Asia Online (TAO)
Cult of Japan
by Yasunoke Fukukita
Board of Tourist Industry
Japanese Government Railways
II. How Tea-Drinking Began
III. Training in the Etiquette
IV. Partaking of the First Bowl
V. When Koicha is Served
VI. New Methods for New Times
VII. Simplicity, the Key-Note
Glossary of Cha-no-yu Terms
It is a common desire among tourists to learn something of the culture of the countries they visit, as well as to see their beautiful scenery. To see is naturally easier than to learn, but flying visits merely for sightseeing furnish neither the time nor opportunity for more than a passing acquaintance with the culture of any foreign people. This is specially true of Japan and her people
The Board of Tourist Industry recognizes both the obligation and the difficulty of providing foreign tourists with accurate information regarding the various phases of Japan's culture. It is, therefore, endeavouring to meet this obligation, as far as possible, by publishing this series of brochures.
The present series will, when completed, consist of more than a hundred volumes, each dealing with a different subject, but all co-ordinated. By studying the entire series, the foreign student of Japan will gain an adequate knowledge of the unique culture that has evolved in this country through the ages.
For those who wish to follow up these studies with a closer investigation of more erudite works, we append bibliographies, which we can recommend as authoritative guides for study.
of Tourist Industry,
Japanese Government Railways.
The Board of Tourist Industry of the Japanese Government Railways is publishing a series of handbooks dealing with things Japanese. It is gratifying to note that at present greater interest is shown in the interpretation of the cultural life of the nation. The author has, therefore, gladly complied with the request to write on the Tea Cult of Japan, of which he is a devotee.
The publication committee's suggestions have been followed in copiously illustrating the present volume with sketches and photographs, which, it is hoped, will be found helpful in the comprehension of the general practice of Cha-no-yu.
Visitors from overseas in increasing numbers now take a deeper interest in the Japanese entertainment of serving powdered tea. The author's primary object is to furnish visitors from overseas with a handy book of reference, but he also hopes that the publication may be of use to his compatriots in the explanation of this phase of their national culture. Should those who read this little book care to know more about the tea cult, rich in tradition and romance, the author's larger book: "Cha-no-yu, Tea Cult of Japan", published in 1932, will be found useful for reference.
Tokyo, March, 1935
"Tea with us
became more than an idealization of the form of drinking; it is a religion of
the art of life."
--Okakura's The Book of Tea
In acquiring a knowledge of Oriental lands, it is necessary to obtain an insight into the cultural life of the people. Visitors to Japan are not content with mere sightseeing. Even a cursory glimpse into any branch of the ancient culture of Japan is helpful in forming an appreciation of the manners and customs which differ from those prevailing in other countries.
To those who are interested in the cultural life of the Japanese people, there are innumerable avenues of approach of greater significance than sukiyaki parties and geisha dances.
Nothing is more closely associated with the arts and crafts of Japan than Cha-no-yu, an aesthetic pastime in which powdered green tea is served in a refined atmosphere. It is a subject which requires a life-long study to appreciate fully the underlying subtle aestheticism, with its manifold bearings upon religion, literature and philosophy, as well as the arts and crafts. A knowledge of Cha-no-yu, however slight, will therefore be highly useful to understand and adequately appraise the home life of the Japanese people.
After Japan abandoned her policy of isolation, over sixty years ago, and the Imperial regime was restored, the Government and people were so eager to introduce Western manners and institutions from Europe and America that their own cultural heritage was for the time almost completely ignored. Everything Western was blindly considered superior to that which was Oriental. For instance, the artistic value of colour prints by the old masters was not appreciated until their merits were recognized by foreign connoisseurs. No wonder then an aesthetic cult such as Cha-no-yu should have remained unattractive in the earlier stage of the transition period.
New ideas and institutions are still being introduced from abroad, perhaps faster and more extensively than half a century ago. But the conditions have changed remarkably. While the literature and the art of Western countries are studied in Japan today far more widely and deeply, her culture of ancient origin is receiving, on the other hand, more profound and intelligent attention. The reign of peace and prosperity, which the Japanese people have enjoyed during the past forty years, has also contributed to the revival of Cha-no-yu.
It is the author's purpose to give in this brochure some fundamental principles of Cha-no-yu, and briefly to expound the etiquette generally observed by those who participate in the entertainment. A general but correct idea of the Japanese custom of serving powdered tea will be helpful in obtaining a deeper insight into the nation's cultural life. The author would therefore suggest that visitors to Japan avail themselves of an opportunity to observe, or participate in, the refined entertainment of Cha-no-yu.
II. How Tea-Drinking Began
The custom of drinking tea is now universal. Although Oriental in origin, there is today no Western country where tea is unknown. In Japan the people drink tea during and after each meal, and it is customary to offer a cup of tea to callers at any time of the day.
A fine powder of choice green tea is used in Cha-no-yu. To serve powdered tea, it is put in a bowl much larger than an ordinary tea cup, and hot water is poured over it. The mixture is beaten by means of a bamboo whisk, which resembles a shaving-brush more than anything else. This practice, which is older in origin, is not in such common use as the later way of steeping cured leaves in hot water.
Cha-no-yu is peculiar to Japan. It was originally a monastic custom introduced by Japanese Buddhists who had gone to China for study. It is forgotten in the land of its origin, and survives in Japan as an aesthetic pastime, a cult in which the beverage is idealized. Devotees of Cha-no-yu appreciate Art and worship Nature through the medium of the indescribably delicate and refreshing aroma of powdered tea.
So far as written evidence is concerned, the earliest record of tea-drinking in Japan takes us back to 729 A.D., in which year the Emperor Shomu is said to have invited one hundred Buddhist monks to take tea in his palace. It is very likely that in those days tea was one of the most precious articles imported from China.
It took nearly four centuries for the cultivation of the tea-plant to become popular. Uji, a district not far from the ancient city of Kyoto, where the best grade of powdered tea is produced, is indebted to a Japanese monk who brought tea-seeds from China in the twelfth century. The tea plantations in Shizuoka Prefecture are not so old as those in Uji, but the export of green tea produced there constitutes an important item of Japan's foreign trade.
In the north-eastern corner of Kyoto, secluded from the bustling city life, there is the famous villa where Yoshimasa, eighth Shogun of the Ashikaga line, indulged in aesthetic pursuits. The historic tea-room built as specified by Shuko, the Father of the Tea Ceremony, is still preserved in sound condition in the villa, which is called Ginkaku-ji, better known to foreign tourists as the Silver Pavilion.
The principles of refined and chaste simplicity as taught by Shuko were more concretely set forth by Jowo (1503-1555), who pleaded for a loftier and more original taste. Jowo's mantle fell on en-no-Soyeki (1521-1591), who is better known by the court name, "Rikyu", granted through the influence of his patron, Hideyoshi. The formula and etiquette instituted by Rikyu still remain the basic practices as taught by various schools that have sprung up since his death in 1591. Many utensils bearing the stamp of his genius have come down to the present day, and those who lay out tea-rooms and gardens still adhere to the canons left by him.
In a brochure such as this, it would be out of place to try to show in what way one school differs from another, but the names of a few principal Ryu, or Schools, and their originators may be mentioned.
Omote Senke Ryu and Ura Senke Ryu were originated by Rikyu's two great-grandsons, who lived in the same premises in Kyoto. The elder brother lived in the front house, hence the name of his school "Omote", which means "front". The younger brother lived in the rear part, and the public gave it the name "Ura", which means "rear", in order to distinguish it from the house of the elder brother. There was another brother, who originated a school of his own, known as "Mushakoji Ryu", so named after the street where he lived. There are many other schools which various tea-masters represent in giving lessons, but one is little different from another in their essentials. Harmony prevails, therefore, when persons of different schools meet at a Cha-no-yu party.
Of the several feudal lords who were first-class tea-masters, and originated their own systems of ceremonial tea, brief reference may be made to Kobori Masakazu, Lord of Enshu, whose school is known as "Enshu Ryu". He was the most influential tea-master and connoisseur of the earlier Tokugawa regime in the seventeenth century. Tea-bowls, caddies and other articles certified or named by Kobori, as well as those which were made under his personal direction, are highly prized today. He was also a master of architecture, landscape gardening and flower arrangement, while he holds a foremost position in the history of Japan's ceramic art. Some famous gardens laid out by this aristocrat of versatile genius are still in existence. The influence wielded by the Lord of Enshu as adviser to Shogun Iyemitsu in the tea ceremony, architecture, landscape gardening, etc. would make an interesting subject for separate treatment.
Sekishu Ryu and Unshu Ryu, schools originated by two feudal lords, have had adherents among the aristocracy.
III. Training in the Etiquette
In the strenuous life of modern Japan it is not uncommon for young ladies to practise the delightful art of flower arrangement, or to take lessons in the etiquette of serving ceremonial tea in the forenoon, and go to dancing academies in the afternoon. One is considered just as important as the other. In spite of the increasing number of modern restaurants, hotels, residences and office buildings operated on European and American lines, where Western customs and manners prevail, the Japanese people of the present day live essentially in the same way as their ancestors have done for centuries, for which, if one is to live correctly, training is necessary.
Especially is this true of Cha-no-yu, which is a social institution peculiar to Japan. It is an aesthetic cult whose devotees cultivate the appreciation of subtle beauty in art and nature. Training in the etiquette of serving powdered tea must be appreciated before the deeper aspects of the cult are understood.
Tea may, of course, be served without any formality. Hot water may be poured over ordinary tea without thought as to the manner in which it is done. But those who practise the art of Cha-no-yu follow a regulated mode of serving with utensils carefully selected and correctly arranged. It is the elaboration of details which gives additional pleasure to the tea-drinker.
Training in the serving and drinking of powdered tea includes nearly all phases of etiquette observed in the Japanese mode of living. For this reason young ladies are encouraged to take lessons in the tea ceremony before marriage. Through this medium they learn correct manners and deportment. Nor is this training useless for older people.
A visit to a professional tea-master's establishment is the best way to form an adequate idea of the instructions. A group of three or four young women practise under the teacher's guidance. One of them functions as hostess, while another takes the part of the principal guest. The hostess arranges the various utensils in the service room, which adjoins the tea-room. There is a set of rules prescribed for bringing the utensils to the tea-room, in connection with which she has to observe, for instance, the etiquette of sitting down and rising, entering and leaving the room, opening and closing the sliding-doors. Owing to the necessity of performing all these formalities in a small room and in the presence of guests, the pupil functioning as hostess has to deport herself gracefully and adroitly.
Opening the sliding-door of the service room, the hostess makes a bow before entering the tea-room. It is interesting to observe the elementary lesson of how to bring in the water-jar, which has to be placed in a prescribed position. She leaves the room to reappear immediately, holding the tea-caddy in the right hand and the bowl in the left. She then makes another trip before she sears herself in front of either the stationary hearth, or portable fire-brazier, as the case may be, according to the season.
There are other rules for handling the caddy, and it is not a simple matter to dip a ladle into cold and hot water in the right way. The bowl has first to be rinsed ceremoniously, after which the water and tea-powder are thoroughly mixed in it. There is scarcely any rule that is not based on reason and experience.
When the preliminaries are over, tea is served first to the pupil acting as principal guest, who, in an actual entertainment, is the leader, in addition to being a guest of honour. If it is koicha, or thick, pasty tea, she takes two or three sips and passes the bowl to the second guest, after wiping the edge with a piece of paper. When the bowl reaches the last pupil, she is expected to drain the contents. The empty bowl is returned to the hostess, who then complies with the leader's request for the privilege of closely examining it. The principal guest has important duties to perform from beginning to end, but the other pupils are not idle onlookers.
There is also a form of etiquette prescribed for the inspection of the caddy, which the young lady functioning as hostess is pleased to offer, together with the spoon and the bag for the caddy. These three are highly important articles in Cha-no-yu, and may be valued treasures. When pupils practise the handling of such articles, they are taught to observe the underlying practices to handle articles carefully, the knowledge of the correct manner being useful on any occasion.
A detailed description of all these formalities in their proper order would be tedious, but when performed by experienced persons, the whole procedure is pleasant to witness, each step being smooth and graceful.
As an essential part of the training, pupils are also taught how to serve and partake of the meal known as kaiseki. Even by Japanese, the eating of rice with chopsticks, or the sipping of soup, is not quite so easy as might be imagined. Persons without training are bound to blunder.
Those who have taken lessons in Cha-no-yu may forget much of what they have learned, and may be out of practice, but the training received is not entirely lost. The experience will save them from many a faux pas, even when making an ordinary call in a Japanese home. Not a few middle-aged persons go to professional masters for training. Cha-no-yu etiquette enables them to cultivate poise, grace, tranquility and urbanity, and accomplishments making for refinements in manners.
IV. Partaking of the First Bowl
Those without previous experience need not be frightened or discouraged by the brief description of training in the etiquette given in the foregoing chapter. Japanese friends are ready to tell the guest unacquainted with the ceremony what to do and what not to do. They will not criticise the blunders which strangers may commit. Those who are really interested in participating in Cha-no-yu will be welcome at any home where there are facilities to serve powdered tea. Familiarity with some elementary rule will be sufficient.
There are various ways of giving a Cha-no-yu entertainment according to different occasions and seasons. Powdered tea is often served quite informally without an invitation, and the host may or may not provide a meal. A large room may be used for entertaining many guests at a time, while five or six guests may be carefully selected to be entertained in a small room. A garden party is sometimes arranged when hundreds of people are entertained with powdered tea served in different pavilions.
Let us pay a visit to the home of a successful business man. The appointment has been casually made on the previous day, and the host is not supposed to have made any elaborate preparation. None will fail, however, to realize as we pass the gateway that painstaking preparations have been made from early morning.
The residence, which is typical of houses occupied by well-to-do people of present-day Japan, consists of two parts. There is a suite of what is locally known as "foreign rooms" with tables, chairs, carpets and pictures not very different from those in European and American homes. In the regular Japanese section such furniture is not used.
Guests are first ushered into one of the foreign rooms without taking off their shoes. The host, met with elsewhere on the previous day, introduces the guests to his wife and children. Greetings are exchanged, and after chatting for about a quarter of an hour, the host or hostess asks if the guests do not mind taking off their shoes to go into Japanese section. The drawing-room in Western style, in which we find ourselves, is comfortable, but contains scarcely anything interesting or attractive. In spite of the host's pride, it is noticed that he and his family have not thoroughly adapted themselves to the new way of living. In fact they do not feel quite at home in a Western-style room. The guests take off their shoes therefore, hoping to find in the Japanese section something more characteristic of the nation.
The small room specially built for ceremonial tea, which, when not used, is completely empty and appears as though deserted, is today properly arranged for inspection. The entertainment is not to take place in this room. There is a party of ten, and the guests assemble in a large room of twelve mats.
The Japanese love of simplicity and plainness, in which there is subtle beauty, is discernible in this reception room. It is different in every way from the Western-style room into which the guests were first ushered. It is not overcrowded with furniture and art objects. There is one silk cushion for each guest to sit on, in addition to some braziers and ash-trays. The woodwork of the room consists of the finest parts of cedar, maple, oak and other rare woods. The grain is shown to the best advantage, although some members of the party may fail to be struck with the high artistic quality of the simple details. Walls and tatami (straw mats) are also in the plainest style. There is only one hanging scroll in the alcove, a painting in black and white by an ancient master. Two or three other objects of art, which may be found on a side shelf, are so tastefully displayed that they are all perfectly in keeping with the plain scheme of interior decoration. The flower arrangement is likewise simple. If it is not in the chaste classical style, it is a simple arrangement, which gives the impression that no art or thought is necessary. It will not be difficult to realize that all things are so placed as to set one another off to advantage.
Should the guest desire to feast his eyes on gorgeous splendor or magnificent grandeur, a typical Japanese room is the wrong place to look for it. It is a place where the atmosphere is conducive to serenity of mind; where art may be appreciated without distraction.
The host and his wife join the visitors and are seated with them. The daughter takes her position in front of the movable brazier, or stationary hearth, as the case may be. The necessary utensils are laid in their proper places all ready for the young lady to serve usucha, or thin tea. After lifting the kettle and putting it on the kamashiki, the young lady sees if the fire needs to be replenished. As a rule she adds a few pieces of charcoal. Sweets served on a lacquered tray are brought in. The guest seated nearest the alcove is the first person to take his portion and put it on a piece of paper. Japanese guests are expected to have their own paper ready for use, but to strangers paper will be furnished by the host or hostess, who will also show them how to use it. The tray is passed from one guest to another until all the guests have taken their own portions of sweets.
The young lady puts three spoonfuls of powdered tea in the bowl. As we watch her further, she puts the dipper deep into the kettle and takes it out overflowing with hot water. About one-third of the hot water is poured over the tea-powder in the bowl, two-thirds being returned to the kettle. The mixture is now vigorously stirred or beaten until it becomes frothy. The operation is similar to that of whipping cream or beating eggs.
The preparation, which is now ready for the guests to drink, may look repugnant to those who have never tried powdered tea before. One has to acquire the taste for powdered tea as for many other delicacies. Should any guest fear to try more than one sip, the author would suggest that he put the bowl down without trying to finish the contents. A broad-minded host or hostess never considers such an act as impolite.
In "The complete journal of Townsend Harris", published a few years ago in New York, there are interesting references to powdered tea served by officials of the Tokugawa Government. Harris was the first Consul-General and Minister of the United States to Japan. On the occasion of his first official call on Prime Minister Hotta on December 4, 1847, powdered tea was served in a room adjoining the reception chamber. Those who try powdered tea for the first time will be interested in his original way of describing it. The following is what Townsend Harris says in his Journal:
"Soon afterwards the Japanese great tea luxury was served to me. It is made of very fine tea reduced to powder, on which boiling water is poured and forms what may be called a tea gruel, -- the taste was much better than the looks."
The sweets distributed as described previously are to be eaten before drinking tea. Very often two or more bowls of a different shape or glaze are used. While the young lady in charge is preparing the tea for the second guest, the first guest is drinking his tea. When the empty bowl is returned by the first guest, it will be properly rinsed and used for the third guest, and so on.
The proper way to hold a tea bowl is to put it on the palm of the left hand and protect it with the right hand. There is common sense in the etiquette, as this is the safest way of handling it. If you hold a tea-bowl with two or three fingers only, as is often done by those unfamiliar with the etiquette, you might drop it, which would be serious, were the object a special treasure, as it often is.
After each guest has drunk his tea, he is expected to put the bowl right in front of him in order to look at it carefully, the idea being to admire it. He is at liberty to turn the bowl over to examine the bottom. It will be helpful to remember that the host is proud of the bowl, caddy and spoon selected for the occasion. It is customary for the guests to ask for the privilege of closely examining the caddy and spoon when the serving operation is over, and the lid is put back on the receptacle of fresh water. The young lady and her parents will be pleased to answer any questions or give interesting historical details connected with previous owners, who may date from hundreds of years back.
The time comes to take leave of the host and his family, but before closing the chapter, it may not be quite out of place to make some brief remarks about the food value of tea.
The tea acts on some nervous systems as does strong coffee. It may be unwise to drink strong tea late in the evening, but it has long been proved empirically that any kind of tea drunk regularly in a moderate measure is conducive to health. According to recent researches, conducted scientifically, all kinds of tea are alkaline in a high degree, which is needed to counter-acting the undesirable effects of acid contained in fish and meat. Manganese contained in tea kills microbes, and iron, in which tea is rich, has an important rôle to play in purifying the blood. It has also been discovered that Japanese green tea, of which the best and tenderest leaves are pulverized for ceremonial tea, contains vitamins A and C in a liberal measure. The ancient Chinese treatise on Materia Medica, which sets forth the medicinal value of tea, has a sound scientific basis.
V. When Koicha is Served
Cha-no-yu would, indeed, be a polite, but dull pastime, were it merely a systematized performance or conventional etiquette to serve powdered tea. To those who observe but young women taking lessons, or are present when powdered tea is served as a sort of sideshow at a Western-style reception or similar party, it is natural that Cha-no-yu, with its complicated ritual, should seem to belong to the strange customs of the country.
It is hoped that readers have now a fairly good idea of the way in which powdered tea is served in an informal way. Those who have been present at an entertainment as described in the foregoing chapter have a more concrete idea of this phase of Japanese home life. In order to get a deeper insight into the home life of the Japanese people, as reflected in the tea cult, it is necessary to have an opportunity to participate in a regular Cha-no-yu party, at which koicha, or thick tea, is served, in addition to the typical meal known as kaiseki. A Cha-no-yu party is an exclusive one. It is not easy to receive an invitation, and a stranger would be quite ill at ease, even though fortunate enough to receive an invitation, were he not properly piloted. As will be seen later, only one or two of those totally unfamiliar with the general practice could join a small party of five or six.
Five is the usual number of guests, and the host has a definite object in arranging an entertainment. The first thing the host does is to select the principal guest. Choosing the other guests congenial to the principal is the next important matter.
Those who are only familiar with the busy activities in Tokyo's modern office building (scarcely different from those in New York or London), would hardly be able to recognize financial magnates or captains of industry in the midst of the tea atmosphere. Rival politicians are different men when they come together at a Cha-no-yu party. Nothing suggests business or politics. The host and guests are dressed as becomes the ceremony, i.e. in a comfortable silk kimono, of sober hue. When the men change from the closefitting Western suits, which they wear at the office, they experience a physical and mental relaxation, that effects a transfiguration in their appearance.
Our host then is a wealthy industrialist, whose residence is one of the finest in Tokyo. On arrival the main front door is not opened to the guests. They are directed to proceed unattended to a small waiting-place in a quiet corner of the garden. It is at this point that the guests begin to lose contact with the outside world.
As the guests arrive, one by one, and assemble in the yoritsuki, or waiting-room, they greet one another, expressing the joy of sharing the hospitality of their host. This yoritsuki is, perhaps, a small room with three mats, but the guests are expected to inspect and admire the various articles tastefully arranged. Indifference is a deadly sin, and the host will be greatly disappointed if his guests fail to take interest in anything shown, or are incapable of appreciating his thoughtfulness in arranging the smallest details of the entertainment. In due time the host comes, and quietly opens the paper sliding-door. He makes a deep bow, and retraces his steps to the tea-room without saying anything to the guests. This silent salutation is understood to mean that the host is ready to receive the guests in the tea-room. The shokyaku, who is qualified for leadership, heads the procession in single file to the tea-room and he holds the responsible position until the entertainment is over, which usually takes about four hours.
The roji, or garden path between the waiting-place and the tea-room, may not be longer than twenty feet, but this is a spot where the Japanese art of landscape gardening creates an atmosphere conducive to a peaceful and contemplative frame of mind, so necessary to an enjoyment or appreciation of the entertainment in the tea-room. Rocks, trees, stone-lanterns, etc. are skilfully arranged so as to form a charming combination of Nature and Art. The whole is highly artistic, and not artificial, provided of course the garden is the work of a first-class landscape artist and is under constant care.
Communication with nature is expected of those about to enter the tea-room, and the procession is silent; for the guests' serenity of mind is not to be disturbed. No funeral procession could be more quiet. Were the guests to be asked if this was really an "entertainment", they would emphatically answer that it was so. As they approach the tea-room, they come to a point where there is a stone basin close by a stone-lantern. The basin, which is filled with water, or constantly replenished by water running through a stem of bamboo, is a washing-place provided for the guests to purify themselves before entering the tea-room. Of course, the leader begins the formality of purification, and he is the first to enter the room. The other guests come to the basin, one by one, to wash their hands and rinse their mouths. This basin is the most important part of the garden path, and where the guests are supposed to be capable of appreciating the painstaking ingenuity of the artist in his arrangement of rocks, trees, and water.
The common or standard area of a cha-shitsu, or tea-room, is four and a half mats, measuring approximately 9.5 feet square. Smaller rooms are not uncommon, and in nearly all cases the uninitiated will be disappointed with the unimpressive and almost barren appearance inside and outside. It requires some training to discover the subtle beauty and refinement hidden beneath the apparent poverty. The entrance to the tea-room is so small that the guests have to creep in.
Each guest kneels in front of the tokonoma (alcove) and looks reverently at the kakemono. In the cult of powdered tea, there is a rule not to have at the same time both the hanging scroll and flower arrangement in the alcove. Those not versed in the classical literature of Japan and China may not be able to appreciate the appropriateness of the inscription on the hanging scroll, though any person with ordinary artistic sense will be struck by the simple but highly effective and refined arrangement of the flowers which the guests will find in place of the kakemono when they come back for the second session. There is nothing gorgeous or magnificent in the room, but a careful observer will discover that all things there are so placed as to set one another off. Only a true cha-jin knows how to entertain his guests with a twig of the camellia having one bud half open, and a few leaves in a small vase, which is severely plain.
The next thing to admire is the tiny incense-holder, which the guests find on a side shelf. When the contents are emptied into the hearth in honour of the guests, the leader will ask the host for the privilege of examining it. A small piece of silk called fukusa is always used for protection in placing the incense-holder on the tatami, or when holding it in the hands in order to examine it.
A few remarks about the kaiseki meal, served as soon as the guests are properly seated, may not be out of place here. This meal, which forms an important part of the entertainment, is prepared with the greatest care. There are not so many courses as in a conventional Japanese feast, and the guests are expected to leave no dish unfinished. One peculiarity of the kaiseki is the custom requiring the host to bring everything in himself. The tea-room is accessible to none but the host while the entertainment is going on. He enters and leaves from time to time, but does not eat with the guests.
When the meal is over, each guest puts in order all empty dishes and bowls on his tray, which the host will remove one by one to the adjoining room. When sweets are served, the first session closes, then, at the host's suggestion, the guests retire to the waiting-room, as before, or to another place where a bench is provided. Usually a gong, which is often an antique work of art, is hung near the tea-room in order to give the signal for the guests to return. Five or seven strokes are usually given. As soon as the first stroke is heard, the guests are expected to stop chatting or smoking and listen attentively in a reverent attitude. It is the signal that the host is ready to serve the koicha, or thick tea. Care is taken not to make the strokes too strong or too weak. When struck by a practised hand, an ancient gong of rare quality produces rich and pleasant tones which make the listeners feel as if they were in a cloister or forest.
The formality of purification is repeated, and the guests enter the tea-room in the same order as for the first session. On entering, led by the shokyaku, the guests find that the hanging scroll is gone. The flower arrangement, which has taken its place in the alcove, is the first sight to welcome the guests. This order is reversed when the entertainment is given late in the afternoon.
Mizusashi, or the receptacles for fresh water, and cha-ire, or the tea-caddy are seen in the right place before the host enters with the tea-bowl held in both hands. The three following articles are brought in with the tea-bowl -- chasen, or tea-whisk; cha-kin, or tea-cloth; cha-shaku, or tea-spoon. The host retires to the adjoining room, to reappear immediately with koboshi, the receptacle for waste water; hishaku, the dipper; and futaoki, a small piece of bamboo or pottery to form a stand for the cover of the kettle, or the dipper. Of all these articles, the receptacles for fresh water and waste water may often be made of plain wood. The bamboo dipper, whisk, and tea-cloth must be brand-new and scrupulously clean. But the caddy, bowl, and spoon, which the guests are privileged to examine closely after tea is served, are, as a rule, valuable objects of art. These three articles, as well as the incense-holder mentioned previously, are carefully selected by the host after a deep study of his treasures. There are certain preliminary actions before tea is served which, to the observer, add to the interest of the ceremony.
In an atmosphere conducive to restfulness and calm the guests listen to the "soughing of the wind in the pines", as the music of the boiling water is poetically called. The host is, of course, proud of his kettle and hearth. No guest incapable of appreciating the artistic design of the antique kettle, or of discovering a subtle charm in the wooden framework of the hearth, is considered worthy of invitation. The hearth is deep, square fire-box, and in order that it may fix into the floor, a corner of the tatami, or straw mat, is cut out. The stationary hearth is covered with a complete piece of tatami when a movable fire-brazier is used from early summer to late autumn.
When the tea, resembling thick spinach soup in consistency, as well as in colour, is made, as briefly described elsewhere, the host places it in front of the principal guest. The guest makes a bow to his fellow-guests and puts the bowl on the palm of his left hand. Supporting one side of the bowl with the right hand, he takes one sip, complementing the host on the excellent flavour, right consistency, and so on. After taking two or more sips, the bowl is passed on to the second guest, thence to the third, and so on, until all have partaken. Those who are familiar with the ancient custom of handling round the loving-cup, which still prevails in England, will note an interesting analogy in the Japanese way of drinking thick, powdered tea from a common bowl. The ceremony thereby resembles the sacrament of Holy Communion, in which the communicants drink from the common cup or chalice.
The leader must not forget to request the host to give him the privilege of examining closely the tea-bowl. It is usually scrutinized and turned upside down for closer inspection. By no means should it be held up high lest it be dropped and so cause a serious accident. When the bowl comes to the last guest, he takes it to the leader, who then returns it to the host. In a similar way, the caddy and spoon are examined by each guest. Would any outsider believe that a cha-shaku, which is a slender piece of plain-looking bamboo not longer than eight inches, is often sold for ten thousand yen or more? ¥ 189,900 is, perhaps, the highest price ever paid for one tea-bowl -- sold a couple of years ago at a public auction of the possessions of an aristocratic family of ancient origin.
The caddy is just as important as the bowl in Cha-no-yu, but those not familiar with the tea cult might wonder why the host is so proud of a cracked bowl mended in three or four places, or of a plain-looking caddy of dark brown glaze with a few grey streaks. In addition to the beauty of these utensils which charm devotees of the tea cult, guests are deeply interested in the romances recorded of distinguished owners in the olden days. The caddy may be one of those precious gifts which a victorious general received from his chief, such as Hideyoshi or Nobunaga, in place of a feudal domain, and was miraculously saved later when his castle was destroyed by an enemy. Or the bowl may be associated with a romance of intense but friendly rivalry between two modern millionaires, who vied with each other in acquiring it from the previous owner. The guests will share the host's pride, if the bowl used is a family treasure once owned by an ancestor a century ago and recently recovered by some happy circumstance.
If the flower-vase is an antique celadon of Chinese origin, it will attract the attention of any ordinary student of ceramics. But it is natural that those who have not acquired the taste for simplicity should wonder why votaries of the tea cult pay fabulous prices for a china vase of rugged and fantastic shape, or for a piece of plain old bamboo. A bamboo vase may have historic associations of profound interest, dating back two or three centuries. It may be that the vase was fashioned by Kobori Enshu, a feudal noble who left the impress of his unique genius on the tea cult of Japan. Interest in the vase in question will thereby be enhanced if it is associated with some important event in the nation's history, which is often so.
In these commercial days, many will think that the logical place for a rusty old kettle is a junk shop, while it is likely that those who have never before been at a Cha-no-yu party will be indifferent to the tiny incense-holder, which the principal guest examines with the deepest interest and greatest care. Nor would any guest remain indifferent, were he told that the kettle in which the water was boiling was a souvenir conferred as a token of appreciation by the Tokugawa Shogun three centuries ago. A spoon used to transfer the tea powder from the caddy to the bowl is a slender piece of bamboo not longer than eight inches. Some spoons fashioned by distinguished votaries or ancient masters are highly prized. Ten thousand dollars or more are often ungrudgingly paid for an historic spoon, into which work an ancient master has put his very soul.
All these treasures furnish inexhaustible topics of conversation and absorb the participants in questions of art and history. It is in this rare atmosphere of congeniality that the thick tea is served.
When the bowl, caddy and spoon are returned to the host in the prescribed fashion, the Cha-no-yu entertainment is over, properly speaking. Usucha, or thin tea, which is usually served more informally in the same small room, or a larger room, does not constitute an important part. It gives an excellent opportunity to chat more freely, and also enables other members of the host's family to mingle with the guests, which is impossible until the thick tea course is over. It is not uncommon nowadays to omit the thin tea course, partly to save time for busy people.
When the party breaks up and the guests are gone, the serious-minded host returns to the tea-room and sits alone in front of the kettle, which is now his sole companion. Indulging in philosophic meditation, he listens "to the wind in the pines", as the music of the boiling water heard in this quiet environment is poetically called.
VI. New Methods for New Times
There is subtle charm conducive to restfulness in a Japanese room in which there are neither chairs nor tables, and where the space is limited. It is likely, however, that the Western mode of living will prevail in Japan side by side with the Japanese way for a long time without coming into conflict.
In this connection, it is interesting to note the recent tendency to give a Cha-no-yu entertainment, using tables and chairs. In some homes the host makes tea on the tatami in the regular Japanese way, but provides tables and stools or chairs for those guests who find the Japanese way of sitting uncomfortable. This is, however, a poor makeshift, and not without some incongruity. There is another way in which the host or hostess sits at the serving able, on which the necessary utensils are arranged conveniently. This style was devised about sixty years ago by a tea-master of the Ura Senke School in Kyoto, but has scarcely been improved since it was originally devised as a makeshift only. It is natural that some tea-masters and devotees of the orthodox type should attach little importance to the practice of using tables and chairs, for they do not quite harmonize with a Japanese room. Among other things, the presence of tables and stools spoils the artistic effect of the alcove decoration, which is the most important part of a Japanese room.
In Tokyo there is a tea-master who is a man of original ideas. For some time he has been giving lesson in Cha-no-yu to several Western ladies, and has already introduced some innovations. The author was present at such a party recently conducted by this tea-master in the drawing-room of a regular Western-style house. He had to deviate to a great extent from the practice as handed down by the originator, yet he proved highly successful in adapting the tea ceremony of Japan to the Western way of living. The whole procedure was in harmony with the room. In making the necessary preparation the first thing he did was to remove many articles usually displayed in the room. The mantelpiece, on which he put nothing but a bamboo vase, with a few flowers arranged simply, looked most attractive and effective. It was found that this use of the mantelpiece is far more satisfactory than the conventional way of placing the flower-vase in a corner of the serving table. A suggestion was made by one of the guests that a separate stand for the flower arrangement might be equally successful. It was also realized that the serving table in front of the fireplace was highly harmonious and convenient, while the guests seated irregularly in the room looked better than when seated close to each other as it at a dinner table. The serving table used was of the conventional size and shape, consisting of black-lacquered boards, upper and lower, supported by plain bamboo legs. Ordinary chairs and tea-tables, which the tea-master found in the drawing-room, were placed here and there for the guests' use. On the occasion to which the writer refers, the hostess was an American lady, and some of the guests were Japanese. The hostess and her guests presented a most pleasing and picturesque sight, their Western dresses being perfectly in keeping with the room.
All those present were in favour of the new style. It was indeed a revelation to see that the practice of serving ceremonial tea in a Western-style room was so full of possibilities. In the present instance usucha or thin tea, was served informally, in accordance with the general practice, and it will be extremely interesting to make a deeper study with a view to adapting it to the more formal way of serving koicha, or thick tea.
It may be that there is little room for improvement in the preparation of kaiseki, the typical meal of Cha-no-yu, and for which the choicest materials are used. Some departure from the original procedure will, however, be necessary in serving the meal. The new style is not yet free from incongruous and crude features. Tea-masters and devotees, many of whom are proverbially resourceful and gifted with original ideas, will be able to make the new way more harmonious with the changing mode of living in Japan. Those of Western birth and upbringing are in an advantageous position to make contributions to the ancient Japanese cult of ceremonial tea.
There are a few small houses specially built for Cha-no-yu, in which the floors are so arranged as to make it unnecessary for the guests to take off their shoes. Tables and chairs are found convenient when wearing Western-style clothes, and make it unnecessary to kneel in the proper Japanese manner. Alcoves are raised very much higher than the standard tokonoma, so that hanging scrolls can be displayed more conveniently for those sitting in chairs. Visitors to the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago will remember a similar house. There, the powdered tea served was more comfortably enjoyed by American guests who did not care to conform strictly to the typical Japanese mode of living.
It is hoped that in addition to the old-fashioned manner of giving a Cha-no-yu party, which is in a highly developed state due to the refining process continued for centuries, the new method, briefly sketched above, may be more widely adopted by those who live in Western-style houses. Is it not to the advantage of tea-master and devotees of tea to co-operate harmoniously in order to make the new way more attractive and practical?
VII. Simplicity, the Key-Note
In addition to a brief historical survey of Cha-no-yu as it has come down to the present generation from the early master, we have seen how lessons are given, and how the entertainments are conducted. It would, however, be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to appreciate the fundamental ideals and traditions of Cha-no-yu without knowing something of the philosophy of life and art according to Zen Buddhism.
Meditation and introspection are stressed in the Zen philosophy, and the habit of individual and independent thinking is cultivated. It is natural that the inadequacy of words as vehicles of expression should be recognized. In the mental discipline of Zen, concentration is considered more important than anything else, and devotees are taught to cultivate direct communion with the inner nature of things in order to arrive at truth. The value of suggestion and intuition are therefore emphasized by those who follow Zen traditions.
Cha-no-yu is now a secular pastime, as we have seen. Neither religion nor philosophy has much to do with the cult as it is today. However, the canon of preferring plainness and austere simplicity to elaborate decoration cannot be accounted for except as being of Zen origin.
Paintings in black and white by Zen monks and artists, creating an atmosphere of transcendental calm, are highly prized for their simple, but subtle and suggestive beauty. For the same reason, hanging scrolls bearing inscriptions by the ancient Zen monks are still used for Cha-no-yu parties. The sentiments expressed may be moral or religious, but they are characterized by untrammelled aloofness from dogmas and creeds, and exercise a liberating influence upon the mind. The free and natural strokes of the ideographs, which are different from the more regular styles of the ordinary calligraphers, suggest the writer's freedom from worldly emotion and passion.
Only a small section of the Japanese people understand the institution of Cha-no-yu, but the common intuition of seeing true beauty in severe simplicity and refined poverty may be considered a racial trait. This characteristic phase of Japanese life may also be traced to the ideals inculcated by the early masters through the medium of the tea ceremony.
With the introduction of Western modes of civilization Japan has undergone changes in many directions; the beauty of chaste simplicity is often sacrificed to ugly vulgarism, which characterizes all cheap copies and imperfect adaptations. Nevertheless, the inborn love of simplicity is so deep-rooted that it is discernible, not only in the art and architecture of Japan, but also in the daily life of the Japanese people. The influence of the tea cult is to be seen in the Japanese home even though nothing be known of ceremonial tea.
Having observed the tea-master's way of training his pupils, and having taken part in more than one entertainment, the readers will have noted that Cha-no-yu is related to nearly all branches of arts and crafts, as well as to various phases of Japanese home life. It is its many-sidedness that makes Cha-no-yu one of the most interesting aesthetic pursuits.
The love of chaste and refined simplicity, which is the key-note of the Japanese cult of ceremonial tea, has exercised a wholesome influence upon architecture, pottery, landscape gardening etc. For those who are satiated with looking at elaborate, tawdry and pretentious works of art, it is a relief to discover subtle beauty and refinement under an inornate and almost barren aspect. When accomplished tea-masters and devotees give entertainments, they know how to attain artistic effect without depending upon what is colourful and gaudy.
Pottery is perhaps the most important of the industrial arts allied with Cha-no-yu. The ceramic art of Japan is greatly indebted to tea-masters and devotees for its refined taste, which has inspired artisans. Some knowledge of ceramics is therefore essential for the full enjoyment of a Cha-no-yu entertainment, at which by far the larger part of the utensils are of pottery. Any guest not interested in pottery will disappoint his host. Such a guest invariably fails to appreciate the tea-bowl, caddy, receptacle for fresh water, etc., of which the host is highly and justly proud.
There are builders and carpenters specially trained to build houses for ceremonial tea. In order to appreciate that artistic value of the work of these specialists, one has to acquire the taste for a plain style of architecture. It is natural that a devotee who is about to have his own Cha-no-yu house should make an intensive study by paying careful attention to the minutest details of the building plan.
Nor is the art of landscape gardening less important. The fundamental principles as evolved by ancient masters like Rikyu and Enshu are observed today in laying out new gardens. The deeper our knowledge of the Japanese art of landscape gardening, the greater will be our enjoyment when invited to inspect any garden, even though not connected with Cha-no-yu.
None but a person with an artistic sense strongly developed is capable of arranging flowers in a simple but highly effective way, which is so characteristic of the alcove decoration at a Cha-no-yu party. Should a guest fail to appreciate the vase and flowers arranged in them, his host might never invite him again.
No host would blame those unfamiliar with the Japanese language and literature for their indifference to hanging scrolls bearing inscriptions. A knowledge of textiles will, however, be helpful in appreciating the quality of the ancient brocade used in mounting them.
Devotees of the tea cult are also expected to be connoisseurs of lacquer ware, and those with scanty knowledge of iron and bronze will be incapable of admiring the antique kettles and vases of rare value.
The art of cookery is one of the most important subjects, because the kaiseki meal is served at a regular Cha-no-yu party. Those but slightly interested in the culinary art will make unsuccessful hosts, no matter how superior they may be in their possession of rare works of art. Fastidious epicures who praise an excellent menu might disappoint their host, should they remain insusceptible to the artistic superiority of the china dishes and lacquer bowls selected for the meal.
It will therefore be realized how profound a devotee's aesthetic pleasure may be, if he makes a study of one subject after another allied with the tea cult, which has exercised a deep refining influence upon the arts and crafts of Japan for hundred of years. It is sincerely hoped therefore that facilities to become more familiar with Cha-no-yu may be extended to those who desire to penetrate more deeply into the cultural life of the Japanese people.
Glossary of Cha-no-yu Terms
Chashaku. Spoon made of bamboo or ivory for use in transferring powdered tea from the caddy to the bowl.
Chasen. Whisk made of plain bamboo, which is used to beat or knead the mixture of powdered tea and hot water.
Chasitsu. Tea-room or a separate structure specially designed to serve powdered tea.
Cha-ire. Tea caddy, a small receptacle for powdered tea used in the tea-room. It is one of the most important articles in the tea ceremony. The caddy used for containing the powder for thick tea is called cha-ire, but that for thin tea is called cha-ki.
Chajin. "Tea-man"; a devotee of Cha-no-yu.
Chakin. Tea-cloth, a small oblong piece of plain white linen used to wipe the tea-bowl.
Chaseki. The same as chashitsu.
Chawan. Tea-bowl, invariably of pottery.
Choshi. Receptacle with a handle and a spout used to serve saké. Usually made of iron.
Dora. Gong which the host strikes as a signal for the guests to re-enter the tea-room
Fukusa. A small piece of silk, doubled almost square, used in the tea ceremony, but different from the wrapping cloth of the same name. In the tea ceremony two different pieces are used by the host.
Furo. A movable charcoal-brazier, which is used during the warmer season instead of the stationary fire-box.
Fusuma. Sliding-doors, the frame-work of which is covered with several layers of paper, the outer layer usually bearing decorative patterns or pictures. Fusuma are used between rooms, where it is not necessary to admit the light.
Futa-oki. A small piece of bamboo, china or metal, on which is placed the dipper or the cover of the kettle, as the occasion may require.
Geta. Japanese wooden foot-gear.
Haboki. Feather brush, of which there are two sizes. The larger is used to dust the tatami. The smaller, which consists of three layers of feather, is used to dust the stationary fire-box or the movable brazier.
Haiki. A kind of dish or shallow bowl, which is filled with a special ash to be sprinkled over the ordinary kind previously put in the hearth.
Haisaji. A large spoon used to lift the special ash from the ash-bowl.
Haizara. The same as haiki.
Hakama. A pleated skirt worn by men.
Haori. An upper garment worn over the kimono.
Hibachi. Fire-box or brazier in which charcoal burns.
Hibashi. A pair of tongs.
Hishaku. A dipper made of bamboo or wood. A bamboo dipper is used in the tea-room for the kettle. A wooden dipper is provided for the stone-basin.
Jubako. A set of two or more lacquered boxes with lid, used as receptacles for different kinds of food. They are usually square.
Kaiseki. Simple but carefully prepared meal served at a Cha-no-yu party before thick tea.
Kakemono. A painting or example of handwriting mounted as a hanging scroll.
Kama. A kettle to boil water, usually made of iron; such kettles are also made of gold or silver.
Kamashiki. Usually an antique article, or a fresh pad of paper, on which the kettle is placed when lifted from the hearth.
Kan. A pair of rings used to lift the kettle.
Kasa. A broad-rimmed hat, almost flat, usually made of bamboo. Used in case of rain when proceeding from the waiting-place to the tea-room.
Kobako. The same as kogo.
Koboshi. Receptacle for waste-water used in the tea-room.
Kogo. Also called kobako. An incense-holder, of porcelain or lacquer, very small, but usually a rare object of art, and one of the most important articles used in the tea ceremony.
Koicha. Thick tea; so named because of its pasty consistency. A smaller quantity of hot water is mixed with it than for usucha, or thin tea.
Konomono. Pickled vegetables.
Kosen. A flavoured drink served in the waiting-place before guests proceed to the tea-room.
Meibutsu. Celebrated caddies and bowls of ancient origin, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, with specific names, histories and descriptions recorded by connoisseurs and collectors.
Mizusashi. Water-jar, usually of chinaware; any receptacle for fresh water used in the tea-room.
Mizuya. "Water-room", a service-room adjoining the tea-room. Utensils for the entertainment are washed and arranged in this room.
Nakadachi. The interval of ten to fifteen minutes between the kaiseki repast and the ceremonial tea proper. This is a recess for which the guests leave the tea-room, and spend the time smoking or chatting on a bench specially provided.
Nijiriguchi. Miniature entrance to the tea-room. It is more like a window, through which the guests crouch as they enter.
Ro. A square fire-box, or hearth, fitted into the floor by removing a corner of the tatami.
Roji. Garden path; a section of the garden connecting the waiting-room and the tea-room.
Ryu. A school or system.
Sakazuki. Cup to drink saké.
Sake-tsugi. The same as tokuri
Sensu. A folding fan.
Shiru. Soup made of bean paste called miso.
Shoji. Sliding-doors, the frame-work of which is covered with a single layer of white paper. Shoji are used, where the light has to be admitted.
Shokyaku. Principal guest, whose function of leadership is highly important. In addition to being the guest of honour, he is the leader of all the guests.
Sosho. Professional tea-master.
Suimono. Light, clear soup.
Sukiya. A small house, often detached, with a small room and the necessary facilities specially designed to serve powdered tea.
Suzuribako. A box provided with an ink-stone, a cake of china ink, and some writing brushes.
Tabako-bon. Tobacco-tray; a deep tray with a handle in which a small fire-pot is placed.
Tabi. Japanese socks with a division for the big toe; a close-fitting cover for the feet. The appropriate colour is white.
Tatami. Standard floor matting, one piece measuring about 6 feet by 3 feet; coarse rice straw bound together approximately 2 inches thick and covered with a fine mat of reed.
Tobi-ishi. Stepping-stone in the garden.
Tokonoma. Alcove; the part of a room raised a few inches above the floor as a kind of platform, a place reserved for flowers and a hanging scroll.
Tokuri. Bottle used to serve saké.
Tome-ishi. An indicating stone; a small stone placed on a stepping-stone at a point where the garden path branches off and the guest might take the wrong path.
Tsukubai. Stone-basin filled with water for guests to wash their hands and rinse their mouth on the way to the tea-room from the waiting-place.
Tsume. The guest who takes the end seat in the tea-room. O-tsume is the polite form of the word. His rank is not high, but the function is just as important as that of shokyaku. He is expected to assist the host in many ways, and only an experienced person can fill this office successfully.
Usucha. Thin tea, not so pasty as koicha, but stronger, because of the different quality of tea used.
Wan. The food in a lacquered bowl with cover. The food served in this vessel is also called wanmori in meals served at Cha-no-yu entertainments.
Wanmori. The same as Wan.
Yoritsuki. Waiting-place or writing-room where guests assemble before proceeding to the tea-room.
Zabuton. Square cushion used to sit upon.
Zen. This is a corruption of the Sanscrit word "Dhyana" meaning meditation, which was introduced through China. The Zen sect is an intuitive school of Buddhist meditation introduced into China from India in the sixth century. Individual and independent thinking is stressed to the highest degree in the mental discipline of Zen philosophy. The value of suggestion and intuition in art is emphasized by those who follow the Zen traditions. This cultivates chaste and severe simplicity in preference to elaborate decoration.
Zenrei. Etiquette of the personal call on the host previous to a tea-party "to thank him in advance" for the invitation.
Zori. Straw sandals.