Know the Yamato people through the Japanese Tea Ceremony
By Derrick Zhang on 28 Aug 2017
China and Japan are very close: they are only separated by a narrow strip of water. As everyone knows, Japanese culture stems from ancient Chinese culture. Japan is a representative of Eastern Asian culture—in fact, it is still possible to find traces of ancient Chinese culture in Japan where it can be impossible to find them in China! After experiencing Japan’s culture, Chinese tourists think that it is both familiar and strange. It is familiar because most people are able to identify the influence of ancient Chinese culture on Japan. Yet it is also strange because, after hundreds or even thousands of years of change, the Han culture has already developed and transformed into the Yamato culture, which is recognized around the world. Matcha tea is loved by people all over China. However, many people don’t know that it was introduced to Japan from China during the Tang dynasty. By the Ming dynasty, the popularity of matcha waned and the now well-known steeped tea took its place. As another example, a song by Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou called “Grandfather’s Tea” is famous all over Greater China. One of the lyrics is “in the Tang Dynasty era, Lu Yu wrote the Classic of Tea in three volumes.” It is on this foundation that Japan developed its unique tea culture known as the tea Ceremony or Chado. It is also an aspect of Japanese culture that every tourist tries to understand and enjoy.
The tea Ceremony, or chado, is associated with a well-known saying literally translated as “one time, one meeting” and meaning that people should enjoy every encounter to the fullest because it may not occur again. This saying has a large influence on how Japanese people act and how they handle their affairs. Ii Naosuke, a grand tea master of the late Edo period, wrote in The Book of Tea Ceremony:
“Tracing back to the source, a chaji is a meeting that can never be experienced again. Even if the same host and the same guests can have multiple chaji, it is impossible for them to recreate the meeting occurring at this exact moment. Every chaji is a once in a lifetime encounter. It is for this reason that the host must show his deep sincerity by every possible means and why the host must not be careless. For his part, the guest must arrive at the meeting knowing that the encounter can never be repeated, must warmly accept the host’s meticulous attention to detail and must make friends with total sincerity. This is the meaning of Ichigo ichie: every meeting is a once in a lifetime encounter.”
From chado, we can see that the Japanese are very methodical. Both the guest and the host deeply cherish the opportunity to meet together. They believe that since life is incredibly short, it is important to use the best things and to treat others well. I believe that this is what people find most interesting about the Japanese people and their attitude towards life.
Tourists visiting Japan are amazed by the excellent service in Japan, which can be observed in the service provided during chado ceremonies. The teachings of Japanese tea master Sen no Rikyu were written down by his disciple in a work called the Seven Rules of Tea. The compilation process was similar to that performed by the students of Confucius for the Analects. In the Seven Rules of Tea, Rikyu wrote that “the tea must be satisfying, the charcoal must be placed so that the water boils quickly, the flowers must be arranged as they would grow in nature, the tea room must be kept cool in summer and warm in winter, everything must be arranged in advance, preparations must be made for rain even if it is not raining, and the host must consider the desires of the guest.” These seven rules show that chado is not a casual meeting. The host should spare no effort for the guest. The modern treatment towards guests in Japan is based on this tradition in tea ceremonies. Shop owners will always smile at the guests of their shop and always do everything possible to satisfy them.
In comparison to Chinese tea culture, Japanese tea culture not only provides a welcome surprise in terms of taste but also is extremely satisfying in terms of the visual impact. Tourists who want to experience authentic Japanese tea culture are typically brought to a simple but beautiful Japanese-style building. Inside the tea room, the floor is covered with traditional tatami mats and the people performing the tea ceremony are wearing kimonos. The guests enjoy their special ceremony in this wonderful environment. One of the most eye-catching things in the room is a beautiful hanging scroll. The scroll is usually featuring calligraphy in cursive script, using beautiful phrases such as “harmony; respect; purity; tranquility” (the four key principles of chado) or “bright moon; peace; flowing water.” The flower arrangement is replaced daily, lending an artistic and refined environment to the ceremony. The arrangement of the utensils and the order of the tea ceremony must be done in a certain way. While drinking matcha, the guest will have an exquisitely-made dessert. The dessert is extremely sweet in order to neutralize the bitterness of the matcha. The dessert should not be eaten all at once but separated into little pieces so that the guest can take a bite of dessert after every sip of tea.
With its strict rules and adherence to tradition, Japanese chado is one of the main things that attract people to Japan. If you have a chance to visit Japan, you should experience the tea culture for yourself.
Derrick has live in Japan for nearly five years. He is an ideal person to ask where to eat and where to visit in Japan based on his experience. He always likes to go to some places where not many people will go, because he believes that only the place he can find and understand the essence of Japan culture. He is also obsessed with looking for amazing food in all over Japan, and definitely, he can get you the best food experience by following his lead.