Exploring Culture: A tea ceremony

Japan is pretty well known for its traditions that revolve around procedure and tradition with notable examples being the art of bonsai (growing an cutting miniature trees) or kendo (the way of the sword).  Yet Japan also has some other interesting arts like the Way of the Tea.

The tea ceremony in Japan revolves around elaborate procedures as well as a variety of different activities that can be done such as flower arranging, calligraphy writing and of course the actual tea drinking. The entire procedure takes several steps that reflect Japanese traditions and are meant to show respect as well as grace. However it can also be a little off-putting and frustrating to go through all of this just to drink tea.

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Calligraphy demonstration

While in Japan, fellow university students and I were able to participate in a tea ceremony at a beautiful venue with a traditional garden and koi pond overlooked by a tatami-floored building. After purifying ourselves by washing our hands and rinsing out our mouths, we proceeded to eat a meal of several courses, accompanied with sake. This was followed by a sweet called wagashi.

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A wagashi sweet

Following the meal, we arrived at the tea drinking room of the house where the host ceremonially cleaned all of the utensils that were to be used for the tea, we were also shown how to do it ourselves. After bowing to the host and the host in turn bowing to us, we were able to drink tea though each guest had to drink from the same bowl; the important thing to note here is the procedure of turning the bowl to not drink from the front and wiping it clean after drinking and passing it to the next person.

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Wearing traditional kimonos

The whole ceremony can take several hours but it was interesting as it allowed those of us who attended to get a better understanding of the complexity and variety of rules that exist in Japan for the seemingly simple action of drinking tea.

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