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Full Japanese tea ceremony (chaji)

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Chaji is a full tea presentation with a meal. As in virtually every tea ceremony, the host may spend days going over minutiae to insure that this ceremony will be perfect. Through tea, recognition is given that every human encounter is a singular occasion which can, and will, never recur again exactly. Thus every aspect of tea must be savored for what it gives the participants.

Preparing the ceremony Edit

The chaji (full ceremony) takes place in a room designed and designated for tea. It is called the chashitsu. Usually this room is within the tea house, located away from the residence, in the garden.

The guests (never more than five, but three or four are the preferred numbers) are shown into the machiai (waiting room). Here, the hanto (assistant to the host) offers them o-sayu (a small cup of the water which will be used to make the tea). There will be a main guest, pre-chosen by the host, for whom the chaji is given, with the other guests there to accompany him or her. The hanto invites the guests to go through the water-sprinkled garden (devoid of flowers) to the covered waiting bench once they have finished their o-sayu. The garden path is called roji (dewy ground) and it is here that the guests start ridding themselves of the 'dust of the world'. Seated in the koshikake machiai (covered waiting bench), they await the approach of the host who has the official title teishu (house master).

Stone basin (tsukubai). Just before receiving the guests, the teishu replenishes the tsukubai, which is set among low stones, with fresh water from a wooden bucket he has brought with him. As he does so, he stands so the last third of the water is poured from a height making a loud splashing noise that refreshes the minds of the guests. Taking a ladle of water the teishu purifies his hands and mouth then proceeds through the chumon (middle gate) to welcome his guests with a bow. No words are spoken. The teishu returns to the tearoom and the main guest, followed in turn by the other guests, passes through the chumon, which symbolizes door between the coarse physical world and the spiritual world of tea, to the tsukubai where they purify themselves. After drying their hands on a small linen hand-towel that they carry in their kimono, they enter the tearoom. The guests' sliding door is only thirty six inches high, thus all who enter must bow their heads and crouch to do so. This door symbolises that all are equal in tea, irrespective of status or social position. The last person in latches the door.

Inside the Teahouse Edit

The room is devoid of any decoration except for a hanging scroll in the alcove (toko). The kakemono (hanging scroll), which has been carefully selected by the host, may reveals the theme of the ceremony. Often there is a Zen phrase on the scroll, which has been brushed by a Zen monk, and it is called bokuseki (ink traces). Each guest admires the scroll in turn, then examines the kama (kettle) and hearth (furo, a portable type used in summer, and ro, a sunken hearth used in winter). The guests then sit in their respective positions.

The host then opens the host's door and the guests and host share a bow. The principle guest invites the host to enter the room, which he/she does by sliding through the door to sit just inside the tearoom. Greetings are exchanged, first between the host and principle guest, then with the other guests. If it is the winter season, the host will then add charcoal to the sunken hearth finishing with some kneaded incense; in summer the charcoal is added later and a small piece of sandalwood incense is used.

The Meal Edit

The light meal served is called kaiseki (literally bosom-stone, alluding to the Zen monk's practice of placing a warm stone against his stomach to ward off hunger). Each guest is served a tray on which there are a new pair of dampened cedar chopsticks, a covered lacquered bowl of rice, a covered lacquered bowl of miso soup and a ceramic dish with sashimi.

After a few minutes sake is served. Later, more rice is served in a large, covered lacquered bowl, from which the guests serve themselves, and the host removes then replenishes the guests' soup bowls, one by one. Next, nimono (foods simmered in broth) is served in separate covered lacquer dishes, one for each guest; this is considered the highlight of the meal. Next the host offers more sake then brings in yakimono (usually grilled fish), one piece per guest on a single ceramic serving plate, from which they guests serve themselves. The replenished covered rice bowl is brought in and sometimes additional dishes. The host leaves the guests to eat and, in the back, tries all the food to know how it tastes so he/she can answer questions about it later.

To refresh the guests' palates a simple light broth, called kosuimono, is served is in covered lacquer cups.

The following course, which derives its name from the Shinto footed tray used to offer food to the gods, called hassun (from its size of 8 sun), consists of umi-no-mono and yama-no-mono (seafood and mountain food respectively) which signify the abundance of the sea and land. First the host offers each guest, in turn, sake followed by a titbit from the sea. Returning to the principle guest, the host offers sake and a titbit from the mountains. This time however, the host is also offered sake by each guest in turn thus removing the roles of server and served.

Finally, konomono (lightly pickled vegetables) are served in a ceramic bowl, together with a pitcher of lightly salted hot water in which there are small strips of toasted rice, which represent the last of the rice. Any remaining rice is eaten with the pickles and the hot water is used to rinse out the bowls; this stems from the Zen monk's custom of cleaning his own utensils. Each guest then wipes clean their bowls with soft paper which they carry in their kimono. After the trays are removed, an omogashi (principal sweet) is served to conclude the meal. The host then invites his/her guests to retire to the garden waiting bench while the tearoom is prepares for the tea.

Once the guests have departed, the host removes the scroll and replaces it with simple vase of flowers. The room is swept and the utensils for preparing koicha (thick tea) are arranged; each is hand-made and considered an art object.

The Spiritual World of Tea Edit

In tea ceremony, water represents yin and fire in the hearth yang. The water is held in a jar called the mizusashi. This stoneware jar contains fresh water symbolizing purity, and is touched only by the host. Matcha (powdered tea) is kept in a small ceramic container called a chaire which is in turn covered in a shifuku (fine silk-brocade pouch) which is set in front of the mizusashi. The occasion will dictate if and which type of tana (stand) is used to display the chosen utensils.

If tea is served during the day a gong is sounded five to seven times to call the guests back tot the tearoom; in evening a bell is used. They purify hands and mouth once again and re-enter as before. They admire the flowers, kettle, hearth and tea-making utensils then seat themselves.

The host enters with the chawan (tea bowl) which holds the chasen (tea whisk), chakin (the tea cloth, which is a bleached white linen cloth used to dry the bowl) and the chashaku (tea scoop, a slender bamboo scoop used to dispense the matcha), which rests across it. These are arranged in front of the mizusashi (water jar) next to the chaire. Retiring to the preparation room, the host returns with the kensui (waste water bowl), the hishaku (bamboo water ladle) and futaoki (a green bamboo rest for the kettle lid). He/she then closes the door to the preparation room and proceeds to the host's place in front of the utensils.

Using a fukusa (fine silk cloth), which represents the host's spirit, the host removes the shifuku (brocade pouch) then purifies the tea container followed by the scoop. Deep significance is found in the host's careful inspection, folding and handling of the fukusa and utensils. Hot water is ladled into the tea bowl, the whisk is rinsed and inspected then the tea bowl is emptied and wiped with the chakin.

Lifting the tea container to the side of the bowl, the the host scoops three portions of tea per guest into the tea bowl. Hot water is ladled from the kettle into the teabowl in a quantity sufficient to create a thin paste with the whisk. Additional water is then added to so the paste can be kneaded into a thick liquid consistent with pea soup. Unused water in the ladle is returned to the kettle.

The host places the teabowl on the adjacent tatami and the main guest fetches it. Before drinking, the principle guest places the bowl between him/herself and the next guest and all the guests bow. The principle guest raises the bowl and bows his/her head then rotates the bowl two quarter turns, so as not to drink from the front, and then takes three sips. The bowl is then placed on the tatami and the rim is wiped. The bowl is then passed from hand to hand to the next guest who does the same as the main guest.

When the guests have all tasted the tea, the bowl is returned to the principle guest so that he/she may admire it before passing it to the next guest and so on. When all have viewed to bowl, the principle guest returns it to the host who collects it and places it in front of his/her knees. All bow. The host then rinses the bowl then rinses the whisk. The tea scoop is once more purified with the fukusa. Cold water is added to the kettle after which the principle guest usually asks to inspect the tea container, its pouch and the tea scoop. The tea container is purified and placed out followed by the other two utensils. the host removes the waste-water bowl and waits outside until all the guests have viewed the utensils and they have been returned. The host re-enters the tearoom and discusses the objects with the principle guest, giving the name of the artist, the design of the piece etc.

Preparing for Departure Edit

At a full event, the kettle is removed temporarily from hearth at this point and more charcoal added. The host leaves to fetch a water jug so the guests use this moment to look into the hearth to see the host's arrangement of charcoal. The host returns and adds fresh water to the kettle.

The host next brings in a tabakobon (box containing a bamboo ashtray, a lit piece of charcoal in ash in a ceramic bowl and sometimes a pipe) which is placed in front of the principle guest. No one smokes a pipe in the tearoom anymore but this is a symbol of hospitality and makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Then, a tray of small, dry sweets is brought in and also placed in front of the principle guest; in winter, a teaburi (hand warmers) may be offered.

The host then enters carrying in his/her left hand a different tea bowl (containing a fresh whisk and a new linen wiping cloth) on which is a tea scoop, and holding with his/her right hand a natsume (covered lacquered container for the thin-tea powder). These are placed in front of the fresh water jar. The host exits then returns with the waste water bowl, a new ladle and a lid rest.

The host then purifies the utensils as before then makes thin tea for each guest in turn, inviting them to have a sweet just as their tea is being made, so that the sweetness is still fresh in their mouth as they drink the tea.

At the conclusion, the guests express their appreciation for the tea and admiration for the art of the host. They leave and when all are outside, they turn and share a silent bow with the host who watches from the door of the teahouse.

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