The Tea Ceremony
It is a common misconception that the Japanese tea ceremony is merely about preparing and enjoying tea in a certain ritualistic manner. The tea ceremony is a highly elaborate synthetic art involving different fields such as fine art, arts and crafts, poetry, Japanese paintings and calligraphy, Ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), tea room architecture, garden design, kaiseki (Japanese full-course meals) and traditional confectionery. The ideal tea ceremony puts every detail in place: the type of guests to attend the gathering should be considered in choosing the different theme and bearing in mind the different seasons. You should choose the appropriate kind of food or sweets to be served, the correct form of containers, and the right equipment with which to make the tea, all items of which should match both a scroll hanging on the wall and an example of chabana (the flower arranged specially for the ceremony) in the tea room. The tea ceremony involves further aesthetic aspects – the cleanliness of the tea room and the garden should be impeccable, to the extent that not even a speck of dust is noticed; and the movements carried out by the host, and the dialogue with guests should be highly controlled and aestheticised. Japanese culture in its entirety is represented in the small universe found inside the tea room.
Moreover, it is believed that to know and understand the tea ceremony is to be at one with Japanese culture and sensibilities.
The key concepts in the tea ceremony, such as motenashi (hospitality), shitsurai (tasteful room decorations on each occasion), wabi-sabi (a Japanese aesthetic value which appreciates austerity and serenity) and ichigo-ichie (a Japanese proverb that says; every meeting is a once-in-a-lifetime chance), are the principles the Japanese have long treasured in everyday life, and passed down from generation to generation.
In order to join a tea ceremony, you’d first have to acquire the proper manner in which to prepare and serve tea. The procedure may seem complicated and difficult with many rigid formalities, but it has attained perfection and beauty, thanks to imaginative attempts, trials and errors made in its development. Observing proper tea manners is in fact in accord with the general rules of etiquette in Japanese society so try and experience a tea gathering and know better the quintessential inner-workings of Japanese culture.
Tea Ceremony and Pottery
The history of the tea ceremony and that of pottery are closely related. The latter dates back as far as 12,000 years ago when the first earthenware was created in Japan. Since glazing was introduced in the 7th century, the art of pottery had remained an indispensable part of ancient Japanese court culture. However, when Sen no Rikyu established the tea ceremony in the 16th century, pottery established itself as a new distinctive form of art, increasing its cultural significance and the variety of forms available. Even today, chaki (tea caddies used in the tea ceremony) are considered a major component of ceramic art, and Raku (in Kyoto), Hagi, Karatsu, and Mino are all areas famous for manufacturing the chaki.
Learning the Japanese tea ceremony and learning about traditional Japanese pottery should be seen as a shared experience, which will arouse curiosity and deepen the mutual understandings.