November 17, 2012
A while back I had the opportunity to attend a traditional style tea ceremony. For those of you who don’t know, the Japanese tea ceremony is a formal and ritualized tea preparation service. It has been around in Japan for over a millenium. When the ritual is performed, it usually involves the drinking of a powder form of green tea and the eating of a Japanese style sweet. Everything within a tea ceremony has significance. Intricacies that I can only begin to explain. When the tea is being prepared and served, every single motion is deliberate. When receiving the tea, you bow. Before drinking the tea however, it is customary to eat at least a little of the sweet that you are served: the rest is saved for after the tea is finished. Before drinking the tea, it is also customary to admire the dish that it is being served in. While drinking the tea, it should be consumed in three swallows. The next part I’m not entirely positive on, but either before or after (or both) you should rotate the cup three times in your hand. It is also probably required to be either clockwise or counterclockwise, but I don’t know that either. I have also seen people swirl the tea around and smell it before drinking, like you would a fine wine. I do know that when you are holding the tea cup, your left should be flat with your fingers supporting the cup from the bottom, and your right hand should be wrapped around the cup. The way you are sitting should also be the traditional Japanese style of sitting. You will see in the pictures the proper way of doing this but, if you were to be standing with your knees together, from there all you would have to do would be to bend your knees while keeping them together and sit on your feet like that. It is quite uncomfortable to maintain for long periods of time. However, I thought it was just me, because I would see the Japanese sitting like that for very long periods of time with seemingly no discomfort whatsoever. But that was not the case, they’re just used to it.
Anyway, like I said, there is serious depth and intricacy to a proper tea ceremony, and what I explained here is probably the shallowest explanation. The tea ceremony was originally a Zen Buddhist practice I believe, and the real experience, if you have been properly trained, should induce a state of peace and calm.
My pictures are not that great because I was trying to be as proper as I could be, and not be touristy. So most of my shots were hurried so that I would not disturb the others. I was relieved that there were others snapping away.
After the tea ceremony (and with seriously aching legs) we left to go walking around, not sure what to do now since it was still early and later we were going to be meeting with the ICES and KUFSA group for dinner and drinks.
ICES – Inter-Cultural Exchange Society
KUFSA – Kagawa University Foreign Students Association
We do lots of things with them, as that is pretty much what they were formed to do. So while we were waiting, we decided to take a walk through the park and then go to Starbucks. Japan is lovely in the fall.
After our walk and gathering at Starbucks, we went to where we would eat and had a great time. Afterwards, I had my first Karaoke experience in Japan. It is a completely different animal than what you experience in America, especially after a night of drinking with the Japanese…
My night ended on the last train to Yashima with my friend Nara. It had been another great day in Takamatsu!