This past Friday our weekly Friday Project was sado, or tea ceremony. Sado is an elaborate ritual in which a host prepares and serves tea to his/her guest(s). The tea is very bitter and is generally accompanied by a sweet in order to minimize or mask the taste. For the ceremony on Friday, we had three instructors. The first instructor acted as the host, the second acted as the guest and the third worked in the back room preparing and washing the instruments for use in the ceremony.
We entered into the tatami mat room which has a window looking out to the Zen garden. The guest instructor demonstrated how to properly enter a tea room and admire the various objects placed by the host. The tea ceremony is a very formal Japanese tradition so it is generally expected that the host and guest wear kimono or formal attire which our instructors did. For those unfamiliar with the ceremony, the guest usually enters the room and examines a painting, flower arrangement and/or object which the host has previously decided upon taking into account the season, guest(s) and many other aspects.
The host then enters the tea room and offers the sweet to the guest(s) in a prescribed manner. The guests will use small special pieces of paper on which to place the sweets and must utter certain phrases to the guest before and after them. The host will begin cleaning each instrument meticulously. The ritual washing of the instruments so thoroughly developed so that the Samurai host could assure his guests that he was not using poison to kill them. Of course, that’s not really a problem these days, but it has remained part of the ritual in order to stay true to the origins of the ceremony. The host then prepares the tea which is called matcha and is in a powdered form to which hot water is added.
The guest of honor takes the tea bowl and bows to the host and then the second guest before lifting the bowl. The bowl has been turned so that the most beautiful decoration on the bowl is facing the guest so the guest will turn the bowl twice clockwise so that the decoration faces away from him/her. The guest will take three or four sips from the bowl and then either finish the tea (if each guest receives their own bowl) or finish the tea with a slurping sound.
Once everyone has finished their tea, the host will again clean the instruments. The guest of honor will ask that the guests be allowed to examine the instruments and some of the utensils will be passed around, such as the tea whisk and tea scoop. The guests take much care with these instruments as they are very expensive or antiques and most likely irreplaceable. Once the utensils are given back to the host, the host and guests bow to one another and the ceremony ends.
Here are some pictures from the tea ceremony:
This is a photo of the tatami mat room, you can see the sliding door in the upper left that leads to a porch and the Zen garden outside. The door in the center is where the third instructor prepared the hot water and extra tea because of the large number of guests.
This picture shows the host kneeling before the hot water pot and preparing the instruments to be cleaned. The other instructor acts as the guest of honor and sits formally while waiting to partake of the sweets.
This is a close up of the host preparing the instruments and using a tea whisk with very precise and prescribed motions. Every movement in a tea ceremony is already determined and the ability to preform the ceremony takes many years of practice, but it is an ultimate expression of the tranquil state of mind that Buddhist tradition demands.
The host adds water to the matcha tea powder while the guest of honor partakes of the sweets.