December 26, 2010

Daily life and Tea

Only recently I started to notice the relation between the Japanese tea ceremony and daily life in Japan. It is frequently said that by studying the tea ceremony we'll learn many valuable lessons which can help our functioning in the Japanese culture.
Basic things such as greetings, bows, and properly timed apologies are a must to master when living in Japan. We also learn appreciation for objects through the Haiken (viewing of) certain utensils.

This month I noticed two very basic thing we learn during our tea ceremony classes in my daily life. The first one was when me and my colleagues we out on business and we were presented with a traditional wooden Japanese lunch box. As the eldest of our group finally sat down and told us to start having our lunch, every one just yanked off the lit and started digging in. I was so surprised that nobody knew how to properly and respectfully remove a lit from a Bento (lunch) box. That's when I was glad to know that the correct way to remove the lit from a Bento box is to use both hands to take the left and right side at the same time, then flipping it vertically so that the left side comes up and can be held by the right hand while the left hand moves to take the lower side to make the flip complete. The the lit is placed to the right side of the Bento box before saying Itadakimasu (grace).
Second thing I noticed was when there was a ceremony at my high school where some kids were called on stage to receive certificates from the principal while facing the back. After that they would turn to face the other students and take a bow while receiving a round of applause. But it was the turn which was so terrible, they just swung around like monkeys. I was reminded by the way we stand up and turn to walk back to the Mizuya (back room). For a clockwise turn we first pull our right foot back and diagonal behind the left, then sliding the left foot in front of the right foot facing to the right and then stepping with the right foot in the direction we want to go. This is a nice formal turn which looks smooth and elegant.
These two points add to the really simple things such as handling the Ohashi (Chopsticks) and holding a cup of tea with both hands. I feel really blessed to study the Japanese tea ceremony and hope it will learn me many more valuable life lessons.

August 26, 2010

Haiken of Utensils

This time at the tea ceremony lesson there were only the three of us. One more student, my teacher, and me. The first student practiced to make Koicha which took a long time. Together with the teacher she carefully added some hot water little by little. This resulted in a nearly perfect bowl of Koicha. This is the reason I love the Japanese tea ceremony. It’s the moment that the mildly bitter Matcha meets the pallet of my tongue after it had been sweetened by some sweet stuff in this case Omogashi.

I practiced Obon-temae. A simplified form of the tea ceremony where the Kama is replace by a kettle or any other item to hold the hot water. The bowls we use in mid-summer time are very wide and the bottom is almost flat in stead of rounding up. So I find it often very difficult to know whether I’ve put in enough or too much hot water. It is also more challenging to whisk the Matcha into a nice brew without leaving some of the Matcha un solved.

The most valuable lesson I learned today is about doing the Haiken or viewing of objects. As a guest we always admire the tea bowl after drinking from it. After the tea ceremony is finished we can ask for Haiken of the Natsume and the Chashaku. When making of Koicha is finished we can ask Go Sanki no Haiken, meaning to observe the three objects namely; Chaire, Shifuku, and the Chashaku. Once we have an item in front of us we place our hands next to the item and view it from the right, then the left, and then once more from the right before lifting it up a little to admire the utensil even closer. Today my teacher taught me that in case the Tokonoma is on the left side instead of the right, the viewing of the utensils starts by looking at it from the left, then from the right, and once more from the left. So depending on which side the Tokonoma is on, that is the side you view the utensils first.

I wonder if other students of the Japanese tea ceremony have ever heard of this or if the customs at different schools of tea are different…

July 05, 2010

Japanese Tea Ceremony at UN

Beside the main themes of the Japanese tea ceremony (harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility), the ceremony was often an excuse for opponents to meet and sit together in a neutral atmosphere. The Nijiriguchi entrance forced the samurai to remove their swords before entering because of its small size. The Japanese tea ceremony performed by a tea master provided a peaceful meeting which could grow into fruitful peace talks.

Even now the Japanese tea ceremony is used to bring together people from various countries so that they can meet in the neutral surroundings of a tea master to enjoy a cup of matcha green tea.

I came across an article from the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) which acts as ambassadors of peace. They organized a Japanese tea ceremony at the United Nations where representatives from various countries attended and were instructed on how to receive the tea. Later they listened to an introduction into the meaning and purpose of having a tea ceremony including some old tales of Sen no Rikyu.

I guess this is exactly how the Japanese tea ceremony is meant to take place. It is not only for the tea master to find his own silence and meditation, but it should also resonate to its participating guests so that they become humbled and united.

Here is the article : Nigeria mission to UN hosts tea ceremony

March 30, 2010


I've been practicing the Japanese tea ceremony for many years now and finally this Saturday was the first time that we (my class) practiced Koicha. Previously I have seen many people prepare koicha during official and non-official tea ceremonies. However doing it myself was a totally exciting experience. Before we entered the Chashitsu our teacher carefully taught us how to handle the Fukusa and how to perform certain steps before folding it to wipe the Chaire. We practiced folding the Fukusa a couple of times and then we moved on to practicing how to place the Chaire in the Shifuku. After the Chaire was placed in the Shifuku our teacher showed us how to tie a knot with the draw-string at the top. Shifuku are most of the time made from expensive material so we were a little nervous about handling the pouch in the beginning but as we got used to the texture and the steps to closing and opening the Shifuku we were able to relax.

Preparing Koicha had many similar steps to preparing Usucha, but with all the excitement of this new chapter most of us went blank. However, my tea teacher is the most patient woman in the world. She is always calm and guides us positively through all the steps. Our tea teacher really loves to teach new things and seemingly never gets tired of correcting us on the same point dozens of times. It is probably because of her that we always look forward to our tea class, there is such harmony and peacefulness that it is very relaxing and refreshing to have a tea class on Saturday afternoon. For a couple of hours we can totally forget about our worldly obligations and float in the world of tranquility that is the tea room.

March 06, 2010

Japanese tea ceremony classes

All over the world the Japanese tea ceremony is gaining momentum and increasingly more people want to study the way of tea. Through other Japanese arts such as Ikebana, Shodo (Japanese calligraphy), the art of growing Bonsai, which have many practitioners they might be introduced to the Japanese tea ceremony and eventually want to take a few classes or a course to deepen their understanding of the japanese way of preparing tea. Tea ceremony classes are held all over the world, tea classes in America, tea classes in Europe and in other Asian countries as well.

If you are interested in taking Japanese tea ceremony classes take a look at this Japanese tea ceremony classes list to find classes near you.

If you want to suggest a Japanese tea ceremony class to be added to this list, you can leave a reply on this blog or fill out this form for swift submission to the list. Inform us of the
  • teacher's name 
  • location of the classes
  • contact information
  • and a short discription for the best results.
We wish everyone to enjoy learning the Japanese tea ceremony in classes near their own home.

January 07, 2010


It is again the season where Hatsugama is the main event in the tea room. For some of you the Hatsugama (first tea ceremony of the year) may have finished already. But mine will be on the 17th of January and it will be the only tea gathering in this month so we'll have to make the best out of it.
Last year was a busy year and I haven't been able to go to every Keiko. I have completely forgotten what we did at last years Hatsugama, so I hope to get some advice from fellow tea ceremony practitioners out there. If you have any tips or pointers for me, please leave a message on this blog entry. Thank you!