Chanoyu: Art of Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony is a Japanese tradition with a long history. In Japanese, it is also known as Chanoyu(茶の湯), meaning the way of preparing, serving, and drinking green tea. Though seems like a simple task, the Japanese tea ceremony is an art that requires a rigorous attitude to complete each step. It has to present a traditional Japanese spirit - omotenashi, hospitality to make the guests feel well-treated.

History Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

History Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony roots in Buddhism. More than 1,000 years ago, Japanese monks brought the first tea leaves from China. At that time, tea was consumed only at temples for religious purposes. By the 16 century, with the wide plantation and the emergence of Japan's aesthetic, drinking tea became common in Japanese society. 

Schools Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Schools Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Nowadays, dozens of schools of tea ceremony exists in Japan. Despite their subtle differences, they all comply with the four spirits defined by the founder of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen Rikyu: harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.

Among the dozens of schools, three have become mainstream because of their bloodline connected to Sen Rikyu. They are known as the Sansenke, including Urasenke, Omotesenke, and Mushanokoujisenke.

Procedures Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Procedures Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony takes place in a tea house (cha-shitsu), which is rustic and refined. The room usually contains an alcove (tokonoma) to place a hanging scroll or a flower to create a Zen atmosphere. An informal ceremony will last 45 minutes (a formal one will last 4 hours). During the ceremony, the host does not drink tea because the tea ceremony is for the pleasure of the guests. As a practiced host, he/she will show omotenashi to his/her guests, including:

Step 1: Before the tea ceremony, the host starts preparing for the tea room, tea, and sweets.

Step 2: After the guests arrived, the host will welcome guests to the tea room.

Step 3: The host will kneel on a cushion to clean his/her tools with graceful movements and boil purified water in an iron kettle on a stove.

Iron Kettle Of Japanese Tea Ceremony

Step 4: The host will use a silk cloth to handle the iron kettle. The silk cloth represents the spirit of the host.

Step 5: The host will add matcha and hot water to a bowl and whisk them thoroughly.

Whisk Japanese Tea

Step 6: The bowl of tea is passed on to each guest.


Step 7: Pretty sweets are served to complement the flavor.

Japanese Sweets

Step 8: After the bowl is handed back to the host, he/she will clean the tools and end the ceremony.

Etiquette Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Etiquette Of The Japanese Tea Ceremony

Etiquette is an important part of the ceremony. The host will wear a kimono to show his/her respect for the ceremony. Here are some suggestions for travelers that prepare to attend a tea ceremony.

  1. Wear a kimono or a formal dress.
  2. Be punctual.
  3. Remove shoes and put on slippers at the entrance.
  4. Show appreciation by complimenting the host.
  5. Casual chatting is permitted, but please focus on the ceremony-related topic.
  6. Rotate the bowl 180º and wipe it before passing it to the next guest.
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