Tea Ceremony in Japan

Tea started gaining popularity in Japan during the 8th century when herbal leaves were imported by ambassadors, traders of China. Then tea started getting prepared after some well known monks such as Eisai from China bought corns of these plants and started its production all throughout Japan. Made out of the amalgamation of Buddhism and Taoism, the Japanese tea consists mix of herbal leaves, water symbolising spiritual calmness, purity ,mindfulness self.

Teaism refers to the diverse ways of preparing tea. The ancient method known as chanoyu , refers to “the hot watered tea,” which forms after arranging, presenting and enjoying the drink on a social gathering. Now the gathering were of two types namely Chakai(informal) and Chaji(formal).The Chakai Tea gatherings consists of a thin tea(known as usucha) supplementing with the light meal.

For the Chaji ceremony, invitations are sent to the guests,. The guests then responds within 2-3 days about his or her confirmation in the ceremony , thereby thanking the host. So the guests starts gathering at the ‘Roji’(it’s a tea room outside the house , usually an open space). After the traditional bell or the gong rings, the guests head towards tsukubau(a stone tub used for cleaning from the harmful bacteria). After the cleansing ritual, guests enter the tokonoma alcove(a small door) As the tea ceremony was intended to be performed in the tea room, the traditional tea ceremony is limited to serving 3-5 guests.

When all the guests have arrived, they gather in the Roji (which means “bare ground”), the outdoor garden that serves as an antechamber to the teahouse, to await the host’s summons. At the sounding of a bell or gong, the guests proceed to cleanse their hands and mouth at the tsukubai ( literally, “bending over,” named for the process of bending down to wash), a stone basin in the tea garden. Thus purified, the participants then enter the tea room through the tokonoma alcove(a small door).

The guests then sits in a semicircular motion around the central abode, leaving some space before the tokonoma alcove so that it is viewed by all the participants. Seating order symbolises respect: the guest of honor sits closest to the tokonoma, and the prestige of each seat decreases as it moves farther from the alcove to the entrance.

A threecourse meal known as kaiseki are served on a legless table. The first course consists of sashimi; the second course consists of steamed vegetables and tofu served in a clear broth; and the third consists of grilled fish. Bowls of rice and dashi soup are served by the host at the beginning of the meal and served again when demanded by the guests.

After that they are served the traditional Japanese sweets. The guests then leave the room for a short interval. But the host remains in the room and prepares for the sensational tea ceremony that is the preparation of koicha, thick matcha green tea.

As before, the guests proceed the room at the summons of a gong. Once all are seated, the host demonstrates their cleansing of the chadougu ( tea utensils) according to ceremonial procedure. Thick matcha-powder tea whisked by a bamboo is then served in a ceramic bowl, with the design on the rim facing the guests. After an exchange of bows between the guests and the host, the guest of honor takes a sip of the tea, rotating the cup to avoid drinking from the design, and passes it to the next guest.

The next guest, accepts the tea with another exchange of bows, repeats the process and this goes on and on till the last guest gets the sip from the tea cup. The cup is then returned back to the host. The host then cleanses the bowl ending the formal procedure of the ceremony.

The host again brings some more variety of traditional dry sweets , thin tea(called usucha),cushions so that the guests can have ample relaxation time So the guests discuss business talks, media news, political news as well as personalised views.

At the end, the host collects the assigned utensils from the invited guests and cleanses them. The guest of honor formally requests to see if the utensils are cleaned properly and so they get checked by the available guests. The cups, whisks, scoops often handmade antiques and they are presented by the host to enhance the significance of those antiques.

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