Sunday, 15 June 2008

茶道 Tea Ceremony

When speaking of Japanese culture, one of the things that should never be missing is 茶道 Sadou the Japanese Tea Ceremony (literally the way of the tea).

This Saturday me and Hung Lun were lucky to be invited at the house of the parents of Satomi-san, one of our coworkers. Her mother happens to be a 茶道先生 a tea ceremony sensei. The plan was first to go to an official 茶会 Chakai a meeting for receiving tea in a tea ceremony and later that day, we would go to her house and she would prepare tea for us herself, showing us how it is done.

茶会 Chakai

So we first met with Satomi-san, her mother and two friends of her and together we went to the place the 茶会 would be held. We entered the buildings, took of our shoes and waited in a room for the preparations to be over.
Then we were kindly asked to enter. We entered the room, and Satomi-san's mother explained us that it is custom to look at the interior decoration of the room. Usually for 茶道 Sadou, but also for a normal invitation, the host would prepare a room and choose a certain type of flower and wall scroll according to the visit, season or recent events.
After that we sat down and our guide started to work on the tea ceremony utensils. While the tea was being prepared, we were served お菓子 Okashi, sweets. It is common to server some sweets along with the green tea.
After that everyone in our group was served one bowl of green tea. The color is really thickish green, since the tea is served very concentrated. We took the bowl in our hands and turned it three times, before we started to sip.
Afterwards Satomi-san's mother told us, that now we should also look at the design of the bowls, which were also chosen according to our visit. Therefore each would pass her or his bowl on to the next participant and everyone had a look. One bowl showed the exact same flowers that were standing in the back of the room.
Finally also the other utensils were passed around. The vessel for the green tea showed the two Japanese 神 Kami (Gods) 風神 Fuujinn (god of wind) and 雷神 Raijin (god of thunder). Our guide explained that this vessel was chosen because the current season is struck with many 台風 taifun and thunderstorms.
Then we bowed to the guide and were supposed to stand up and leave to room. However since we were sitting kneeling for almost half an hour, the feeling in my feet ceased and when I tried to stand up, my feet did not carry me and I fell down... 恥ずかしい Hazukashii (= how embarrassing)

wall scroll and flower


preparing the tea

御茶 Green Tea

Like many things green tea reached Japan from China in the 15th century. At this time however tea was no drink, but was used as medicine. Therefore along with the tea itself arrived the instructions for the doctors how to prepare and serve it to the patients. And again our of this tradition later the tea ceremony was born.
Even today green tea is renown in the whole world for its healing powers. But even if you are not sick, drinking green tea will help you to keep your health and be revitalizing for your body.

訪問 Visiting A Japanese Family

So later we were invited in Satomi-san's parents house. And just like at the Chakai, they made huge efforts for our coming. Both wore their traditional 着物 kimono and, prepared the 和室 Washitsu (traditional Japanese room with Tatami mats) with a wall scroll and flowers fit for our coming. The wall scroll would talk about the 茶道 Sadou itself, since this was what we came here today to explore.
But the usual preparations for a visit go farther than that. Apart for the decoration, they prepared a feat worth of kings with ingredients from all over Japan. They asked friends and relatives all over the island for special ingredients and other things hard to get in super markets. They made a special effort for me to get special versions of certain meals without meat or fish, which really touched my heart.
Apart from decoration and food, it is also custom to choose and prepare interesting topics to talk about with your visitors. So Satomi-san's father for example prepared an atlas and let us point out where we were born, living and studying. He then would narrate his own stories along with the places we'd point to. Of course many other interesting topics came up on the way.
What we didn't know, is that Satomi-san's father is also a sensei in a different traditional Japanese art, 書道 Calligraphy. Now we recognized that he made the wall scroll himself and also various other of his works around the house. He is quite skilled and later even handed us one of his books as a present. It happened to be a calligraphized version of the 般若心経 Hannyashingyou, the heart sutra, which Hung Lun and me recited on our pilgrimage through Shikoku.

Otou-san (father) with the atlas


Finally after the feast Satomi-san's mother went through the trouble and prepared green tea for us in the way of 茶道 Sadou. Now we could get a closer look in what actions she would take and ask her for the significance of actions of tools. Again we were served sweets, really wonderfully decorated ones and then everyone got two bowls of green tea.

wall scroll and flower, otou-san made the scroll himself

okaa-san (mother) prepared the tea

and served us wonderful okashi

So it was a day filled with tradition and interesting stories from times long passed as well as modern times. We were hosted like kings and treated as friends. We will ever be grateful to Satomi-san and her parents for this wonderful day!


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