Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Japanese Way to Celebrate Tea

A monk sips morning tea,
it's quiet,
the chrysanthemum's flowering.
-- Haiku by Matsuo Basho, 17th century.
Translated by Robert Hass.

The Japanese tea ceremony is a highly formal procedure in which tea is prepared with specialized utensils and vessels in a very ritualized way.  Historic tea vessels and utensils belong to many museums and other collections of Asian art, including the above tea bowls, which appear in the Tokyo National Museum. I visited there in 2011, and took these photos. The first bowl above is so famous that it has a name: "Hashihime" -- it is Mino ware, and dates from the 16th or 17th century. The second tea bowl is Takatori ware from the 17th century.

The tea masters from the earliest days until the present studied for years to perfect their actions and to make tea in just the right way. The earliest record of a tea ceremony, presented to the Emperor of Japan, dates to the year 815. Zen monks in Kamakura, Japan, in the twelfth century further developed the tea ceremony. Later the tea ceremony became linked with other Japanese traditions and arts:

"Both noh [the dramatic art] and tea blossomed during the 15th and 16th centuries, an era of bitter warfare, when warlords rivaled each other in displays of power and wealth. Yet many knew their days of glory would be brief, and thus were drawn to the self-reliant philosophy of Zen. From there, it was possible for them to appreciate the Zen spirit within Zeami Motokiyo’s noh plays, and Sen no Rikyu’s wabi, or modest, Way of Tea." --  Linda Inoki, Art and Life in a Bowl, The Japan Times. 

A 17th century Oribe square tea plate glazed in two different ways. 
(Tokyo Museum, photo by mae)

Tea ceremony water jar, 17th Century.
(Freer Gallery, Washington D.C.)

The tea ceremony is still a popular practice. While many present-day tea masters celebrate the ceremony in their houses, the most formal tea ceremonies are presented in special-purpose "tea huts" that are built in a traditional way in carefully designed gardens. A guest can walk through the garden while approaching the tea hut, and achieve the contemplative mood that is appropriate for participating in the tea ceremony. We visited one such tea hut in Japan in 1994, at the Katsura Detached Palace near Kyoto, called the Shokin-tei, dating from the seventeenth century. 

Last year, our Japanese visitor Mariko made traditional
tea for us with her special whisk and tea bowl.

The Tea Hut at the Katsura Detached Villa, a summer home of the Emperor of Japan. (Wikipedia)

The Japanese tea ceremony is extremely well known, and there are many books, articles, and museum exhibits dedicated to its various aspects. I've mentioned only a few of the many features of this fascinating ritual. I'm dedicating this to the weekly blog event, where each blogger features a drink, sponsored by Elizabeth at Altered Book Lover.

Blog post © 2020 mae sander. Photos are as attributed.


Angie's Recipes said...

Beautiful stoneware!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I feel drawn to all-things Japan, but especially to the tea ceremony.

The stoneware. Wabi-sabi.

My name is Erika. said...

I didn't get to a formal tea ceremony when I visited Japan with my school a couple of years ago. I did however have a place for one in on of my hotel rooms. Love that pottery in your post. I would like to have that in my home. Happy Sunday.

Vicki said...

I don't drink tea but I'd love to have some of those tea bowls.

Stevenson Q said...

Those stoneware are so precious dear Mae! I have been twice to Japan but have never been to a tea ceremony ever. I hope someday I can experience one.

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

I've never participated in a Japanese Tea Ceremony, but would love to have the experience. Such a delightful shot of the pagoda. My Sunday Salon post

Merry said...

I have never been involved with a tea ceremony either and I know it would be a lovely experience. I feel like I have done something spectacular using loose tea and a tea ball instead of boiling water poured over a tea bag in a mug.

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

I think rituals like these are so important and worth honouring.

Iris Flavia said...

I have a pic of my Dad at such a ceremony in Japan. Oh, how I miss him now... Still have a Japanese "paper-umbrella" he brought home for me. And I had a Kimono, too (I was 9).
Tea-season just started here, too (as heating season, brr, too early).

Divers and Sundry said...

I've never participated in a Japanese tea ceremony, but I've seen a few illustrative videos. It looks like a peaceful process. Happy T Day!

My name is Erika. said...

Happy T day Mae! I've been by this post already, so I won't recommend that.

Linda Kunsman said...

such wonderful history and pottery. I have seen a few traditional tea ceremonies on TV but can only imagine the special experience in person. Happy T day!

PerthDailyPhoto said...

The tea ceremony is beautiful to watch Mae, have seen several times. Completely opposite to dunking a teabag into boiling water 😉

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

The ritual of drinking tea in Japan must be as unique as that in places like Singapore, where the cups and pot are bathed in hot water. It's a calming tradition, very unlike high tea in the UK. I'm super impressed with these bowls and how you got to not just see them, but also participate in a tea ceremony while in Japan. I am SO impressed to have "met" you, because you travel in real life, where I only can in art using travel brochures. Thank you beyond belief for sharing this rare and unusual vision of the ancient practice of making and enjoying tea in Japan. I love learning something new each time I visit here.

Valerie-Jael said...

Very interesting post. I went to a Japanese tea ceremony at the Japanese Tempe complex here, it was fascinating. Happy T Day, Valerie

DVArtist said...

I love this post! Japan is very dear to my heart and the time I spent there was the most special in my life. I was able to attend tea ceremony. I was overwhelmed by it all.

CJ Kennedy said...

I taught at a women’s circle group. One of the other presenters performed a Chinese tea ceremony which I got to attend. Fascinating and lovely. Happy T Day

Eileen Bergen said...

I've attended a Japanese tea ceremony and, even though I don't drink tea, it was quite special to observe and learn.

Happy T-day! Hugs, Eileen

Let's Art Journal said...

I loved reading about the Japanese tea ceremony and those cups are delightful 😁. Loving the first quote too! Thanks for sharing and wishing you a very happy T Day! Hugs, Jo x

Kate Yetter said...

I think that glazed tea plate is my favorite of all the stoneware you shared. I loved reading your post and learning about the Japanese tea ceremony. And can I say I am totally jealous that you experienced a traditional tea ceremony in Japan! What an experience. Did the tea taste as you expected it to taste?

One day when hubby and I are empty nesters, we are hoping to travel and I hope that hubby will indulge me in my desire to attend some of these tea related events.

Thank you SO much for sharing.
Happy Tea Day,