Roots of Japan

Japanese Tea Ceremony "Sado"

Most countries of the world have been influenced by tea. A meal without it would be missing something! Don't many people feel that way? Japanese Tea Ceremony is called "Sado" or "Chado".To learn how it is done properly, you need to attend a tea ceremony class. ... Is it possible to enjoy it without going to class?

Of course! Nowadays, you can enjoy this delicious experience even at a regular tea shop etc. I'll explain later! In the first place, what is the Tea Ceremony? The Japanese Tea Ceremony means to present Matcha to guests in the traditional style.

It's not just about enjoying tea, it's about the purpose of life and ways of thinking, religion etc... it's an art form developed to encompass many things such as the tea ceremony and tea wares, as well as decorative arts and incense in the tea room.

By choosing Matcha bowls, flowers, Japanese sweets, etc. according to the season, you can really feel the changing seasons. Besides Japan, tea has been a historic and cultural part of other countries, such as China with their "Saen" tea ceremony and "Chagei" art of tea, where guests are entertained with tea, and the Korean way of drinking tea in a ceremony called "Darye". When did tea come to Japan?

In 804, Kukai and Saicho went as Japanese envoys to the Tang Dynasty in China and brought back a variety of things. It is commonly believed that tea was one of those things. Chinese tea at that time was a micro-fermented tea similar to modern oolong tea, and possibly shaped into small balls. In Japan the color brown is called "Cha-iro" or "tea color", the color of this ancient tea became the color brown for modern Japanese people.

Rather than drinking tea for enjoyment, is it possible that this tea was only brewed when needed and used for medicinal purposes? This is the generally accepted theory. Especially drinking new tea (the shoots freshly picked that year) counting 88 days from "Risshun" the first day of spring (Feb. 4th in the traditional Japanese calendar) we arrive at May 2nd, or for a leap year, it would be May 1st, and if you drank new tea on those days you would spend the following year sickness and calamity free!

This was the tea of longevity, filled with vitality and all the spirit of springtime. By all means, have a cup of new tea! Having become interested in other teas besides green tea, I researched these as well. The difference between green tea, oolong tea and black tea is only the degree of fermentation... the tea leaves themselves are all from a tree of the camellia tea family called "Camellia Sinensis"!

It seems strange that the taste is so different, just because of the degree of fermentation! This is how tea first came to Japan. However, as yet there was no Matcha. So, when did we first start drinking Matcha? It is said that Matcha, the "Tencha-ho method" came into being during the 10th century in China.

A leading theory is that this was brought to Japan in 1191, by Myōan Eisai, founder of the Rinzai Sect of Zen Buddhism, who brought both the tea seeds and the method back from China, thereby spreading Matcha to Japan. The Matcha of this era was brown! It was not green as it is now. Afterwards, Eisai wrote the "Kissa-yojoki", a book explaining how to make tea, methods for making Matcha, and how tea promotes health etc., and presented this book to MINAMOTO no Sanetomo.

At that time, tea, which was already beloved by the nobility and monks, spread to the Samurai class. In addition, Dogen, founder of the Japanese Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism, studied "Shingi" ordinances (rules for Zen Buddhism) at the Zen temple in China and wrote the "Eihei Shingi" based on his studies.

In this book some rituals and methods of tea making, called "Sarei" are given, and even now at the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto, for the birthday ceremony of Eisai (April 20th), ancient tea drinking rituals called "Yotsugashira-sarei" are held annually. In the Zen sect of Buddhism, "Sarei" is the proper way of drinking tea, it includes etiquette and is regarded as the precursor to the tea ceremony. With tea spreading steadily, gambling on tea tasting contests called "Tocha" became the fashion of the day.

Also, "Karamono" (Tea wares imported from China) were popular and holding a grand tea ceremony with very expensive "Karamono" was highly fashionable. This continued until the latter half of the 15th century. However, monk and master of tea ceremonies Juko MURATA changed all this. Juko banned gambling and drinking, emphasized the spiritual exchange between hosts and guests, and introduced the idea of Zen Buddhism into the tea ceremony, as "Buppō mo cha no naka ni ari " (Buddhist law is also in tea).

This is a style of tea ceremony based on rustic simplicity and is the origin of "Wabicha" which respects the spirit of "Wabi" (simplicity). Afterwards, Wabicha became popular in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603) and was completed by "SEN no Rikyu". Here's where Nobunaga ODA enters the scene! Nobunaga gathered tea wares, presented the collected tea wares at a tea ceremony, and then granted them in lieu of territory to successful warriors.

This practice was to change the value of tea wares among samurai. Wabicha thus spread to the samurai hierarchy and resulted in disciples called "Rikyu Shichitetsu" (Rikyu's seven disciples) which further spread the development of Wabicha culture. During the Edo period (1603-1709), those who could enjoy the tea ceremony were limited among the population to the Daimyo (feudal lords) and merchants.

However, due to the growth of townsman economies during the middle Edo period (1709-1786), there was a rapid increase in interest tea ceremony among the population. "Senke Ryuha" or the san-Senke families welcomed those new townspeople to learn about the tea ceremony. The san-Senke families are "Omotesenke", "Urasenke" and "Mushakōjisenke".

In modern times as well, these main "Ryuha" (Families) are famous and all Japanese people know of them. Why are they called the family in Omote (front), the family in the Ura (rear), and the family on Mushakōji (street)? This comes from the three great-grandchildren of Rikyu. Omote (front) Senke, Ura (rear) Senke, Mushakōji (street) Senke... this refers to the placement of their respective inheritances in the tea room.

After the inheritance had been divided into three it was decided that only the legitimate child of each house could succeed to the name Sen, not the second or third son. In this way, the preservation of the tea ceremony was limited to these three lines, Omotesenke, Urasenke and Mushakōjisenke. As townspeople began to learn and disciples increased, a system of rules was established.

The Iemoto System (family-based organization) is a commonly seen method of preserving traditional arts... in Japan this is used to indicate a family line or family head that inherits artistic or performance knowledge etc. By devising training methods into lessons, tea ceremony spread throughout Japan. In the Meiji period, the tea ceremony became one of the subjects included in liberal arts for girls. For this reason, there is now a strong impression that the tea ceremony is something feminine, but until that time it was a man's job only!

The history and culture of the tea ceremony was mainly built by men and the part that women have had in it is only slight. Having read this far, who would like a cup of tea? At the beginning of this article I mentioned I would explain later where you can go to experience the tea ceremony.

One place is the tea ceremony classroom. Lessons are 3,000 Yen each, or at some places you can have a free trial lesson. There are classrooms where "western style clothing is ok!", but others that require the wearing of white socks etc. And since tea rooms are not very big, it is usually a small group experience. Also, at the Fukiagechaya tea-house in Rikugien, Tokyo, you can take a break with Match and seasonal Japanese sweets.

In Kyoto, the "Ippodo Kaboku Tearoom" is a genuine quality tea room where you can make the tea yourself. The staff will carefully teach you how it's done! You can also purchase Matcha here, so you can enjoy it when you go home. Your guests will be impressed! There are also a surprising number of places where you can enjoy tea rather casually. All this is thanks to the families of the tea ceremony and the individuals preserving this culture.Why not experience for yourself, Japanese traditional culture in the "Tea Ceremony"?

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.