Japanese Tea Ceremony
by Carolyn Noe

The Japanese tea ceremony began in the later half of the 15th century and was perfected a century later by Sen no Rikyu. The Japanese tea ceremony is the making of matcha (powdered green tea) for a guest.

The Japanese tea ceremony influenced by Zen Buddhism is a classical example of how something as ordinary as drinking tea can be elevated to an art form. The tea ceremony connects with Zen Buddhism in many ways. Utter simplicity governs the etiquette, utensils and decor of the tea ceremony. The spirit underlying the ceremony is that of discovering beauty in the commonplace of everyday things of everyday life. All of the movements that the host performs in the preparing and serving of the tea are done in a most reverent thinking manner. The entire ceremony is done according to a defined strict ritual that one cannot change.

The four principles that are carried out in the ceremony are as follows: I) harmony 2) reverence 3) purity 4) tranquility. Each principle is defined in movement or in the preparing or serving of the tea. Harmony is associated with the gentleness of spirit in which the ritual is carried out. Reverence is displayed within the harmonious relationship existing between the guest and the host. Purity is defined by the cleanliness and orderliness of the manner in which the tea is prepared and served. Also, purity is defined in the concentration demonstrated in doing one thing at a time throughout the ceremony. Purity is also evident as a principle because the tea is viewed as a way to cleanse the senses. The tranquility principle is fostered in the idea that the tea ceremony is simple and very quiet, very little talking is done.

The Japanese tea ceremony is still performed today in Japan. It is considered essential for the upper class to know how to conduct a tea ceremony. There are numerous training schools for people to attend to learn the art of tea making. Knowledge of the tea ceremony is a vital part of understanding Japanese culture.