Japanese Tea Ceremony: The Way of Tea

If you are putting sugar or honey or anything else in your Japanese Green Tea you are doing it wrong. Note that I’m saying Japanese green tea. There is an abundance of green teas from around the world and many ways to consume them but in Japan, you put tea and water. Nothing else.

At a bamboo shrine in Kamakura. (One of my wife's favorite places) My bitter green (Matcha) tea and a small sweet candy. You consume both simultaneously to balance the flavor on your taste buds.
At a bamboo shrine in Kamakura. (One of my wife’s favorite places near her home town) My bitter green (Matcha) tea and a small sweet candy. You consume both simultaneously to balance the flavor on your taste buds while you sit quietly amongst the bamboo.

One of the best scenes from American Cinema (in my opinion) is from The Karate Kid part II. I saw this film when I was seven years old and didn’t know much about anything let alone Asian / Japanese culture. Still, it stuck with me because I felt (now in retrospect) that it was so pure for showcasing this ceremony but also capturing both characters emotions with little to no dialogue. It is a true piece of cinema.

Watch it:

Mr. Russo did what a typical American would do. I know because I’ve also tried to be charming at inappropriate moments. If you’ve never seen this film watch part one then part two to completely understand what’s going on. Keep in mind it’s also a classic 1980’s Americana movie. You couldn’t make the movie today and be taken seriously. Also keep in mind these films are made by Americans and are coming from the American perspective of Japanese Karate. They may have taken some liberties on cultural facts and details.

But I digress.

The whole reason I brought this up was because of the green tea ceremony.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

“The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea.” – Wikipedia

The first documented evidence of tea in Japan dates to the 9th century, when it was taken by the Buddhist monk Eichū (永忠) on his return from China.
“The first documented evidence of tea in Japan dates to the 9th century, when it was taken by the Buddhist monk Eichū (永忠) on his return from China.” – Wikipedia

“The Japanese tea ceremony developed as a “transformative practice”, and began to evolve its own aesthetic, in particular that of “sabis” and “wabis” principles. “Wabi” represents the inner, or spiritual, experiences of human lives. Its original meaning indicated quiet or sober refinement, or subdued taste “characterized by humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, profundity, imperfection, and asymmetry” and “emphasizes simple, unadorned objects and architectural space, and celebrates the mellow beauty that time and care impart to materials.” “Sabi,” on the other hand, represents the outer, or material side of life. Originally, it meant “worn,” “weathered,” or “decayed.” Particularly among the nobility, understanding emptiness was considered the most effective means to spiritual awakening, while embracing imperfection was honoured as a healthy reminder to cherish our unpolished selves, here and now, just as we are – the first step to “satori” or enlightenment.

Murata Jukō is known in chanoyu history as an early developer of tea ceremony as a spiritual practice. He studied Zen under the monk Ikkyū, who revitalized Zen in the 15th century, and this is considered to have influenced his concept of chanoyu.

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyū and his work Southern Record, perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master Takeno Jōō’s concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms in architecture and gardens, art, and the full development of “the “way of tea”. The principles he set forward—harmony (和 wa), respect (敬 kei), purity (清 sei), and tranquility (寂jaku)—are still central to tea ceremony.” – Wikipedia

For a more in depth look, follow these links to these informative videos.

BEGIN Japanology: Tea Ceremony (love this series, by the way)

BEGIN Japanology: Tea Room Architecture part I

BEGIN Japanology: Tea Room Architecture part II

I would’ve embedded them but WordPress is being difficult with their embed settings.

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 5.47.39 PM

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Author: hikikomori78

American Hikikomori is an upcoming short film that explores the emotional struggles of a Japanese teenager named Isamu Fujihara, when he moves to America.

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