The roots of tea ceremony were in China and appearing in Japan more than 1000 years ago. Having seen the Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies, apart from consuming tea, it is hard to discern what else is in common. The Japanese tea ceremony has evolved in its own way over time with its own purpose and rituals. One can see a form of the tea ceremony in public displays and tourist shows, however, much of the meaning and depth of the ritual can really only be appreciated at a private ceremony.
One of the important components of the Japanese tea ceremony is that during the ceremony the participants are considered equal (without rank). In the days of samurai, the ceremony was very popular and indeed the equality was most evident. The samurai were considered to be of equal standing to that of the tea ceremony hosts, who were monks and wealthy merchants, during the ceremony. In the warring times of the samurai, the ceremony was also a place of peace and the Japanese went to quite some lengths to maintain the peace.
A traditional Japanese tea ceremony room is quite small (3 tatami carpets) or 3m by 2m. Entry to the room is via small door where you need to crawl through on your hands and knees. The small door was designed so that samurai had to take off their swords and other armament in order to get through the opening. Entering on hands and knees was also a sign of humbleness and respect for the host.
The tours take you to spend time with the master where you experience the ceremony and learn the background to the ritual and etiquette. The groups enjoy a peaceful lunch where topics like Zen philosophy, which is closely related to the way of tea, and Japanese arts such as calligraphy and pottery are discussed.
The picture shows one of our tour group members crawling through the small entrance to the tea ceremony room.
You can enjoy a very special tea ceremony on one of our Cherry Blossom or Autumn Colours tours.