alcove of the Chashitsu, there is no furniture or maybe a simple Tana to display tea equipment. The only sound is that of boiling water in the Kama, only the smell of incense from the fire, one flower or branch in the Hana-ire. Conversation is kept to that of the utensils in the tea room, and other equipment used.

kokoroire devotion to the way of tea
Kokoroire – “Pouring one’s heart totally into (devotion of) the tea ceremony.” The Teishu or host, is someone who devotes his life to the ritual preparation of a bowl of tea. They live “the way of tea.”


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