What is the Japanese tea ceremony?

The tea ceremony refers to pouring and drinking tea in Japan. It is more than just a method of the simple act; it is also an art form that exists in Japanese culture.

The tea ceremony is entirely different from a Western culture that uses coffee to a large extent.

We have the act of pouring and drinking along with the aesthetics, manners, and customs involved.

It is a ritual and an art form that has been widely spread throughout various countries worldwide. If you are interested in Japanese culture, you could hardly miss the tea ceremony.

It is also sometimes called simply Chanoyu or Chanoyu (literally the hot water for tea).

It was developed in Japan in Kyoto in the middle of the 14th century. It was said that it was started by Sen Rikyu, a great practitioner whose student Yo Hoin created the three primary schools of tea.

So, what is the Japanese tea ceremony all about? Well, let’s find out.

What is it made up of?

The Japanese tea ceremony consists of five stages that are discussed below:

  1. The first stage involves making arrangements for the ceremony and cleaning up indoors and outdoors to ensure that the tea room is in a state of purity and cleanliness.
  2. The second stage includes making preparations for the utensils used in the ceremony.
  3. The third stage involves serving tea to guests using exquisite utensils, dishes, clothing, etc., after water referred to as “Kan-sui” (boiling water) is poured into the teapot.
  4. The fourth stage involves serving plum tea to guests after the main tea is served.
  5. The fifth stage involving drinking the final cup of tea, doesn’t include any specific order. Still, every participant has their style and way of doing things while participating in this ritual.

In the last stage of this ritual, it is customary for people to be silent for a few moments before drinking and after finishing the tea.

What does a Japanese tea ceremony look like?

Now that we have discussed what a Japanese tea ceremony is made up of, let’s see what it looks like.

The ceremony’s garden is called “Tsuki-Niwa,” which translates to moon garden, and the teahouse itself is called a “Chashitsu.”

It is a beautiful place to sit while attending the Japanese tea ceremony. And this place is decorated with bamboo sticks, pine needles, and plum branches to make things look more attractive.

In addition, paintings on handscrolls are displayed against a wall, and an alcove is present where the tea utensils are placed.

That’s not all; four cups are also referred to as “Chawan,” meaning tea bowls with unique shapes like fishes.

What happens during a Japanese tea ceremony?

Now that you know what a Japanese tea ceremony looks like let’s find out what happens during the ritual.

The guests arrive and are served hot water to purify their bodies before beginning the ceremony. The utensils for serving tea are kept on a decorated tray or a white lacquer box.

After that, the host will pour hot water into a teapot, which is then strained through a filter into two “Chawan.” Then, the host will serve his guests this tea.

After that, the main ceremony begins, where guests can only speak when they are offered plum tea.

During this time, the host will serve his guest’s different kinds of tea. It is said that drinking tea can help one to attain a state of tranquillity and inner peace.

When did the Japanese tea ceremony come to be?

The Japanese tea ceremony took birth when Buddhism flourished in Japan during the 14th century and thus included certain religious aspects related to that religion. As a result, some consider it a sacred event, but it doesn’t represent Buddhism alone.

What does the Japanese tea ceremony symbolize?

The ritual or the act of drinking tea refers to “wabi-sabi,” which means simple, humble, and natural.

That’s not all; there are other things that the Japanese tea ceremony stands for.

For example, it is believed that this ritual can help one to attain self-reflection and thus help folks better understand themselves by allowing them to concentrate on what they do in life.

It also allows people to appreciate nature and the beauty around them. In addition, it helps the participants learn how to make things last longer and thus become less materialistic in the heart.

So, the Japanese tea ceremony helps folks understand themselves better and appreciate what they have.

Furthermore, it is a way for people to learn how to concentrate on one thing at a time by allowing them to disconnect from their worldly possessions for long enough to enjoy life without distractions.

To perform a Japanese tea ceremony, you will need a lot of preparation and planning, which is why the host has to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

It’s not easy to do, and if you have decided to learn this precious ritual, you must continue learning about it to perform it correctly.

Learning how a Japanese tea ceremony works will help you understand what’s going on around you better.

For example, some people might tell people visiting Japan that performing the ceremony is a must-do activity when visiting Japan, and thus, you might be pressured to try it at least once in your life.

So, as long as you understand what this ritual stands for and how it works, you should have no problems performing it, even if it means making a few mistakes. These things happen, and all you need to do is learn from them and try again.

You can take lessons on this ritual to get the hang of it; after all, practice makes perfect, right?

However, if you are trying to learn more about the Japanese tea ceremony and how it works, then checking out articles on this topic will surely help you clear your mind.

At the end of all this information, we can conclude that the Japanese tea ceremony is a religious ritual designed to help one self-reflect and better understand themselves by learning how to disconnect from worldly possessions. 

This ritual is not at all an easy thing to perform.

Still, if you have decided to learn it, you must continue learning more about it to complete it in the right way, not because of how some people might feel pressured into performing this precious ritual while visiting Japan.

What is a “Raku tea ceremony”?

Raku tea ceremony

Tea ceremonies in Raku ware ( 立箸 ) teapots are called Raku-Ryu chanoyu. The word raku means “ease.”

Unlike ordinary tearooms, Raku ware suppresses sounds, making it easier to converse with others.

Raku tea ceremony was first practiced in the Odawara Domain ( 小田原藩, now Kanagawa Prefecture) of Sagami Province ( 川県 ).

The Daijokan ( 大書館 ), where it was held, is famous for its elegant architecture.

Raku tea ceremony is a tradition with good acoustics that is the best place for pleasant conversations.

What is “sencha”?

Sencha ( 煎茶 ) literally means “steaming tea.” It is brewed from the leaves of Camellia Sinesis cv. Kuma-shirasu ( 九真白, literally nine-true-white) or Higan ( 彼岸 ) sencha.

If you look carefully, you will find several flowers on its leaves.

Sen no Rikyu was the founder of sencha as we know it today.

He began his school called Shofu in Uji ( 宇治 ), Kyoto, in 1591. He was skilled at the tea ceremony, and his disciples from other domains started to learn sencha from him.

Sencha is a kind of green tea ( 緑茶 ) that still has not been fermented. It can be sold at a slightly higher price than ordinary green teas.

Are sencha and matcha ( 抹茶 ) different?

They are similar in flavor but differ in the color of their powdered form. Matcha refers to the green tea powder added to bowls used for drinking chanoyu, while sencha usually means green tea as a beverage.

If you look closely at the color of matcha, you will find that it seems more yellowish-green, while sencha looks greener and lighter in color.

Japanese people say that “sencha tastes good” ( 煎茶はいた飲む ).

Matcha is better for you because it contains more nutrients than sencha. It contains vitamins and minerals that have been reduced during making sencha.

On the other hand, sencha sometimes has higher levels of caffeine, so please drink it in moderation.

How many rules govern the tea ceremony?

There are two sets of rules: the “Hamono Sanjo” ( 法の珍跡 ) and the “Shisei Baiun-Nen” ( 臨済百運年 ). The latter, which was written for beginners, has six major points.

In “Hamono Sanjo,” there are 14 rules. It was developed for samurai and aristocracy accustomed to following strict protocols so that these rules can seem very rigid at times.

Many unwritten rules indicate what you must do during a tea ceremony. For example, the biggest one is “Maai” ( 舞台 ). Practitioners must always practice maai to make the tea ceremony look elegant and extraordinary.

What is a samurai tea ceremony?

A samurai is a kind of warrior. In the past, it was thought that the best way to train warriors was to educate them in religion and philosophy through Zen Meditation.

A critical element in Zen Meditation is the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Because it involved taking your time, being silent, relaxing your body and mind, and not thinking about anything, the Japanese tea ceremony became a very effective way for warriors to learn how to fight with absolute calm.

Samurai would have tea ceremonies before and after a battle to not let their minds get clouded by emotion or fear on the day of the fight.

Did the samurai do a tea ceremony?

Samurai were also known for their love of Chado. Many parts of Japan have teahouses called “samurai houses” that feature famous samurai-related scenes.

During the Edo Period (1603 – 1867), “Chado” became very popular among townspeople and even merchants who could afford to do so.

However, the tea ceremony was an extraordinary “art form” in Japan. So it was not customary to use Chado for business purposes, such as entertaining customers or making deals with them.

However, official documents show that there were merchants who established “Tea Ceremony Clubs” (茶道会 / 茶道社 ) in which they held meetings or negotiations.

These documents also prove that green tea was the most popular drink for business purposes.


How long does a Japanese tea ceremony last?

It depends on the type of ceremony. Generally speaking, it lasts about 30 minutes to an hour.

How much does a Japanese tea ceremony cost?

It depends on several factors, such as who you are and where you live. If you contact a good tea house in Japan, they will let you know how much it costs.

What is the role of the tea ceremony master?

The role of the tea ceremony master is to maintain and pass on traditions. He also guides his students and teaches them all he knows about chanoyu.

How much time do you have to prepare for a typical Japanese tea ceremony?

You need at least an hour. You must wash your hair, brush your teeth, choose the right clothes, and prepare for a bath.

What do you say at a tea ceremony?

While performing tea ceremonies, you must learn to be quiet and listen. You respond by saying “yes” or “understood.” That’s all.

What do you eat during the tea ceremony?

You enjoy a bowl of the same powdered green tea served in the ceremony and nothing else – no snacks, no drinks, absolutely nothing!

Are Japanese people always quiet and polite at tea ceremonies?

Yes, that’s right. We must be quiet to listen attentively to the instructions given by the tea ceremony master, who is usually female. What you don’t do at the tea ceremony is talk too much.

What are some common mistakes foreigners make during a Japanese tea ceremony?

The worst mistake a foreigner can make is to enter the tearoom wearing shoes that are not traditional zori. You must take off your shoes and step into a soft cushion before approaching the tea room.
There are many rules for a Japanese tea ceremony, so you have to follow the instructions given by the tea ceremony master very closely.

Is the Japanese tea ceremony still practiced today?

Yes. It’s not a dying tradition but rather one that is being passed down to younger generations.

What type of flooring do people sit on during the tea ceremony?

People sit on zabuton ( ざぶとん ). It’s a round cushion filled with kapok that softens the sound when you sit.

How many people are admitted to a Japanese tea ceremony?

It depends on the size of the tearoom, but it would be from 2 to 10 people at maximum. For family gatherings, people from the same family are admitted.

Do I need to wear any unique clothing or shoes?

You don’t need to wear anything in particular. However, you should dress comfortably and keep your hair tied up behind you with a rubber band or clip if it is likely to fall into the bowl of brewed tea.

Originally posted on July 24, 2021 @ 2:29 pm

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As a lifelong traveler and founder of lovefortraveling.com, I, Alex Deidda, have always been driven by my passion for exploring new places and cultures.

Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to live in various countries, each offering unique perspectives and experiences.

My love for traveling led me to create lovefortraveling.com, a website and blog dedicated to helping people plan their trips.

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