Types of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Throughout the year there are various kinds of ceremonies which have specific names according to the time of day, the occasion of the tea ceremony or the season in which they are held. The first tea ceremony held in January is called Hatsugama 初釜, which translates to “first kettle.” This is the only time when a teacher will prepare tea and a meal for his or her students. Usually the teacher will only give guidance to the students, so this is a very unique event for both the students and the host.

Akatsuki-no-chaji / 暁の茶事 / dawn tea ceremony in winter

Akatsuki tea ceremonyThis is the dawn tea event held in the early morning of a cold winter day to enjoy the breaking of dawn in the tearoom. It is truly an amazing experience to be in the tearoom and drinking tea while the sunlight slowly starts coming through the small windows and the tea utensils start to appear different then just before in the candle-light.

Yuuzari-no-chaji (Yûzari-no-chaji) / 夕ざりの茶事 / early-evening tea ceremony held in the warmer months

yuzari tea ceremonyOpposite from the Akatsuki-no-chaji, here one can experience going from daylight to candle light. It feels as if the normal world fades away and one is entering into the mystical world of tea. Somehow this experience brings you closer to fellow tea worshippers who are in the same room.

Asa-cha / 朝茶 / early-morning summer tea ceremony

asacha morning tea ceremonyAsacha tea gathering is held in the cool morning of the hot summer. Tea ceremonies or just Keiko (practice for students of tea) in summer are really hard since the burning coal in the brazier and the hot tea don’t really help escaping the soaring heat of Japanese summer.

Shoburo / 初風炉 / first use of the portable brazier in the year (may)

shoburo tea ceremonyThis Shoburo tea event celebrates the first use of the Furo (portable brazier) in the New Year of tea. On our modern calendar that would be around May. Japanese love to do everything officially with lots of ceremonial speeches and gestures, so this has also influenced the tea ceremony.

Shougo-no-chaji (Shôgo-no-chaji)/ 正午の茶事 / midday tea ceremony

Kuchikiri-no-chaji / 口切の茶事 / tea ceremony celebrating the breaking of the seal on a jar of new tea (November)

Kuchikiri tea ceremonyTea leaves which are harvested in spring are store in a jar which is then stored in a cool place. These days that might be in or around the teahouse or cooling cellar. Long ago this jar with new leaves was stored in the ground or in the mountains to keep it cool. Around the November 7 or 8, the new season of tea begins and the Ro is used for the first time indicating the start of the winter season. At this time, to celebrate the beginning of a new season of tea, the seal of the jar with new tea plucked in spring is broken and the new, fresh tea is used for the first time. Breaking this seal of the jar is called Kuchikiri. It is accompanied by a full tea ceremony or Chaji with a meal, Kiocha, and Usucha.

For this New Year of tea, the bamboo in the fences and gutters is renewed, the Tatami mats are changed and the Shoji (sliding screen doors) are newly papered. The tea event (Chaji) in this season of both Kuchikiri and Kairo (opening of the hearth) begin at noon and continue for about 4 hours with Kaiseki cuisine, thick tea and thin tea. This “Ro shogo no chaji” is the most formal tea event and is also the basic model for the Japanese tea ceremony.

Nagori-no-chaji / 名残の茶事 / tea ceremony honoring the last remains of the year's supply of tea and to see out the warm months before winter sets in (October)

In the October month at the end of the autumn season, when there is only a little tea left in the jar opened during the Kuchikiri ceremony, we feel sadness from parting (Nagori) with this tea. It is also the time of nature’s seasonal decline, letting go of the old in anticipation of the new.

Yobanashi / 夜咄 / winter-evening tea ceremony

Yobanashi tea ceremonyThis evening ceremony follows the Kuchikiri tea ceremony and is to celebrate the long winter night. Yobanashi starts therefore in the evening to enjoy a tea ceremony at night in a dark tea room with candle light. Usually there are some candles or lanterns in the garden as well to allow the guests to wash their hands at the Tsukubai and to view the objects in the Machiai corner.

Hatsugama / 初釜 / boiling of the first kettle tea ceremony

Hatsugama first tea ceremonyThis meeting is seen as something very special. Hatsugama is the only time when the tea teacher him or herself prepares tea for all her students. In most cases this tea ceremony is a complete Chaji meeting with Kaiseki meal, Nakadachi breaks, and the whole ritual done the way it was learned during classes. It is impossible to teach the whole Chaji at once, therefor it is always broken up into practicing how to prepare Usucha, Koicha, and arranging the charcoal in Sumidemae. Only this time will the whole ritual be performed by the tea teacher with some help of his or her students. It is an opportunity to meet all the other students whom might be studying on different days and for the teacher to point out some of the details about the flow of a full Chaji meeting. Tipical for this meeting is the festive mood, exquisit cuisine, and the curved braided willow branches hung in the alcove.

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