Around the end of October, in the deep autumn season, it is the time to enjoy reading books and appreciating arts in Japan.
So there are many art festivals, tea ceremonies and flower exhibitions held here and there.
This time, I’d like to talk about Japanese tea ceremony called “SADŌ” (or “CHA-NO-YU”), its history and its founder, “SEN-NO-RIKYŪ”.
The weather is getting colder, a cup of hot green tea is the best to relax you mentally and physically.
For Japanese, green tea is something indispensable in daily life.
The green tea we usually drink is “RYOKU-CHA”.
To prepare it, we put some tea-leaves into a tea pot and pour hot water and then serve it with a tea cup in the same manner as English red tea.
When it comes to the green tea of SADŌ, we use “MATCHA” (powdered green tea).
To make MATCHA, producers steam the green tea leaves and dry it, then grind it with a mill into powder.
To drink MATCHA, we put a small amount of MATCHA directly into a tea bowl called “CHAWAN” by a bamboo spoon called “CHASHAKU”, then add a small quantity of hot water to it, then whisk the mixture using a bamboo whisk known as a “CHASEN”.
Like KARATE, there are several “KATA” (detailed choreographed patterns of movements) called “OTEMAE” in SADŌ.
The host of a tea ceremony prepare MATCHA and his/her guests drink it, there both parties must follow such KATA.
By the way, SADŌ is written as “茶道” in Japanese.
SA (茶) means “tea” and DŌ(道)” means “way”.
However the meaning of DŌ(道) is not just a way, method or technique here.
The idea of DŌ(道) includes even the discipline or philosophy in Japanese traditional art, so you can define SADŌ as the way to discipline oneself by strictly following the KATA of tea ceremony.
Now, let’s talk about the person who established such self-training method using green tea.
His name is SEN-NO-RIKYŪ (1522-1591) who was born in a family which was running a fishmonger.
In the late 16th century, the era called “AZUCHI-MOMOYAMA”, NOBUNAGA ODA (1534-1582) became a powerful samurai daimyo and warlord of Japan, (in the west, Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne in England at around that time).
NOBUNAGA encouraged SADŌ and promoted more tea ceremonies to be held by people because he was very much attracted by beautiful and rare tea ceremony’s utensils made in China or Korea called “KARAMONO”.
He was also giving those valuable tea-things to his men as rewards.
At that time, during a tea ceremony, people attached importance on admiring those KARAMONOs rather than OTEMAE.
Therefore extremely rich merchants such as SŌKYŪ IMAI or SŌGYŪ TSUDA were central figures to SADŌ because they could possess expensive KARAMONOs thanks to their success in trading business.
RIKYŪ took an interest in tea ceremony when he was young but he didn’t have any tea-things to practice it as he was a son of fish shop owner.
So he learnt SADŌ with what he had, for example, he drew a picture of “CHAIRE” (a MATCHA container) on a piece of paper to practice OTEMAE.
When he held a tea ceremony for the first time at the age of 23, as he didn’t have expensive KARAMONO tea-things to present in front of the guests, he came up with an idea to entertain the people by different way. He brought with him a portable incense burner called “KŌRO” instead of CHAIRE.
When he opened up the case for CHAIRE, the incense burner appeared which nobody used during a tea ceremony at that time. RIKYŪ let people enjoy its sweet smell before starting his tea ceremony.
By this surprising reception, people started understanding that a tea ceremony can be held without featuring expensive utensils. Elaborating ideas without relying on a tool, this was the secret of RIKYŪ’s emergence in the world of SADŌ.
Since then, the pursuit of real meaning of SADŌ began.
In the period of AZUCHI-MOMOYAMA, the age of civil wars, BUSHOs (samurai warriors) were devoting their time to battles and wars, always missing a time to have peace of mind.
So RIKYŪ thought how to entertain those samurais by SADŌ then became particular about at this time “CHA-SHITSU” (a tea room). He made it small and isolated so that it creates special atmosphere to give a relax moment and sense of affinity for tea ceremony participants.
RIKYŪ became more and more influential enough to be called “a man who makes the world go round by a cup of tea”.
After that, although he continued to be tossed about by the change of time, he established his original and sophisticated way of tea which has been continuing intact for about 450 years.
Nowadays, it is very rare to have a CHA-SHITSU in one’s home. Indeed it is difficult to make a space to establish it living in a condominium of urban area.
So, when I want to drink MATCHA, I make it for myself without caring for detailed KATA of OTEMAE.
Just by tea-bowl, CHASEN, MATCHA powder and hot water, you can enjoy the Japanese traditional hot drink which for sure will heal your body and mind.