December 06, 2008

Japanese tea ceremony Bonenkai

Bonenkai is a Japanese word for "end-of-the-year-party". Most companies, clubs, and other kinds of groups have a traditional bonenkai in December to officially end the year. My tea teacher's Bonenkai will be on Saturday the 13th this month. Some of the students including me will prepare Usucha for the other students and my tea teacher. Last year we didn't have a Bonenkai because schedules didn't match. This year the Bonenkai was announced in November so everyone kept the 13th free. at the Bonenkai, student who come to Keiko regularly will bring "Osebo" which is a small present or gift to the teacher as a token of appreciation. The teacher has taught us many things about the tea ceremony this year so I have bought a very expensive box of Okashi sweets which she can use during Keiko next year. After the 13th I'll write a report on this blog.

September 15, 2008

Mito Kairakuen Kobuntei tea ceremony

Kobuntei is an old villa within Kairakuen park. Kobuntei was build by a Samurai named Tokugawa Nariyaki as his summer villa. This Kobuntei villa is still in very good shape and open to the public for about two hundred Yen on normal (event less days) . Yesterday I attended a Japanese tea ceremony Chakai within the villa hosted by the Omotesenke school of tea. It was such a great tea ceremony because from the Kobuntei we could see the full moon rising above the trees while sipping a delicious cup of tea. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the Kobuntei villa and the full moon turning yellower as the minutes went by, that I hardly paid any attention to the Temae performed by an experienced tea ceremony teacher. the sweets which came with the tea were really delicious but I still regret leaving my camera at home...
My own teacher was with me while enjoying the full moon rising and she told me that on every first Sunday of the month there is a tea ceremony at the Kobuntei. If I had known that I would probably have been there more often to enjoy the Japanese tea ceremony.

Tea ceremony in Mito city, Ibaraki prefecture Japan

Yesterday I enjoyed three different styles of the Japanese tea ceremony, the first one was Enshuryu, the second one was Edosenke and finally Omotesenke.
At Kairaku-en in Mito city there are various open-air tea ceremony events throughout the year. One of these events is during the plum harvesting season and the other one was yesterday. Yesterday's open-air Japanese tea ceremony was held to celebrate the new full moon. Various schools of tea gather their members and setup their ware to entertain guests with the Japanese tea ceremony. I would say that it is almost for free, it was eight hundred yen to attend three tea ceremonies. I guess this small amount would not even cover the cost for the sweets we ate, because they were quite good quality. At a meeting like this it is a great opportunity to see different styles and how they differ in their movements and the order in which the various tea utensils are cared for. As I am a student of the Omotesenke school of tea, I learned many things to improve my Temae just by watching others prepare a cup of tea for me. For those of you living in Japan in or around Ibaraki prefecture I'd really recommend you find out when the next open-air tea ceremony event is held and come over to have a cup of green-tea.

September 14, 2008

the Japanese tea ceremony preparation steps

For a student of the Japanese tea ceremony it might take years of practice to learn how to prepare a bowl of tea without thinking. The goal is to serve a bowl of tea from the heart and not from the mind. This is only possible when practicing at least once a week but preferably a couple of times a week. There are quite a few steps one has to go through to be able to serve a bowl of tea to the guests. Here's a link to the start page of the Japanese tea ceremony preparation steps. For a more detailed description of all the steps needed to prepare a bowl of tea: detailed steps for the Japanese tea ceremony. this page will provide you with many details for every step toward serving a bowl of tea. At this moment there is only a description for hakobi temae during the summer season where the Furo is used. soon this website will be updated with descriptions of hakobi temae during the winter season where the Ro or sunken hearth is used.
If you are looking for some more visual inspiration, have a look at some videos of the Japanese tea ceremony

I have been practicing for some years now but due to circumstances I have not been able to attend my tea ceremony classes every month. This results in a quite clumsy preparation of the tea, since I really have to use my head and think hard about the next step I have to perform. But the website with detailed explanations of the preparation steps really helps when I read it just before going to my tea ceremony class.

September 08, 2008

Yobanashi tea ceremony

 Last week I went to my regular Japanese tea ceremony lesson after work. By the time i reached my teacher`s place, the sun was already setting. One of the students who was there offered to make me some Koicha thick tea to get me into the mood of the tea ceremony after a hard day`s work. My tea ceremony teacher asked if I thought it was necessary to turn the light on but I felt quite relaxed in the darkness of the tea room. When the tea utensils were being brought into the room, we noticed it was actually too dark to prepare a bowl of tea. My tea teacher rushed to get a small light to place near the Temae-za. Just this small light next to the Tana created such a wonderful atmosphere. I felt the taste of the Koicha became much more intense since I couldn't see what was in the Chawan. I realized that this was actually the first time that I had done a Japanese tea ceremony at night.
 Next, it was my turn to make Usucha for the other students. I wanted to saviour this wonderful opportunity and please my guests as much as i could. I provided everyone with a Zabuton and two different kinds of sweets, Wagashi and Omogashi. I performed the tea ceremony with total devotion to my movements and a perfect balance of Matcha and Oyu (hot water). All complimented me afterwards on my style and the great taste of the tea. It seemed everyone including me was pleased.
 So, Yobanashi is a variety of the Japanese tea ceremony which is usually held in winter when the sun starts setting very early and the tea ceremony can be enjoyed with a small candle light to create a warm atmosphere in the cold winter months.

August 27, 2008

Importance of Matcha

The Japanese tea ceremony is called Chanoyu in Japanese. Chanoyu literally mean "hot water for tea". Can we draw the conclusion from this that the tea (green tea/ Matcha) is the most important part of the tea ceremony? Let's imagine that we have a room with guests waiting for a bowl of tea after eating their sweets. The Teishu (tea ceremony host) realizes that there is no Matcha. What can be done? at least he can serve hot water to his guests... This might not satisfy an experienced tea ceremony visitor, but something is better that nothing, right? If there is no Chawan or water, nothing can be presented to the guests...

Please leave a comment whether you agree or disagree.


The Chawan is the most important tool for the Japanese tea ceremony. Isn't it? If we have Matcha and hot water but not a bowl to serve it in, what good are these ingredients? Our guests will be staring at the powdered Matcha while hearing the water boiling in the Kama. They've already had their sweets and are waiting to balance out the sweetness with a bitter drink.

When I asked several experienced tea teachers, they quickly replied that the Chawan is the most important. After answering the question they started thinking about it more and more which made them confused.

please leave a comment and your opinion whether you agree or disagree!!

June 19, 2008

Sumi-demae for Furo

furo hai
Being a student of the Japanese tea ceremony for almost three years now, I have gradually been allowed to make Usucha and performing Sumi-demae for the Ro. This summer season with the start of the Furo, I was able to practice Sumi-demae for the Furo for the first time. Somehow it seems to be easier than the Ro because there is no Hai (ash) added. The Furo portable brazier has a bed of ash which is carefully shaped and should not be messed up by adding more ash. The size of the Sumi is smaller than with the Ro. Also the Haboki (feather) is different, the one used in summer for the Furo is wider on the right side.

May 12, 2008

Omotesenke doumonkai meeting

Last month the Annual Omotesenke Ibaraki prefecture branch meeting was held in Mito city. Over 200 people dressed in beautiful Kimono attended this annual event. The main speaker and guest of honor was Soushou from Kyoto Omotesenke headquarter. In the first half of the morning, last year’s statistics such as successful events and tea gatherings, income of the Ibaraki branch Omotesenke and the expenses were discussed. Then certificates were presented to the people who supported the Omotesenke Ibaraki branch, and to teachers who attained a high-level teaching degree in the tea ceremony.

During the second half of the morning, the Soushou from Kyoto held a lecture on the family tree of Sen no rikyu, his grandson Sen Soutan and his son Sen Sousa. He tried to explain that in those old times (before the 16th century), women were considered less important and barely any records were kept about them. We can learn from diaries and books written by famous tea masters that women did have a significant supporting role but did not actively participate in the tea ceremony. He went on for some time and tried to make a connection to the present day overwhelming amount of female teachers of the Tea Ceremony in Japan. He was making some funny jokes once-in-a-while and was struggling with his computer because his power-point presentation kept jumping to different pages. Of-course he is a man of tea and does not have much computer skills, so I guess everyone forgave his clumsiness with his laptop.

Most members attending the meeting were of considerable age so; some had a hard time staying focused.
The somewhat younger teachers and students tried to keep notes of his speech. I tried to keep some notes too, but since he went on and on about ancient times and tea masters from long ago, I couldn’t quite follow him the whole time. But luckily this year’s meeting was held at a community center which had chairs and a podium, compared to previous years’ meetings, which were held at Mito Otsukaya where people would sit on Tatami mats in Seiza position the whole day.

After lunch, there was a demonstration of Koicha, Sumidemae, and Usucha. The Soushou from Kyoto gave strict guidance to the students making tea and the guests who received tea. Compared to my tea teacher who is always friendly, he was super precise and was giving strong words of advice when the utensils were just centimeters away from the correct location and was paying close attention to the face of the Chawan and Natsume called Shomen to be in front. The main point of today was that we have to pay attention to the dialog between the Teishu and the Shokyaku. During the Japanese tea ceremony there is only limited exchange of verbal communication. We should use a clear and loud voice when inquiring about the tea utensils and also think about the timing of asking questions about the green tea, the tea bowl, the hanging scroll (Kakejiku) and other equipment used in the tea ceremony.

April 13, 2008

Round waiting room

This tea-house has a wonderful garden around it. All the seasonal trees and flowers needed to keep the garden alive throughout the year can be seen. The garden also has two very cute Machi-ai / waiting huts near the tea-house. One is directly next to the Chashitsu / tea house and is made from another big barrel of the same kind as the tea house. The second waiting room is a little further away in the garden and has a beautiful stepping stone path leading up to it. Everything seemed so perfect for a tea ceremony that I surely will go back there and try to arrange something.

Round Tea Ceremony House

After having lunch with some friends, I found a beautiful tea-house behind the restaurant. It’s probably the smallest I’ve ever seen. It is made from a huge barrel which used to have Miso-paste in it. The owner told me that his acquaintance was about to throw some of these barrels away since they had become too old to continue the storage of Miso-paste in it. One barrel was made into a tea-house and another into a Machi-ai / waiting hut. The owner knew a carpenter who had some experience building and designing Chashitsu / tea house and they worked on the hut together.

Inside there is only one Tatami mat, so I guess the room would only fit two or three people which makes it a very intimate. The window, the tana / shelves and the kakejiku / hanging scroll were all of miniature size to keep a balance in the Chashitsu (tea house).

March 22, 2008

Nagashidate style

Today I had an opportunity to practice nagashidate (流し立て) with the ro (). It is a shorter and easier form of temae (手前). Here instead of the mizusashi (水差し) the yakan is used. The setup of the temae corner is different from usual as well: the chawan (茶碗) and the natsume (棗) were placed diagonally from the corner of the ro. The yakan was placed next to the ro in the middle of the remaining part of the tatami mat. The kensui (建水) is placed next to us as we sit straight in front of the ro (instead of sitting diagonally). Next the chawan is placed between our knees and the ro, from here on most of the temae is the same as it would be performed during a usual temae with a mizusashi and or a tana (棚). 

- The top image shows the basic setup for nagashidate when beginning to prepare tea for your guests.
- The second picture shows that the chawan moves between the host and the ro. And also where the chawan will be placed when the tea is ready to be recieved by the guest(s).

March 20, 2008

Greetings to all who are interested in the "Japanese Tea Ceremony". I would like to use this blog to write about my studies of the "Way of Tea" and am looking forward to reading your ideas and opinions about it, too! At the moment i am also very busy creating a web-site with lots of information on the Tea Ceremony. I think there are already many people who share their experience and knowledge about the Tea Ceremony which is great. However, there isn't much information on Omote-Senke and its procedure and rituals, so I'd like to share with everyone my studies of Omote-Senke's approach to the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
As soon as my web-site is up-and-running, I'll inform you right away on this blog!! right now I'm guessing it will happen within two weeks or so.
If you are as exited as I am about the Japanese Tea ceremony, please leave your comments on this blog or write me an e-mail.
Thank you.