What is the Tea Ceremony? History and manners explained

What is the Tea Ceremony? History and manners explained
What image comes to mind when you hear the word "Japanese Tea Ceremony"? Many people may have the impression that it seems somehow difficult. The tea ceremony is one of Japan's representative traditional arts. The tea ceremony has detailed rules of etiquette, but even beginners can behave politely if they fully understand the meaning of each of them. This article introduces the tea ceremony, including its history and manners. Even if you have the impression that the tea ceremony is highly prestigious, please take a look at the contents of this article.

What is the Tea Ceremony?

The Japanese tea ceremony is a ritual in which tea is prepared and served to guests in a calming atmosphere. It is also called sado. Powdered powdered green tea and hot water are placed in a tea bowl and stirred with a bamboo tea whisk. In the tea ceremony, there are various rules for how to make and serve tea, how to sit, how to bow, how to stand, and how to walk, which are called manners. These rules were established for the purpose of entertaining guests and serving them tea, as well as for the guests to receive hospitality and enjoy the taste of the tea.

The Japanese tea ceremony is not only about serving and receiving tea, but is also a comprehensive art form that combines the spirituality and thoughts that value the spiritual exchange between the master and the guest, the tea room and garden, tea room decoration, the selection and appreciation of tea utensils, the food served, and the art of tea ceremony etiquette. The spirit of the tea ceremony to entertain guests can be seen in the modern Japanese spirit of hospitality. Enjoying tea while experiencing the spirit of hospitality is a key point to cherish in the tea ceremony.

Japanese Tea Ceremony history

Japanese Tea Ceremony history The history of the Japanese tea ceremony is said to have begun in the Kamakura period (1185-1333), when Eisai, who introduced Zen Buddhism to Japan, sent tea leaves and seeds he had brought back from China to Meie Shonin in Uji. This is the origin of Uji tea. As the cultivation of tea spread, the custom of drinking tea gradually spread to the general public. In 1214, Eisai presented "Kocha Yoseiki" to Minamoto no Sanetomo along with tea, which is said to have triggered the spread of tea among the warrior class. Dogen's "Eihei Seiki," which is said to have been written based on the Seiki of a Chinese Zen temple, describes the rituals and manners of serving tea, or tea ceremony.

At the end of the Kamakura period (1185-1333), a kind of gambling game called " Tocha" was held at the court of Emperors Godaigo and Kogon to guess the brand of tea drunk at the tea ceremony. This game became popular among common people and samurai during the Kenbu no Shinsei, the Nanbokucho, and Muromachi periods. It is said that the popularity was so great that it was forbidden by the Samurai Law. At the same time, karamono, tea utensils made in China, were in vogue, and karamono sukki, a grand tea ceremony using large sums of money, became popular among daimyo (feudal lords). In response to this trend, Murata Shuko, Ashikaga Yoshimasa's tea master, forbade gambling and drinking at tea ceremonies, and advocated a style of tea ceremony that emphasized spiritual exchange between the master and his guests. This led to wabicha, a form of chanoyu.

Wabicha was later perfected in the Azuchi Momoyama period by Sakai merchant Takeno Joo and his disciple Sen no Rikyu. Until the early Edo period, the tea ceremony was mainly practiced by feudal lords and wealthy merchants, but the economic rise of the merchant class in the mid Edo period led to a dramatic increase in the tea ceremony population. However, with the economic rise of the merchant class in the mid-Edo period, the number of people practicing the tea ceremony increased dramatically. For a time, there was a trend toward the practice of amusement, as practices that deviated from the original tea ceremony became popular, but it is said that this led to an emphasis on the original purpose of the tea ceremony, which was to show the beauty of the heart and mind when entertaining others. Gradually, the styles of the tea ceremony were developed, including the systematization of the form of tea service and the style of tea gatherings by each school, and the present tea ceremony was completed by reevaluating the original spirit of the tea ceremony.

What is the manner of Japanese tea ceremony?

What is the manner of Japanese tea ceremony? Many people may feel that the manner of tea ceremony is a hurdle, but it is not difficult if you keep the points in mind. Here we will introduce how to prepare for the tea ceremony, how to sit in the tea room, how to receive sweets, how to receive tea, and how to see the utensils.


In the Japanese tea ceremony, you should remove your wristwatch and jewelry before entering the tea room to prevent damage to the tea bowl. The reason for removing your watch is partly because checking the time repeatedly is considered rude to the host of the tea ceremony. Bring only the essentials to a tea ceremony, such as kaishi paper and toothpicks. All other baggage should be packed together and wrapped in a furoshiki (wrapping cloth) so as not to get in the way.

How to Sit in the Tea Room

The guest of honor, the formal guest, sits near the host of the tea ceremony. The second guest sits next, followed by the third guest, then the third guest, and then the hostess. The three guests communicate with the host to conduct the tea ceremony. The ozume, on the other hand, is in charge of putting away the tea utensils that have been passed around, and can be considered a support role for the tea ceremony. In most cases, the tea ceremony is initially attended by the regular guests and other invited guests. In such a case, it is safe to enter the tea room after the regular or invited guests. In many cases, the order of entry into the tea ceremony room will be discussed in advance by the guests before entering the room. If you are unsure, you may leave the order to them. It is also important to be careful not to step on the edge of the tatami mats in the tea ceremony room. When everyone has entered the tea ceremony room, the last ozume makes a sound and closes the fusuma (sliding door) at the entrance. This is the signal that everyone has entered. When this sound is heard, the master enters through the back door.

How to receive sweets

Be careful of the edge of the tatami mats when receiving sweets. When sitting down, receiving sweets, and tea are all served inside the edge of the tatami mats. This is a remnant from the Warring States period, when people expressed their intention not to attack their opponents. The confectionery plate is placed outside the edge of the tatami, and the tea paper is placed inside the edge of the tatami, and the confectionery is moved with chopsticks. To prevent the sweets from being dropped, use a bundle of kaigami. After removing the confectionery, use the corner of the paper to wipe off any dirt from the chopsticks.

Since the confectionery plate and chopsticks are to be shared, try to avoid touching the surface on which the confectionery is placed or the part of the plate that comes into contact with your mouth. Receive the chopsticks with your left hand and hold them again with your right hand. It is not acceptable to touch the chopsticks to the surface of the plate. When you have finished eating the confectionery, fold the kaigami from the bottom to avoid spilling any scraps, and place all but the topmost sheet down. Fold the kaigami vertically so that the toothpick is sandwiched between them, and wipe off any dirt from the toothpick. After placing the toothpicks back into the case, tuck them into the bundle together with the kaishi.

How to serve tea

When you are ready to serve tea, first move the tea bowl to the inside of the edge of the tatami. If the next person is waiting for you, say,"osakini,oshobansasete itadakimasu"( mind: After you, I'll be your guest). Before taking the tea bowl, turn to the host and say,"otemae choudai itashimasu" (mind:Please give me the tea bowl). Pick up the bowl with your right hand and place it on your left hand, then turn the bowl clockwise. With the front of the tea bowl facing the host, drink the tea with the bowl in your right hand. When you have finished drinking, move it out of the bowl with the front facing you and pass it to the next person.

How to look at the Japanese tea utensils

After the tea is served, you are to look at the utensils. Place them outside the edge of the tatami mat and look at them with both hands. When you pick up the utensil, do not lift it high, but look at it from a low position. As when receiving tea, it is proper to say, "osakini"(mind:After you),to the next person before looking at the tea utensil. Be careful not to scatter the contents of the bowl containing the matcha. When removing the lid to see the hanaoshi and the view of the matcha inside, do not turn it over.


The tea ceremony is a historical ceremony with a long history. Many people may have a preconceived notion that the tea ceremony is difficult, but if you understand each of the manners and behave carefully, you can make it look and feel beautiful.

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