Preparing for the Ceremony
Chaji is a full tea
presentation with a meal. As in virtually every tea ceremony, the host may
spend days going over minutiae to insure that this ceremony will be perfect.
Through tea, recognition is given that every human encounter is a singular
occasion which can, and will, never recur again exactly. Thus every aspect
of tea must be savored for what it gives the participants.
The ceremony takes place in a
room designed and designated for tea. It is called the chashitsu.
Usually this room is within the tea house, located away from the residence,
in the garden.
The guests (four is the preferred
number) are shown into the machiai (waiting room). Here, the
hanto (assistant to the host) offers them sayu (the hot
water which will be used to make tea). While here, the guests choose one of
their group to act as the main guest. The hanto then leads the guests, main
guest directly behind, to a water sprinkled garden devoid of flowers. It is
called roji (dew ground). Here the guests rid themselves of the
dust of the world. They then seat themselves on the koshikake machiai
(waiting bench), anticipating the approach of the host who has the official
title teishu (house master).
Just before receiving the
guests, the teishu fills the tsukubai (stone basin), which is set
among low stones with fresh water. Taking a ladle of water the teishu
purifies his hands and mouth then proceeds through the chumon
(middle gate) to welcome his guests with a bow. No words are spoken. The
teishu leads the hanto, the main guest and the others (in that order) through
the chumon which symbolizes door between the coarse physical world and the
spiritual world of tea.
The guests and hanto purify
themselves at the tsukubai and enter the teahouse. The sliding door is only
thirty six inches high. Thus all who enter must bow their heads and crouch.
This door points to the reality that all are equal in tea, irrespective of
status or social position. The last person in latches the door.
Inside the Teahouse
The room is devoid of any
decoration except for an alcove called a tokonoma. Hanging in the alcove is
a kakemono (scroll painting), carefully selected by the host, which
reveals the theme of the ceremony. The Buddhist scripture on the scroll is by
a master and is called bokuseki (ink traces). Each guest admires the
scroll in turn, then examines the kama (kettle) and hearth (furo
for the portable type and ro for the type set into the floor in
winter to provide warmth), which were laid just before they were greeted by
the host. They then are seated according to their respective positions in
The host seats himself and
greetings are exchanged, first between the host and principle guest, then the
host and other guests. A charcoal fire is then built if it is ro season and
after the meal if it is furo season. In ro season kneaded incense is put in
the fire and sandalwood incense in the furo season.
Each guest is served a meal
called chakaiseki. Served on a tray with fresh cedar chopsticks,
the meal consists of three courses. On the tray is cooked white rice in a
ceramic bowl which will be eaten with other dishes, miso soup which is served
in covered lacquer bowls and raw fish, plain or pickled, or pickled vegetables
in a ceramic dish.
Sake is served. The first
course is called hashiarai (rinsing the chopsticks). Nimono
(foods simmered in broth) in separate covered lacquer dishes. Yakimono
(grilled foods) are served in individual portions on ceramic plates. Additional
rice and soup is offered each guest. At this course the host may eat, if he
chooses. The palate is then cleared with kosuimono, a simple clear
broth served in covered lacquer bowls.
The next course derives its
name from the Shinto reverence of nature. It is called hassun
which is also the name for the simple wooden tray that is used to serve this
course. This course consists of uminomono and yamanomono
(seafood and mountain food respectively) which signify the abundance of the
sea and land. The host eats during this course, and is served sake by each
guest. The position of server is considered a higher position and, to insure
equality of all in the tea room, each acts as host if only momentarily.
things) are served in small ceramic bowls, and browned rice is served in
salted water in a lacquer pitcher, representing the last of the rice. Each
guest cleans the utensils they have used with soft paper which they bring.
A omogashi (principal sweet) is served to conclude the meal. The
host then invites his guests to retire to the garden or waiting room while he
prepares for tea.
Once the guests have departed,
the host removes the scroll and replaces it with flowers. The room is swept
and the utensils for preparing koi cha are arranged. Over thirteen individual
items are used. Each is costly and considered an art object.
The Spiritual World of Tea
In tea ceremony, water represents
yin and fire in the hearth yang. The water is held in a
jar called the mizusashi. This stoneware jar contains fresh water
symbolizing purity, and is touched only by the host. Matcha
is kept in a small ceramic container
called a chaire which is in turn covered in a shifuku (fine
silk pouch) which is set in front of the mizusashi. The occasion will dictate
the type of tana (stand) used to display the chosen utensils.
If tea is served during the day
a gong is sounded, in evening a bell. Usually struck or rung five to seven
times, it summons the guests back to the tea house. They purify hands and
mouth once again and re-enter as before. They admire the flowers, kettle
and hearth and seat themselves.
The host enters with the
chawan (tea bowl) which holds the chasen (tea whisk),
chakin (the tea cloth) which is a bleached white linen cloth used
to dry the bowl, and the chashaku (tea scoop), a slender bamboo
scoop used to dispense the matcha, which rests across it. These are arranged
next to the water jar which represents the sun (symbolic of yang); the bowl
is the moon (yin). Retiring to the preparation room, the host returns with
the kensui (waste water bowl), the hishaku (bamboo water
ladle) and futaoki (a green bamboo rest for the kettle lid). He
then closes the door to the preparation room.
Using a fukusa (fine
silk cloth), which represents the spirit of the host, the host purifies the
tea container and scoop. Deep significance is found in the host's careful
inspection, folding and handling of the fukusa, for his level of concentration
and state of meditation are being intensified. Hot water is ladled into the
tea bowl, the whisk is rinsed, the tea bowl is emptied and wiped with the
Lifting the tea scoop and tea
container, the host places three scoops of tea per guest into the tea bowl.
Hot water is ladled from the kettle into the teabowl in a quantity sufficient
to create a thin paste with the whisk. Additional water is then added to so
the paste can be whisked into a thick liquid consistent with pea soup. Unused
water in the ladle is returned to the kettle.
The host passes the tea bowl to
the main guest who bows in accepting it. The bowl is raised and rotate in the
hand to be admired. The guest then drinks some of the tea, wipes the rim of
the bowl, and passes the bowl to the next guest who does the same as the main
When the guests have all tasted
the tea the bowl is returned to the host who rinses it. The whisk is rinsed
and the tea scoop and the tea container cleaned.
The scoop and tea container are
offered to the guests for examination. A discussion of the objects, presentation
and other appropriate topics takes place.
Preparing for Departure
The fire is then rebuilt for
usa cha (thin tea). This tea will rinse the palate and symbolically
prepares the guests for leaving the spiritual world of tea and re-entering the
physical world. Smoking articles are offered, but rarely does smoking take
place in a tearoom. This is but a sign for relaxation.
Zabuton (cushions) and
teaburi (hand warmers) are offered. To compliment usa cha,
higashi (dry sweets) are served. Usa cha and koi cha are made in the
same manner, except that less tea powder of a lesser quality is used, and it
is dispensed from a date-shaped wooden container called natsume.
The tea bowl is more decorative in style; and guests are individually served
a bowl of this forthy brew.
At the conclusion, the guests
express their appreciation for the tea and admiration for the art of the host.
They leave as the host watches from the door of the teahouse.
- As described in the book, Tea, Heaven on Earth
by William Woodworth (1994)