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The Different Types of Japanese Tea Ceremony

Posted by Path of Cha on

Following our previous post Simplicity and Seasonality in Japanese Tea Ceremony, today we will go into greater detail about the different types of tea ceremonies that exist in Japan to this day. 

 

Overall there are two main types of tea ceremonies in Japan: an informal tea gathering chakai, and a formal tea gathering chaji. Chakai is a more simple tea gathering which will include some sweets and thin tea (usucha). While chaji is much more formal, usually including a full-course kaiseki meal followed by sweets, thick tea (koicha), and thin tea. A chaji is often times around four hours long, with guests taking small breaks to walk around in the garden by the tea hut.

Aside from the two main types of tea ceremonies there are also many other kinds of tea ceremonies which are held in Japan depending on the occasion, season, and time of day.


Akatsuki-no-chaji or dawn tea ceremony in winter

This tea ceremony is held in the early morning of a cold winter day. Surrounded by the candlelight, tea is enjoyed while the subtle winter sun is slowly starting to rise and peak through the tiny windows of the tea hut.


Yuuzari-no-chaji or early-evening tea ceremony in the warmer months

Opposite of the winter dawn tea ceremony, this gathering allows you to slowly transition from the bright summer sun to the candlelight, while enjoying tea on a hot summer night and listening to the loud cries of the cicadas.


Asa-cha or early-morning summer tea ceremony

Asa-cha is held for the tea guests to appreciate the yet cool morning of the hot summer heat to come. It is quite a challenge to practice tea ceremony during the humid hot summers of Japan when most tea huts are quite small and hold hot burning charcoal for the tea kettle.


Shoburo or first use of the portable brazier in the year (held in May)

This tea ceremony is held to honor the first use of the furo (portable brazier) in the New Year of tea, which falls around May.


Kuchikiri-no-chaji or the tea ceremony honoring the breaking of the seal on a jar of new tea (held in November)

Tea that has been harvested in Spring is then stored in a jar and kept in a cool place inside of or around the tea hut. Around November 7 or 8, the new season of tea begins. To celebrate the beginning of a new tea season, the seal on the jar is broken and the fresh new tea is used for the first time. The seal breaking is called kuchikiri. A chaji (formal tea gathering) always follows this ceremonious event.

In preparation for this special tea event, the tea hut gets completely renovated with new tatami mats, sliding doors, and bamboo fences. This is the most formal tea event of the year and is also the model for the Japanese tea ceremony.

 


Nagori-no-chaji or tea ceremony in honor of the last remains of the year's supply of tea and transition into the colder winter months (held in October)

This tea ceremony symbolizes letting go of the old in anticipation of the new. The season outside is changing, trees are becoming barer, the scenery less vivid. And simultaneously the jar opened during the Kuchikiri ceremony is now almost empty. There is sadness in parting with the old which gave us much pleasure throughout the year, yet excitement in the anticipation of the new jar to come in the next month.


Yobanashi or winter-evening tea ceremony

This tea ceremony honors the long winter night. Yobanashi starts in the evening and lets us enjoy tea in a dark tea hut lit with candlelight. The steps in the garden following up to the tea hut are also lit with candlelight and lanterns. The dark, cold winter night together with the candlelit surroundings give this ceremony a special mystical feel.


Hatsugama or the boiling of the first kettle

This is a very special and auspicious tea ceremony. Only during Hatsugama will the tea teacher prepare tea and a meal for all the students. It is usually a complete chaji (formal tea gathering). Usually, a full chaji will never be practiced by the students in the span of one class because of how complicated and intricate this tea gathering is, there is simply not enough time to go over all the steps. Thus, only during the Hatsugama will the whole ceremony be performed by the teacher. During Hatsugama, you will see only the finest teaware, foods, incense, and kimono.

 

 

These different types of Japanese tea ceremony don't have to be exclusive to a tea hut setting, or even exclusive to matcha. Why not try one of these ceremonies at home or outside? Experience the peacefulness of greeting the sun with some tea, or perhaps greeting the moon while it gets brighter and brighter...  

 


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