What Is The Japanese Tea Ceremony?

by Bunka Japan May 28, 2021 5 min read

The Japanese tea ceremony (茶道, sadō or chadō, lit. "the way of tea" or 茶の湯, chanoyu) is a centuries-old Japanese tradition. It's a traditional tearoom with a tatami floor where you can prepare and drink green tea in a ceremonial manner.

One of the main aims of the tea ceremony, apart from serving and receiving tea, is for the visitors to admire the host's warmth in a setting that is different from the quick pace of daily life.

The tea ceremony is now common as a hobby, and there are even places where tourists can participate in it.

Many organizations in Japan, including some traditional parks, culture centers, and hotels, deliver tea ceremonies of varying levels of formality and authenticity. Kyoto and Uji are two of the best places to visit in Japan to experience the country's tea culture.

In Kyoto, Tokyo, and Osaka, there are tea houses that sell traditional tea ceremonies and kimono fittings. English is used to clarify the rules and procedures. Hours of operation: 9:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m.


Historical Background

Tea was brought to Japan from China in the eighth century and was mostly consumed by priests and the upper classes as a herbal beverage. The beverage did not gain prominence among citizens of all social classes until the Muromachi Period (1333-1573).

Tea drinking parties were common among the wealthy members of society, where guests would show off their elegant tea bowls and demonstrate their knowledge of tea.

A more sophisticated iteration of tea parties emerged at the same time, with Zen-inspired simplicity and a stronger focus on spirituality. The roots of the tea ceremony can be traced back to these gatherings.

Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), a proponent of austere, rustic simplicity, is credited as the founder of modern tea. His teachings influenced the development of most modern tea ceremony schools, such as Omotesenke and Urasenke.


Equipment Used in Japanese Tea Ceremony

In a Japanese Tea Ceremony, the following equipment is often used. Many of the equipment that could be used during a Japanese tea ceremony will be described in detail below.



This is a small bamboo whisk for whisking the matcha green tea and hot water together quickly.


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The powdered matcha tea is stored in this thin, intricate tea container.


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The matcha tea is scooped into the tea bowls with this little bamboo tea ladle. Simply wipe it off to disinfect it.


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This is the beautifully decorated teacup in which the matcha tea is made and served to the guests.


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A small Japanese confection that is often served alongside tea.


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This Japanese tea kettle is used to warm the filtered water that would be used to produce the tea.


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A Furo, or portable brazier, would be used if the tearoom does not have a stove built into the foundation. It is taken into the room in order to fire up the tea kettle.


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This is a silk fabric that is used to treat the boiling water in the kettle. This can also be used to scrub the tea scoop by the hosts. Typically, it is tucked into the obi (sash).


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Procedure For Doing A Tea Ceremony

A complete, formal tea ceremony lasts several hours and begins with a kaiseki course meal, is accompanied by a bowl of thick tea, and concludes with a bowl of thin tea. Most modern tea ceremonies, on the other hand, are far more condensed affairs that consist of nothing more than the enjoyment of a bowl of thin tea.

A tea ceremony's ritual is detailed down to the smallest hand gestures, which differ slightly between classes. Daily visitors are not required to know the laws in depth in most situations, although a clear understanding of the following points will help make the experience more dignified.


1.  What To Wear

Avoid wearing ostentatious clothing or smelling like a perfume that takes away from the tea experience. Wear conservative clothing, take off any jewelry that might scratch the tea equipment, and avoid wearing heavy perfumes.


2.  In The Backyard

While several modern tea ceremony venues lack a garden, the traditional tea ceremony venue is surrounded by one. To foster a peaceful nature, the garden has been purposefully kept tranquil and plain.

Flowers with bright colors or strong scents are not recommended because they can be distracting. The road leading to the teahouse is composed of stones of various shapes and sizes. A stone lantern stands near a stone basin near the tearoom's entrance, where guests can wash their hands before entering.


3.  Tea Room

A tatami room is usually used for the ceremony. Guests' entrances are often held low enough that they must lean over to join, symbolizing modesty. An alcove (tokonoma) where a scroll or seasonal flowers are placed in one of the decorative features in the tearoom.

The head guest enters the room after bowing and takes the seat nearest to the alcove, accompanied by the other guests.

On the tatami board, guests can sit in a seiza spot. Once visitors have taken their seats, it is customary to bow once more before inspecting the specially chosen decorations for the occasion.


4.  Getting The Tea Ready

In most cases, the host serves the tea in front of the guests. The tea whisk (chasen), tea tub for powdered green tea (Natsume), tea scoop (chashaku), teacup, candy jar or tray, and the kettle and brazier are the key pieces of equipment. Each piece of equipment was chosen with caution based on the circumstances and had a precise location.


5.  Taking Pleasure In The Tea And The Tea Cup

A Japanese sweet is served before tea and should be consumed before the tea is consumed. The tea cup is set in front of you, with the front-facing you, on the tatami mat. In your right hand, pick it up and put it on your left palm.

Switch it clockwise by 90 degrees with your right hand so that the front is no longer facing you. Take a few sips of the tea before returning it to the tatami once you've received and finished your tea, bow and show appreciation.

It would be possible to test and admire the tea cup by raising it at the end of the ceremony. When you're finished, flip the bowl around until the front is facing the host. If visitors do not want another round of tea, the tea ceremony is finished when the host washes the tea utensils and returns the equipment to where it was before it started. 

You can find out what are Japanese tea cups called.

Japanese Tea Cups


The Bottom Line

A traditional tea ceremony in Japan is one of the most important and authentically Japanese encounters for visitors to have. Sad or chad, the Japanese tea ceremony, is profoundly rooted in Japanese society and has a long tradition.

The tea ceremony, which is most commonly held in a tearoom with a tatami mat, is more than just drinking tea; it is a cultural ritual for both the host and the visitor, as well as a symbol of hospitality.

Tea ceremonies, on the other hand, are a part of daily life in Japan, with an emphasis on mindfulness and taking a peaceful moment in the midst of the fast-paced lifestyle.

Tea ceremonies are still practiced in Japan today, though they vary in formality. Tea ceremonies can be found in all parts of Japan, from traditional Japanese gardens to hotels.

Taking a break and enjoying a traditional Japanese tea ceremony is one of the easiest ways to learn Japan authentically.

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